One of the things I’ve mentioned on here continuously is the fact that I just love hearing other peoples’ stories. I love listening to people who are living out their dreams and doing something just for themselves for the simple fact that they enjoy doing it. That said, I have decided to write a series of blog posts featuring people who are doing just that, and who have agreed to answer my mile-long list of questions:). The topics and the people will be all across the board because that is the beauty of this whole thing; everyone is entitled to their own definition of what the words “life goals” mean. And it is in this project that I want to highlight the fact that everyone holds a true passion for something; that everyone has a vision of how they want their life to be. It may not be what you would want yourself, but the common denominator is that we all hope, we all dream, and we all want to truly live.
So without further adieu, my first featured person is…my very own grandma! Let’s just say, travel and adventure runs in my family…haha. My grandma had lived in Cleveland for quite a number of years, but her and my grandpa would frequently visit his family over in Germany. She was always fascinated with the German culture, and adored the German picturesque views which are found in absolutely every direction. It was when her and my grandpa went to visit Garmisch-ParKirchen in southern Germany that she felt a tugging at her heart…she wanted to come back to the area, but didn’t want to come back simply as a tourist. She wanted to live, breathe, and learn the life of a German living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. So, after a number of years of throwing around the thought, she made a firm decision to move over there. This was something she had always wanted to do, so what was the harm in giving her dream a chance? Here is her story, in her own words.
Why did you decide to move to Germany?
I moved to Germany because I have been here many times. I have always loved visiting and have always wanted to try living here. Of course now it is also because I wanted a challenge in my life and I wanted to learn the language and live the culture. This is not anything that I have ever done before.
Why Germany? And why Garmisch?
I fell in love with Garmisch the first time I came here in about 1991. In fact, when we left, the tears were flowing down my face because I thought I would never be able to come back. The mountains moved me so much that I felt this was as close to God as one could get on earth. I also moved here because there are a number of things to do both in winter and the rest of the year. No, I will not be going skiing, but biking and easy hiking may be in store!
How much time and planning did it take you in preparation for your big move?
It took almost a year of planning to make my move. Of course the challenge was first to see if it was possible for me to go to Germany and stay. You have to remember, it is the government of Germany that decides whether one can live here or not. I had to see what the requirements were and if I could meet them.I still do not have their final answer on that. I have hopefully met all the requirements. There are many. I have to prove that I have sufficient assets to live here so that I do not become a burden. I must have health insurance including repatriation insurance. Last but not least I must have a place to live. Hopefully since I am retired I don’t have to show them that I have a job. Then they should grant me a resident visa in order that I can stay here longer than 90 days which is what is only allowed when you come without a visa.
How long do you want to live in Germany for?
My hope is to stay here for 2 years for several reasons. I believe the first year will be the hardest making all of the adjustments and hopefully making friends. I feel the second year will be the year when I can relax more and enjoy myself. By that time I will have a better handle on the language and hopefully have a network of friends that I will enjoy and feel comfortable with. Also, I must return to the states before I go on Medicare because Medicare does not cover you when you are overseas.
What has been the hardest part about moving to another country?
The hardest thing about moving to another country I think is not knowing anyone in the town I live in and the fear of failure. That is my personal fear.
What has been the best part about moving to another country?
The best part has been the little successes that I have had. For example, when I was waiting for the train to take me to Heidelberg an older German woman started speaking with me and we were able to continue our conversation in German on the train. She didn’t speak any English. It made me feel like I can do this. For me personally, every time I look out my living room window and I can see the Zugspitze (mountain top) I am amazed that I am really here and doing this. I also have enjoyed the little travelling I have done and look forward to doing more.
How did you go about finding an apartment?
The apartment hunting I started at home. Thank heavens for the internet. In fact I wasn’t going to move to Garmisch because all I kept finding were very expensive holiday apartments. I don’t know how many times I kept searching and all of a sudden I found a website that showed apartments in a price that fit my budget. I made contact with the real estate agent. Of course when I got here all of the apartments were rented and there was nothing in my budget. But after 2 weeks the agent found me one. I wanted something small. My requirements were: 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, living room, finished kitchen, and a balcony or terrace, oh yes. I also wanted an apartment with a washing machine or access to one and the apartment needed to be close to transportation and stores.
What has been the scariest thing about moving abroad?
The scariest thing about moving are probably 2 things. Sometimes the language has becoming overwhelming when I am dealing with very technical or very important issues regarding my staying here. So far they have been worked through but twice they have overwhelmed me. the second item is the worry of not making friends and trying to keep myself occupied and not get down in the pits.
Has it been easy to make friends? How have you gone about meeting other people?
No it is not easy making friends. This could be an age issue and a cultural issue. German people are very private. Older Germans are especially private and many don’t speak English and they, for whatever reason, don’t necessarily want to take the time to speak with someone who they can tell by the speech is not from their country. A young girl from Austria was here for a month doing an internship in a hospital and she told me she was having this problem. Not a single coworker had invited her to get together after work hours. She was feeling very lost and alone on her time off. This was a 23 year old who was actually born in Germany and as a young child moved with her family to Austria. She had also spent 3 months in the USA and said she felt Americans were much more friendly and open to new friends and at the very least making a visitor feel welcome. I must admit that made me feel better. I am attending church to try and meet new people. I also try to make opportunities to talk with people and go to the same stores. I took one day trip on a tour bus with a German group. By the end of the day the ladies who were around me did speak with me. However they are from Mittenwald. But it is a start. I go to the city concerts every Friday evening and hope that maybe I will start seeing the same people and something will strike up there.
Describe a day in your life in Germany. What do you do in the mornings? What do you do at night?
My day. Unfortunately I seem to wake up around 5:45 am. UGH!!! Sometimes I will read for awhile or when I get up I will check the computer for e-mails and facebook posts. That becomes necessary because of the time difference. I take time to sit down and have breakfast. Sometimes a typical German type breakfast and sometimes just some cereal. I usually then listen to CNN International. I am disappointed because they really don’t put on that much USA news. Then if I am doing laundry I need to get it going. Of course there is no dryer so I must get the clothes put on the drying rack out on my balcony. It usually takes most of the day for items to dry. Then I may be off to the grocery. Since the refrigerator is so tiny, less than 34 inches tall, I must go often. the other side of that is I also can only by what I can carry home. It is probably about 2 miles round trip for my shopping. The afternoon usually means I do dome stitching, go to the library or the post office. Yes, I do have a library card for the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Library. They have a very, very small section of English books. At the rate I am going I may have them all read in 2 years. Although some of them are not up my alley. I also try to take 2 good walks day. At least an hour in length. I have checked out the hiking and as soon as I get another pair of shoes I will be exploring that more. I will hopefully be getting a bike soon. They are very expensive and I am hoping to get a second hand bike. They are few and far between. My evenings are usually spent watching a little TV, stitching or reading. Friday nights always include the community concert put on by the Garmisch Musiikkappelle.
What would be the biggest tip you would give to someone looking to move abroad?
I think if you are thinking of moving abroad you need to really know yourself and examine all the things you may encounter and be honest with yourself. Can you handle the problems and can you handle being alone if that happens? There may be no one to listen to you or to assist you. Be realistic with your expectations and your answer as to how you would respond. It is not like when you are on vacation.