Germans in the UK – Barbara‘s answers

Germans in the UK is a series in which some of my German friends and contacts tell us about their experience of living and working in the UK.

I decided to start the series because a number of my customers want to know about life in the UK. Some of them want to live here. Whilst I can talk about some differences that I’ve noticed, I’m English, I’ve always lived here and I can’t comment on what it’s like to move to another country.
Therefore I decided to ask some people who can give a first-hand report on moving to the UK from Germany.


1.How long have you been living in the UK?

20+ years, first in Scotland, then returned to teach FE in Germany for 3 years;
then a study/research sabbatical in North Wales and now, since 2006, as a senior social worker in England.

2. What are two important things that you did in terms of preparation before you left Germany?

In 1994 I came for a trial period on German unemployment benefit. In 1999, the second time round, I packed my little Ford Fiesta with all my belongings and took to the road southeast of Munich.

3. How did you go about finding somewhere to live?

At the time, I had a very loose connection to a contemplative Order, so I started at a location where they had a monastery and thus connections in the community. So was able to rent a room.

4. How did you go about making new friends and meeting new people when you got here?

some local volunteering, studying (I am a life-long learner), attending a leisure centre and classes in the community. But then, I have an introvert, almost semi-solitary life style.

5. What would you say is different here in terms of applying for jobs. Is there anything that surprised you?

The superficial approach to ticking boxes surprised me. Often I sensed the people behind the desks not to be genuine, but rather trained to adhere to a narrow system.

6. Do you know any good websites, books or other resources for people who want to improve their English?:

Immerse yourself in everyday life, pick up the mistakes you make from feedback and – train your sense of humour by being the butt of German-jokes.

7. What or who has helped you most in terms of developing your language skills?

the subject since age 10, at school in Germany, making a friend who was then a German teacher in Surrey as a student and reading.

8. Have you noticed any big differences in terms of how people do business, what happens in business meetings or how colleagues relate to one another here?

I agree with Angelika on this. Although everybody is on first name terms very quickly – I find people rather reticent. Having said that, I have last year joined a local poetry/performing group in Nottingham, where I now live, doing gigs in pubs etc and that has changed my sense of belonging completely – much for the better!

9. Is there anything that you wish someone had told you about life in the UK or anything that took time to get used to?

Behaviourism has had a long and bad influence in how people dare (or rather not dare) to tackle injustice.

10. What food or drinks do you miss most? What are the first things that you buy when you go back to Germany?

Again, Angelika got there first: ALDI has changed that a lot. I buy frankfurters a lot here now.
When I go back – I get some German wholemeal bread! Wunderbar! Nothing like it!

Do you have a blog or a personal web page?

Further articles in this series

If you would like to answer these questions as well or to view the other articles in this series, go to the main Germans in the UK page.

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Author: Kirsty Wolf

I am an English teacher and a language enthusiast who also speaks German and Romanian. I help motivated professionals to improve their English so that they can communicate confidently and authentically.

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