Editor’s Note: I originally met Danielle as “my friend Kathryn’s roommate” – but she quickly transitioned from that title into a staple in my own life. She’s moving to Berlin today for no reason other than a “change of pace” – an idea that received support & excitement along with skepticism & judgement (as all big decisions do). So, in the spirit of my favourite topic (will we ever stop trying to justify everything we do?) I asked her to write about it. The result, in my [un]biased opinion, was insanely inspiring.
By: Danielle Lemieux
I’m moving to Berlin (TODAY!!) with my boyfriend who I’ve been dating for 5 years. We have no plans to tie the knot, we do have plans to keep eating chips, so I guess I’m sitting somewhere in the middle of that ‘All my friends are getting married & I’m eating potato chips’ scale.
People have a lot of questions when they find out a friend, acquaintance or stranger is quitting their job and moving across an ocean (I’m sure I bombarded Leah with way too many questions when she decided to peace out to NZ). I know it’s because they are curious and excited, but the first four questions are almost always the same (& almost always imply that maybe I haven’t really thought this through; that I’m missing something. Do I really know what I’m doing?) Which like, of course I’ve thought this through; and no, I don’t really know what I’m doing (does anyone?)
1) “You got a job there?” they ask with an upward intonation at the end that makes it sound like a question. This is an easy one and my answer is always, “No, but I have some savings and a work visa. I’m sure I’ll figure it out.” That’s usually when the majority of real adults start looking gravely concerned. Then comes the second question:
2) “So your boyfriend got the job!?” I find the presumption that I would quit my job and move somewhere just to follow my boyfriend’s career mildly offensive, but let’s chill; no one is intending to start a feminist debate here. And to be honest, I’d move with him in a heartbeat – unless he got a job in a truly terrible city or some place that doesn’t have sun for half the year. (I hope you weren’t thinking of Nunavut as our next destination, Shawn!) I mean, I get it. I get that work is a big part of life & pretty key in staying afloat. But why does having jobs immediately justify a big move like this? Why can’t we go for us?
This leads to our third question:
3) “Are you going with your boyfriend?” To which the answer is, “Yes! Of course!” I’m confident that if I didn’t have Shawn I would have done this on my own at some point, but DAMN is it ever great to have a teammate. Moving to another country is quite literally a full-time job and I already had one of those. Shawn found time to complete all of his freelance work while simultaneously taking the lead on getting rid of most of our belongings. He worked out so many Bunz trades that at one point I started to worry that we wouldn’t be able to finish all the peanut butter and wine we’d acquired (don’t worry, we rose to that challenge).
Seriously though, moving across the world with your partner is no easy feat. It takes a toll on you physically and emotionally. If you aren’t prepared to work together and hold each other up, you won’t do well. I’m really lucky.
Then comes the biggest (and final) question:
4) “So, why Berlin?” It’s a fair question, but I’ve never been to Berlin, so it’s been hard to nail down a nice succinct answer. The truth is we basically chose it because it seemed cool, but that sounds like we just spun a globe and landed on Berlin.
To answer this question I usually start by rhyming off all the reasons that I read online and plugged into a pros and cons spreadsheet (I like Excel):
- It’s a city full of culture, artists, start-ups, fashion and parties in abandoned buildings. (FYI – I’m definitely not cool enough for Berlin.)
- It’s a large, multicultural city. (Sounds a lot like somewhere else I’ve lived.)
- Most Germans speak English, especially in Berlin! (Please let this be true!)
- It’s cheap to live there. (Please, please, please, please let this be true!!!)
Do any of those reasons sound worthy of quitting my job and saying goodbye to my incredible friends, family and ketchup chips? The answer is definitely not! But I’m not moving to Germany because Berlin is summoning me to spend a year there. I’m not even moving to Germany to explore all of the incredible neighbouring countries (although that is going to be BOMB because Europeans know that cheese + bread = life). I’m moving to Berlin for an adventure and a challenge and a change of pace.
I have no idea what my life is going to be like in Berlin, but maybe I’ll finally make kimchi from scratch! And maybe try out a sourdough bread recipe that takes 48 hours to complete! And maybe I’ll start doing yoga again! And maybe I’ll finally become a dog walker, dammit!
I realize that there is nothing holding me back from doing any of those things in Toronto (all of the ingredients for a bad ass kimchi can be bought 12 minutes from my apartment), but I don’t do those things here. I could blame the pace of this city or the hours required for my agency job, but that’s not the issue. There is something about staying in the city where I grew up that keeps me tied to comfort, routine and what people expect from me.
I’m moving to Berlin to get to know myself a bit better. I hope that this experience acts as a test that builds me and changes me and makes me into a stronger person.
I’m really lucky that most of the people who have inquired about my move have showered me with support and understanding. There have been a few skeptics who are concerned how this will impact my career trajectory or my ability to buy property in the next few years (LOL), but the majority of people have been incredibly encouraging. I truthfully don’t know if I’ll be back in 3 months, 12 months or 12 years, but I am optimistic that I will come out of this journey a little bit better acquainted with who I am and what I want from my life. You only get one, right?