Germany Thus Far: 4.5 Years

The last time that I did one of these posts was back in 2018 which marked three years in Germany. Looks like I have a lot of time to catch you all up on. Let’s jump in to some of the big events and changes from the last 1.5 years, bringing you up to date on my 4.5 years in Germany thus far.

Close to home

Most of the time, I stayed close to home, either in Germany or in the States. I’ve made a few trips back to visit my family of course, but otherwise, I didn’t do a whole lot of travel. Most of my travel has been in Bavaria, or even to places around Munich.

Exploring Bavaria
Don't look down.
Don’t look down.

There are two main reasons that I didn’t get out much. First is that my partner was furthering his education last year in an intense accelerated program, so there wasn’t a lot of time to travel together. The second was that I didn’t really have the money to be able to travel alone, even though I had an entire month off in August because…

I switched jobs

After I realized that I could not stand it any longer in the travel technology company where I worked, I got to work looking for jobs. Luckily, I found a new position in a financial technology company which is much more challenging and intellectually stimulating.

It’s nice to be in a job where you feel like you’re a fit for the role, and your work actually matters. Not to mention, I get along with the people much better despite the fact that many of them are really intense.

New bike

Along with the job upgrade, I also came to the realization that I needed to upgrade my bike. My first bike in Germany was a cheap buy at a flea market. It’s quite worn, and it is not a good long-distance bike. Considering that my commute is about four times as long now, and I am getting more into longer rides in the warm months, it was time for something new.

Instead of buying another second-hand bike, I actually spent the money to get what I wanted. It’s stable and stands up really well to longer rides. If the current lockdown ever ends and the weather improves, maybe I’ll be able to go on some new adventures with it.

Pandemic

Speaking of the lockdown, I think I have to include the pandemic in this list. It’s still ongoing, of course, and it’s likely to last a lot longer. Still, I never thought that I’d be watching a global health pandemic unfold from Munich.

This week is my fourth week of home office. Everything except essential services are closed in Germany. It is only allowed to leave your home if you are going to the grocery store, pharmacy, work (for those who still have to go in), or for fresh air and exercise. In order to stay sane, I make of point of going out for a walk every day.

I’ve heard from people in the States who are concerned about my safety in Europe. No doubt they see what is happening in Italy and Spain in the news, but I think I’m much better off here than back in the States. At least I have health care, and Germany also has a world-class healthcare system which is actually accessible to people who need to use it. Plus, there’s the fact that there are certain protections in place that make my job much more secure than if I were in the States. I’ll stay right here, thanks.

Staying permanently

Before the lockdown, I applied for permanent residency. Since I wasn’t able to go and pick up the card, imagine my surprise when they sent it to me. I am now the proud owner of a Niederlassungserlaubnis.

Yep, I’m fine with staying somewhere that has villages and mountains like this.

What’s it mean? Basically, I get to stay in Germany for the long run, and I don’t have to get approval from the immigration authorities anymore if I want to change my job. Plus, I don’t have to carry my passport around anymore since it’s an actual ID card instead of a giant sticker in my passport. And yes, I seriously count that as a nice perk!


That’s about it. It’s obviously not an exhaustive list of what has happened the last 1.5 years, but you get the idea. To everyone reading this, stay healthy and sane.

Cheers!

What I Look for in International Work

I finished my Master’s degree back in 2017, and started working straight away. For the past almost two years, I worked in a travel tech company focused on vacation rentals. This was my first post-university job, but I recently had my last day working there.

It was quite an experience, and I certainly learned a lot in the first year, most notably on the technical side. However, there comes a time when you have to take a look around, think about where you are, where you want to be, and consider if the current trajectory of your career will get you there.

Turns out, recent changes in the company were taking me down a path that went further away from my goals. Not to mention I was basically bored out of my mind by my tasks the last six months and wasn’t seeing any real career growth.

Having to conduct another job search in Germany was not exactly something that I really wanted to do, but in the end I think I’m going to be much happier in the new role.

I could write a whole series on searching for a job in Germany, but instead I’m just going to share a few things that I have learned are important for me in working abroad.

Integration

While I integrated into my former company just fine, there came a point when I realized that integrating into company culture is not the same as integrating into German society. I enjoyed how diverse the company was, but when my partner tells me multiple times that my German is actually getting worse, it’s an indicator that I’m not getting closer to my goals. For the record, I was taking a German course through the company the first time I was told that my German was deteriorating.

German courses offered in house were poor quality and only held once a week. Couple that with the fact that most of my colleagues / classmates had very low motivation to learn German, and I felt myself not applying myself as much. I also did not have to use any German in my daily work, so there was nothing that really forced me to improve my German so quickly in the short term.

While looking for a new company, I tried to find something which had a greater German language leaning, but still an international feel. The company that I will be joining is again very diverse, but the market focus is DACH (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) and the UK. This is much more focused than the 21 countries and their languages that I had to work with in my former company.

When I was offered the job, it was also stated that they would expect me to be able to get along with German-speaking business partners as well as the English-speaking partners in the next year. This is great because I have some time to learn the product and work on my German, but I also have a set point in time that I should be ready to speak and write German as a representative of the company. Knowing that it’s expected that I learn is a much better motivator than being told that someone can always help translate so it doesn’t matter if I learn.

I should quickly note here that some people who work abroad in English-speaking roles, or roles in their native language, only learn enough of the language to get by (restaurants, grocery shopping, transportation), but search out multilingual doctors, services, etc. for most things they have to do outside of work. While there’s no “right” way to do it, my personal philosophy is that if I’m going to live abroad authentically, and not in an Anglo-bubble, I should try to learn the language.

Career development

I always thought, “When I start working, I will have so much more free time for myself compared to in university.” In some ways that’s true. I don’t have to stay up late trying to complete extensive reading for a seminar. However, because I sit in front of a computer all day at work, I don’t really want to spend as much time doing that outside of work.

I wrongly assumed that if I didn’t have time or projects at work that helped me advance my career, I could just do that career development in my free time. While I have done some things in my free time, it’s not enough to counteract not making any progress on professional development in my daily work.

For a variety of reasons, my former company did not give me the opportunities I wanted to further develop my skills and learn new things which are in the field of my interests. Therefore, in looking for a new role in another company, I tried to find a field which both fit my interests and would challenge me to grow my skills and knowledge in the direction that is right for me.

While I know I have an uphill battle going into my next role, I would rather be fighting to learn details about an industry and the technology they use than doing the same tasks over and over which give me neither benefit nor joy. Some people may thrive on repetition and stability, but I would like to have the opportunity to be challenged.

A residence permit is not a reason

When I was looking for a job after finishing my studies, I knew that my former company was not a perfect fit. Among the options I had at the time, it was the best offer on the table. I could have waited around for a better offer, but that put me into the position of needing a “job search” visa. I also had these frustrating student loan payments that I would have to start making, but I had a bit of a buffer there.

The main reason I accepted the job in the end was to secure my residency. While it happens that you have to accept an imperfect job in order to maintain residency without major headaches, I don’t think that it should be the reason to stay in the job on the long term.

I had a lot of stress around how long I needed to be in the first job before searching for a new job, whether I should just wait until I could settle into permanent residency, or how difficult it would be to switch my residence permit if I got a new job.

The answers? One year is long enough to know you aren’t a match for a company. Switching jobs doesn’t hurt or help with permanent residency. As for the last one, the jury’s still out, but I understand that it’s a relatively simple process that will only require me to sacrifice my soul to the Ausländerbehörde for one day.

In summary, if you’re looking for a job abroad and maintaining your residency depends on it, it’s okay to be a bit desperate. What’s not okay is forfeiting your happiness after you’ve given the role and company a fair shot and know it’s not for you.


Anyway, that’s my two cents on what I find most important in working abroad. I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone, but it’s at least food for thought.

Cheers!

Lost and Found No. 3

Hello! How are you all? The past few weeks have flown by, probably because we had three four-day weeks in a row here in Germany. I think it’s good for my sanity that I’ve had shorter weeks this past month. Sure would be nice to have this all the time! Anyway, let’s get down to the past two weeks’ lost and found.

Found: Old postcards

I have a slight obsession with old postcards. Sure, typical vintage postcards are cool, but I love postcards from the first half of the 1900s that show photos of places waaaaay back in the day. If they have something interesting written on the back, I enjoy that as well.

Steamboat Postcard

The Flohmarkt (flea market) that is held in conjunction with the Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) is a decent place to find some of these gorgeous, old black and white postcards. I did happen to buy “a few.”

Italian Postcard

Lost: Severe allergies

Not that I’m sad to have gotten over my seasonal allergies, but I enjoy the irony of the situation. It recently came to mind that the problem (pollen) and the solution (rain to clear the air) both are products of Mother Nature.

At the same time I curse the pollen, I also wish for spring and beautiful flowers. Then, I even beg for rain to give me some relief by washing away the cause of my misery. I just have to laugh a bit at how illogical my desires with regard to spring and nature are. It’s a good practice in mindfulness to think about how many other areas of life are in conflict like this.

Found: A resolution from my former home

My master’s degree was completed in Konstanz, meaning two years of bliss in that beautiful city, relaxing with all the nature surrounding the Bodensee. I just saw yesterday that Konstanz became the first city in Germany to pass a resolution that declares climate change as an emergency.

Sometimes I have to stop and think about how fortunate I am to have lived in Konstanz, and how amazing it is that I now live in a country which at least recognizes climate change at the national level. Much of the rhetoric around climate change coming out of the White House in the past few years has been disheartening, but events like this remind me that many people around the world care about this issue and want to take action.


So, on that note, I hope you all feel a little bit more thoughtful about our planet. Or maybe just postcards. Regardless, have a lovely weekend!

Cheers!

A Picturesque Medieval German Village

Over the two years of my Master’s studies, I had the pleasure to spend some time in the small German village of Bad Waldsee. This village is located north of the Bodensee, near Ravensburg. It’s probably not the top of anyone’s travel list, but I enjoyed visiting there on occasional weekends and semester breaks nonetheless.

To highlight some of the my favorite things about the village, I’d like to tell you all seven things I enjoyed there. Without further ado, here’s a list of my favorite things in Bad Waldsee in no particular order.

Snow in BW2

No. 1: The Charming Architecture

Wandering around Bald Waldsee Altstadt (Old Town) is a good way to enjoy an afternoon. There are several buildings and churches which have been around for centuries, and part of the old town wall still exists as well. Bonus points if you get to enjoy Bad Waldsee in the snow!

Merry Christmas!

No. 2: The Giant Advent Calendar

Around Christmas time, Bad Waldsee puts up a giant Advent calendar on one of the city buildings right in the middle of the Old Town. Every December evening leading up to Christmas, the townspeople gather to see a new window opened, enjoy live music (which is surprisingly frequent despite the cold), and drink Glühwein (mulled wine).

No. 3: Take a Walk around the Lakes

Bad Waldsee Old Town is sandwiched between two small lakes: Stadtsee (Town Lake) and Schlosssee (Palace Lake). Many people like to walk around Stadtsee, the bigger of the two. The pathway around the lake offers lovely views of the town, especially at night with the city lights or in winter with snow and ice.

DSCN2525

No. 4: Seenachtsfest

Long-time readers may recognize Seenachtsfest as the evening summer festival in Konstanz, complete with fireworks. While this is indeed an event in Konstanz, Seenachtsfest loosely translates to “evening lake festival,” and is held at other lakes besides the Bodensee (Lake of Constance).

Bad Waldsee hosts their own small, but enjoyable, Seenachtsfest each summer. The event is usually accompanied by a Flohmarkt (flea market), carnival, live music, and numerous food and drink vendors. There are also, of course, fireworks over the lake. The fee for entry to the fireworks is much cheaper than Konstanz, and much less crowded as well.

No. 5: Künstlermarkt

Speaking of festivals, I can’t forget to add in the Künstlermarkt. This happens on one weekend of September. I’ve always caught it on a Sunday, and all of the shops open their doors for the day (which is not normal on a Sunday in Germany). There’s also a little handmade goods market, live music, and food and drinks. Definitely worth a visit if you’re around.

Stadt See Tulips

No. 6: Dinner at Amadeus

Because I’ve mentioned food in several of the above items, it’s only fair that I recommend a few places to eat for when there isn’t a festival going on. My favorite place in Bad Waldsee to go for dinner is Amadeus.

Amadeus has a bit of a funky menu, from chicken curry to burgers. There’s certainly something here for everyone. I can especially recommend their pumpkin soup with shrimp. Yum.

If you’re in the mood for a drink, Amadeus also makes amazing cocktails.

No. 7: Cake at Café Weinstube am Markt

For those of you with a sweet tooth (like me), you’ll enjoy eating some cake at this old-fashioned café. While the décor may be a bit traditional, the cake is some of the best I’ve bought in southern Germany. There’s always a mix in the case, and I’ve never left disappointed. When the weather is good, you can even enjoy your cake on the patio. To me, this place is Kaffee und Kuchen at its finest.

Stadt See Schnee

So I guess that’s my small virtual introduction to Bad Waldsee. If you’re ever heading through there, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Cheers!

P.S. This town is also home to a Spätzle Museum, perfect for Swabian cuisine enthusiasts!

Lost and Found No. 2

Hello, all! It’s Easter weekend, and here in Germany we have a lovely four-day weekend to give us a break from the daily grind of our jobs. As spring has hit its stride, so have my allergies. As much as I want to be outdoors, I’m spending a lot of time sitting indoors trying to avoid the pollen. We could do with a nice rain shower to clean the air, but there sadly isn’t any precipitation in the forecast in the next days.

Anyway, let’s get down to it. What has been lost and found in my life and the greater world lately?

Cherry blossoms

Found: Spring blooms, ducklings, and swans

As you can probably guess from my spring allergy statement, the trees are turning green, flowers are blooming, and nature is going wild. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom (yes, they’re in Germany, too), as well as another tree with small white blossoms of which I do not know the name.

I sometimes hop off of the bus a few stops early on my way home from work so that I can walk along the small lake near my flat. This past week, eight new ducklings were chirping their way around the lake.

Mother duck with ducklings.

At the end near my flat, a swan pair have built a nest and are protecting it from passersby (meaning any duck stupid enough to come near). Still waiting for their offspring to appear.

Found: An ache to read more from Margaret Atwood

Last October, I bought some new English books in the London airport where they are not as expensive as in Germany. Two of them were my very first Margaret Atwood volumes: Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale.

I read the latter quite soon after my purchase. And yes, I already saw both seasons of the series. Alias Grace was different. I’d seen the mini-series on Netflix back in 2017 and was not quite sure what to make of it. The book is really an amazing work of art, tying in many themes that are just too subtle to come through in the TV version.

Having read both of these, I’m hungry to read more of Atwood’s books. Not that I’m lacking any reading material at present, but any advice on which ones I should tackle next?

Found: New growth

After not doing much of anything all winter except protesting because I accidentally exposed him to direct sun, my avocado plant has finally started shooting up some new growth.

New growth on my avocado plant.

New leaves are shooting out of the top like a little crown of velvety new green. Let’s see if I manage to nurse him back to a happier state. For a while in the winter I thought I might have to scrap the tree and try again with another seed.

Lost: History

What has been very sad is the news of not only Notre Dame burning, but also the burning of three historically black churches in Louisiana. While Notre Dame is an accident and a loss of symbolic European history, the burning of historically black churches in the States is something that has been going on for decades.

I’ll never understand racism and hate against an ethnicity or religious community, but at least one can take heart in the fact that those donating to help restore Notre Dame in Paris have also been donating to the churches in Louisiana. I hope that communities on both sides of the pond are able to rebuild and find a sense of peace and safety again.

Found: The bees of Notre Dame

In the aftermath of the fire at Notre Dame, many have been focused on structural stability, the historic art inside, the stained glass… But some Parisians who knew that there were also bee hives up on the roof were curious to know if the bees made it.

While it isn’t clear how many survived the blaze, there’s evidence that these bees are quite hardy and the hives will live on!


So that’s what’s been lost and found in my life view lately. Hope you all have enjoyed / are enjoying a lovely Easter weekend, and please keep your fingers crossed that the rain comes to Germany soon!

Cheers!