“Should I stay here, or should I move back home?” Do you have this feeling from time to time, when you live abroad? I moved to Germany and in my opinion, Germany is really a very nice country to live in. However, I do have this feeling from time to time, and I wonder, if I should really stay in Germany for good. This feeling was especially strong in my first year in Germany. In this post, I will talk about what it is like to move back home after living abroad.
My first year in Germany was the toughest. Coming to a new country; learning a new language; dealing with the visa; experiencing a new culture… I had to sort out everything pretty much on my own. There were times when I was extremely frustrated. I wrote about my challenges to find a job in Germany without speaking German. My German was not improving fast enough; I could not find a job even though I had tried for a long time… Besides, it made me feel like an idiot all the time, when I lived in Germany without being able to speak German.
Homesick when I was frustrated
When I was super frustrated, I had a very strong feeling that I wanted to go back home. I even gave different excuses to myself why going back home was better for me. Well, I guess being homesick was very normal. This is human nature that we want to be in a familiar environment, as it is more comfortable for us. When we are frustrated abroad, we will seek for support and comfort. And we can get that much easier in our home country.
I like living in Germany and it had always been my dream to move here. However, I also need to admit that Germany is not heaven. There are indeed pros and cons of staying in Germany.
Pro #1: work Life Balance
Comparing to Hong Kong, I have a more relaxing life here in Germany. I wrote about it in another post: 5 Reasons why working in Germany is better than in the US. In Germany, there are strong labor unions, which are very favorable to employees. Unlike in Hong Kong, the culture in Germany is not to work as long hours as possible. It is more about to be more productive in your working hours. Something like “you cannot leave the office when your boss is still there” does not exist. People respect each other’s private life and they do believe that you should have a life. With that said, there is a better working culture here comparing to the crazy working hours in Hong Kong.
Pro #2: German culture
The German culture is very different than the Hong Kong culture. In Hong Kong, people like to brag a lot. We grow up in a very competitive environment and we need to fight for everything: to be in the best school; to get the best academic ranking; to work for the best company; to earn the most money… This kind of competition is not always healthy. It can happen that people want to see other people performing badly, because it can make them look better.
This kind of attitude is not as common in Germany. I mentioned about it in another post: study in German university. Unlike Hong Kong, there is no ranking of students in the class which drives the unhealthy competition. Besides, I feel that German people are less interested in brandy products. They do not need to show off with luxury brands in order to improve their self-esteem. Moreover, Germany is a safe place to live in, and the people are in general very disciplined.
Pro #3: Giving birth and raising kids
It is better to live in Germany in terms of family life. For example, in my case, I barely paid anything for giving birth in Germany. I had my own family room in the hospital together with my husband for a few days for giving birth. My midwife came to visit me at my home every day for the first 10 days after birth. I could choose different ways of giving birth, like natural birth, water birth, etc. It is common here that women can take parental leave for up to 3 years and the employers have to keep the job for them. The government provides subsidies per kid until the kid is at least 18 years old. Besides, the government also provides free education in schools and universities.
Con #1 German is hard to learn
The biggest con is the German language. It is not an easy language to learn, but it is necessary to know German to live in Germany for a longer time. I have tried countless methods to learn German (see my 10 fun ways here), and have gone through a very painful process to learn it. I am able to communicate in German now. However, German is not my native language. And it is natural that someone can express himself the best with his own mother language. In this perspective, it is more comfortable when I am in Hong Kong, because I can express myself and communicate better.
Con #2 it is far away
I grew up in Hong Kong. My whole family and my closest friends from my earlier life are there. It is hard to be separated from them and that I do not see them as often as I would love to. For my parents, it was not easy to accept the fact, that I moved to Germany. Now, I am trying to see them at least once in a year. Every time when I meet them, I feel that they look older. In general, if I meet someone every day, I may not notice as much how much they have changed. But when I only meet my parents once a year, I can really feel that they look older and older every time. It is a scary feeling. And it is a con not to be able to live closer to them.
Con #3 Missing my Chinese food and culture
One thing I love much more in Hong Kong than in Germany is the food! I grew up with Chinese food, and I love Chinese food. It is hard in Germany to find authentic Chinese food. Yes, there are some good Chinese restaurants. But they are mainly in the big cities, which are not close to where I live. They also don’t have as many dishes as in Hong Kong. Besides, Germany and Hong Kong celebrate very different festivals. For example, there is no Chinese new year in Germany, which I miss the most. On the other hand, I cannot fully enjoy the German festivals here so much, since I come from a different background. For me, the German holidays mean only one more day off from work, without a big meaning behind.
Moving back to your home country is not the end of the world!
When I came to Germany, I told myself that I had to find a way to stay here. This was because I had given up a lot of things in Hong Kong to come to Germany. I made the decision to quit my job and move to Germany, even though all my friends and family were against it. I felt like I could not just go back to Hong Kong, because then all the people would think that I was a loser. They would say that I should have listened to them and just stayed in Hong Kong.
After many years in Germany now, I do know many people who moved back to their home countries. In case you feel very frustrated because you need to move back home, I want to tell you that it may not be as bad as you think.
You are not a “loser” if you move back home!
When you meet your friends back home, you may feel that your career is not catching up with theirs, because you spent some time in Germany. You may see that during the time you were in Germany, your friends all moved on with their career. Maybe they are promoted; maybe they earn more money… Please keep in mind that your time spent in Germany will not be “wasted”!
There are many things that you can never learn, if you only stay in the same country. You have gone through many challenges to survive on your own in a foreign country, which your friends have not. These experiences help you grow, both personally and professionally. You should see your time in Germany as one of the most valuable life experiences that you have, which will lead you to many opportunities in the future.
Think about this: You are in a foreign country; you are on your own; you need to learn the new language and culture; you need to find a place to live; you need to sort out all your visa and paperwork… When you can master all of this, there is nothing that you cannot do!
On top of that, your CV is going to look better, when you are back to your home country. You have now international study or work experience. You have an international mindset. You know how to deal with people of different culture. You have excellent problem solving skills. It is very likely that you will have a good job when you move back home.
You never know what opportunities are in front of you
Let me tell you a story of a friend of mine. She graduated from a university in Germany. However, she couldn’t find a job in Germany, and she had to move back to Hong Kong in the end. She found a good job in Hong Kong afterwards, and worked in a big company for 2 years. However, she was not happy. She still missed her life in Germany. So, she kept searching online for jobs in Europe.
In the end, she found a nice job in UK and moved there. After two years, she lost her job because of Brexit. She came to Germany and hoped to find an English speaking job here. However, despite all her effort, she was not able to find one. She sent out many job applications and surprisingly, she got a job offer. But in Australia! So, she just decided to move to Australia. Now, she has a very nice job and settled down there.
So, you never know what is going to happen. Even if you have to go back home now, you may still end up somewhere else. As long as you do not give up chasing your dream, you will end up where you like to be.
Keep your connections
This is a piece of advice which can fit to almost every situation. In case you are moving back to your home country, do not forget to maintain the connections that you have built in Germany. No matter if that was your professors/ your classmates/ your friends/ your bosses, you should try to keep in touch with them. You never know what these relationships are going to bring you. They may have a job for you, if you want to move abroad in the future. They may write a recommendation letter for you, if you need one to apply for a job. Or they may just be a good host for you, when you plan to visit Europe again. In many cases that I have seen, people made it to their dream jobs through their connections.
Never say never
I have been living in Germany for some years now. In my opinion, Germany is really a nice country to live in. However, even now, I would not say that I will stay in Germany forever. Maybe I will move back to Hong Kong one day. Maybe I will even move to a completely different country. Who knows? I think we should be open minded and should not exclude any possibility in the future.
I still remember the first time when I was in Europe. It was 12 years ago. I was travelling in Germany on vacation. It was my first time to hear the German language. At that time, I thought, “This language sounds really ugly! I will never speak it!” I had never expected that I would learn German crazily a few years later! So, never say never. You never know!
Are you thinking if you should stay in Germany or move back home? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!