Moving to Stuttgart, Germany: The Prologue

I feel like I need to start this post with two disclaimers, so here they are:

  1. This is not a food-focused post. But I moved to Europe and that’s interesting (right?)
  2. I am happy here, there will be some complaints in what follows but my overall attitude is positive.

I got the idea for this post while reading my most recent issue of Conde Nast Traveler.  It featured an article about a woman (who happens to be a blogger) who moved to Medoc, France with her husband and two kids. As expected it talked about how fabulous her life is in fabulous France with her fabulous kids etc.

Here she is "living the dream" in all her fabulousness

Here she is “living the dream” in all her fabulousness

I got annoyed. These stories always leave off the prologue.  (of course some stories are nothing but prologue, i.e. any romantic comedy ever made.)

So here is my prologue, this is what moving to a new country is actually like at first.

  1. You will probably get sick. When I first arrived here, I had visions of lunching at sidewalk cafes and strolling down quaint German streets (you know, like they always describe in articles like the one in Traveler). Reality: I immediately came down with the worst cold (fever included) that I had in years. So my first week was spent doing one of two things: attempting to recoup in the hotel room or sitting in the stark waiting rooms of various administrative offices to get paperwork in order. (even if you don’t get sick you will have to spend a lot of time in offices filing mountains of paperwork).
  2. You will probably go broke.  Even with the U.S. Government footing a lot of the moving bill (we were moved here for my husband’s job), there are a lot of expenses.  Also the government isn’t exactly quick about getting you your money back or giving you the accurate paperwork or allowances up front. In fact, a clerk might even lose your paperwork, admit to losing it, not apologize and delay your refund of thousands of dollars for another 2 weeks.  Ahhh bureaucracy…  Meantime, your mortgage is due on your house back in the States and the rent on your German apartment is now past due.  They don’t care.
  3. Everything will be disorienting.  Questions I have asked myself: why are the doorknobs shaped like that? Do they not have yellow street paint? All the lines are white–how do I know which lane is mine? Am I supposed to push that button to flush the toilet? Why are there 2 buttons?  Also, why aren’t any of the toilets a normal shape? At a restaurant, I just sit down?  No hostess?  No hellos? Why are these shopping carts chained together? Why do I have 5 different trash cans? Is that sign telling me not to do something or to do it? Do I have enough cash? And so on.  Don’t worry, you’ll eventually get used to it.  But there will be a period of real confusion/frustration/comparing everything to the U.S. equivalent.
  4. House hunting will be both frustrating and amusing. I’m just gonna say it, German realtors are useless leeches. I’m not the only one who thinks so, they recently tried to strike and were mocked.  In the U.S. realtors are nice, helpful people who actually do something, they work for the seller and thus charge the seller.  In Germany they open a door, lie about some stuff and then charge YOU an egregious amount. Since each realtor “owns” the property, only that person can show you it.  This means you will deal with multiple of these lovely people and you do all the work finding places.  Here’s what the realtor of our place did : spent less than 30 minutes showing us the property, gave the contract to the landlord to fill out (which they messed up on, cause they aren’t realtors), demanded payment, tried to go “under the table” and not submit a VAT form, collected over 5,000 Euro.  I am in the wrong career.   In addition to this realtor’s fee, we also had to pay the security deposit– almost 9,000 Euro.  So just to move into an apartment: over 14,000 Euro.  See point #2, above.
  5. In spite of it all, you will still be excited and blessed to be in Europe. Now that December is here, I am finally starting to feel more settled and ready to do things like lunch at sidewalk cafes (of course, it’s a bit too cold right now).  And with each week that passes, I forget more and more of the frustrations of my first weeks here.  There is so much to explore here and I have already done several amazing things and made memories that will last a lifetime.  In 10 years when someone asks what it was like to live in Germany, these are the things I will recount– not complaints about the realtors or the fact that I got sick.But someone has to be honest and tell the prologue.
  6. Like memories of attending the Stuttgart Wine Festival and this happening.

    Like memories of attending the Stuttgart Wine Festival and this happening.

    Buying dirndl and lederhosen (and, later, a beer hat) for Stuttgart's Oktoberfest

    Buying dirndl and lederhosen (and, later, a beer hat) for Stuttgart’s Oktoberfest

    The cheese cart at Spiesemeisterei, an Michelin star restaurant

    The cheese cart at Spiesemeisterei, a Michelin star restaurant

    Dining at The Cube, a restaurant at the top of an art gallery with the best view

    Dining at The Cube, a restaurant at the top of an art gallery with the best view

    Visiting Kessler, a local sparkling wine producer

    Visiting Kessler, a local sparkling wine producer

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Categories: Event, General, Review

Author:apointgourmet

A former English teacher living in Stuttgart, Germany who finds some sanity and peace through cooking.

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