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One Step at a Time

Bureaucratic Limbo

Another tricky matter was health care coverage: As a freelancer in Germany, I had a very good—albeit expensive—private health care plan. I would not have minded keeping it, but the problem is that you cannot after having been out of the EU for six months and a day. So I asked my husband, who works for a hospital and has excellent health by American standards, to put me on his plan. This triggered my medical catch-22: The U.S. healthcare provider stated that they could only put me on his plan during the course of the year, i.e. outside of the annual application period, if I had proof that I was without health insurance. The German insurance company, on the other hand, refused to cancel insurance without proof of coverage abroad. At least they did put my plan on hold; so right now, I only pay a small amount, but I cannot have medical bills reimbursed.

My husband and I have been trying to work our way through this red tape jungle for weeks and months now, and finally it looks like I might be insured again starting in July. Truth be told, if I had known that I might end up without coverage, I would have prepared better before leaving Germany. As it is, I am very grateful that the only medical bill I racked up recently was for a minor dental consultation.

Given all the hurdles on the way so far, I still have not even looked into tax matters or how to ship furniture from Europe to the U.S. or the possibility to set up an official business and find new customers. I think I need some time over the summer to build up the mental strength to deal with further authorities and service providers.

Beyond the Expat Circles

For now, I am concentrating on settling in and making Seattle my home. Judging from my experience, there is also a huge distinguishing psychological factor at play for those who decide to build a life abroad: When I came to the U.S. for the first time on a one-year contract with an option to stay longer (which I did), immigration was not on my mind. So I was perfectly fine spending my time with a few friends and colleagues, a much smaller circle than I had ever had back home.

This time around, that approach won’t do. Making a great life here means I will have to build as strong a network as I used to have before, both on a personal and professional level. Right now, I am accepting as many invitations to parties, barbeques and whatever else people suggest as I can. Plus, I am getting involved in a variety of organizations and charities where I expect to meet plenty of like-minded people. After all, you never know where you will meet a new customer or great buddy! The hurdles on the way there might sometimes be annoying and the setbacks discouraging, but I know in the end, it will all be well worth it.

Originally from Frankfurt/Germany, Micha Goebig Phelps lives in Seattle, WA, USA. Under her pen name Olivia de Winter, she writes about her experiences as an expat on her blog, Breakfast at Starbucks.

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