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How is Germany for Indians?

Updated: May 11, 2020

Germany has been great to Arun and his family. What it has offered to them, has been nothing short of amazing. Of course, in the initial days the country was tough, difficult to understand its traditions and ways, and --- cold, dark and grey (he moved to Germany in Jan).

Reason to move :

Arun's primary reason to move to Germany was for his wife’s career. She is a scientist and had research roles in India and Singapore. What became clear to both of them was that for her career goals, Europe was a better option. (From what he knows now, Boston, US is big hub for the pharma research. No offense, but neither of them was too keen to move to US). As luck will have it, she got an offer from Germany and thus began their Germany life. This context is important to clarify that their goal was not “to move to a foreign country”, but a specific reason.

Initial year :

Once they moved here, the initial 6 months were quiet tough. What made it easier was the fact that his wife had a very nice and international friend circle. Despite that, basic things like going to supermarket, bank, shopping and eating out became too challenging. The one common denominator of this feeling was the lack of German language knowledge. Due to this, they had to figure out what the products were in supermarket, what the dishes were in the menus and find English speaking staff in the bank. All of this did take a toll on their self confidence. What did not help was the fact that Arun was having a hard time looking for a job. With no German experience, network or language skills, finding jobs in finance was proving to be quiet difficult. The positive was that there was no time limit on his visa, (Unlike many people who are coming to Germany on Job seeker visa (JSV) and have a 6 month limit to find a job).

Job :

The difficulty in finding a job made things quiet stressful during the first 6 months. Multiple interviews and rejections due to language or lack of local experience made it tough to be objective. His wife was getting a stipend, which was just enough to pay for the monthly expenses. Their aim was to not use their savings till the time Arun started earning. This was also the time they traveled and explored Europe the most. In retrospect, Arun thinks that they could have done a lot more travel. Due to conscious efforts, planning and managing finances, they were able to manage the travel from her stipend. (Of course, it meant cheapest fare travel, Airbnb accomodation, using public transport and saving on food while travelling).

After 6 months, in June 2014, I got a job offer from Berlin.

2014 - 2020 :

Primary reason achieved : Arun's wife finished her Phd in late 2016 and is working with one of the largest German companies, with stakeholders all across the world. In this role, she has been able to travel for conferences all across Europe and gave talks at in US (Harvard, MIT) and Canada (Vancouver). She was supposed to travel to China in March, 2020 to deliver a Mastercalss to a university (which got cancelled due to the Corona Virus situation). She is highly regarded in her professional circle and has helped a lot of professionals (Indians and others) to build up career in life sciences. Since this was the main reason for the move, it has definitely been accomplished.

As for now, they are well settled and can’t complain about their life in Germany. They travel to India once a year to meet their families, and to US and Canada to meet Arun's brothers. They have a diverse and close group of friends in Germany with whom :

  • celebrated Diwali last year at Indian friends home which included French, German and Spanish guests,

  • gone for game nights and dinner at friend homes,

  • hiked through the Alps in spring outside Munich,

  • attended Oktoberfest twice and numerous carnivals and parades in Berlin,

  • got his driving licence and have driven through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Portugal,

  • took couple of their German friends to India to attend a wedding and show Agra, Jaipur,

Long term German residency (German PR) and health care:

They both got their German PR and hence, do not need to worry about visa renewal in Germany. It also allows them to live outside of Germany for a maximum of 6 months. As for medical and health care, they do not need to visit doctors too much (touchwood!!). On few occassion, when they saw a doctor, they did not need to pay anything for any of the processes and consultations with the doctors. All that was needed was the health insurance card swipe and that’s all.

There are long wait times though, for doctor appointment and even at doctor’s office (though apps help to find English speaking doctors at the earliest). For opening a business bank account, Arun was told the next appointment is available in 6 weeks!! This is the bank with which he has been banking since 2014. Customer service is not really a forte in Germany, though it can vary depending on the city and people.

At the time of writing this post, Germany is in the middle of lock down due to the Corona virus (Covid-19) situation. Though in initial days, there was panic buying and most of the supermarket shelves were empty, its much better now. Arun did the once in week grocery shopping today. Almost everything is available in the markets, (except of course hand soap, hand sanitisers). Toilet papers are restricted to one per customer (no concern for us since we got a bidet installed when we moved into their current home). The Indian groceries are available at multiple stores throughout their city (Berlin). What is encouraging to see is that supermarkets are strictly observing the 2m personal distance rule, clearly marking them around check out counters. This ensures a safe distance during checkouts.

Overall, the life for them has been pleasant and peaceful. The quality of life has been good and there is no challenge for them that they can't overcome. Arun recently set up his company in Germany, dealing with notary. tax lawyers and bank officials. All of this is a breeze now, compared to their first 6 months in the country.

It always helps to have a mentor, who has worked and lived in Germany for some of the best brands. For personal consultation with Arun Mahajan, book a time with him.

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