Tia Robinson helping people stay in the country she loves, Germany. photo courtesy Tia Robinson

Tia welcomes you to Wunderbarland

Note from maeshelle: We have all been watching the state of the US presidential primary in horror, or at least I have. As a dual US/UK citizen, I have also been anxious about the outcome of the 23 June UK referendum. I really don’t want to live in the UK or US at this point, but what will I have to do to stay here? Recently Ana found an interesting blog piece by Tia Robinson and posted it in a Facebook group. It got lots of action and trolls. So we thought we’d ask her  to share her story with you. Here goes….

I left the US with my husband (also American) 9 years ago – we were fed up with the American social and political system back then and aren’t much more optimistic about it today. I even de-registered from my political party because I was so horrified by US politics, so I’m an independent today.

We wanted to find a place where, sure, you pay a ton of taxes, but at least you get access to a good system in case you become sick, unemployed, start a family, etc.

I am happy to say we absolutely made the right decision for us.

I was super anxious before our move, because all the research I was doing online told me no school would even talk to an American English teacher without a work permit, that the job market was flooded anyway, that Berlin is the last city I should go to for finding a job.   But then I arrived and within days had met other Americans teaching English here – which made me relieved, but also annoyed and even a bit angry. Obviously there WERE Americans here and they DID get teaching jobs and work permits – so what gives, why the mismatch between what naysayers are writing online and reality?

I made it my mission to find out. Though we got job offers quickly, my husband and I did both struggle to get work permits and used a lot of our savings by the time we started working about 5 months after we’d arrived. But within 2 years I was the manager of a language school (which had a Leipzig office so I managed and visited our team of teachers in your beautiful city regularly). I tried to help our hopeful walk-in applicants understand what they needed to do to stay. At the same time, my colleague Stephan and I tried to help the freelance teachers at our school with things like taxes, health insurance, etc. – but at the end of the day they were freelancers, so ultimately they were responsible for those things on their own.

We also realised that most of our teachers really didn’t speak German very well! Otherwise they would have been able to solve a lot of their issues on their own.

Fast forward a few more years – Stephan and I decided to start our own thing. Germany has tons of English schools, but it could use an excellent German school for people like our teachers. And Berlin also definitely needed a place where people could come ask questions and get help with things like finding a job, finding a flat, getting a work permit, getting health insurance, etc. Not another online resource, but a physical office with friendly people who would explain things to them in English. We started Expath in 2012, in a tiny men’s bathroom inside a co-working space that we renovated into a classroom by ourselves. Now we have a real center with 3 classrooms and over 20 freelancers working for us – and that’s what I’m doing today, teaching expats about the exciting world of German bureaucracy.

Of course I don’t want Donald Trump to get elected, and I hope it won’t happen. But the article I wrote regarding this (and which Ana reposted) is really for anyone who wants to move to Germany – Republicans, Democrats, Independents or even non-Americans. I believe that Germany does a much better job of taking care of its citizens, and there’s not this laughable but pervasive idea here that if you are poor, you must be lazy or have made bad choices, but if you’re rich, well it’s because you worked hard and deserve it. I would encourage anyone who is unhappy with the country they are in to make a game plan and go somewhere that suits them better.

There are still a lot of trolls online (many of whom commented on my article!) who will tell you that Germany doesn’t want you, you’ll never find work, etc. etc. BUT I’m proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

By Tia Robinson

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