This is the final installment of the experiment in quitting series; please refer to Parts I, II and III
Room in Germany? Anyone? Anyone?
Sometime in August I began searching for rooms in Germany. I was feeling cheap and lazy and didn’t want to fly to Germany first to check things out; ideally I would organize everything remotely and move right in.
Apparently, the best resource for rooms in Germany is WG-Gesucht.
I started with Berlin because everyone had been telling me how cool it was. I searched only for rooms that were temporarily available for the period October to December.
Worst case scenario, I thought, I could just book a room through a language school, as many of them offer accommodation. It’s not ideal as the school says that the room can be located up to 1 hour away from the school.
I sent out about 20 inquiries on WG-Gesucht.
Only one guy answered me. He apologized, saying he had received tons of requests and that the room was already taken.
Then I opened up my search to other cities: Munich, Leipzig, Dresden.
No responses from anyone there either.
It was getting toward the end of August and I had no results, so I decided to just book accommodation through a school in Berlin.
The school’s e-mail response: “We’re sorry, the earliest availability we have is February 2017. Do you want to book the class anyway?”
Me: “How about your Munich branch?”
School: “There’s nothing until November”.
Shit. I had no idea it was THAT popular to live there.
Early September now. I went back to the Berlin search and spammed about 20 more people.
One yoga guy answered me. He had a super cheap and nice room and seemed cool. I thought I had it locked down.
But it turns out that he was cheating on me. While talking to me he was showing the room to others, and he took one of them.
I made one last ditch effort.
Finally, I received a reply from a lady in Berlin named Andrea. It was a very spacious room in central Berlin for 500 Euros monthly.
We had a nice phone conversation and came to a mutual understanding. She took down the ad for the room and didn’t even ask me to send her anything; we had a verbal handshake agreement.
It was available exactly during the period I wanted: October 1st through December 31st.
Phew! One hurdle down. I had someplace to go.
Subletting our Place
My wife had found a nice room for herself in Zurich with an awesome couple. Now the only thing we had to do was sublet our place. The couple knew that my wife’s moving in depended on this and were very flexible with that.
Through the rest of the summer we had no further luck. We got a few requests but it just never seemed to work out.
At the very end of August I received a message from a Brazilian guy. He had left Brazil with his wife, was unemployed, and trying (and failing) to find a place to live in Geneva.
For those of you not familiar with Switzerland, finding an apartment here can be harder than finding a job. If you don’t have a job – and are a foreigner to boot – you’re basically shit out of luck.
I really felt for the guy because I went through the same experience. When I first arrived in Switzerland, I tried to move to Geneva to find a place for my wife and I. But I didn’t have a job. It was impossible to find even a room for more than a few weeks.
We communicated all relevant details on Whatsapp over a week or so, and agreed a day for them to come visit our place.
On the 7th of September, the Brazilian guy came with his wife to have a look at our apartment. They were incredibly eager to move in, had already brought 2 months’ rent (first month + deposit), and wanted to sign the sublet lease right away.
Yes! It was finally happening! All the plans were coming together!
The young couple came with their parents.
Strangely, we only ever saw one parent at a time. When the mother came in, the father waited outside somewhere. Then the mother went outside, and the father came back.
During the contract signing, the wife asked if she could move some of our decorative glassware that was near to the floor (after they moved in).
She was worried about her two young children breaking it.
Two children? What children?? What the fuck!
They had been “hiding” the kids in the car outside; that’s why only one grandparent was in the apartment at a time. The other grandparent was watching the grandkids.
Our apartment is not large. It has one large room and one bedroom; it wasn’t really designed for families.
Furthermore our landlord had to approve the subletting arrangement. We had an e-mail from him confirming that he was fine with one person or a couple, but he made no mention of families.
I felt that we had to make sure the landlord was okay with this, so I called him.
I called another tenant who handles my landlord’s affairs.
She told us that he had left on vacation for Uzbekistan one day earlier, and wouldn’t be back until September 25th.
No one knew his mobile number.
There was nothing we could do. I told the family that I would e-mail our landlord but in the meantime, we would all have to wait.
A few days went by and I heard nothing. He obviously wasn’t checking his e-mails.
This left 8 people in a state of limbo: my wife and I, a Brazilian family, and the couple who my wife was supposed to live with.
Meanwhile, on the job front…
I had registered at the local unemployment office just in case I never found another job.
I won’t get into all the details here but one condition of unemployment in Switzerland – especially in the case of quitting a job – is that you begin immediately to look for a new job as soon as you give notice, otherwise you face a bunch of penalties and don’t get any benefits.
You have to apply for 10-12 jobs per month.
Since I knew I was going to Germany for a while and didn’t want to work right away, I fulfilled the bare minimum requirements so as to cover my administrative ass.
I only applied to jobs on LinkedIn, and only those that had the “Apply now” button.
I fulfilled my monthly quota of 10-12 jobs in about 8 minutes during my commute.
Apparently, one of the jobs I had applied to was a Global Mobility Consultant position. A recruiter e-mailed me about it in response to my LinkedIn application. I was mildly interested.
However it turned out that the position was at B Company.
B Company recently had completely screwed over a former colleague and friend of mine. They had given her this same job, and then fired her before she even started working there. But she had already left her previous position, leaving her stranded, jobless and without a work visa.
I told the recruiter about this story and that on these grounds, I would not work for this department of B Company and was not interested in the position.
The recruiter understood, but asked me if I wasn’t interested in coming to his office anyway, to see what else they might have. I accepted his invitation.
I went to the recruiter’s office during the very last week of August.
The recruiters told me about a different job – at P Company – that I was pretty interested in (at least they sold it well).
To summarize briefly, I had been thinking to transition to the area of Compensation & Benefits. In fact, I had gotten to late stage interviews a year earlier for such a role, but did not receive an offer in the end.
This job at P Company was 50% Compensation & Benefits, 50% Something Else I Was Less Interested In.
Still, the job sounded pretty good and I could always transition later once I was in the company.
I told the recruiters up front that I was not available until January. They noted this, and came back to me a day or two later saying that P Company wanted to interview me.
The woman that interviewed me was the current team leader.
She was actually also interviewing other people for her own position. It turns out she had also recently given notice, and would spend a few months traveling before returning to Switzerland to find a new job.
Essentially, she was doing the exact same thing that I was.
The interview seemed to go well, and they had no problem with the January start date.
They liked me and called me back for a 2nd interview about 10 days later. This was on September 14th.
As part of this interview I got to meet with my 3 future coworkers for an informal discussion.
One of them was particularly nice and cool. Her name was Nicole. She had previously worked in the role for which I was applying, and then had switched over to a 100% Compensation & Benefits role.
I told them all about my background, the languages I spoke and all the travels I had done. They seemed to be very interested in this ask Nicole asked a lot of questions.
Everything went well from my perspective. I felt good.
The next day my recruiter called me saying that P Company was going to make me an offer.
An internal HR guy that I had met at the interviews called me that afternoon with some numbers.
It was, in effect, a promotion starting January 1, 2017.
Not only would I be doing something new and on my own time, but the annual salary was about 15,000 CHF more than the job I had just left!
Then he dropped the most interesting piece of information.
Remember Nicole, the cool girl I mentioned?
He told me that later the same day, just a few hours after I had met with her, she tendered her resignation. And would I object to doing her role instead, which was 100% Compensation & Benefits?
I told him that it was actually better for me.
It was almost unbelievable.
The Last Pieces of the Puzzle Fall Into Place
I received, signed and sent the contract early in the following week.
Two days later, my landlord finally e-mailed me, saying that he had no problem with us subletting to the Brazilian family.
The next week was my final week of work. I had several fun, engaging goodbye parties and lunches with colleagues and some amazing conversations.
My last day was Friday, September 30th. It was quiet in the office. More than half the office was out, including basically my whole team.
I said my final bittersweet goodbyes and parted the company on good terms.
The next day, my wife and I moved out everything except our furniture and handed the keys to the Brazilians at noon.
I flew to Berlin the following evening.
I feel extremely lucky.
While it is certainly easy to pass all of this off as ordinary luck, the string of coincidences in this story have increased my belief that luck can be created.
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I think that if you are able to remain happy, optimistic, thankful, and detached from the outcome, things somehow seem to work out beautifully. It’s like magic.
The trick is just to figure out which techniques work for you in order to maintain this “flow state”.
What do you think about this? Do you have any opinions, or similar experiences?