Our intern Claire about her experience of leaving New Zealand. Thank you, Claire, for having been with us!
“Nearly three years ago I sold all my stuff, packed up a suitcase and my guitar and moved from quiet New Zealand to the bright lights of London. Six months ago, I did it all again but this time to Berlin, Germany.
Moving to London was, at the time, one of the hardest things I’d ever done, but looking back it was actually relatively easy.
Aside from the pain of leaving my parents, my friends, my car, and the ocean and starting a new life almost from scratch. All the boring logistical stuff like setting up a bank account, getting health insurance (Expat, Public or Private), and getting a phone number sorted out was fairly straightforward. Choosing what part of London to live in was probably the hardest part of the relocation. I had different advice from different people and ended up with a nice flat in Kentish Town to start out.
What was harder was the emotional impact: something that I thought wouldn’t affect me. London is loud and rushy, filled with obnoxious schoolchildren and impatient locals who will yell at you if you stand in the wrong part of the escalator. Coming to terms with public transport was a nightmare. My first job there was one of the worst things I had ever done in my life. And I hated my new flatmate with the fire of a thousand suns. Eventually, I found a better job, a better flat and learned
how to use the tube with the minimum of pain.
It took a good six months, but that first moment when you are on the bus to meet your sister for dinner in Shoreditch. And you see the sun shining down Regent’s Canal and you feel your heart actually move, you know that it has been worth it and that the city has become yours.
Berlin was a whole other ball game compared to leaving New Zealand, as it was a decision made on a whim. I had not saved up much money. And I was sad to be leaving London and my friends there. What made it even more challenging was that I didn’t speak German (I still don’t really).
But it was an adventure that needed to be had. So I sorted out my life and once again packed up that suitcase and caught an early morning flight to Berlin.
My first days in Berlin were not fun. It was a gray Sunday and as is the way in Germany nothing was open. I was tired and emotional and I wasn’t allowed to check into my hostel for several hours. So I spent that time walking around empty shopfronts and windows feeling like I’d made the biggest mistake of my life.
I spent my first few weeks trying to sort out all of my logistical relocation problems. The visa was incredibly confusing, especially the part about mandatory health insurance. Registering my address was possibly the worst five hours of my life (10 minutes of actually registering and 4 hours and 50 minutes of waiting to be seen).
I chose a terrible phone provider. And to this day I can’t figure out how to switch the notifications to English so I can actually read them. Although I knew what areas in Berlin I might want to live in. Finding a flat was a nightmare from hell. In my six months here I have had five different bedrooms, ranging from lovely to a mattress on the floor.
But I dealt with it as best I could, muddling through until I found my path. Now I am mostly established here. I have friends, I speak a bit of German. And I have had countless heartbeat skips. Every day I find myself falling more in love with the city, and I am incredibly proud of myself that I managed to actually do this. Fact: Did you know Berlin has amazing sunsets? Like, crazy amazing? Who would have known?
Claire’s current situation
I work here for a company called GLOBALS. An online marketplace of logistical services for expats. Membership means being connected to a range of local businesses that speak English. They are also are equipped to deal with expats. The businesses range from recruitment agencies to gyms, and everything in between. It’s an immensely useful service and I wish that it had been around when I first landed in Berlin. And even when I landed in London. Making the logistical stuff easy would significantly ease the
pain of the emotional stuff. It’s going to be a huge, hard thing to go through. No matter what so you may as well make it as easy as possible for yourself.”