Getting ready to move to Germany required a long list of things that needed to be taken care of. And each time we checked something off, dozens more appeared (or so it seemed). Who would’ve thought that moving to another country takes so much effort and planning!
First, we needed to decide where in Germany we wanted to go. The usual suspects of Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg were on our shortlist, but research into language schools throughout Germany alerted us to Freiburg, and the more we read about the city (size, culture, weather), the more it seemed like a good place for us. So with the biggest decision out of the way, we set out to make the transition as smooth as possible (though fully expecting to be surprised when we got there anyway).
Next up was finding a place to live. Not knowing whether we would be successful at getting a Visa, or if we would remain in Freiburg when we did, a one-year lease wasn’t an option. Using the site WG-gesucht.de (and with a huge assist from Google Translate), we were able to find a studio apartment sublease in the Oberau district of Freiburg for August through October. Perfect! With the promise of a place to live once we arrived, we purchased our plane tickets for August 6th.
Among other things, we also needed to figure out how a number of fixtures of daily life would work:
- Phones: we each obtained an unlocked GSM smartphone that will accept a pay-as-you-go SIM card from Germany. I also purchased a Skype number to use when calling the US ($60/year plus $0.025 per minute).
- Insurance: since we are traveling without a residence or work visa, we purchased a travel medical insurance plan for three months. By the time that runs out, we will either be able to purchase German health insurance, or our 90-day tourist visa will end.
- Banking: we’ll each open a bank account once we arrive, though when possible, using our credit card from back home (with no foreign transaction fees) will be the easiest way to pay for things.
And then there are the things from home needed to be sorted out:
- Our existing jobs: continued employment would be impossible from Europe, so we each gave our employer a few weeks notice that we would be leaving our positions.
- Our vehicles: Erin sold hers and I am lucky enough to store mine with my family.
- Our existing place of residence: this one was easy – we just didn’t renew our lease.
- Our stuff that we didn’t take to Germany: we are renting a storage unit in Richmond to store our furniture and other belongings that we didn’t want to part with permanently
- Our mail: we are both able to forward our mail to our families so that we are aware of anything important.
All of this, along with a few other things specific to us, meant that simply getting to Germany felt like an accomplishment in itself. Even before leaving, we’ve learned that making such a big life change isn’t easy. But if it was, everyone would do it, right?