The Migration of the Teachers
The end of July is one of my favourite times of the year. The weather is hot, the ice cream is cold and I no longer need to go to the gym as the mere thought of moving burns around 1000 calories. My waistline is not the only thing that is noticeably different, the streets become quieter and I can easily find a parking space at work. Why all the changes? Well my friends, the Bavarian school year has finished, and the summer holidays have begun. Every summer, Bavaria performs a biblical level exodus of Germany’s southern state, as people pack themselves and their families into planes, trains and buses and head off on summer holidays. Usually, the only impact of the “Great Bavarian Departure” is that I can park really close to the office, however, this year is different. This year, I’m taking part in another Bavarian tradition, “The Migration of the Teachers”.
The last day of the school year is not only a celebration for children, but it is also the day that teachers all around the state discover if they will be able to move schools. For those who are unaware, most Bavarian teachers find themselves working in schools they never intended on working in. This is because teachers here do not get to choose their jobs, but are instead required to offer up long lists of preferred schools, from which the state board of education will select their next placement. From the moment a teacher begins training, they are often faced with moving far from their homes, to train in areas they may never have heard of. That’s why we ended up in Nürnberg, not out of our choice, but because of the whim of some faceless bureaucrat. Every year, hundreds, if not thousands of Bavarian teachers put in applications to move schools and many are disappointed. Much depends on the combination of subjects a teacher has trained in and also whether there are spaces available in the schools they wish to join. In my wife’s case, the gods were on our side, and so two weeks ago she received a call to say we will be moving to Augsburg.
As exciting as the news was, we both knew that the clock was now ticking. We would not be the only couple on the move and we needed to find a home in our new city very quickly. As if to underline the statement, removal vans began to appear all around where we live, given that our part of the city happens to be the home for many of my wife’s teaching colleagues. Not only did we need to find new accommodation, we also needed to go through the process of finding new residents for our current apartment.
Both these challenges are interesting through the lens of German culture. One sticking point in renting any apartment or house in Germany, is the kitchen. When we first rented our apartment, there was a great void where the kitchen should be and so we had to buy one. This was great while we lived there, but it suddenly becomes a massive issue when you decide to move. Will the incoming tenants buy your kitchen? Will you have to take it with you or can it be sold to someone on ebay? When looking for an apartment or house, you face the reverse decision; will you buy the kitchen in your potential new home or will you not? At any viewing, the kitchen discussion comes to the fore.
Another oddity of the German rental market is the actual process of viewings. Some of the places we have looked at, over the last three weeks, have been found via the 21st century process of scouring various agency websites. However, by far the biggest success we had in regards to viewings came from the antiquated 20th century process, of simply placing an advert in the paper. Over two Saturdays, my wife paid the local paper to advertise us to potential landlords and from that we managed to get lots of different viewings and even viewings for places that hadn’t even be advertised yet. Local papers around the world might be dying, but apparently not in Germany.
Once our viewings had been completed, we had to go through the process of getting viewings for our current home. This is of course easier if, like us, you are renting. Once the landlord has been informed, they begin the process of advertising and inviting potential new tenants. My experience in the UK of this process was that the landlord would occasionally contact us with individual viewings. Germany, ever the land of efficiency, choose to do their viewings all in one go. In practice this means that over a two hour period, a slow procession of different groups came traipsing through our apartment. After an hour, my wife had become an expert estate agent, marketing the benefits of our wonderful flat. In the meantime, I became a mixture of beautiful assistant, directing people to the exciting benefits that my wife was describing, and/or a curious zoo animal, to be viewed in it’s natural habitat. By the end of it all, my wife was pleased that everyone had finally left and that her husband hadn’t angrily thrown his faeces at anyone brave enough to look him in the eye.
At this point, we have finally found a new apartment in Augsburg and we have also managed to find new tenants for our flat here in Nürnberg. The next step is to actually move, which thanks to the “Great Bavarian Departure” might be smoother than you would expect. I am hoping that we find a lederhosen clad removal company, who carry our furniture to the sound of traditional Blasmusic. However, I have tried not to think about it too much for fear of sweating out of existence.