I almost can't believe we've made the decision to go and are able to follow it through!
Returning to Germany has been a dream I have held dearly for a quarter of a century. Yes, 25 years!
We've got our passports; are watching Skyscanner daily; have made a short list of what we absolutely have to get done before we go; and have been earnestly finding out about what to do, what to see, and how it might all work.
It's times like this you're grateful for checklists.
We thought we'd ease the children into the possibility of culture shock by landing in an English-speaking country first - which may as well be England as flights are economical.
Then it's off to Tuebingen (Germany) and beyond.
Using the bi-lateral visa waiver agreements that New Zealand has with specific European/Schengen countries, we can stay for up to 3 months per 180 days. I wish we could secure a Residency Permit for Germany that allowed us more time and greater flexibility there but you need to have an offer of work, a study placement or a spouse/immediate family member there to re-unite with to even have a chance. Some countries accept a prescribed amount of funds as another method of longer-term entry, but that's not the case with Germany unfortunately.
My focus is on making Tuebingen home so that is where I am currently trying to find accommodation and have been looking into family-friendly activities too.
Housing if we are fortunate to find the right place will still be 3 - 4 times what we were paying on our mortgage and about double what we might be able to rent our home out if furnished. At the upper end of the market housing in Tuebingen is around 8 times dearer. That's hugely disproportionate before we even start to look at food, transport and activities.
Anyway I thought I'd jot down a few ideas about how you might decide on a place to call home:
- Do you want to go somewhere similar or different?
- Are you happy about coping in a place where the language / currency / customs / weather are a change from what you are used to or not?
- Do you want access to specific activities / events / resources?
- Do you have special criteria based on your health, vocation or family status? ie must be easily walkable, or have stable wi-fi
- Are there images you've seen or recommendations people have given you that pique your interest?
While for some there may be a 'right' or a 'wrong' answer, I would venture to suggest that any place will be a valuable experience!
Once you have a few guidelines for what you want to find you'll want to explore and eventually narrow down your options. So:
- Take a cursory look at the country's national tourism website and media.
- Find the regional and local tourist information bureaux websites. Scrolling back through any social media site they have will show you what activities and events happen at the time of year you want to be there. Scout out the calendar of upcoming events too.
- Look at photos on Flickr or via a browser image search - this is a good way to gauge the weather.
- Find the local government website where an introduction to new residents to the area might be written detailing it's services; and most often there are useful street maps to download.
- Search ex-patriot forums & websites of people who live there for inside tips, opinions & raw observations. Remember though that you will need to filter everything through your own unique situation.
- Think about the things that you (and your family) like to do in your own area, and find out if they are available in your prospective home too. A local inner city business marketing agency website is a help to finding specific products and services