29 June 2017

Hortensia - Expat in Germany

Hortensia - Expat in Germany

We’ve had the chance to talk to Hortensia, 29, a Spanish expat who has moved to Germany alone. Ms. Hortensia who has been living there for more than three years, now works in online marketing. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I am originally from Spain.


Q: What made you move out of Spain?

A: Since I was a child I was always interested in travelling and studying abroad. So it was the same for my professional life. I always wanted to develop an international career, to learn other languages and to learn from other cultures.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Right now I am living in Germany. I found a job offer here and I moved.


Q: How long have you been living in Germany?

A: I am living here for more than three years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I came here alone, I left my family and friends in Spain.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I do miss my family but I am not a homesickness person, in fact, I also have a family here. All my friends here are also part of my family now.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I have only good words to talk about locals. People have always treated me as one of them and they have always helped me to feel integrated.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Germany? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: It was easy to make friends here. I live in a shared flat (which help a lot to meet new people when you arrive alone to a foreign country) and, at the same time, I always take part in expats meetings.

A good organization to start meeting people to meet new people is “Internations”. 


Q: How does the cost of living in Germany compare to your home?

A: The cost of living is more expensive here than in my host country, although the difference is not huge in comparison to my hometown.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: 1,90€.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 15,00€.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: 90,00€.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine: 7,50€. Cigarettes: 6,00€.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Germany?

A: The best option is to open an online account because you do not need to speak the language perfectly to complete the procedures. There are many options (ING, Comdirect…)

However, if you have a good level of the local language you can always use traditional banks like Commerzbank or Sparkasse.

Most of the banks in Germany are free from additional charges when opening a bank account.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: As a European, I did not have visa or work permit problems. However, in Germany, it is compulsory to register your address at the local Residence Registration Office. The procedure is simple. You just have to present your passport and/or visa, a copy of a flat rental agreement and a completed registration form, which is usually available at the Einwohnermeldeamt (Residents´ Registration Office).


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Germany is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: You have different options for health insurance while living in Germany; the government-regulated public health insurance system (GKV), private health insurance (PKV) or a combination of the two. You can opt for a full private health insurance if your income is above a certain threshold.

Most of Germans opt for the GKV insurance, which includes full hospital and doctors coverage (every Krankenkasse has a list of public doctors). Each Krankenkasse has different prices and tariffs.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Spain or Germany? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Yes, in Germany it is mandatory to secure a health insurance. Depending on the health insurance and the Krankenkasse you will have different coverages. As an expat, I think it is essential to be also cover in my home country (when I come back for holidays) and to find Spanish or English speaking doctors (it is always a good idea in case there is a huge problem).


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Germany? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I came here only with a luggage and, once I arrived, I started to buy furniture for my room (most of the apartments in Germany are unfurnished).


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: The biggest challenge for me was to speak German properly. When I arrived here I realised that my German level should be improved if I wanted to develop my career and to live here. So I started taking German courses as well as to communicate more with my clients (meetings by telephone are really useful) and, also, with other people (at the supermarket, in the disco, attending to meetings...)


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Germany?

A: The positive side is that Germany has a good quality of life, its citizens are really open and friendly and it is a good place to live. The negative side is being away from the family.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: The region of Nordrhein-Westfalen, where I leave, include amazing cities such as Cologne and Düsseldorf where there is always something to do. Düsseldorf is a city full of charm where many events and activities take place during the whole year. The same in Cologne. There is no time to be bored! If you would like to see something really traditional you just have to come here in Carnival. They call it the 5th season of the year.

As an expat, I can only recommend this area. The quality of life, its citizens, the huge amount of national and international events… This area of Germany is a good place to live.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Yes, I think one day I will move to a different country. The world is big and I want to keep discovering it.

And, yes, I will come back home one day. Spain is also a good place to live.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: My tip is to enjoy the experience. Germany is a country full of possibilities and living here is a good experience. As an expat, you just have to talk to locals, to attend to meetings and events, to walk around, to organise trips around the country… As an expat I always recommend to be open minded, to integrate yourself, to try local things and to enjoy.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Germany?

A: A part of my own blog, “Expat the world”: https://myexpatworld.com/, there are some blogs and websites I like to follow. One of them is “Kaffee und Kuchen” http://www.kaffeeundkuchen.co/, a blog of a Canadian living in Germany. Another page I like to follow is The Local https://www.thelocal.de/ where you can find information about what is going on in Germany.