#1 My Expat Story

Every time I think back , I cannot believe how fast the time went since I first started my journey.

It was the 5th of October 2008, a cloudy Sunday morning in the south of Germany about 30 km from Stuttgart. I had my white 1987 Ford Escort Convertible, a back then 21 year-old  car in immaculate condition, fully packed up with what I thought to be useful on my first move abroad.

 

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I had removed all the seats except the drivers seat in order to make more space for things that later turned out to be entirely useless. A complete new interior in white leather would be waiting for me upon arrival in my new home country – purchased 3 months earlier on eBay and shipped to my mate’s place it was stored in his garage.

I was 26 and a half at the time and I had never lived away from my family’s place – let alone in a complete different country that speaks another language. I was, and lots of my friends who know me from that time would agree, a “spoiled little prick”.  I did not have a clue about the real world out there. The night before I had been out with my mates for the last time at the football – we won 4:1 and got utterly drunk, as always. The fact that I would have to drive 1000 km in the morning didn’t seem to matter.

Only a couple of minutes before I started my big journey I asked my mother to quickly explain to me how a washing machine works and what is to be washed at what temperature, which was not the only thing I had no clue of. Neither did I know how to cook anything that is not microwaveable, nor had I ever paid a penny of rent or bills. 100% of my salary back then was invested in alcohol (probably I thought that’s where I’ll get the highest percentage), football travels and car parts. My current account was usually between 3000 and 4000 Euros in unplanned overdraft and I had only managed to pay off all my debt in the previous autumn when I was working for 4 months without weekends. I was earning great money at the time as Germany used to pay amazing shift allowances back then, plus I worked 12 additional hours on each day of the weekend. The best thing about that was probably the fact that I did not actually have any time to spend money whatsoever.

So my debt was paid and I even had a couple of hundred quid on the side and was awaiting my last salary from Germany in early November which turned out to be 1700 euros. However, the odds were high that as soon as I was given the chance, I would make a bollocks of it again. Therefore most people thought I would never survive and that I would be back even before those initial 6 months this trip was “officially” intended for.  I’m saying “officially”, because my girlfriend at the time was initially supposed to come with me, however, she got cold feet along the way. Especially for Germans it is not easy to leave everything behind as the country probably offers the best social security network in Europe, if not the world.

As harsh as this might sound, our relationship had ran its course but for some reason I did not have the guts to break it up right away – otherwise I would have probably done it long before. We were not exactly the happiest of all couples and so I got her into compromising to let me go for 6 months to improve my English, after which I would start applying for jobs in Germany again. That, however, was absolutely nothing I was worrying about in that right moment.

It was a weird feeling I had. Half excitement finally being able to do what I had been planning on for 3 full years, half anxiety to leave a secure job, friends and a free room behind. Even though the excitement clearly predominated, I almost had tears in my eyes after saying goodbye to everyone and driving off into an uncertain future.

I kept thinking for a good while whether or not it was the right thing to do, whilst driving the first kilometers on the local roads I knew so well.

But if I would not keep driving, I would never know…

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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