In my humble opinion, moving is one of the most stressful undertakings an adult can undergo.
And I know a thing or two about it. In the past sixteen years since I graduated from university, I’ve moved to New York City (twice), London, Stockholm, and now two different cities in Germany. Before I met my German husband, I’d always moved on my own, which carries a different set of challenges (e.g., trying to entice your friends to help carry boxes in the midst of a Swedish snowstorm).
It wasn’t until 2019, however, that I actually physically moved with someone, aka my now-husband. Although we met in 2018 and started living together nearly straightaway in a very small town outside of Hannover, Germany, we both discussed early on that we wanted to eventually live in a bigger city—Hamburg, to be exact.
Given my husband works in law enforcement and had to put in his transfer request before making any sort of move, we finally got the green light to go in the summer of 2019. I was thrilled to be leaving behind our countryside life and joining civilization but I also knew what a big moment this was going to be for my husband, who had lived in this quiet little town and apartment for over ten years.
We humans are creatures of comfort and my husband was (and is) no exception. I knew then that we had our work cut out for us, in terms of facilitating everything. Now with the beauty of hindsight, I can hopefully impart some wisdom on how we made it a successful move as a couple—even if there were times when it felt like it wouldn’t be.
Divide and Conquer
My husband has many skills but knowing how to find an apartment just isn’t one of them.
This is where my skillset comes in handy—I love researching and planning. Just ask my friends who go on trips with me—I’m a pro at putting together a solid itinerary filled with cultural must-sees, chic restaurants, and cool bars.
Once we knew my husband’s official work starting date, which was October 2019, we more or less worked backward from there. After asking around in my German network, I found the top two apartment-renting websites and hit the ground running. I quickly Googled recommended neighborhoods in Hamburg, the average monthly rent to pay for two persons, and of course, I kept in mind what we could afford ourselves.
After narrowing all of this down, I began making an Excel list of some possible apartments and the move-in dates that would work with our schedule. This was a team effort, no doubt. Once I had created our initial list of apartments, my husband was the one to make the calls to set up viewings. (He is the native German speaker in this relationship.) This dynamic worked well for us—we both felt like we played an active role in our apartment hunting process, which in actuality we did.
The same can be said for other aspects of moving. Hate packing boxes but your partner loves it? Let them do it. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses as individuals keeps things relatively straightforward when dividing and conquering your combined list of moving tasks as a couple.
Be Kind When Decluttering
I hate clutter. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t mind it.
Let’s just say when it comes to organization, he and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum. His idea of organization is putting everything and anything into drawers or closets, away from plain view. My idea of organization? Opening up those said drawers and closets, only to find minimal items, all neatly arranged and in their rightful place.
Needless to say, these stark differences naturally come to a head when you are moving, especially when the clock is ticking to move out. In the beginning, I had to practically will myself not to throw out everything he had and just start fresh. Ultimately, I learned how to be respectful of his sentimental nature and not undermine his propensity for holding on to things that he’d had since he was a teenager. That box of loose photos? Those countless old records? He can keep ‘em.
The bottom line? Be kind to one another when you’re getting rid of stuff. If your partner explains something is important to them, try your best to understand and appreciate their feelings (even if you secretly want to chuck everything in the garbage).
Yep, this meant we had to take serious stock of his stuff (to be fair, I only had my two suitcases worth of belongings, given I had moved in with him from the States and into his fully-furnished apartment). But we managed to do it, together. I learned pretty early on not to push too much if we had gone through a substantial amount of his stuff and instead save the rest for another day. With me always calling the shots about what to “keep” or “toss,” I realized just how tiresome this could be for someone who wanted nothing more than to just throw everyone in a box and take it with us to our new home.
The bottom line? Be kind to one another when you’re getting rid of stuff. If your partner explains something is important to them, try your best to understand and appreciate their feelings (even if you secretly want to chuck everything in the garbage). Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Reflect Together, Openly
Moving is a hell of a lot of work, not to mention something that brings up a hell of a lot of emotions. Sadness, excitement, anxiety—you name it, moving to a new environment can make anyone feel a little discombobulated.
This was certainly the case for me and my husband. Although I knew he was just as excited as me to move to Hamburg, a city he had dreamed of living in, there was a lot of trepidation, too. He had grown so accustomed to living the good life in the countryside (ahem, paying very little for rent) that I noticed upon moving how he suddenly became very conscious of the financials of living in a bigger city.
Fair enough. But for me, having lived in such wildly expensive cities as New York City, London, and Stockholm, I also felt like we had hit the jackpot. We had our gorgeous apartment and could still afford to live our lives the way we wanted to with our double incomes.
Herein lies my point—it’s crucial to be open with your partner about how you’re feeling before, during, and after a move. If you, or they, feel strangely nostalgic or admit to having regrets about moving, try not to take it personally. The key here is to lend an ear and establish a feeling of togetherness. You made this decision together so any lingering doubts should be shared together.
It’s crucial to be open with your partner about how you’re feeling before, during, and after a move. . . . You made this decision together so any lingering doubts should be shared together.
If it sounds like my husband and I have it all figured out for our next move, let me assure you we do not.
One thing I know we’ll never see eye-to-eye on is hiring a moving company. In our case, he insisted on doing it himself, by borrowing a camper van from a friend, so we ended up making three trips up to Hamburg to drop off our stuff. Fun times, indeed. Although I do admire my husband’s frugality, letting a moving company handle our stuff would have saved us a lot of bickering and unnecessary tension.
Considering this was our first time moving as a couple, and that we got married a year later, I’d say we navigated things pretty well and are very happy to call Hamburg our home.
As a born-and-bred American who now resides in Germany, Erin is a freelance writer with over 10 years of copywriting experience from her time in Stockholm, Sweden, and New York City. A self-professed storyteller with a serious case of wanderlust, she has a penchant for all things fashion, film, food, and travel.