Ministry of Propaganda

Ministry of Propaganda - 02/Nov/2005: "How The Hell Did I Get Here?"

[Previous entry: "Where Are My Readers From?"] [Home] [Next entry: "Good Night"]

How The Hell Did I Get Here?

Working on the Blogging Abroad update a few days ago reminded me of a post by PapaScott about how he and his wife ended up in Hamburg, Germany. They've been in Germany for more than 15 years now (Well, his wife is German, but that's another story). I first moved to England 10 years ago (soon 11 years), so how did I end up here in Swindon? Here's my story:

It was a dark and stormy night.. I think I'll start with the summer of 1994. Thinking about it, may be even 1993. In late 1993 I returned to Germany from an 8 month internship in California to finish my business degree at the Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg. I had passed all the exams before I left for Los Angeles so I only had to finish my thesis successfully to complete my degree. I wrote about 'contractual relations in the tourism industry' using some of the experiences gained during my internship. I finished it early summer 1994 and handed it in to Prof. Schanze. Time to find a job.

Job hunting proved to be not very easy at that time. Several of my friends who had completed their degree earlier than me (as they hadn't taken almost a year out as I had) were still searching. A lot of rejections came back, sometimes with my CV and associated backup (in Germany you send copies of your degrees, courses and a picture with the application), sometimes not. The odd invitation to an interview arrived as well, but none really led to anything promising. But I had no intention of giving up, so while doing some part-time work at a printers workshop and enjoying the summer (1994 was an exceptional summer in north Germany) I continued to search for opportunities.

The break arrived somewhat unexpectedly:

I had applied for a position I knew I wasn't going to be invited for. It was one of those 'we are looking for someone with a PhD, 10 years work experience, 8 languages fluent but no older than 21 years' ads, I think for one of the big car manufacturers in Germany. As expected the recruiter replied swiftly that I wouldn't be considered for an interview for the positions offered in the ad. At least they had some information about me now, although I couldn't be sure if and how much they kept. Nevertheless applying turned out to be the right idea.

A few weeks later I received a letter that they were recruiting for graduate positions for a 'multinational company with billion turnover' in their European headquarters in the UK. If I was interested I should send my CV in English as soon as possible. I briefly thought about it and decided to go for it. While I hadn't planned to work abroad immediately after my graduation I was hoping to work abroad after gaining a few years of work experience. If they didn't want me in Germany, may be someone wanted me abroad? What was there to lose?

I had been active in AIESEC for several years (Another reason why I was interested in working abroad). A group of exchange students from Strathclyde had joined us and I turned to one of them for some help. He helped me to adapt my CV to the British format (German CVs look different than a British CV or American resume) which I then sent to the agency.

A few days later I received a confirmation that they had received my application and I would hear from them in the near future. The near future turned out to be the same evening, when I received a phone call from England. It was someone from their team in England who asked me a number of questions about my motivation to work abroad, my experience, my skills etc. He told me he would talk to their client and I would hear from them.

The phone call came the following Sunday evening, yes, they would like to invite me for an interview, could I please contact their German office as soon as possible on Monday. Of course I could. Calling their office on Monday I was told I would need to come to Munich for an interview on Wednesday, and by the way, the client was Intel. We agreed a time and then I had 1.5 days left to prepare for the interview. Now remember this was in 1994, kind of before the internet. Not a quick going to Google and searching for Intel, but trying to find something more or less recent in the library.

Wednesday arrived and I travelled the long journey to Munich (I was living in Oldenburg in the north of Germany at the time). I arrived in Feldkirchen and was picked up from the reception by one of the interviewers from the UK office. The interview was difficult but I felt it went reasonably well. They told me I would hear from them early in the new year (the interview took place two days before Christmas) and I travelled back to north Germany.

The new year started with several good news: First I was told that my thesis was very well received by Prof Schanze (and also by his assistant) and that my grades for it would be very good. Then the agency called to tell me I would need to travel to Swindon in England for a second round of interviews.

In early January I was on a plane from Bremen to Heathrow and then a taxi took me to Swindon. Several interviews took place with a number of recruiting managers and later in the evening all candidates were taken to a dinner. Before leaving for Germany and France the next morning we were told that we should expect a decision later during the week or latest early the next week.

I can't remember if it was at this stage or earlier that I almost got cold feet. Either way, talking to my then girlfriend I mentioned that I had slight doubts about leaving her behind should I get the job. Her response was 'of course you'll go, you'll never forgive yourself if you don't take such an opportunity'. She was right so when the offer came a few days later I immediately accepted it.

It was in a way also good news for the personnel manager of another company: He called me the next morning to tell me that they had decided to take another candidate and therefore wouldn't offer me a job. To which I could respond that I had just accepted another position anyway. I could almost feel his relief through the phone, making it much easier for him. I still told him that I appreciated his call as most companies just send a standard letter instead of going through the effort of a phone call.

I now had a month left for the big move from Oldenburg/Germany to Swindon/England. Websites like Deutsche in London didn't exist and I didn't really know of the internet anyway. But I managed to obtain quite a bit of information about living in the UK from various books and other sources. The removal van was ordered, notice given to my landlord, things packed, the flat cleaned and painted (in Germany the tenant usually has to do this before moving out), leaving parties celebrated and in mid February I left for Swindon.

The first few weeks were tough, but I managed to get through it thanks to the help of my hiring manager (who was the one who had picked me up from reception in Munich for my interview) and the others in the department. I'm still grateful to one of them for inviting me over to his house on my first weekend and generally helping me to settle in. I haven't seen him for years now (he has since moved to another company) and I very much doubt he'll read this, but it's still worth mentioning.

Since then I've changed job (internally) several times, sometimes more successful, sometimes less successful. I moved back to Germany (Munich obviously) but didn't really settle in and after 2.5 years moved back to Swindon again. I've written about it in earlier postings, Germany appears more and more 'foreign' to me the longer I live here. I'm very happy here, I like living in the UK and for the foreseeable future have no plans to move anywhere else (certainly not back to Germany).

That's how I got here, a combination of perseverance, luck, coincidence and interest to live abroad after gaining a taste of it when living in the US back in 1993. In 1993 I had a return ticket, I don't have one now.

What's your story?

End of entry

Entry trivia

End of entry trivia

Advertising section

End of advertising section

Spread the word:

Do you like this weblog? Do you think others might be interested in it? Then please tell a friend! Thank you.