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Relocation to Germany: Overcoming 7 Major Challenges with Our Team’s Insights

Relocating to a new country is a big step that can be stressful and a bit frightening. There’s so much to think about before deciding to start a new chapter in your life somewhere else. Here at Sunday, we’re proud to have a team from all over the world who’s already faced the challenges you might be worried about in moving to Germany. We’ve identified seven main concerns when it comes to relocation: finding a place to live, getting used to the colder weather, dealing with a new type of money, figuring out healthcare, understanding schools, learning the language, and making new friends. Our employees shared their experiences and tips on how they tackled these issues. Now, these challenges are nothing more than just the ‘seven evil exes’ they’ve left behind.

Diana VS Hamburg’s Weather

“I come from a tropical country and we have sun year-round. Even during the rainy season, you will see the sun every day. I think people tend to over-exaggerate the lack of sun in Hamburg and I really thought I was never going to see the sun again! Luckily, it wasn’t the case and sun has come out regularly. I would say that I learned to appreciate the sun and now I love to soak it up when I can.

Coming from a country where it can rain for hours, Hamburg still surprised me with its own way of raining. Once I was walking down the street and it started to rain, so naturally I decided to take out my umbrella. When I finally managed to take it out, open the umbrella, and cover myself with it… the rain stopped. It lasted about 2 minutes. I’ve noticed that this happens a lot, the sky gets super cloudy, it rains for 2 seconds and then clears up and the sun is out again, then after half an hour it’s raining again.

As for the cold temperatures, Costa Rica’s lowest tend to be around +18 unless you live in the mountains, so of course -2 wasn’t my usual. I started buying long-sleeve shirts and sweaters since I got my visa approved. Luckily, warm clothes are usually on sale in Costa Rica because, well, nobody buys it, so I got some sweet deals! When I arrived in Hamburg, I hit some regular and second-hand stores and bought some warmer sweaters and scarves. The key is layers!

I haven’t let the German weather stop me. I have friends that live in Berlin and one of them told me “It’s going to be cold for months, if you let cold be an excuse, you won’t be able to do anything for 3-4 months.” So, I took his word. Every weekend I go for a walk, even if it’s cold, I still get dressed, layer up, and go on a – at least – 20-minute walk. I go out, and meet new people, because I like it and enjoy it. I’m trying not to let the cold be an excuse (although sometimes I do enjoy just chilling in my apartment with a nice cup of hot chocolate).”

Roman VS German Childcare System

“When I moved to Germany with my wife and two kids (a 2- and a 4-year olds), top of the list was figuring out daycare. Honestly, I was worried we’d end up on some long waiting list or with a place too far from our new home – a village a short car ride away from Hamburg.

With these fears, we entered Familienzentrum in hope they would help. Luckily, after hearing our story, they shared our concerns and made it their focus to find a Kita for our older kid, so he could start adapting to the German school system as soon as possible. Once we filled in some forms, they put us in the loop for a daycare spot. While that was in the works, right in the Familienzentrum they had this stop-gap setup that let my oldest hang out and play for a couple of hours each day. It was nothing fancy, just something to get him mingling with other kids.

Fast-forward a month, and we got a daycare spot – both faster than I thought we would, and closer to home than I’d dared to hope – just a 5-minute drive to a neighboring village. I consider ourselves very lucky because we managed to get the spot in the middle of the school year, while normally you would have to apply months in advance. 

The folks at the daycare were super relaxed about letting our son settle in at his own pace, which worked out great for us. The adaptation process was very smooth and our kid could decide on his own how much time to spend in this new environment. It took our boy only 2 weeks until he told us that he wanted to spend his whole day at the daycare!

Money-wise, it was a deal. We mostly paid for meals, which felt almost like nothing because we tend to pack his lunch ourselves. The daycare itself is this cool Waldorf place, big on letting kids do their own thing rather than sticking to some strict schedule. Usually, a teacher would start an activity by themselves, letting the kids join on their own will. My kid loved learning how to cook and even make candles! Soon enough there were plenty of classes for kids to attend in the evenings too – ours already take gymnastics and dance lessons for a very small monthly fee. 

Now we’re getting round two ready with my youngest, and it’s looking a lot less intimidating with the Familienzentrum in our corner. After the first run went so smoothly, it just feels like we’ve got this!”

Nesli VS Language Barrier

“Moving to Germany meant I needed to understand and speak the local language. To get ready for this change, I preferred taking a German course for the basics during my visa process, which also helped me read signs and understand basic daily activities. These A1-A2 level courses significantly boosted my confidence in adapting to life here. Another thing that helped me extensively was the Google Translate app; it’s incredibly useful. With your camera, you can translate everything into English, which has made my life much more comfortable.

Socializing and practicing the language is also key to assimilation. That’s why I’ve used the Meetup app to meet new people and socialize. Whenever possible, I try to use my German skills with them. This way I both improve my language skills and form new friendships.

I don’t see language as a barrier; rather, it’s an opportunity for me to learn. When you learn a new language, your perception and mindset expand. You begin to understand how people think within the context of that language. I believe this is a fantastic opportunity to grow and learn not just a language, but also about a culture and the German mindset.

As I understand and hear the language better, I feel more connected to the culture and country, which I view as an important part of integration. However, I must admit that there are many different aspects to manage during the relocation and settling down process. Therefore, everyone has different priorities regarding language learning, as there are other immediate concerns, such as finding housing. So, I would advise taking your own pace and taking action when you have the time and energy for language learning. Remember, learning a language is a never-ending journey.”

Arty VS German Healthcare

“I love keeping my health in check, so naturally, moving to Germany for work made me a bit anxious about adapting to a different healthcare system. When I searched online for expat stories and their experiences with doctors in Germany, it became clear that while people generally spoke highly of the quality of services, even in the public sector, the issue was the long waiting times to actually get those. Spoiler alert – that turned out to be mostly true!

Getting state insurance was simple – it was just a matter of filling out an extra form or two along with the other paperwork for my job contract and visa. And I could use my insurance as soon as I arrived. Honestly, my hypochondriac side had me using it in the first month. After a year here, I’ve learned that to get proper treatment, one has to find a good Hausarzt first – a general practitioner to whom you’re attached. Hamburg alone boasts dozens, and it’s likely there’s one within walking distance from wherever you are in the city (but that doesn’t ensure they’re good). Mine initially wasn’t, so after some trial and error and asking for recommendations, I found a Hausarzt I trust and even look forward to visiting.

The best part is, my Hausarzt now is LGBT-friendly, which is super important to me as a queer person. It’s a luxury I couldn’t imagine having back home. Now, visiting the doctor is a stress-free experience, which I’m extremely pleased about. 

As for the much-discussed waiting times, yes, what you’ve heard is true. If you need a specialist, you’ll likely have to wait – it could be days, weeks or even months. But from my time in Germany, I’ve picked up a few tips to cut down on the wait for specialists:

  • If you have a health issue that necessitates a specialist, see your Hausarzt first. They can give you an Überweisung, a referral that indicates the need for a prompt specialist visit and helps you get an appointment quicker.
  • For urgent medical attention, the number 116-117 (national) is there to help you get to a doctor who can see you as soon as possible.
  • And for the rest, is a godsend – it’s a portal for finding doctors in your city where you can easily book the nearest appointment time available.”

Berksu VS German Banking System

“Opening a bank account in Germany could be tacky, but there are some providers who make things easier for expats. Those online-banking solutions allow expats without a residence permit or citizenship to have bank accounts and it is most of the time very easy to create an account. Usually you are asked to complete a form with your info, then a video ID verification, and most of the time in 2-4 weeks you will have your account and cards ready. These online banking solutions let you do most of the things easily, such as having different accounts, virtual cards, sending and receiving money, or withdrawing cash. For further banking needs, such as requesting a loan or a credit card, usually you need to create an account on a physical bank, which can take more time and more paperwork. For the newcomers, it is a huge relief to use online banking, since almost all of these solutions also provide service in English.

Germany has a very detailed and sometimes complicated tax system, and your income would be subject to tax, of course 🙂 There are several different tax classifications according to your age, marital status, number of children etc. It could be very confusing to understand the system if you are coming from a country where you never had to deal with such a process before. Usually if you are single, have no kids, and employed, you are subject to the first tax class. You will be able to see all the details in your payslips regarding the tax deducted from your salary. One good thing about the tax system is you can always apply for a tax refund, either using mobile platforms with a small fee or by working with a tax advisor. Your tax details are checked and you would be refunded (be careful, sometimes you might be requested to pay extra taxes in case of receiving bonuses or raises!) the amount that the Tax Office decides.”

Nicholas VS Housing Market in Hamburg

“When asked about what factors scared me the most about moving to Germany, the one that was at the top of my list was finding a roof to put over my head. Coming from South Africa I was worried that being a foreigner would diminish my chances of finding accommodation. I read about all the horror stories on Reddit and Facebook forums and wanted to ensure that I did not meet the same fate as some of my fellow expatriates. 

One of the most asked questions on these forums was “When should I start looking for an apartment?” and usually the response was “Yesterday”. Whilst this holds true for bigger cities such as Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg there are multiple avenues in which to look for accommodation to ensure you are settled in smoothly. I will now share the approach that worked for me and hopefully, it is useful to you too!

  • Facebook: Using an expat group is your first port of call, these groups usually have sub-groups that discuss accommodation and availability. Not only this, they also discuss the best areas to live in terms of price to accessibility of locations.
  • Colleagues: If you are relocating from abroad, congratulations you have most likely already started working for us at Sunday remotely or have a signed contract waiting for you on your arrival. Besides the security of the job position, you now have at your disposal dozens of expats who have made the same jump you have and can aid you in finding accommodation. Think of us as a knowledgeable network that can guide and assist you in finding your perfect base of operation.
  • Don’t panic: If you are not able to find long-term accommodation immediately, take a deep breath and try to calm down as these things tend to take time. In the interim, there are plenty of short to medium-term accommodation options such as WG’s (shared accommodation) or Airbnb flats that do discounted rates on extended stays. Whilst not a permanent solution in many cases it allows you to continue searching at a more leisurely pace to ensure you find your dream location to call home.”

Sera VS Social Integration

“When I first decided to move to Germany, I underestimated the magnitude of the change I was about to experience. I arrived with the naive notion that settling in would be swift – find a house in a week and then quickly return to my routine. However, the reality was… different! The search for a home extended far beyond my expectations, stretching to an entire month, and became the most challenging chapter of my relocation.

That aside, those initial days in Germany were full of activities. As referral winners, the whole Sunday team and I were welcomed with office gatherings, a celebration for Cat Escape’s 100 Million Downloads, and the Applike Group’s summer party. There was a moment that stood out when I felt profoundly accepted and part of the community. It was during the summer party where everyone’s warmth and inclusiveness made me realize that I had found a new place to belong.

The friendships I’ve formed here are unlike any I’ve experienced before. There’s a unique depth to the relationships forged amid such a significant life change. Sharing adventures and stories with people who are on similar journeys creates a bond that’s hard to replicate. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Sunday for being the place where I met colleagues who have become my closest friends, 

Initially, I harbored pessimism, fearing that the challenging times would go on indefinitely. However, my journey took a turn for the better. I found a place I could call home, adapted to my new work environment, and established a circle of friends. Even my neighbors became close companions. In essence, everything not only turned out okay but kept getting better.

Of course, there have been moments of loneliness and isolation, which are inevitable in such a significant move. During these times, I’ve leaned on the support of my new friends and the various communities I’ve joined. These connections have been instrumental in helping me navigate through the rough patches. Now Hamburg is a home away from home!”

Are You Joining the Adventure?

As each story shows, the journey to a new beginning in Germany can be filled with challenges, but also promises a fulfilling adventure. If you’re passionate about breaking new ground, we’d love to hear from you. Check out our open positions, and join us in our global offices across three countries! And don’t worry about the relocation process; every successful applicant will receive extensive visa support through our partner Localyze.

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