From India 🇮🇳 • To Germany 🇩🇪

Navigating Life Abroad and Culture Shock in Germany

The story of Paras • January 31, 2024

Paras in Germany

About Paras

Paras is a Tech Lead from India who got the opportunity to move to Germany in March 2023. In this interview, he shares his journey, from navigating culture shock to dealing with a new administrative system, while celebrating the beauty of a fresh start.

Paras, could you tell us a bit about your background in India and what motivated you to take the plunge and move abroad?

Sure, I come from a very small town called Bhiwadi in India. It was so small that there was only one bakery for the entire town, you can imagine! When I was 15, I moved to a bigger city down south for better study and work opportunities. 13 years later, during the pandemic, I went back to my hometown. Seeing me around the house somehow prompted my parents to arrange a marriage for me, so I got married there and moved to Bangalore.

However, before having children, I always thought that I should explore the world as I’ve always been an adventure seeker. Moving to Germany was an opportunity that fell on my lap, and I thought that it would be the perfect abroad experience for me!

Why Germany specifically?

The multinational company I work for offered me to keep my job but relocate to Berlin, Germany. I could not let that opportunity go!

What were your first impressions of Berlin vs. Your impressions now, after 6 months of living there?

First off, Berlin is so spacious, clean, and quiet! I was so used to the cacophony of Bangalore that it had become a background melody for me. Suddenly, there was no traffic chaos and no honking.

Also, I found public transportation to be very efficient and cost-effective, and it doesn’t involve haggling with cab drivers like I had to do, back home.

A funny story: as I landed in Berlin and wanted to go to my new home, I asked people how to hail cabs at the airport, but everyone insisted that public transportation would be my best option, and they were right! I was positively surprised by how easy it was for me to reach my place, even as a newcomer to the city.

What’s your favorite spot in the city?

The water channel near my house is just amazing! I don’t know what heaven looks like, but after work, when I walk by the riverside, I really feel that this place is pretty close to it. A beautiful sunset, some bands playing music, people chatting away and just having a good time. When I saw that, all the tiredness went away and I felt that it had been worth it to come to Germany.Answer

What are the challenges that you have faced here, in Berlin? And what do you think that other immigrants could face as well?

The administrative system is confusing to the extent that it becomes taxing and frustrating. On top of the current housing crisis in Germany, you will have to chase people around for a tax ID, communicate effectively without German (which is a challenge in itself), and deal with other complex bureaucratic tasks. For example, I did not know that there was a radio tax (Rundfunkbeitrag) to be paid in Germany, and I was struggling to understand how to pay for it. Luckily my colleague helped me out.

I recommend newcomers seek the help of a local for all of the necessary paperwork because the barriers to overcome are high. Hopefully, things will get better as I settle in the city!

India and Germany are so different, it is like passing through a portal and coming to another universe, like another world turned upside down.

Any tips for newcomers to solve this issue if they are alone and don’t have colleagues or anyone they know?

One thing that came to my rescue was community groups. Expats from my region hold a gathering twice a year in Berlin and I was fortunate enough to attend one of them in the early days of my move. People were really supportive and answered all of my questions, even helping me to book an appointment for my visa request. If you get in touch with people from the same country or region as you, they are going to be of great support.

Please share with us a cultural mishap!

Oh, absolutely! So, on my second day at work, a colleague invited me to a pub. He assured me that in Germany, English worked just fine. All was well until I needed to use the restroom. When I saw “Herren” on a restroom door, I thought it would mean “women” as there is the word “Her” in “Herren”. Therefore, I confidently waltzed through the opposite door called “Damen”, only to be met with a chorus of surprised ladies. Classic culture clash!

You shared with me that you have experienced culture shock in Germany, please tell us about it!

Ah, the culture shock was a constant companion! Living in Berlin felt like stepping into a parallel universe. I had to unlearn and relearn even the simplest things, like which side of the road to walk on (we tend to walk on the left in India but in Germany, people use the right side).

Once, I saw a man wearing a skirt walking down the street, which you don’t usually see in India, so I was very surprised to witness it. Had it happened back home, he would have been stopped and asked if anything was going wrong. However, here, people did not stare or bother him.

Also, it might sound like an odd observation but dogs don’t bark. In my first 2 months, I have seen plenty of dogs but haven’t heard one bark. One of my first questions when I got to the office was “What’s going on here? What’s with the dogs? What are they fed with?”. Turns out the dogs are just very well-trained.

All of these experiences were shocking at first but I now embrace the differences and have an open mind to keep being amazed at what I might discover next.

How did you deal with culture shock? Any tips for people in the same situation?

So I started off with a clean slate because I got to understand that everything is based on cultural values, which differ from country to country. I had to let go of preconceived notions and realize that cultures vary, even in the smallest details. People in Berlin give you a lot of space, and they’re non-judgmental, which was a pleasant surprise. It made me reflect on my own notions and habits.

It is always best to be ready to reconsider one’s own perspective and be open to other ways of living. Also, take a deep breath, absorb everything, and take it slow: everything will fall in place.

What we have learned does not necessarily have to be right.

That’s a valuable perspective. Now, for people who are considering a move to Berlin, do you have any advice on how to prepare for it?

Before moving, start searching for an apartment at least two months in advance. You might need to rely on websites that charge a bit more for security in a competitive housing market, to avoid scams. Also, before you move, try to book an appointment in your home country for city registration.

This is important to get your tax ID because it will influence your salary. I did not do it on time so I had to pay 50% of my salary in taxes for the first month of work. Additionally, try to secure an appointment with the foreign office for your visa or residence permit a month in advance.

Do you have any recommendations for resources like local artists, books, podcasts, or resources that could help people get a glimpse of German culture before they move?

There is a website called “All About Berlin” that I found very useful for practical information. As for local experiences, I would recommend visiting the city on a weekend, walking around and exploring. In Berlin, you will find impromptu music performances, especially in areas influenced by different cultures. There is a sense of freedom and creativity here that is hard to describe, but it is best experienced in person.

That sounds wonderful. Do you have any parting advice for people thinking about moving abroad?

Don’t just focus on money, consider the quality of life. It is an intangible factor, but it matters a lot. Don’t be afraid of the administrative system; it might seem daunting at first, but things will fall into place eventually. If you have never experienced a different culture, I would recommend it at least once in a lifetime. It is a valuable experience.

If you are scared to make the move, try to make small talk with people you meet, even if they are just from your community. Attend workshops, meetups, or cultural gatherings. Small conversations will lead to connections, and people here are generally friendly and helpful.

German Sauerkraut
German Sauerkraut


Paras’ story is like an exciting rollercoaster ride through life in a new land. His experiences, from being amazed by Berlin’s cleanliness to having funny culture clashes, show that living abroad is full of surprises. Paras’s experience reminds us to stay amazed at the world and to remain open to what is to come.

You can always follow our Interviewee by checking out the below link(s) 🙂

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