#2 My Expat Story

It was at a time long before I had my first smartphone and I also did not own a satnav. Two big investments I had made right before the trip were a brand new PC and and a digital camera, as I knew there were a lot of pictures to be taken and uploaded to a MySpace account I had created solely for this purpose.

So there I was – driving off to my new life in a 21 year-old car and a Google maps printout and as soon as I got onto less familiar roads there was no more time for doubts or fear. I had made a decision and would follow through with it! I was now 100% looking forward to what would expect me at my destination.

All this was over 7 years ago but I remember every detail as it was yesterday. Leaving Germany at this point was probably the best decision I ever made. I could never imagine myself living the “German dream” of a typical suburban nightmare – big house, 3 children running in the back yard, a Merc parked in front and the lawn always cut to perfection for the neighbours to admire.

Don’t get me wrong. If this is your kind of lifestyle then there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It is just nothing I would be dreaming of and there was nothing else Germany could have offered me either.

I had been fed up with the stiffness of many people and the over regulation of pretty much everything for years. In Germany there seems to be a law for absolutely everything. But again, whereas a lot of people may be very fond of that, I prefer my personal freedom.

I was absolutely gobsmacked when, a couple of months after arriving in my new home, I have seen a policeman with a nose piercing, several earrings and a tattoo on his lower arm. Telling this to my mother, who happens to work for the police in Germany, she asked me if I respect this kind of person. Hell yes, I do! I cannot see why the guy’s body art would make him any less professional.

The same way, being tattooed myself, I started feeling a pretty immediate reverse cultural shock when going back to Germany for visits after only a few months abroad. Taking off my shirt in the summer, I felt judged by basically anyone over 50 (unless they were tattooed themselves). Sometimes I could spot fear in their eyes as if I was standing there with a blade in my hand, asking them to empty their pockets.

When I go back now, several years later, I can see that Germany has changed and became more open-minded. Nowadays I can even see first-line customer service staff in a supermarket with facial piercings and visible tattoos – something that would have been impossible 7 years ago.. At least in the south where I am from.

Another thing I could not stand back then was the fact that, you start an apprenticeship that usually takes 3 years and whilst doing the exact same work like anybody else in the company, you receive less than half their salary. After you have passed the final exam you are supposed to work in that same profession for the rest of your working life. My apprenticeship included, I worked in my profession for a total of 9 years and since I left Germany, there was no job I have been doing for more than 1.5 years.

I suppose I am getting bored pretty easily, which is why I did not only change jobs but also countries very frequently since then.

It was about 4 pm on the same day, 05/10/08, when I boarded the ferry I had booked a couple of weeks earlier, in order to start my new job 2 days after…

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