A Brief Guide to Immigration

Just 2 weeks left until the big move. The closer it gets, the more excited I am, but I still have so much to do. I feel like Ive got a whole life to prioritize and pack up. It's amazing to think how much stuff I've accumulated in just over a year. I've spent my whole life sure of the fact that if I ever had the chance to just pick up and move to another country, I would not only jump at the chance, but I would revel in every moment of it. Now that its actually happening though I'm surprised at how much I just didn't expect. So, I've written this brief guide to help anyone thinking about moving overseas with the logistics and transition of it all.

So you wanna move overseas?

Step 1: First things first. This whole process could take 50 years if you gave yourself enough time to accomplish everything you need to. So, pick a date that your leaving. Give yourself about 1-2 months max to really experience all the fun immigration has to offer. This is your date, don't let anyone or anything change it.

Step 2: Take a look around and find something enormously precious to you and with out which, you just couldn't imagine living. Now pick up this item and throw it directly in the trash.

Well that sucked right? But you've just surprised yourself! Yeah, you're kinda sad about not having that thing you've had all you life or that you've included in your identity for years, but you're still ok with out it. You're still you, you're still alive. Maybe you didn't really need it anyways?

Now, sit down and take a second to absorb the fact that you will be getting rid of everything that's ever mattered to you and reducing your entire matrix of possessions to just a couple suitcases.

Pause here for your first quick panic attack.

Step 3: let's talk about money. In order to accomplish your dream of moving overseas we need to do a  little bit of math. First, think about all the money you have to your name right now, then think about all the money you could possibly get (from hustling, selling possessions, cashing in stocks/bonds/etc. babysitting, bank robery, whatever) before you planned move date. Make sure you include all your credit cards and even the money your mom, dad, and grandparents will give you in the event of a horrible emergency. Do you have your number? Awesome. Now, just double that and you've got your budget.

What I like to do is make one big list of items I have to pay for then compare that to my heartbreakingly small salary and then just cry. It's a good time.

Step 4: Visas and health insurance. How does it all work? Do I really need these things? What do I have to do? Who should I call for answers? Where do I fill out paperwork? The answer to all these questions and more is "I have no idea." You would think the answer would be "pay an immigration lawyer" but that actually only gets you about 1/10 of the way. Realistically, you should make some friends with government connections and cross your fingers that it all works out in the end. You've got a couple months on your tourist visa right? #hope

So all that was fun. But let's take a break from the technical stuff you actually have no control over and talk about some of the exciting foreign intricacies of life your about to experience! Now, I have to make a quick disclaimer here. I'm lucky enough to have a fabulous significant other, and German national helping me out with all this. So instead of stumbling across each of these nuances on my own and wading through the resultant frustration and surprise, I get to just argue about why I think the American way is better and how "I don't care what you people do over there I just want a regular freaking blanket". My arguments are usually quickly squashed by "feel however you want about it, Amazon doesn't ship that to Germany."

I'll break these into categories for you.

Walk in closets and open floor plans are apparently American things. So when you're browsing the web on websites you can't read for apartments you hope don't turn out to be in the red light district be flexible! Just because you can't figure out where your clothes are supposed to go, doesn't mean that apartment isn't worth looking at.

Kitchens are different too. When I explained the typical German kitchen to my grandma her first response was "what about the triangle?" (The chef's triangle of the stove, fridge, and sink). Most/all the kitchens we saw were essentially all your appliances and your sink lined up against one wall. My grandma's next comment was a disheartened sigh of "they must be awful cooks". (I'm not sure she's wrong...sour kraut and sausages aren't exactly gourmet cuisine.) Unlike apartments in the US most of the apartments over there don't actually include appliances. You are expected to bring your own fridge, dishwasher, washing machine, and even mirrors and light fixtures.

Leases are also very rare! Most apartments don't have specific occupancy dates and only require a certain amount of notice before moving out.

I'm saying all this as the proud owner of a beautiful apartment with an open floor plan, an included fridge and dishwasher, and 1 year lease. All of which come at the insistence of the American in me and the willingness of previously mentioned German to go out of his way to make me happy.

This gets its own category because its a whole buncha stupid.

Americans sleep on tall fluffy beds that make sense. Everyone else doesn't. There are no box springs. They use these grossly expensive duvets instead of comforters, and no sheets. Simon and I routinely argue about it.

Amazon.com and Amazon.de are NOT the same thing. They don't have the same stuff and its just depressing.

Bank Accounts:
Just as any FYI there are no good ways to transfer money from the US overseas. I get to have my US paycheck direct deposited to my US bank account, then I get to go to a participating ATM, withdraw that paycheck in cash, then deposit that cash into a German bank account. That sounds like a hassle, but compared to the web of interest rates, foreign transaction fees, and wire fees its the most streamlined (and cheapest) way to get my money. It's crazy. You'd think this global, "the world is flat" society would have figured this out by now.

Anyways, I apologize for the lack of photos in this post. I actually have a good one of my name on the buzzer of my new apartment I was hoping to show you, but I've been with out a computer for the last couple weeks. My MacBook Pro died and my work hasn't bought me a new one yet. I've been writing with my iPad which does handle photos to well.

I'll keep you updated at the move gets closer.
Have a beautiful weekend!

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