Some Thoughts on Brexit. Or, ‘If I Were Theresa May’.

So, Theresa May has finally ‘pulled the trigger’.  At bloody last.  Since Friday, June 24th last year – the day that will forever be in my heart as the day I woke up without an alarm at 5am, cried in the shower and got told by someone to go back to my island – us Brits living in other EU countries have had a huge raincloud hanging over our heads.  I cannot tell you how often I’ve been asked if I will be allowed to stay in Germany, if I will become a German citizen, if my husband and I will end up living in different countries, if I’ll need a visa, and if the United Kingdom realises how stupid it is being.  So I am probably not alone in breathing a huge sigh of relief that finally, finally, we can get on with this.  The Brexit Drama has been like a badly executed relationship break-up  – you both know it’s over, you’ve cried your tears and been through the inevitable pain, yet for some reason you drag things on.  And on.  And on.  Yes, I am feeling grateful now that the divorce proceedings are at last underway.  Life can start moving forward into whatever the post-Brexit aftermath may bring, whether it turns out to be the Apocalypse or something else entirely.

You can guess that as a UK expat who has taken full advantage of the opportunities the EU brings in terms of freedom to work abroad, I’m not in favour of Brexit.  My postal vote strangely never appeared in Germany  – even though a painfully pointless vote for the London mayoral election did (conspiracy, perhaps?) – so I was peeved that I couldn’t add my voice to the 48%ers.  I’m all for democracy and I respect that things have panned out the way they have, so I won’t labour the point here – except to say that such a gargantuan decision should never have been given to the tabloid-educated and politically unaware masses.  There.  Said it.  I await the comments from Daily Mail readers with excited anticipation.

What’s left now is to see how the Brexit Drama: Act Two will play out on the world stage and if Theresa May’s performance in the negotiations will be award-worthy.  Thus far I haven’t given Ms May much thought, aside from thinking ‘Girl Power’ and ‘why the fuck are you holding hands with Donald Trump’ (although her early decision to make Boris the Buffoon the Foreign Secretary was a stroke of evil genius – like rubbing a hapless puppy’s face in the mess it’s just created.)  I’m looking forward to seeing if she can prove her mettle and negotiate a good exit deal, and I’m also prepared to hate her forever if this deal doesn’t work in my favour.  Your call, Theresa.  You’ve been warned.  But issues on migration aside, Theresa May does have some pressing problems to face in the coming weeks.  Such as, where does the UK find £50bn to pay this ridiculous divorce bill?  That certainly puts bailing early on your O2 phone contract into perspective, doesn’t it?  I’m pretty sure we don’t have a spare £50bn just laying around in the coffers under the Bank of England so if I were Theresa, I’d start handing all the die-hard Brexiteers a 70% tax bill, and backdate it to June last year.  Regrexiteers should pay an extra 5% – let’s call it a stupidity charge.  In fact, if I really were Theresa May – which I’m glad I’m not by the way, because aside from not liking her haircut, her wardrobe or the way she cosied up to President Trump, I’d rather stick a needle in my own eye than deal with this mess – but if I were, I would tell the nation that the referendum decision doesn’t stand on its own and we’ve found some hidden legislation that states we must do a best of three.  Like in rock, paper, scissors.

Then of course there is the small matter of Scotland.  Oh, the Scots.  I do love our friends in the North, beyond the wall.  Others may hide behind ‘fantasy’ and infer that the Scots are Wildlings (you know nothing, George R Martin), but nonetheless, you can’t help but be fond of our brothers who wear skirts and feast happily on sheep’s stomach, and should their second referendum on independence come to pass, I’d be sorry to see them go.  Nicola Sturgeon, who according to one Brexit-loving tabloid is basically Ms May with better legs, is certainly a woman with a plan, but let’s face it: much as we love a strong woman, we all know the plan will fail.  If I were Theresa May, I’d probably just lock her in the Tower and be done with it, after asking her which body moisturiser she uses on those pins.

Anyway, as luck would have it – for me and the UK – I am not Theresa May.  I am just one of 800,000 Brits living in an uncertain EU with an uncertain future.  I’m fairly certain this won’t be all I’ve got to say on the Brexit topic as the plot unfolds, so stay tuned for more of my ramblings in future posts.

Your faithful Remoaner,

Victoria x

First post – How it all began!

If you are reading this, the chances are you are a fellow expat, are considering living in Hamburg or Germany yourself, or you were coerced into reading this by clicking on a link somewhere; either way, you are very welcome! 😄  If you’d like to know a bit more about me, feel free to take a detour to my ‘About Me‘ page!

Last year, in the midst of planning our elopement in New Zealand, I had the chance to come to Germany for a work project, together with my then-fiancé.  Contrary to my expectations (I had mainly expected to eat sauerkraut, drink beer and have to actually be on time for things – all of which turned out to be true), I liked Hamburg, and at the end of my project I was given the opportunity to stay permanently.  So, right in the middle of wedding planning, we went back to London to pack up our lives and ship everything into the unknown.

Four weeks later, in September 2016, I found myself in an Uber on the way to Heathrow, having just said goodbye to all my friends and to our old apartment.  I was crying uncontrollably as my beloved Putney raced past the window.  I’d chosen this, and yet the whole situation felt SO STRANGE.  I’d studied abroad in Russia as an undergrad but that was a) a decade ago and b) temporary.  This felt…different.  At the airport, I had a double gin and tonic to calm my nerves and tried to think about things like a rational person, instead of an over-emotional one.  Our jobs weren’t a big unknown to us; we’d already been doing them.  We had some friends in the city.  We’d already found a permanent flat.  Everything was going to be OK.  And of course, despite the odd headache in the beginning, it was all fine.

If you happen to be reading this because you’re about to pack up your own life and move abroad, then worry not.  As the great philosopher Michael Jackson once said, You Are Not Alone.  You’re about to embark on an adventure that will enrich you in ways you couldn’t have imagined.  You know that phrase ‘there’s no such thing as poor weather, only poor clothing?’  Metaphorically speaking, if you’re prepared, everything will be fine.  (And in literal terms, if you are moving to Hamburg, do bring waterproof clothing, as the city is famed for it’s ‘Schietwetter’ – and yes, that does mean what you think it does!)  Learn from those who have been there before:

Victoria’s Words of Wisdom

  • Before you leave for your new home, check for expat groups on Facebook.  In these groups you can ask questions about paperwork that needs to be done, or find people to hang out with when you arrive – especially useful if you’re going solo.  I came to the expat scene rather late and I wish I’d known about it sooner.  If you’re female, see if Girl Gone International (GGI) has a chapter in your city; they’re especially active, and unlike on some of the more general expat groups, if you ask if anyone wants to meet for coffee, nobody will try and pick you up.
  • Before you arrive, try and find out about any bureaucratic requirements so that you’re already prepared – at least mentally.  In Germany for instance, you need to do an ‘Anmeldung’ at the local Einwohnermeldeamt within 14 days.  This applies whether you’re German or not, and whether you’re a student or not.  Without it, life is so much more difficult – it’s difficult to open a bank account, get a mobile phone, get health insurance, or even join the gym.   This can get tricky if you’re in an Airbnb to start with, so consider all of these things before the move.  (Also, as a side note, if you’re in Germany and in temporary accommodation, ensure your surname is on the postbox or you probably won’t get your post.  This led to no end of headaches for me, including my Brexit vote not showing up in Germany).
  • Try learning some of the basics in the language ahead of time.  Make it a priority to find a friend who speaks the language and can help with some of the official things you’ll need to take care of in the beginning – in Germany, you’ll find that people in the local supermarket will speak fluent English to you but when it comes to doing anything official, people only speak German.
  • When you know you’re leaving your hometown for good, leave with fixed plans in mind for when you will next see the friends and family you’re leaving behind, whether it’s a visit from them, or you’re planning to go back for a weekend.  I left the UK knowing I’d be back for my hen weekend a month later, which made those initial weeks of adjustment easier to bear.
  • Anticipate the first month or so being a bit of a headache as you get your bearings.  Look in advance at cool things you can do in the city so that you’ve got fun things planned to get you through the initial period.
  • Failing all else, remember this important mantra: gin cures everything!!

If you’re moving to Germany and need a steer on anything from Anmeldung to bank account opening, or need help with the language, feel free to contact me.

Until next time,

Victoria x

My husband with our very overweight luggage on the way to Hamburg!  For some reason we decided to take five suitcases whilst waiting the four weeks for our boxes to arrive from London,  Needless to say, we did not need this much stuff!!