Renovations are going on all over the city of Bremerhaven, but for Germans, Bremerhaven is still pretty much synonymous with unemployment and high poverty rates. I didn’t know anything about that when I was finishing my physical oceanography studies in Gothenburg and started looking for a job. At the time, Esben was already working abroad most of the time and we had our one-year old daughter to also consider. As Esben is somewhat free regarding his home base, I could look for jobs outside of Denmark, but because of our daughter Runa we preferred to not be within driving distance from Denmark.
In the end I looked for Ph.D. positions related to oceanography in Scandinavia, Northern Germany and the Netherlands. Because I had studied biology as well as physical oceanography, my dream was to find a position that combined the two fields. And I was lucky; AWI in Bremerhaven were looking for someone to work on coupling a biogeochemical model to their Finite Element Sea-ice Ocean Model. A pretty cool – and pretty daunting project, which I started in December 2010.
Moving to Germany is not that complicated for Danes, it’s basically a matter of finding a place to live and sign in at various offices in the city. But how do you find a nice flat in another country? Our German wasn’t great, but we managed to find a website with flats and made appointments to check some of them out. We quickly realized that most of the places we looked at were in a pretty bad shape and located in areas where we didn’t want our daughter to grow up. Additionally, we learned that a kitchen is not normally included in flats in Bremerhaven.
In the end we chose a 90 m2 apartment with four bedrooms in Bremerhaven neighborhood of Geestemünde. We moved there two weeks before I started working, to get settled and for Runa to start in private daycare. We had been really lucky with the daycare, getting a place for Runa close to our home with a really nice Tagesmutter. We didn’t know beforehand, but later learned that it can in fact be rather difficult to get daycare for kids younger than 3 years.
AWI is a very international work place with people from various backgrounds. I liked working there from the beginning, and generally we felt quite welcome in Bremerhaven. The locals have been very friendly, and despite of our less than perfect German, we seem to have been able to communicate with people anyways. I guess the proximity to the sea also helped me to feel at home.