I moved from India to Europe around one year back for a new job. In this post, I will share my experiences with relocating to a new country and why it might be the best thing you can do for yourself and your career.
Some background before we dive into the deeps
For some years now, every December, I would write in my Vision and Values journal about how I would want the next year to be and the best things that can happen for my career, well-being etc. For 2021, among others, I had a point about relocating outside India for a tech job and exploring new cultures. At least if not move, give my best shot at it.
Around March last year, it was officially one year since I permanently moved back to my parent’s house (thanks to Covid). Arguably it was the best bonding time I had with them in years, and my heart was whole.
But also, I started looking for a job change as I felt overworked at my current work and wanted more challenges and exposure in my career. So I started applying to smaller Indian startups for practice as my interviewing skills were rusty. After attending many interviews for a month, it felt like the right time to apply for jobs abroad.
Why Germany or even Europe?
After much research, I was sure I wanted to explore Europe. For me EU seemed more lucrative than my second preference, US as Europe seemed to score better in what I was looking for.
To name a few,
- Europe is known for better work-life balance
- Health care was almost free in Europe compared to the States
- Getting residence options for expats were more flexible in EU
- Moving to an EU country would be a travel pass to the whole Europe
I was mainly interested in western European countries (except the UK, yeah due to Brexit). So I started looking at tech companies mainly in Germany, Netherlands and France in that order.
After few months of interviewing actively, I ended up with two offers in Germany. I decided to drop all other ongoing interviews in favour of one of the German offers as I vibed greatly with their company culture and energy.
There were a few more reasons which helped me choose Germany despite knowing you need to learn a new language to survive.
- The position I chose was in Berlin. Berlin, the most racially and culturally diverse city in Germany(if not EU), had a significant English-speaking population. Moreover, learning german wasn’t a criterion as the primary work language in tech would still be English.
- The history, the art and the hipster vibe of Berlin seemed very, very palatable to my taste.
- Germany has one of the best health and taxpayer benefits in Europe, smoother PR options, an ever-growing tech industry with most FAANG companies, and so many world-class tech startups.
After a year, was it worth it?
Before moving, I was clear about the best and worst-case scenarios. As people say, the grass is always greener on the other side; Germany looked like a vast green flag for this new chapter. But what if it was not?
Sometimes I wondered if I find it difficult to adjust in Germany or if the company wasn’t a right fit. I knew I was just one flight and at-max a few months of job search away from moving back and finding some work in India to be able to pay my bills. Reframing my thoughts and establishing a safety net or plan B helped me feel calm with anxieties and enjoy the migration process more.
Looking back a year later, I feel I could have missed out on so much life experience and learning if I had given in to the demons in my head. The ones who tell you maybe you’re not prepared or not good enough to take such a giant leap.
If I could go back in time, 10/10, I’ll retake the same chances.
Sailing solo and life outside work
It has been a roller coaster ride so far, but luckily, there are more ups than downs.
Most European countries are very particular about work-life balance, which means you’re done with your 8 hours of work by 5 pm and have the rest of the evening to yourself. That leaves you with ample time for yourself to be with friends, indulge in hobbies or maybe sit in the park and look at the river.
I’ll be honest, this experience has been like fresh air to me. Having enough time for myself let me be in better mental space and health. In the past months, I took a long break from social media and spent more times outdoors. Germany has beautiful parks, lakes and hiking trails where I’ll often spend my lazy weekends. In other days, I would explore the city, or try out some cafes.
Inside my tiny studio, I started learning how to grow plants and not kill them for once. I also started a Twitch channel where I stream live coding sessions from time to time for fun. Also in this short span I visited two wonderful countries, Hungary and Lithuania.
Just in the last 12 months I realised I had read more books, walked more steps and played more hours of guitar than maybe the last decade, back home.
Plug: You can follow my travel journey and highlight photos on my Instagram or Unsplash account. 😉
Take it easy - everything isn’t rosy
bendmorris on Nov 9, 2016 @ HN | A man was walking along a river bank when he saw another man on the opposite side. “Hello!” he called out, “how do you get to the other side of the river?” The man called out in response, “you are on the other side of the river!”
Back in India, I had already stayed away from my hometown for university and job for nearly eight years. And being a decent cook and organised person(well, messy desks don’t count), living solo as an expat was one of my most minor concerns. But I discounted the fact that you’re in a country now and it can get pretty lonely sometimes.
Making friends as an adult is already hard. More so in Germany, as people are very private and respect their and others’ personal spaces, making it a bit overwhelming for random talks and reaching out to someone new.
Sometimes when I go out for a walk or to the supermarket to grab some groceries, I would look around and get this alienated feeling, and all the good stuff would fade away in a moment. But then again, I learnt this was pretty normal as we are social animals, and we long for nothing more than our herd. Which I didn’t have at that moment.
After the first few months, this started getting better. I joined some community of expats and got to meet some great people from Reddit groups like r/berlinsocialclub and on telegram. Absorbing a new culture, history and tradition can take years, so taking it easy is the only way.
I know for someone who has already done something, it’s always easy to say, “well, that was very easy”. But a lot of things played a crucial part in this journey.
For example, my university degree allowed me to apply to many jobs, which was a primary criterion for getting an EU BlueCard.
I’m looking at you, people of Twitter with hot takes like “don’t go to college for a tech job”. Well, if you are from a third-world country like me, going to college or not might be the thin line between getting a US/UE Visa or not.
Moreover, all the exposures I had from the previous high-pressure jobs I’ve complained about above gave me a lot of learning (and maybe reasons) which helped me prepare for this move.
Last but not the least, I feel very fortunate and grateful to be able to connect all the dots in my life so far, to travel half way around the world and live the kind of life I could only dream of a year back. ✨
Would you like to read something more tech-focused on my preparations and move to Europe? Let me know on Twitter.
This is V3 of my personal site. V2 • V1