Tuesday, 21 July 2015

How to move to Germany

Moving overseas was one of the most difficult things I've ever done.  I was in a new culture, speaking a new language, and had to find work, a home, get a visa, and start a whole new life.  Best thing I ever did, but very hard.

So if you are considering moving to Germany, here's a quickstart guide for you!

10 easy steps to move to Germany

  1.  Before leaving find place to stay that isn't a scam. We found someone who was going to australia for a month through craigslist. It was probably the only place on craigslist that wasn't a scam and you could tell because the rent was reasonable instead of insanely cheap. Also they asked for money when we got there instead of via western union or to their lawyer. Also they didn't call me sir and say they were pastors in Uganda and end the email with God Bless.
  2. Make your travel arrangements.  Try to arrive not in Februrary.  I did, and it was grey for a month and I got a cold.
  3. Anmeld. Go to the town hall with a copy of your lease. If you are in a WG (what German's call living with a roommate) skip this step.
  4. Get a bank account. Most banks you need a job to get an account, but the Berliner Sparkasse takes anyone. The catch was that they wanted an appointment. Friggin' guy took 15 minutes to make an appointment for me for next week... with himself... and then the following week took 15 minutes to set up the account. Oh germany. Take the form they give you as proof of anmelding. (anmeldungsbestätigung). If you don't have one because you're in a WG or temporary place, take a copy of your lease. If you don't have one, take a copy of your friend's lease and tell them that you're staying there. If they don't have one, take a copy of the craigslist ad that you found the place on. But then, it's the sparkasse they probably wont give you a hard time.
  5. Get a Schufa. It's a racket but you got no choice. I mean, unless you're happy with a WG. If you want your own place you need a credit check from SCHUFA and so you pay 20 bucks to get a membership for them to look you up and say "Oh we have no data on you because you just moved here". Then you get a print out of that statement and show it to landlords when looking for your own permanent apartment. THen you cancel the subscription because who wants a recurring subscription to a credit checking service?
  6. Get a job (sha na na na). Get your employer to write a letter saying that you have a job and it pays you X moneys. Most landlords want 3 months of bank statements showing your income, but getting a letter from your employer can substitute for this. If you are a freelancer (journalist/english teacher/web designer/whatever) what you have to do is get letters from potential clients (the schools, businesses, or whatever you'd sell your services to) saying "yes, Lachlansreddit is a dude providing this freelancing service and if he gets his visa and we have work available, I would consider paying him to do this service" Get three or four. Do this by just walking into companies or going to meetups and making friends with people at companies. Make sure they're on company letterhead. Companies will do them if they're worded in a non-binding way.
  7. Bribe a landlord. When you look for a permanent apartment you'll be looking for ones that are provisionsfrei. Most apartments are sold by agencies that charge like 2000 euros to give you a place. They call it 'provision für mieter'. I call it extortion. So you have a checkbox on immobilienscout and WG gesucht for only "provisionsfrei" apartments, which are not rented by the big agencies or mafiosi. But these often have huge waiting lists. Most apartments will want you to buy their furniture so they don't have to move it. Some of the apartments want you to buy their furniture even if they have none. We call that a bribe. You gotta do what you gotta do.
  8. Ummeld. It's like Anmelding but for moving. Or Anmeld. Doesn't matter, same thing. Go to the town hall with your lease and fill out a form. Don't forget to put your name on your post box so you can get mail.
  9. Get internet. I recommend going with either 1and1 or Deutsche Telekom. Prepare to sit at home for the better part of the day on the day they are supposed to arrive. Put a label by your front door bell saying "DAS IST DER HAUS WO DU MUSST DIE INTERNET MACHEN" or somethign to that effect. If they are crosseyed and don't read your name properly they'll just leave and you have to wait another two weeks. DSL internet comes with a phone line here.
  10. Make an appointment with the Ausländerbehörde. You can do it online. The wait can be like 2 or 3 months, so book it sooner rather than later. Go down with every piece of paper they might want to see. We made the mistake of only taking what they asked for on the website. They are trying to answer the question of "can this guy survive here without social assistance?" So with your intermediate german, letter from employer, bank statement from a german bank that says you have enough euros for a little while, anmeldungsbestatigung saying you have an apartment, and any certifications you have ever had stating you're qualified to do your job, you should get a visa. Bring money. If you're applying for a freelance visa bring your letters you got in step six. Also bring your portfolio and anything else relevant.
Congratulations, you are now German!


Important Edit

I've been informed that a law has passed making 7 redundant.  They can no longer charge 2 months rent as a commission for you signing up to rent a place, so you don't need to look specifically for Provisionsfrei apartments.  Huzzah for sanity!

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