Saskia

Veterinary Surgeon

Lives in Leeds // From Berlin, Germany

I only wanted to come for a couple of years because I am a vet and in Germany it is quite difficult to get your first job whereas here it’s super easy because here’s not enough vets. And, then I just stayed. I’ve been here so long, but I go home at least twice a year. It’s just me here, everyone else is still back in Berlin. 

My first job was in Lincolnshire in the middle of nowhere. It was in Louth. I had been living in a little village, a bit flat and boring. Obviously, coming from Berlin, I quickly discovered that country side is good for holidays but not for living, so I needed a city. So, then I came here and since then I have always had jobs in Leeds. And, now I am my own boss. 

I’ve been here so long that home is here now. When I go back “home”, it kind of still is in a way, but not really anymore. Obviously, all my family are still there as well as my friends, but proper home is here now. My family doesn’t visit very often, my parents don’t like flying. All this time I have been here, my mum has been here four times and my dad once because he really hates flying. My parents do speak English, but they simply don’t like flying. First time my mum came with granny. They took a train from Berlin to Rotterdam, and then a ferry to Hull, and then train again. It takes like 24 hours the whole trip, and it’s well expensive. Flying is easier. It’s only an hour and a half flight so it’s really quite quick.

I’ve been here so long that I find Germany a bit weird sometimes. I mean, the fact that people at the pedestrian traffic lights stop when it’s red even if there are no cars coming. I find that really annoying. What I really like about here is that you go into a pub and you wait to be served at the bar, you just start talking to people. Especially Berlin, people are way too cold there, they don’t do that. When I first came, that’s actually something I found it really irritating that lady at the Tesco checkout wanted to chat as did people in the newsagents, but I really like that now. It’s just nice. These are the things that annoyed me a little about Germany - that people are much more reserved. But, then there’s other things I like about Germany.

The only thing that’s really different is that Germans are extremely direct and blunt, whereas in England you are much more polite. At the start, people probably found me quite rude and abrupt. I had to really learn not to be so terribly direct. So, for example, if at work I had to criticise someone about a mistake they’ve made, I’ve learned this wonderful phrase “shit sandwich” – to say something good first, then give the criticism, and then something good again. Whereas in Germany, we’d just say “you didn’t do that very well, do better next time” without the actual need of wrapping it in some niceties, but here you certainly have to do that, otherwise people are offended. 

People here just do the small talk, and I have actually come to find that very nice. It’s a bit of a lubricant of the day, so to say. In Germany, nobody really does that. If you ask “how are you?”, you don’t expect anything but a “I’m fine thanks, you?”. People would find it weird if you answered with a “oh yeah, I’ve been to a hospital and had my gall bladder out, bla bla”. So, that’s different. Small talk [in Germany] is regarded as terribly superficial so no one does that. Whereas, I’ve actually come to really enjoy it. 

I’ve never really experienced anyone being awful because I am not English. Until the Brexit referendum. I think it’s just suddenly become acceptable to be racist and in the open. Before the referendum I think in society as a whole it was really quite unaccepted. Suddenly, with all that anti-immigration bollocks and the referendum campaign, and most recently the horrible language that the politicians are using…

I look after my friend’s little boy once a week and the plan was I only speak German to him so he can learn German. But, where my friend lives in Leeds, in Armley, I think a week after the referendum a Polish guy was beaten up by twenty guys on the street, literally from the corner of her, for being Polish. Since then, in that area I don’t speak German in public anymore. I mean, lots of Polish people live there so if I am like at a playground and there are lots of Polish people around, then I will but otherwise not. Certainly not in Armley anymore, but around Leeds it’s perfectly fine. 

I am certainly still German but I think I have assimilated quite well. I am definitely European, especially since Brexit. Before that, I don’t think I ever even thought about EU much. But since all that Brexit malarkey… I haven’t applied for settled status yet, I am holding off until the very last moment. Unless I really have to, I am not going to do it. It’s terribly unorganised. With the referendum campaign, all the politicians said nothing will change and nothing will change with your rights. I shouldn’t have to apply for this, it should just be a registration process not an application. That’s probably more of a reason why I am holding off until the last moment. I will have no problems getting it because I have been here so long. 

I was really pissed off that Europeans weren’t allowed to vote because in the Scottish IndyRef every resident, no matter the nationality, was allowed to vote. So, to me it sounds a little bit like they have done it on purpose, like they allowed it on purpose because obviously they knew that all the Europeans would have voted to remain. I think it was quite deliberate that people weren’t allowed to vote. Of course, I would have voted. I still care about it, I have been to all the demonstrations and at the last demonstration in Leeds I even held a speech. Not being able to vote, there’s not much else I can do. I woke up from a text from my brother because in Germany it’s one hour later, so 6:55 AM I got a text “Leave has won”. I was like, “what? Fuck”.

There’s a couple of clients I know quite well, we often talk about this. Obviously, then there’s the people who want to take their pets on a holiday and I have to tell them pet passports will become invalid in case of no deal Brexit, and it’s so much more expensive and takes four months. At the moment, it’s just the rabies vaccination and then you get the passport. If it comes to no deal Brexit, they will have to have the rabies vaccination and 30 days later a blood test, and then only 3 months after the blood test you can travel. Then you need a health certificate every time you travel. So, it’ll be much more expensive and takes a lot longer, then people go, “oh, this is really terrible”. 

There’s several medications that we can’t already get, so it’s not just human medication but veterinary ones as well. “Oh, sorry we can’t get that at the moment”. “Why?”. “Because of Brexit.” These are little things that get some people thinking. Area that I work in is quite conservative and I am pretty sure it has voted mainly to leave, actually. Oh, well. Hopefully at least some of my clients will now think again if it comes to another referendum just because of the medications and the passports.

Moving to a different country… obviously you have to make new friends and everything is different. The culture is different. I thought my English was better than it actually was. Suddenly, I not only have to have conversations with someone but also work with them in a foreign language. That was quite difficult, I think it made be a stronger person. Everything is so scary and new, and you just have to deal with it.

Using Format