Monthly Archives: September 2023

Moving to Germany to Study Staying Finding A Job

From Studying to Staying: Clara’s Surprising Story of Moving to Germany

Hi there, dear friends! I’m Clara, I’m from Spain and I work on the Marketing team here at Project Expat. It’s a bit strange (and somehow difficult) to write an article about myself and not from anonymity, but if you’re thinking about moving to Germany to study and sticking around for work, I’ve got a story that might help you out. Keep reading!

The beginning of the journey of moving to Germany

My journey began in 2021, when my home university granted me the enriching opportunity to share my passion for languages at the Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences. However, that was not exactly my initial plan. I was about to apply for the Spanish assistant scholarship in Canada when they informed me that the Canadian university had cancelled the agreement with my home university due to COVID. Therefore, I had to come up with a different choice!

Don’t get me wrong – I was very excited about moving to Germany after I received the news, but I had studied a degree in Translation and Interpreting in English and French and I had taken Italian and Arabic lessons, which means I couldn’t speak a word of German.

I remember people were shocked at first and they kept on asking me: “Why did you decide to move to Germany? You could have chosen many other countries whose languages you speak!” and I just responded: “I also don’t know why, but I’m really looking forward to it”.

That’s the truth: for some unknown reason, the idea of going to Germany made me really happy even though I had never ever considered it before. In fact, at that time I was more eager to go to Germany than Canada (which was unbelievable to me).

Nevertheless, I’m not going to lie here, life is not all roses. The plan of moving to a country and teaching Spanish in a classroom where people spoke a language I didn’t know was a bit intimidating and things were difficult at first.

Living in Aschaffenburg

Let’s fast-forward to my first encounter with the name “Aschaffenburg.” I didn’t even know that city existed, let alone where it was located. Pronouncing it was a huge challenge. I had to Google “how to pronounce Aschaffenburg” and ask my best friend to send me a voice message saying the word. It took me a week to finally get it right and every time I said the name aloud (“Ash-af-fen-burg”) I could almost hear a cheering crowd in my head, celebrating my small triumph.

Living in Aschaffenburg

Let’s fast-forward to my first encounter with the name “Aschaffenburg.” I didn’t even know that city existed, let alone where it was located. Pronouncing it was a huge challenge. I had to Google “how to pronounce Aschaffenburg” and ask my best friend to send me a voice message saying the word. It took me a week to finally get it right and every time I said the name aloud (“Ash-af-fen-burg”) I could almost hear a cheering crowd in my head, celebrating my small triumph.

It’s crazy how unpredictable life can be. Three months before I packed my bags for Aschaffenburg, I didn’t even know this city existed. And yet, as if by fate, I ended up there falling in love with its beautiful little streets.

When I decided to make Germany my new home, I was determined to dive headfirst into its culture, so every weekend my friends and I set out to explore this fascinating country. From the historic streets of Berlin or the picturesque alleys of Heidelberg to the majestic Bavarian Alps, I traveled near and far, soaking in the German life. I tasted traditional food at local markets, chatted with locals and tried to decipher German signs (sometimes with hilarious results!).

But it wasn’t all fun, I also had to work a bit! Over the course of six months, I helped students practice their skills in Spanish and I was able to gain insight into how the German higher education system works. Even though teaching is not the profession I want to pursue, I enjoyed every single moment of it and I learnt so many valuable things that I am still able to apply today in every job I do.

It’s true that there’s a lot of paperwork to handle before your arrival and during the first week, but despite German bureaucracy being a bit confusing, everyone is willing to assist you, and for me, everything was surprisingly smooth. So, if you’re considering moving to Germany to study with a scholarship, don’t be scared of the administrative procedures and go for it. It’s absolutely worth it. It’s true that there are differences between EU and non-EU residents when going through the whole process, but it shouldn’t discourage you to take the leap.

A newcomer’s mistake in moving to Germany

I want to tell you a little anecdote just for the sake of helping you avoid making the same mistake.

When you move to a German city, you need to register at the town hall. So off I went, full of hopes (but not full of German language skills). I walked in and there was this not-so-friendly woman behind the counter speaking English to me (thank goodness). She started asking me questions to fill in a form (full name, ID number, telephone number, etc.). So far, so good.

But then she asks me something that sounds like “region” to me. She had just asked me about my address back in Spain and her English wasn’t the clearest, so I just assumed she wanted to know what part of Spain I lived in. I said: “In Spain?” and she went like: “Yes!”, to which I responded: “Andalusia”. And that’s when things start getting funny. She started looking through her options and she couldn’t find Andalusia so she asked me to repeat it. I said “Andalusia” again and I could see this poor woman getting more confused by the second. And then it hit me – she was not asking about where I was from, she was asking about my religion! I turned all sorts of shades of red and I apologized like there was no tomorrow. I was so nervous that I told her that I believed in God (even though I don’t).

I left the room and laughed about it with my friend, until a few months later I found out I had to pay the German Church Tax (Kirchensteuer), which I had no idea even existed. Can you imagine? All because I mixed up “religion” and “region.” So, here’s the advice: never lie, even if you’re just trying to cover up your confusion. Trust me, it’s way less awkward to admit you don’t understand than to accidentally say you’re a devout churchgoer and end up with unexpected taxes to pay!

I could tell you a hundred more stories that made me feel the same way. It wasn’t always easy, and there were moments when I felt like a curious outsider. But those moments were part of the adventure. They pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, learn new things, and truly connect with the heart of Germany.

Learning German

Learning a new language can be a rollercoaster of emotions, and my journey with German was no exception. Let’s just say that studying this language at times felt like trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces.

Luckily, the University of Aschaffenburg offered optional German courses to its Spanish assistants, which made it much easier. However, as you can imagine, I didn’t get to learn that much in 6 months. We started from scratch (A1 level), so by the time the course ended we had only reached an A2 level. In other words, I could simply buy bread in German and have utterly trivial conversations while waiting in line at the supermarket.

Learning German

Learning a new language can be a rollercoaster of emotions, and my journey with German was no exception. Let’s just say that studying this language at times felt like trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces.

Luckily, the University of Aschaffenburg offered optional German courses to its Spanish assistants, which made it much easier. However, as you can imagine, I didn’t get to learn that much in 6 months. We started from scratch (A1 level), so by the time the course ended we had only reached an A2 level. In other words, I could simply buy bread in German and have utterly trivial conversations while waiting in line at the supermarket.

Moving to Germany and finding a job

After my contract ended at the university, I was eager to find work in Germany. I had grown so fond of the country that I didn’t want to leave. My job search focused on Berlin, Munich and remote opportunities, although I was open to any options.

However, not speaking German fluently presented a big challenge and sometimes I felt like giving up. I visited the employment office (Agentur für Arbeit) in Aschaffenburg, where a woman told me that finding a job was nearly impossible if I couldn’t speak German. Spoiler alert: THIS IS NOT TRUE.

She was a bit rude and suggested me to take an integration course for refugees to learn about Europe and its values (despite the fact that I was not a refugee: I was Spanish, and therefore European). Nevertheless, I persisted, and I can assure you that not all administrative workers are like that. I just want to use it as an example to encourage you not to give up even if things get hard.

I applied for more than 50 positions and wrote countless cover letters, until one day, I received a message from Project Expat expressing interest in conducting an interview. It was love at first sight and here I am, writing a blog article to tell you my story as an expat.

In conclusion, my journey from teaching Spanish to seeking employment in Germany was a whirlwind. I don’t want to pretend that everything was a piece of cake, but my determination to carve out a path for myself pushed me forward, and it will push you too. I hope you take the step to chase your dreams.  Every journey begins with that one brave step forward, and you have within you the strength to turn your aspirations into reality.

At Project Expat, we’re here to lend a hand and help you throughout your whole journey. Looking back, I wish I had known about its existence way before, my life would have been much easier.

So, if you were thinking about moving to Germany but were too scared to take the leap, this is your sign to do it. We’re waiting for you with open arms!

Clara Cruz Domínguez,

Working Student Content Marketing

Hi everyone, this is Clara! I was born in Málaga (Spain), where I graduated in Translation and Interpreting. I am passionate about languages and cultures, that’s why my path led me to live in England and Germany. I love animals, nature, poetry and music, but above all I love to do my part to make the world a fairer and more empathetic place.

German Citizenship eligibility

Upcoming Changes in German Citizenship Eligibility

Germany has always been a popular destination for immigrants due to its strong economy and central position in Europe. Despite the number of people who come to the country to work and study, Germany has traditionally granted fewer citizenships based on residency than other European Union countries.

However, we have some good news for you! Earlier this year, a new citizenship bill was proposed in Germany to simplify the citizenship process. The goal is to tackle this issue and promote a more welcoming and inclusive society.

As of August 2023, the German government’s cabinet has approved the bill, which will now be presented in front of the Bundestag (Parliament). Nancy Faeser, the Interior Minister of Germany, has confirmed that if everything goes as planned, the law might come into force by January 2024.

But what are the changes that will come along with this law and how will it benefit expats? Keep reading to find out!

Reduced Residency Requirement

One of the main proposed changes in the new German citizenship legislation is the reduction of the minimum residency requirement. That means that, instead of the eight-year minimum stay in Germany that is currently required, five years of residency will be enough to qualify an individual for citizenship. By speeding up the citizenship process, the country is aiming to promote a feeling of integration and belonging.

Moreover, the new bill aims to tackle the issue of citizenship rights for kids born to foreign parents within Germany. Presently, these children are granted German citizenship only if one parent has lived in Germany for a minimum of eight years before their birth. This scenario seems to be changing with the new bill, which aims to lower this requirement to five years too.

Furthermore, in specific situations, certain individuals could even be eligible for German citizenship with just three years of residing in the country. This special provision for naturalization encompasses those who have showcased remarkable educational or professional achievements, exhibited significant social dedication, and possess exceptional language proficiency (at the C1 level).

Dual and multiple citizenship

Another important achievement of the new law is the fact that dual and multiple citizenships will be accepted. This means that people won’t have to give up their citizenship from their home country when becoming a German citizen. This change is highly remarkable, especially for people who came to Germany but still want to keep their connection to their home country.

Dual and multiple citizenship

Another important achievement of the new law is the fact that dual and multiple citizenships will be accepted. This means that people won’t have to give up their citizenship from their home country when becoming a German citizen. This change is highly remarkable, especially for people who came to Germany but still want to keep their connection to their home country.

It’s important to mention that right now, Germany allows for dual citizenship for people from EU countries, Switzerland, and in certain specific situations. But the upcoming adjustments will broaden this permission, which will be really helpful for individuals who come from countries outside the EU.

Additionally, children who get German citizenship through these new rules will also be able to keep their parents’ citizenship. This is a crucial improvement, as they will be able to stay connected to their roots, while also enjoying the rights of being a German citizen.

Furthermore, the proposed bill aims to do away with the forfeiture of German nationality in instances of adoption by a foreign national, as stipulated in § 27 of the German Nationality Act (StAG). That means that, if someone from another country adopts a German child, that child won’t lose their German citizenship because of the adoption.

New changes for the Gastarbeiter Generation

The new law is also acknowledging the challenges and hurdles that the “Gastarbeiter” generation had to face. This is the name that was given to immigrants who came to Germany for work during the “Economic Miracle” from the 1950s to the 1970s.

To help those who came to Germany back then, instead of demanding a minimum of B1 level in German, the new rule states that oral and conversational skills in German are enough to be eligible for citizenship.

What are the benefits of German citizenship?

Certainly, obtaining citizenship brings along a range of valuable benefits that can significantly improve your life in Germany as an expat.

1. Social Benefits

Becoming a citizen offers a sense of belonging and full integration into the country’s way of life. It provides individuals with the opportunity to actively participate in local communities, engage in civic activities, and exercise their rights as full-fledged members of the society.

2. International Travel and Mobility

One of the main benefits is the increased freedom of international travel. Citizens typically hold stronger passports, allowing them to visit more countries without the need for visas or with simplified visa processes.

3. Family and Education

Citizenship often extends its advantages to the entire family. Family reunification becomes easier, enabling family members to join the citizen in the country. Moreover, citizens usually have preferential access to quality education and healthcare systems, securing a brighter future for their children.

4. Political Participation

When obtaining citizenship, new citizens will have the right to vote and participate in political processes, giving them a voice in decisions that affect their lives and the future of the country.

5. Social Welfare and Support

Citizens are often entitled to a wider range of social welfare benefits, including unemployment benefits, retirement pensions, and social assistance programs, which can provide a safety net during challenging times.

6. Employment Opportunities

Acquiring citizenship can open up new career prospects, especially in sectors that require public service or a strong national affiliation.

7. Property Ownership and Investment

Citizenship may come with fewer restrictions on property ownership and investment opportunities. This can be especially beneficial for those interested in acquiring real estate or starting businesses in the country.

8. Identity and Cultural Connection

Citizenship provides an official recognition of an individual’s connection to the country. It signifies a commitment to the nation’s culture, history, and values, allowing individuals to proudly identify with new home.

What are the potential disadvantages?

Of course, while gaining citizenship offers a range of advantages, it’s essential to be aware of the potential drawbacks that might accompany this significant step. Making an informed decision involves weighing both the benefits and potential downsides. However, we want to tell you that despite the disadvantages that could come with acquiring citizenship, it is still well worth it.

1. Tax Obligations

Becoming a German citizen could have tax implications, particularly if you have significant income or financial assets. Germany has a progressive tax system, and as a citizen, you might be subject to higher tax rates on your global income and assets.

2. National Services Requirements

Germany abolished mandatory military service in 2011, but it’s important to note that citizenship might involve specific duties in times of national emergencies or crisis situations.

3. Loss of Non-Citizen Benefits

In some cases, permanent residents might have special rights or privileges that citizens do not. For instance, you might lose eligibility for certain government benefits or programs that are available only to non-citizens.

In conclusion, the new German citizenship law holds substantial benefits for expats. By simplifying and expediting the process of acquiring citizenship, it offers a significant advantage. Collectively, the aforementioned amendments create a more inclusive and supportive environment, fostering a sense of belonging and integration for everyone in Germany.