Ravi Srivastava, an Indian living in Malaysia, moved to Jena in 2020 with his wife and two children. Together with his business partners, he had started his own company here. In the midst of the Corona crisis, the family tried to settle down in Thuringia. Not only did they have to find the right school, get to know the German deposit system and experience Jena’s snowiest winter in years, but they also had to deal with lockdown, online classes and limited travel and contact opportunities. For a family that is just settling into a foreign environment and culture, these are truly not easy conditions…
First of all, three quick questions:
What was the first thing you noticed in or about Jena?
The quietness, cleanliness, and orderliness of the city.
What was the first food you ate here?
Rouladen and Thüringer Klöße
What is typically German or typically Jena for you?
- Garbage separation
- Bringing own shopping bag(s)
- Watch out for cyclists
- Checking Mein Jena App to know when the next tram or bus is coming
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you happened to move to Jena?
I am an Indian national married to a Malaysian and have been living in Malaysia for many years. Since 2008 I have worked with different companies in Jena. My business partners and I founded our current company in 2013. In 2019, I decided to move my family here as I needed to be in Jena more often and I was spending longer periods away from home. I also wanted to give my family the opportunity to experience living in Germany. We moved to Jena in August 2020.
Relocating a family internationally is a big exercise, but I have a good network of friends and colleagues who provided me with useful information.
You moved here in the middle of the Corona crisis together with your family. How was that experience for you? Were there points when you needed help?
The experience of moving to Jena during the Corona crisis was tough especially with all the regulations and restrictions. Approvals and paperwork took time. Relocating a family internationally is a big exercise, but I have a good network of friends and colleagues who provided me with useful information. I was fortunate to meet Ramona Scheiding, who is the Head of the Skilled Workers Services with Jena Business Development. She provided me with a lot of assistance and guidance on what I had to prepare for the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners’ Office) as well as how to go about in registering my children in a local school.
Jena’s school landscape is very diverse. How did you find the right school for your kids and what were the main reasons for your choice?
The main criteria in selecting the school were a school which had some experience with helping foreign students and that it had some teachers that could speak English. The additional points were that two extra subjects were taught in English, on top of English language.
How did the school start work out?
When the school term started there was no Corona lockdown yet. In the beginning it was a bit challenging, which is normal, as they are in a new environment but just as things were getting better Jena went into lockdown.
My children also attended the DaZ (Deutsch als Zweitsprache, German as second language) course supported by the school. The DaZ classes were held in a different school four days a week. The teachers were very experienced, and the kids enjoyed their lessons very much.
Shortly after, the schools had to close due to the rising Corona cases. No one knew for how long it was going to remain closed, and distance/online learning started. Later, classes were then divided into two groups, each group attending face-to-face classes in rotation i.e., alternate weeks. While the other group did their classes online.
Germany is well known for their work-life balance.
What are the biggest differences in everyday life between your home and Jena? How does the work-life balance work for you here?
Germany is well known for their work-life balance. This means people work for fixed number of hours and have time for their families and leisure activities. I have been working for many years with German companies and I find that the work is very professional and job responsibilities are well-defined. I find this aspect very good. Public transportation is great and everywhere is well connected within the city. However, shops close quite early in Jena.
Things move at faster pace in Asia generally. Shops, restaurants, malls are open seven days a week till late and the busiest and most bustling times are in the evenings, weekends and on public holidays.
We experienced living in a foreign country, learnt new cultures and different ways of doing things, […].
Now, things did not work out as planned. As a family you decided to move back to Malaysia. How and why did you make that decision, and would you still say it was worth it coming here?
Unfortunately, due to the long pause during the height of the Corona pandemic, my children were not able to adjust themselves. Undoubtedly it was the same everywhere in the world, activities were stopped, and people had to live in a new ‘Norm’, but moving to a new country and not being able to establish a new routine for a long period of time especially for teenagers, is particularly challenging.
Travelling was also very restricted at the time, and we couldn’t make any plans to travel home. By the end of the school year, after much consideration, we decided to move back to Malaysia. With regards to work, for most part of the year we have adapted to a new norm of working from home. As such I will continue to work from my home in Malaysia and travel between Malaysia and Germany whenever is needed.
The move to Germany was definitely worth it! We had the opportunity to live abroad. Experienced living in a foreign country, learnt new cultures and different ways of doing things, learnt a new language, made many new friends, hiked, and cycled around Jena and experienced the cold winter and heavy snowfall.
Anything in particular you want to do before leaving?
At the moment my family and wanted to see Germany so before leaving we took some time to visit Munich, Dresden, and Frankfurt. I personally will continue coming back to Jena every few months as my company is still here.
Thank you very much for the interesting interview and all the best for you and your family!