I do love stories about moving for love! I’ve interviewed other expats who moved to Belgium and the Netherlands to be with their loved one, just like I moved to Scotland! So I’m excited to bring another story, this time about moving to Germany for love…
Tell us about yourself
Hey! I’m Savannah. I grew up in South Georgia, but have lived all over the south of the US. I didn’t start traveling until a few years ago, but I fell in love with it! Since that first backpacking trip across Europe, I’ve been to almost 20 countries, and I moved to Regensburg, Germany, where I live now.
What made you decide to move to Germany?
A few months before my first trip abroad, I met this guy. He was great, but he was moving to Germany later that year. I didn’t really see the point of trying to have a relationship with him- I would never move to Germany! (I bet you can see where this is going…)
During my backpacking trip (first time overseas) I actually met up with this guy for two nights in Berlin. We kept in touch over the next few months, but it was nothing serious. Then he came to San Antonio for a conference. I was living in Austin at the time, so I kind of had to go down there to see him… After all, it was only an hour drive for me, while he had driven six hours up to Berlin to see me when I was there! I don’t know what happened, but I just kind of fell for him when I saw him there.
We started messaging every single day, even during my month-long backpacking trip to Thailand! At some point during the Thailand trip, he asked me, again, to move to Germany so he would have a travel buddy here. He had asked me like 7 times the previous year to come live there to travel, as friends. He was carrying a torch for me ever since we met!
So even though we hadn’t really dated before, I decided to move to Germany to be with this guy. My family wasn’t exactly thrilled that I was moving across the world to be with a guy they had never met (my brother had met him, but that’s it), but they were supportive. I’ve always had a longing to see the world, so they had actually expected me to move to Europe years before.
And here we are, getting close to the two-year mark since I moved here, talking about marriage! It’s completely crazy. I would have never imagined that I would move to another continent to take a chance on love, of all things. Or that it would actually work out.
Tell me about the cost of living in Regensburg
Our apartment is pretty big and really close to the city (less than a 10-minute walk), so it costs around 1100 euros a month. A friend of mine lived in a studio student apartment a little closer to the city (but like the size of my living room) which cost 380 euros a month. So it really just depends on what you need. The further out of town you get, the more you can get for your money. For example, if we lived in nearby Beratzhausen, we could have a pretty large house with a yard for around 600-700 euros a month. But there’s nothing else really out there, so it’s worth it for us to be close to the city.
Transportation in Germany is SO much more expensive than other countries in Europe! We are almost exactly one hour from the Munich airport and one hour from the Nuremberg airport. To get there by bus and train it costs almost 40 euros each way if you’re alone! If you’re with a group, at certain times you can get a cheaper ticket per person, but it’s still more than surrounding countries. A single-trip bus ticket, if bought on the bus, is 2.50 euros. I bought a bike pretty soon after I arrived, and that’s how I get around everywhere! (To save money on bus tickets, you can purchase a “stripe” ticket. It’s 9 euros for five rides. If you use the bus every day, it might be worth it to get a monthly pass.)
Even though transportation is expensive (most people just bike/walk everywhere), you can make it up with the price of beer and bread. Germans love their beer, and both their bread and beer are crazy cheap. At restaurants, beer is cheaper than water. Seriously. Like, a liter of beer will be 3 euros, while a (probably smaller) bottle of water will run around 4. Legally, something on the menu has to be cheaper than beer, so coffee is usually 50 cents cheaper. Bread can be bought fresh daily from the bakeries (and gas stations!) for less than a euro. Usually around 30 cents or so. The sandwiches from the bakery are usually just a couple of euros.
How do you make a living?
So, as an American, you can stay in any country in the Schengen Agreement for three months without a visa. In Germany, it’s perfectly fine to move here and then get a visa, which is what I did. It was incredibly hard for me to find a job in the amount of time that I had. Of course, I really procrastinated on it since I was having so much fun with my new boyfriend traveling Europe!
I have a background in finance, but all of the jobs I could find online required at least a B1 level of German. This equates to more than just “getting around” conversational skills. I still don’t even have a B1 level of German! I found that English teachers are in pretty high demand. For me, it was pretty easy to get a visa to teach English. Now, I do freelancing work and some English teaching online out of the US, and I teach two classes at an auto software engineering company in town to keep my visa. For an American, it’s pretty easy to move here and get a visa, as long as you can find somewhere to make money or have someone to sponsor you (depending on the town where you live).
What’s the social scene like? How easy is it to make friends?
Wellllllll this was hard for me in the beginning. I felt the language barrier was HUGE, and Germans aren’t usually super open to new people that aren’t at least a friend-of-a-friend. Thankfully, I met a few American girls at the language company where I worked originally. Then I became friends with my next door neighbor because their cat kept getting out and I would help them get him back. It turns out, the woman studied abroad in Hawaii, so her English is pretty great. Since then I’ve made several friends! I recently joined a Crossfit gym, which also helps! My German isn’t getting any better, though, because they all love practicing their English.
Honestly, if you are more of a going-out and partying kind of person, you will probably have an easier time of making friends. It took me a good six months before I had any good friends.
What’s the best thing about living in Germany?
Honestly, the best thing right now is that I don’t have to be in the middle of the political drama unfolding back at home!
I would have to say that the best part of living in Germany is that I’m right in the middle of Europe. I can drive to a LOT of countries within 8 hours! It’s amazing!
What’s the hardest thing about living in Germany?
Well, Bavaria (the Southern “state” of Germany where I live) is a little different than the rest of Germany. Here, they have like 2-ish religious holidays per month. There’s always some sort of holiday. You need to pay attention to these, though, because nothing is open on a holiday or a Sunday. Some restaurants are open on Sundays, but that’s about it. Restaurants and gas stations. The hardest adjustment of moving here was remembering to do my grocery shopping on Saturday.
How is your new home different from your old one?
I think the most jarring difference is that Germans will scold you for any- and- everything that you may do that isn’t perfectly within the rules. For example, if you cross the street where there isn’t a crosswalk, or when the crosswalk isn’t green, even if there are NO cars around for MILES, you might hear a German yelling at you something along the lines of, “think of the children!”, or just how what you’re doing is a harm to yourself and others. I’ve been yelled at so many times at this point for really stupid stuff that I usually just completely ignore it and walk away.
A couple of times I’ve been yelled at for where my dog was peeing. Just pee! Like, what do you want me to do? Explain to my dog that he needs to pee 3-feet over to the left?! Sorry. I get a little heated about this. Americans are very mind-your-own-business, and Germans are just really in your face about correcting you. They also do it in a way that they think they’re doing you a favor. They don’t understand why you get upset with them for it.
A good difference in culture, I think, is the German attitude toward alcohol and driving, respectively. The drinking age for wine and beer is 16, then at 18, you can drink liquor. You also can’t get your driver’s license until you are 18. The process to get your license is extensive and expensive, but driver’s here are SO MUCH BETTER than drivers in the US. The Autobahn would never work in the US because Americans just couldn’t handle all the responsibility of being able to go as fast as you want. We can’t even have normal highways without tons of accidents.
Also, if you do something stupid while driving in Germany, your license gets taken for a while. Speeding? That’s around 2 months of no license. Drinking and driving? You may never get your license back. The legal blood alcohol content level is .01% (most places in the States is .08%). They take driving very seriously, and the low automobile death rates show it.
If we had just one day in Regensburg what should we not miss?
If you come to Regensburg, you have to check out the Regensburg Cathedral. It’s pretty impressive. Also, if you’re a meat-eater, you need to go to the Wurstkuchl (Sausage Kitchen). It’s a small restaurant with almost only outside seating by the river. It’s been there for over 200 years, and they’ve been making the same sausages and sauerkraut that they always have. If you’re a vegetarian you can eat the bread, maybe some sauerkraut, and have a beer. They seriously only have sausages. Also, you have to get some gelato at Stenz Eis – they do have dairy-free options too!
Also, the coolest market is the Dachauplatz Markthalle. It’s really expensive, but it’s a really cool little area with a couple of places to eat, fresh fish, and a delicious wine bar.
Can you share your best local/insider tip about where you live?
Regensburg is known as the “Northernmost city in Italy”, and for good reason. Skip the German food (I don’t eat meat, so basically I don’t eat German food) and go straight for the Italian food.
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to live in Germany what would it be?
Learn German beforehand. But be prepared for learning Bavarian, which is a little different than German. Most young people speak English, but it’s really helpful to have a small grasp of the language at the beginning.