I’ve lived in Germany for just over a month now, so I think it’s a good time to share my first impressions.
Take note that these are my first, naive impressions so of course there will be something that could offend you. I’d love to hear if I do manage to offend you though, I love a good debate.
I’m British which means I get the luxury of freedom of movement in Europe. Shota, however, is Georgian and therefore outside of the EU (well, let’s see what these new visa rules mean). So he needs a visa to be here and we’re in the process of applying for a residence card for him.
I think a lot of people are surprised by just how bureaucratic Germany is. Even though I can legally be here, I should still register, which we did the Monday after we landed.
The visa process is ridiculous. Shota now has a piece of paper for an appointment booked in March (the soonest available slot) where he’ll be given a visa while the residence card processes.
Maybe I’ll expand on this in another post but basically you need a lot of paperwork and knowledge that most definitely isn’t online…
This brings me to my next point:
It goes without saying how admirable Germany is regarding how many refugees it’s accepted and also the population’s mentality towards them. The people in Berlin, for the most part, are very welcoming and eager to help refugees. In our area alone there are several organisations who organise and provide support and information to those wanting to help. A friend of ours supplied 410 teddy bears to the children with the help of Ikea just last weekend, for example.
That being said, the bureaucracy and process involved in registering these people and other non-EU people is ridiculous. It takes an unreasonable amount of time and the people who work in these offices are plain horrid.
A face like a slapped arse, no ‘bitte’ or ‘danke’ and unsavoury relations with lawyers are expected.
The point is, there are refugees waiting on the streets for their registration to process, and they’re not allowed to work until their visa and residence card has processed. It’s a catch-22 that noone talks about. Being an immigrant in Germany is impossible if you don’t have money.
Let me use this opportunity to mention the Turkish population in Berlin. We’re living in Mitte, one of the main areas with many Turks. Mitte is on the verge of being trendy thanks to it’s location, but locals still hold prejudice against ‘Turkish’ areas such as Wedding (just north of Mitte) as being untrendy, dangerous and cheap.
Large numbers of Turkish people were brought to Germany in the 1960s and ’70s as a labour force. Amusingly, the German authorities assumed their Turkish population would work hard in Germany then happily return home, so they did almost nothing to integrate them or even teach them German.
A few decades later and third generation Germans with Turkish decent are still living in quite segregated communities, held back by their income and family connections, despite their perfect German language and uprbringing.
Some Germans and other western Europeans I know who are living in Berlin are quite snobby towards Turks and basically anyone with darker skin than theirs. It’s not that there are rich ghettos like in London, but the same people who are pro-immigration and very social in their views are the same people who say they’d never move to Wedding because they don’t feel safe when men stare at them and women in headscarves glare at them for their western beauty…
I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone, but I was very surprised to see such attitudes from some people I’ve met here.
Speaking English/ Not knowing German
This reminds me of my next point, my lack of German language. I’m British, so I’m pretty unskilled when it comes to other languages and my arrogant assumption that everyone else knows English too so what’s the point?
After learning some Georgian without much effort, I’m confident that German will be easier for me since English is basically some weird German-French hybrid language anyway. I am making every effort to speak German when I can (like ordering a cup of grüner tee and a wallnuss brownie) although can’t help but feel terribly rude and ignorant when I can’t have a full conversation with someone in German, but I live in their country.
That being said, I’ve been told by several people now that, as a native English speaker, my work prospects are much better without German. Apparently knowing English is a sign of intelligence, but not-knowing German means that lower-paid workers won’t feel threatened that I’ll take their job. Higher-paid jobs and more international positions prefer if I focus on English, just like being an English teacher or nanny would prefer too. Strange, but something I’d like to hear other thoughts on if you have any?
To begin, noone here talks about money. I was even told that, when applying for a job, you should negotiate your worth rather than be told the salary before you apply.
Everyone wants to appear like they have no money, even when living in a penthouse flat with two cars and a cleaner. Apparently, millionaires would choose a humble-looking house, shielded by trees from the back to conceal the size and grandeur of it from passerbys on the street. If you have a flashy car with tinted windows or leather interior, expect scratches.
The same people who scratch your car will have the highest level European education, funded by their parents who also like to take them skiing in the Alps several times a year.
I shouldn’t complain much, I can’t get over how cheap everything is here. Most things (even real estate) are significantly cheaper than in Georgia, let alone the UK! You can find good, organic, bio, fresh superfoods for a quarter of the price than in the UK.
However, it’s not quite enough to make-up for the lack of support for self-employed or entrepreneurial people. I’m self-employed as an array of things here; a website designer, proof reader, English teacher and nanny, graphic designer, wine representative, whatever. However, I have to show x amount of money on my self-employed bank account or they’ll charge me, just enough to ensure I’m taxed. I also have to pay all of my health insurance myself, whereas employed people have half payed by their employer. I don’t know, but breaking the status quo is certainly not encouraged here!
This post is already quite long and ranty, but hopefully with some useful points for some of you. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you disagree with me! I’m speaking purely from my impressions so far, so I’m in no way speaking for everyone. I’m only about halfway through my points, so expect a part two later this week! I’ll try not to be so negative, but I feel like these points took priority.