This week’s post is another one in the Expat Wisdom Series. Incase you’re new here, I share the story of one awesome expat each month to create a space where we can all learn from each other! These are always some of my favorite posts as I really enjoy reading about your experiences, and everyone has such great advice to share! This week, we’re hearing from Lara Petek, an expat who currently lives in Germany but grew up in Slovenia. She shared her experiences moving and some really useful advice about making the move to Germany. I hope you enjoy what she has to say!
My expat journey began in Chicago
I first moved abroad in the beginning of 2019. My expat journey started in Chicago, a beautiful city with amazing culture and super friendly people. I was born and raised in Slovenia, a small country in Central Europe with a population of 2 million people. I always had this big passion for exploring new places and I’ve been traveling around the world with my parents since I was a little girl. I always knew I wanted to move abroad one day and see if there was something bigger waiting for me outside of my comfort zone. One trip to Chicago in 2018 changed literally everything. I visited my friend, and later that friend became my boyfriend. So after that trip I had another big reason to relocate to Chicago. When I returned back home, I immediately started looking for jobs, exploring different visa options and saving money for the big move. After 6 months of applying I got an offer for an internship in a digital marketing agency. I moved to Chicago in 2019 and spent the most amazing year there!
Moving to Germany
Last year my partner and I decided that we want to move back to Europe, closer to our families and friends in Slovenia. We started looking for new job opportunities in Austria, Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. We chose these countries because they all have a good quality of life and a stable job market. My partner first got the job offer in Aalen, a city in Germany and soon after that I also got hired by a medical company in Heidenheim an der Brenz (a small town near Aalen). That was all happening during the global pandemic and we were really nervous because we didn’t have any idea about when we could actually move to Heidenheim because of all the restrictions. Start date of my new job was May 4th, so the day before we stuffed everything in our car and drove to Heidenheim. We rented an apartment for a short period of time and we had to quarantine for 14 days. Not fun at all! We’ve been living in Heidenheim for almost a year now and we’re still adjusting to the new environment. It was a quite big change for us, moving from Chicago to a small town with only 50,000 people.
Finding job in Germany
If you’re not a EU/EEA citizen, you can enter Germany for up to 6 months on a job seeker visa. However, it’s really important that you’re able to somehow support yourself financially for the whole duration of your stay in Germany. Once you’re here you can start searching for jobs and it’s important to know that without knowing any German, it is going to be very hard. It took me 4 months before I got the job. I was really lucky because the company that I worked for was international and had a lot of foreigners so we were talking in English all the time. So I would definitely recommend learning the language before coming here because you will automatically have a bigger advantage than other foreigner applicants. If that is not an option then you should first start searching for more international companies where you can easily communicate in English. I found a lot of interesting opportunities on job search websites like Linkedin, Indeed, Glassdoor and StepStone which is basically like a German version of Linkedin. When it comes to finding a job abroad is important to stay patient and positive. It’s possible that you will receive a lot of rejections, however you have to be persistent and work hard every day. Dedicate at least 2 hours every day to job search and you will see that it will pay off in the end. If a regular “9-5” job is not for you, you can always start freelancing. Depending on your line of work, freelancing is often the quickest way to earn a living in a new country, and Germany is no exception. If you decide to freelance and you’re not a EU/EEA resident then you will have to apply for a freelance visa. The application process is the same as applying for any German visa. It is recommended to complete the application 3 months in advance from your planned travel date.
Why Germany is a good place to live
Like any other country, Germany also has its pros and cons. There are some challenges you will have to face when moving here, for example the language barrier if you don’t know any German, then their bureaucracy and the amount of paperwork you have to deal with once you move. However, I still think that this is a really good place to live and eventually settle down. Germany has one of the best economies in Europe and a high quality of life. German companies are leading in many sectors and many markets worldwide. I would also like to point out the really good work-life balance. In the company that I worked for, you are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day and you have to take at least a 1-hour break in between. Moreover, most employees finish their daily tasks by 4 or 5 pm and then spend the rest of their day with their families or doing sports. Another great advantage of living in Germany is the fact that you’re based in the heart of Europe. Germany has borders with France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland and you can easily visit them by car, train, or plane. Country also has a diverse landscape. You will find everything, from beautiful mountains, green cities, lakes, and sea in the north.
My advice for you
If you decide to relocate to Germany and you don’t know any German, I would first recommend you to start learning the language. Even knowing the basic words will definitely help you because in most of the cities, people prefer German over any other language. All shops, pharmacies, and other business signs are written in German, so you can easily get a bit lost. When it comes to German culture, Germans are known to be a bit more reserved when it comes to meeting new people and making friends. They just need some more time to open up. So if you want to network, you could start by inviting some people from your work to a coffee or lunch. You have to give them time and be patient, so they can really start trusting you. Another good way meeting new people in Germany is through sports activities (basketball, football, volleyball) or by joining a club (comedy, running, reading…). Germany is definitely the land of many opportunities, good food and of course tasty beer.
If you’re planning on moving to Germany or just traveling here and you need some tips, feel free to reach out to me through my blog or send me a message on Instagram. I’m always happy to help!
I hope you enjoyed reading Lara’s story and found her advice useful! If you’d like to write your own story as a part of the Expat Wisdom project, take a look at the description here or reach out to me on Instagram @little.miss.expat!
See you next week,