Thriving in a New Career Abroad: My Story of Working in Germany

career abroad in germany

*based on an interview with one of the few Indian automotive engineers living in Germany with her family. 

As I sit in my cozy Berlin apartment, the soft patter of rain against the windowpane evokes a cascade of memories from the past few years. Memories that are tinted with the hues of challenge, adventure, and growth. I am miles away from where I started, not just in distance but in experiences. 

My journey to Germany for a new career was more than a change of location; it was a leap into a world unknown, a plunge into a sea of new possibilities.

Rewind to a few years ago, in my hometown,a small village in Amritsar, where the familiar streets and faces were both comforting and confining. 

The desire for something more — a craving for growth, learning, and exploration — was like a gentle but persistent nudge.

It was this inner calling that propelled me to take one of the biggest risks of my life: moving to Germany for a new career opportunity. Armed with a few Euros, a hard earned German language certification, a visa and probably what is considered a “good-for-nothing” local-college, undergrad degree from a random college, my dreams grew wings. 

This isn’t just a story about working abroad; it’s a window into my soul, a narrative of personal transformation. It’s about the fears that almost held me back, the mistakes I embraced, and the lessons learned along the way. It’s about finding my footing in a foreign land and discovering parts of myself I never knew existed.

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Moving Abroad for Better Career Opportunities 

The decision to move to Germany, the heartland of automotive innovation, was a pilgrimage of sorts for me, an automotive engineer (by the degree). Sure, I would like to say it was born from a yearning to be part of the legacy that shaped brands like Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagen. But, it was more of my brother’s obsession with cars and my lackluster awareness of the same that got me here.  

For someone who grew up alongside a sibling consistently sketching cars and idolizing engineers, it had been his dream to work and study in Germany. While he went on to pursue other dreams, the same “German dream” took root in me. It represented a path to immense career growth, a chance to be at the forefront of automotive technology and design. 

And above all, a chance to help my family deal with the financial burden of raising four kids with two minimum wage jobs. 

However, this decision was laden with a whirlwind of emotions. There was an unmistakable thrill in imagining myself contributing to projects that could redefine the future of mobility. 

Yet, beneath this excitement, there was an undercurrent of fear. 

Moving to a new country meant stepping out of my comfort zone, leaving behind everything familiar – family, friends, and the little corner cafe that knew my coffee order by heart.

The preparation for this monumental shift was both practical and introspective. Hours spent learning German brought me closer to the culture I was about to immerse myself in. Every new word learned was a step towards bridging the gap between my world and theirs. 

First Impressions and Challenges In Germany

As an automotive engineer, who had just graduated with a degree, a few months of work experience and a lot of bookish knowledge I was willing to sell on the streets,  I felt like a child stepping into a vast, awe-inspiring playground. The streets were lined with marvels of automotive excellence, each car passing by whispering a story of impeccable German engineering.

Yet, amidst this admiration, the challenges were palpable. 

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The language barrier was the first hurdle. 

Despite my studies, the fluidity and pace of native German speakers were overwhelming. I remember my first team meeting vividly; I struggled to keep up, my mind grappling with translations, often missing the essence of discussions. It was a humbling experience, reminding me that technical expertise alone wasn’t enough in this new world.

career abroad

Homesickness also crept in quietly. 

The absence of familiar faces, the local cafes back home, and the family dinners with my mom’s rotis and sabzi (bread and vegetables), I took for granted became starkly evident. The German work culture, with its emphasis on precision and punctuality, was another adjustment. My usual approach to work seemed informal in comparison, and adapting required a recalibration of my professional demeanor.

A turning point came with a project hiccup. Tasked with a critical presentation and grappling with language nuances, I stumbled. Me, a junior engineer with zero experience, was given the mammoth task of drawing a new design. While I was confident in the work I had done, faced with a room full of German speakers who watched my every move with curiosity, I messed up. My hard-learned basics of German education fled my memory. My team leader, noticing my struggle, stepped up, encouraging me to talk. The presentation, I’ll have you know, went pretty well, earning an applause. My manager later pulled me aside and offered a simple yet profound advice: “Communicate with clarity, not perfection.”

Building Relationships and Networking While Pursuing a Career Abroad

Forging professional and personal connections wasn’t just beneficial; it was essential. It essentially provides you with a support system, a sense of belonging in an otherwise foreign land.

I realized the power of networking early on at an industry conference. Initiating conversations felt daunting, but it opened doors to collaborations and insights into German automotive trends and technologies. These interactions, though initially out of my comfort zone, became vital in understanding the pulse of the industry.

A senior colleague, Klaus, became a mentor and a pivotal figure in my journey. Always dressed in his tweed suit, a jovial smile on his face and glasses that were too big for him, his guidance in navigating the complex dynamics of our field was invaluable. He introduced me to key industry players, helping expand my professional network. 

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Beyond work, Klaus and his family welcomed me into their lives, offering a slice of German culture and warmth. This blend of professional mentorship and personal camaraderie was instrumental in my adaptation and growth, teaching me that in the world of careers abroad, relationships are the bridges that connect us to opportunities and enrich our experiences.

If work relationships are difficult for you to forge, one of the best ways in which I made friends in Germany was through dating apps and online groups. People are fundamentally looking for companionships, so go ahead and give it your best shot. 

A Step Into the Unknown…

In the heart of Germany’s bustling innovation and quiet, historic streets, I found not just a career but a journey of self-discovery. 

Every challenge faced and every milestone achieved here has sculpted a part of me, revealing strengths and resilience I never acknowledged before. 

Working amidst some of the brightest minds in automotive engineering didn’t just enhance my professional skills; it redefined my approach to problem-solving and creativity, infusing them with a precision and depth I had not realized was possible.

But the most profound growth was internal. I learned to embrace uncertainty, turning it into a canvas for personal development. 

career abroad

The experience of being an outsider in a new culture, struggling and then gradually fitting in, taught me empathy and patience at a depth I had never experienced. The friendships forged, both in and out of the workplace, brought unexpected joys and a sense of belonging that transcended cultural barriers. 

This journey in Germany has been more than a career move; it has been a transformational chapter, reshaping not just my professional identity but who I am as a person.

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