Karin Holzapfel of Sinzing had just finished her degree in British, American and contemporary German literature at LMU in Munich when her husband was offered a position at the University of Glasgow. “The decision was easy. We had wanted to live in Scotland for quite some time,” explains Holzapfel. “I had been to Scotland on vacation and was fascinated straightaway by the landscape, the culture and the people.”
Preparing for the relocation was easy. Holzapfel says: “We didn’t have to apply for a visa or a work permit. The only thing we needed was a reference from an employer to rent an apartment, which is customary in Scotland.” Because her husband already had signed an employment contract, obtaining the required reference was not a problem. “As EU citizens, we also had free access to medical care, which is organized by a national health care system in Great Britain.” Whether requirements for German employees in Great Britain will change after Brexit remains to be seen (as of November 2016).
Scottish English and other challenges
Holzapfel found her feet quickly in Glasgow: “Everybody was very friendly. The Scots tend to be open-minded, so it was not difficult at all to meet people. Some of them are still my friends today.” The Scots’ easy-going nature attracted Holzapfel’s attention. “It is one of the main differences between Scots and Germans. In some cases, however, this laid-back attitude can have its drawbacks, for example, when your heating system breaks down in the middle of winter and the superintendent takes his sweet time to repair it. It is then when you would like a bit more reliability,” explains Holzapfel.
The language also needed getting used to: “Even though I spoke English fluently at the time, Scottish English was a true challenge. In the beginning I had a really hard time understanding people who spoke Scottish English only, but that improved over time.”
Much room for a private life
After having sent out applications for jobs at local businesses, Holzapfel landed a position at Traveltek, a global company that develops booking platforms for travel tour organizers. “My job was to translate texts about traveling from English to German and vice versa, and to edit texts. I truly enjoyed the work.” In addition, Holzapfel worked as a freelance German instructor, teaching students, retirees and professionals looking to refresh their language skills. She held her classes at a local library.
The Holzapfels found it easy to combine their professional life and recreation. “Scots don’t define themselves through their work. Rather, they try to integrate work into their lives as well as possible. We were lucky to have flexible employers. When the weather was nice, we got permission to take a few days off, even on short notice. We often used this opportunity to travel around the country.”
New project: a language institute
After four years the Holzapfels left Glasgow and returned home to their families. In 2015, Karin Holzapfel fulfilled another wish: She founded the Regensburger Land language institute and now offers courses for adults and children of all ages. She can integrate her intercultural skills perfectly. “Without the experience I gained in Scotland, I probably would not have had the courage to open the institute,” she says. “During those four years, I surpassed myself over and over and learned a great deal about myself.”