What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.
Brought: more suits, more shoes, a southern woman - but not a feminist, of course.
Left: the divorce bad feelings, the American naivity (trust, sincerity, hard work - none of which apply in Germany), the idea that every one in Germany speaks English.
Moving to Germany
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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?
I lived in many areas and I worked for many companies. I have been in Germany of almost eight years now. So: 1. Ensure your company will find an apartment for you (it might be impossible). 2. Your company will not put you in the socialist health care system. Say, " NO! I want a private health insurance!" And repeat it a few times, and then put it in writing as well. You will find in time, how primitive the communication skills of your local co-workers are, although in the beginning you will think they are the most modern and open-minded Europeans you ever met. 2. Learn German, if possible, before you move to Germany. If you do not speak German when you get here, you will encounter many problems. And you will get only filtered information. Plus all the misunderstandings, you will be amazed. Although a generalization, a person in Germany will never tell you when they do not understand something or for that matter when they cannot do something. Or if they do not want to do something. There is a passive resistance: yes, sure, OK; and then you will hear nothing until you ask / communicate again. 3. If you have a name, which might not sound American from the German perspective, John Wayne for example :-), be ready to answer the question put to you at some point in time: Are you a real American? If you are not prepared, like I was not, you will be perplexed and get the itchy feeling in your fingertips to reach for a gun and shoot the m.f. although you might hate guns, like I do. 4. Be ready to deal with things that might not cross you mind what so ever, that is be ready for ideas and communication results that you have never experienced. I.e. at work you send an email to a co-worker: you might never get an answer, not even an I will get back to you. Someone comes to make repairs will never give you a precise price. You buy a t-shirt, it will shrink by washing and drying 30%, although it is written in big letters, American T-Shirt. You go buy a new car, the person will try again and again to sell you a used car. You go to the bank to transfer money, there are hidden fees (high percentages) that no one will feel entitled to inform you as a customer. You buy anything that has a standard two year guarantee, it will break after a year, and of course, you will not had kept all the boxes and receipts for everything that you bought. Your department or the whole company will be restructured every three months - you keep tasks to do, you have bosses you do not know. There are Unions not just for blue collar but white collars as well - you got no choice; get informed of the positive but mostly the negatives. Get ready for mobbing: most workers will make the life of a co-worker be hell; I am not sure why it is being done in Germany, probable because it is harder to fire someone; or because of what Freud said, the German culture remained in the anal phase. It is a sado-maso culture. If you fit in, it is OK; if not, it is hell. The school system is very different - get informed. Depending on the region: your neighbors will not be the friendly type at all, and will dislike you very much if you do better financially then they do. And you will get to know it. And so on.
What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?
I live in Germany for eight years, almost. I now bought a house with my partner. And I have an apartment for you as well, in the attic of my house, of course. :-) A plus, I have an apartment in the finished basement, too.
How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?
The German companies have no relocation programs. That means that you are on your own in finding a place to live. The companies that will help you for a fee are very expensive. And if you just read the newspaper (providing you speak German), you can visit the apartments yourself. But expect not be alone but surrounded by many other people at the same time - depending on the area, too, of course. In Frankfurt or Munchen more than in smaller cities. The German renting system is very different than in US. While in US there are bigger companies, which offer apartments for rent, in Germany there are many people who have an apartment for rent in the attic, for example, of their house.
Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?
Housing is much more expensive in Germany. As mentioned above, it has to do with an inefficient system like every other system in a socialist country like Germany. You name it, expect it to be inefficient or much more inefficient.