Moving to a new city may not be an easy task for many. I can totally understand that as I have moved from Hong Kong to Germany all by myself. Having said that, there are things that you can already do before moving to a new city. Doing these things can help you to adjust to your new life easier. In this article, Chelsea will tell you her story of moving from Seoul to Berlin. She will also give you her 4 best tips to make life easier when moving to a new city.
This is a guest post from Chelsea Wunneburger. Chelsea is a seasoned international citizen and has lived in 6 countries. At the moment, she is based in Berlin and teaches and writes for a living. She holds an M.A. in Tech Communications.
I am originally from Austin, Texas, and I spent my childhood dreaming about living and travelling overseas. When I attended university, I wanted to study abroad, but I thought I would not get the chance to achieve my dream.
However, I got to accomplish the goal in 2011. I went to Europe in 2011 to study in Cork, Ireland. For a semester, I studied Irish literature and travel writing.
The experience opened my world to new horizons. I wanted to live overseas to comprehend the world better. I have had the chance to live in different countries and enjoy many adventures.
Read also: How I quit my job and moved abroad
Teaching English in Spain
After I finished my Master of Arts in Technical Communications at Texas State University, I tried for a year to find full-time work in my hometown. I had to move back home, and I became disappointed with the state of my life.
At this moment, I was searching for an overseas solution to save me. I discovered opportunities to teach English in Spain and applied for some programs.
Then, in the late summer of 2014, I was on a one-way flight to Madrid, Spain. I started teaching English to Spanish students in public and private schools. I was in Spain till late 2018.
Moving to Seoul, Korea
I was off to Seoul in the summer of 2018 because I needed a change of scenery. The move to Seoul was a choice I picked because I wanted to experience Asian culture and learn more about that part of the world. I thought Seoul would be a fun, big city to explore and call home for a few years.
The Fast Paced Life in Seoul
My weekends seemed short because life in South Korea moved swifter than in other places I lived. I would spend my free time checking out cafes, restaurants, hiking and exploring distinct parts of the country.
However, it was a marathon to get to Friday again. There was never a moment to rest from my work because my job gave me little time to disconnect from my position.
The side effect of not getting proper time to relax from work was not being present. I lost connection with being present when I lived more for the weekends. I was not getting enough time to recover and take it easy from work. What I needed most was time to disconnect from my job. My answer to my setback was about to surface.
The time of working there added up, but COVID-19 happened. It set me back another two years waiting to leave for Berlin. By the end of 2020, I knew I needed to return to a place where I could have balance and proper time to disconnect from my work. My job in Seoul became toxic, and I thought about moving to a new city. My plan was to try to freelance in Germany.
Volunteering for an NGO in Berlin
I waited for the pandemic to subside in South Korea and left for Germany in the summer of 2022. As I waited, I volunteered remotely from Seoul as a writer for an NGO based in Berlin called TechLabs Berlin. This choice helped me to make some connections with people already in Berlin.
The possibility of supporting an educational NGO made me feel good to help. I could write pieces for them and get comfortable writing for larger populations. The work was one of my approaches to making ties in Berlin from abroad. It was just a waiting game for the last two years in Seoul.
Why move to Germany?
When I thought about moving to a new city, I was wondering where I could move to after Seoul. The city that kept coming up was Berlin. I researched a lot about Berlin and even stayed a week back in 2018. Then, I came up with the idea of why not move there. I could risk everything and see what could happen.
Berlin seemed ideal for a creative like me to start a new chapter. It drew me because of the creative scene, the open-minded people, the nature, and the excellent cafes and restaurants.
I wanted to work on staying in Europe for good, as most of my friends back in Spain had found their ways to make Europe home. I wished to seek a path to stay in Europe because I wanted a life that matched my values. The life I dreamed of offered balance, didn’t need a car, was more affordable than my homeland, and allowed me to learn a new language and experience a new culture.
I thought Germany would be great because the salaries were higher than in the south of Europe. I wanted to run my writing business, and Germany had special freelance visas for foreigners. As an American citizen, I could arrive in Berlin and apply for a visa. The country matched many of the elements I was looking for in my next home. That is when I came to the idea I could try Germany.
Seoul vs. Berlin
These two cities are very different when you compare how the locals work, eat and live. Both cultures have contrasting views on how work life should be.
The work culture
In Seoul, it is common for workers to stay at their job till the boss is ready to go home. The Korean work culture has long hours and follows how the boss wants to work. Luckily, these days, younger Koreans want more of a balance in life. Plus, the government has stepped up regulations to decrease how many hours a person works.
Germany’s work culture doesn’t practise this approach of staying till the boss is ready to stop for the day. Germans like to stop at quitting time and focus on their personal lives. The two places hold different ideas on how to end the workday.
Schnitzel vs. donkkaseu
The Koreans and Germans have similar foods that would surprise many. After four years of living in Seoul, I could make the connections between schnitzel and the Korean dish called donkkaseu.
The Koreans have a version of schnitzel. These dishes are both meat-based and have a deep-fried outside coating. The only difference is that the Korean donkkaseu dish has a crispier breadcrumb coating. If you are craving schnitzel or donkkaseu, you can find it in either Germany or South Korea.
Sauerkraut vs. white kimchi
There is one more food that is similar: sauerkraut and white kimchi. These two dishes are both made using cabbage and applying the process of fermentation. Kimchi uses whole or roughly chopped cabbage leaves, and sauerkraut uses only finely shredded cabbage.
Next, the two have different ways of being made. Kimchi can ferment in a few days, but the maker removes the brine before they store the food.
Sauerkraut needs a couple of weeks to ferment and depends on the brine to complete the fermentation process. These countries are in different parts of the world, but they have similarities in their food.
For lifestyle, Seoul and Berlin offer some same and different choices. Both places provide fantastic nightlife and outdoor activities. They have some differences though. Seoul is more known for shopping, and Berlin is more international. It depends on what you want in the place you live.
You can find clubs running till early in the morning in both cities, so nightlife is achievable in either. You will be happy with the nightlife in both.
Next, there are different options for outdoor activities. In Seoul, you can go mountain hiking, biking, and camping. There are mountains all around Seoul, and you have the beach close, too.
However, in Berlin, you can go hiking, swimming and enjoy the forests nearby. It is picking what you want to enjoy for your outdoor activities.
Seoul offers a lot of shopping. Seoul has night markets, luxury shops, and big shopping centres. Koreans love to shop and have the latest trends in their hands.
Berlin doesn’t have the variety of shops you will find in Seoul. If you want a place that caters to a shopper, go to Seoul. However, the city lacks the international vibe that is all over Berlin.
The international element is one of Berlin’s strengths, and the world knows Berlin for its flare. There are kinds of food, languages, ideas, and a massive international crowd. If you are looking for a place with internationals, come to Berlin because you will find all kinds of people here.
When choosing a new place to move to, always note what you think will be essential for the new home. Make a list of the features you want the next place to have and try to find a place that will match your needs. Picking a new city is like trying to get new shoes that fit well. With some research and patience, you can find your next home.
My Life in Berlin
Berlin has given me the safe space to create the life I crave to lead. As I design my life, I can control my energy and not worry about judgement from others. I have slowed down and have become more present in the moment.
I do not worry about a boss criticising my work anymore because I am my own boss now. As a freelancer, I have more say in when my day starts and how it should look. I am finding more peace with a life I can control.
This peace was what I wanted back in Seoul. There is more balance in my life, and I can work, meet people and create when I want to. I do not have to follow someone’s schedule. It is a freeing sensation to experience. Berlin is allowing me to become a new me. There is nothing more beautiful than getting to be me.
The work-life balance
The best benefit of my new life here has been the chance to slow down and thoroughly enjoy my life. I didn’t get to enjoy life in the moment because I was always doing work for my job. I felt like I was being dragged by a tracker all the time. There was no separation of work and personal life.
There were moments in Seoul when I would have personal days, and my boss would message me about work-related topics that could’ve been saved for work. I never got a moment to relax from my job because my holidays were short and filled with messages from work. I would turn my phone off to have peace, but it would not thrill work. Since I have left my position in Seoul, I can see the world through a new lens.
Europeans make a line between life and work. Balance is an element I love to have in my life. Now, I can enjoy my hobbies, time with friends, travel, and be present. There is more to life than working all the time. I want to spend the rest of my life trying to enjoy all the glorious moments of my life.
I look forward to seeing where I am in a few years in Berlin. I have high hopes for my life here. Berlin is now my haven, and I plan not to leave soon. This city is the space I have needed for years to allow me to grow as a writer and connect with myself.
Also, I have kept my mind open to new possibilities. I have seen many opportunities become available. It is crucial to keep a positive attitude. I’ve connected with several people, joined a writing group, and found women in my neighbourhood to have brunch with monthly. I am on my way to having long-term connections in Berlin and making this place more of a home.
4 Tips to Make Life Easier in a New City
When moving to a new city, I have to build a social network of great people. The most vital element that made my time in all the places I lived enjoyable was networking, learning the language, keeping a routine, and doing my hobbies. I have repeated these ideas to survive in any new city I have moved to.
This site is popular in Germany because you can find all kinds of groups to join in your area. Meetup offers both online and offline group settings for users. I have discovered park walking, museum visiting, and writing groups to get interaction with others. Since you can find all kinds of groups, it will be easier for you to attend activities with a group.
The most important factor in building a successful life in Germany has been the people I have met. The social networks and events have allowed me to build a solid foundation for my life in Berlin. A human connection is a vital part of settling in a new city. These connections help you make a new routine and allow you to have a support system.
2. Learn German
The key to getting into German society is to know the language. You can navigate daily affairs with a minor problem if you understand some German. It is better to know some German than none. When moving to a new city, attempt to learn the local language to become more independent. Some German words will give you an advantage in Germany.
One way to learn German is to start a language exchange with a German speaker. I meet with a German speaker once a week to practise English and German. We get coffee or a meal together.
Language exchanges are a wise way to improve your speaking skills and get to know some local people. I have improved my grammar and gained some confidence in using the language.
Living outside the city
Another way to learn German fast is to live outside the city centre. The city centre seemed absurd as a place to live because I wanted more German culture daily. I am around fewer expatriates and have less English spoken around me.
This method is a better way to integrate into a new place because you are around more of the language and exposed to the daily life of the locals. This approach made me use more German in shops and cafes, so my German is improving.
Read also: Living in Germany – Big City vs. Small Town
3. Keep a Routine
When moving to a new city, everything can be upside down. The best thing you can do for your mind and body is to keep a ritual to keep you happy. A routine will give you tasks to look forward to and a normalised daily life. This could be you going to the gym, waking up at a specific time, or making a delicious meal. You will have a ritual when you’re making a new life.
During my adjustment period, I kept going to the gym, doing morning walks, and attending my writing online group to keep myself busy. These activities allowed me to have events to do each day that allowed me to be around others. I could take care of my health with exercise and create new texts for my writing business.
I knew every day I could go to the gym and focus on lifting to keep my health routine going. The gym helped me feel less stressed with the new move. My writing group called ”Shut Up and Write” met online and was easy to access from home. I could meet other writers and not feel lonely. The digital company made me want to do more work and create writing pieces.
Have a structured day to day life
The routine kept my life structured and together as I was setting up my new life in Berlin. A routine will give you guidance on how to live your life day to day.
When I was trying to become legal in Germany, I felt I had more to do. I had time to create and enjoy life because I needed to allow myself to recover from the life I had lived in Korea. I would allow space for time to create art or write. My routine gave me purpose each day to get out of bed and live my best life possible.
After moving to a new city, make sure you plan a routine to let you enjoy your new city and have space for leisure time. The structure will provide balance and a sense of purpose each day. Keep a planner and have activities that will benefit you. A routine will keep you running strong.
4. Keep Doing Hobbies
Moving to a new city will fatigue you, so keep an outlet for yourself. Your hobbies will distract you from stress and other issues. Hobbies should not change much between where you moved from to the new place you call home.
This approach is one of the best ways to keep a routine going and enjoy something you like to do. I left Seoul with a lot of hobbies such as painting, writing, blogging, reading, and weightlifting.
As my life began in Berlin, I focused on keeping my hobbies going. I made sure that I was using my hobbies weekly. I found joy in painting and writing about how I was feeling or wanting to share with others. It was beautiful to see how getting to Berlin allowed me to tap into my creative energy to make art again after being so tired from Seoul.
Exploring the new city
I explored more of Berlin and got ideas to write about different places in the city. My adventures in Berlin made me want to write more posts for my blog about my experiences in my new home.
Also, I got a library card and went to the library to read books and get out of the flat. The library was a significant change because I could get ebooks on my iPad and go there to write.
The gym has always been my sanctuary because I can leave my life at the door and focus on exercising. I can go there to get rid of my stress and worries from life. I made sure I got a membership at a gym the second week I came to Berlin to keep my health going well.
The gym has kept me together during this transition period from Seoul to Berlin. I am a firm believer in having some hobbies.
Don’t leave your hobbies in your old home
After moving to a new city, do not forget about your hobbies. You will need them to help you adjust to your new home. They will allow you to meet new people, explore a new city, reduce stress, and let you have fun. So keep to your hobbies and enjoy your new home!
If you want to move to Germany, start making your plan. Network with others online, so you have connections here. It will make life stimulating and give you some fun people to meet. A social life will make or break your experience in Germany, so build a good network with great people.
Start working on finding housing for your big move because this is something that many people struggle with moving to a new city in Germany.
Next, get some German lessons and start working towards your goal of getting to Germany. It took me six years to get here, but I am here now! You can do this, too! Good luck!
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