Ivana Tevih was born in Krapina in the Hrvatsko Zagorje region. About two years ago, at age 33, she felt a strong urge for change. For almost 12 years, she worked in a clothing shop and later she started her own business. But, at the end of the month, there was no profit. She knew it was not the kind of life she wanted for herself. She wanted to discover the world, travel, and be guided by her adventurous spirit. She closed the shop, registered with the Croatian Employment Service, and decided to think about what she would do with her life, reports Zagorje International on June 19, 2017.
“That summer, in 2015, I received a phone call from my aunt in Germany, a single mother. She invited me to join her and her child for the holidays. I told her about my problems, and she said, ‘Come with me for three weeks, and you'll see whether you will like it or not.’ After three weeks had passed, I returned home from the holidays and told my parents, ‘Mom, Dad, I am going to Germany tomorrow.’ I will never forget the morning when I was leaving. We all cried, dad gave me the strongest hug in my life. They seemed to know I would not return”, says Ivana.
“I travelled for 12 hours When I came there, I did not know the German language. I did not know what ‘Guten Tag’ means. My aunt helped me a lot, she accompanied me to interviews, wrote job applications, registered me at her address, which was a condition that I could stay in Germany. Also, although I did not have a job, I had to pay 170 euros a month for retirement and healthcare insurance,” she says.
After two months, she found the first job, so-called mini job. It is a job which brings the maximum of 400 euros, and the employer does not have to pay contributions. She packed soup dumplings in a factory. But, that was not enough because she still had to repay a loan in Croatia. Her aunt found her five houses to clean a week as a side job. “A lot of women are doing that in Germany, but they do not want to admit it. I have no problem. You earn money honestly, and it is not easy to start from nothing. One month later, I found a job at a nursing home, where I still work. My job is to prepare breakfast for 120 people”, says Ivana.
She paid for the German language school herself, but she did only 15 hours of classes. The language is best learned when you speak with people, and today, after one and a half years in Germany, she speaks German rather well.
“I came to Germany, but I did not have any support. There was a lot of tears, a lot of weeping, but I was fortunate to live with my aunt for the first year. I met a German couple with whom I currently live in the beautiful village of Hübingen near the town of Montabaur. They are wonderful people; I am like a daughter to them. When I was leaving now for Croatia, they said ‘Go home, but come home again.’ I see how much Germans are willing to help. I think Croats do not like Germans because they believe that they are cold, but they are just reserved, they love their privacy. But they also love life, food, travel, and long walks in nature,” explains Ivana and adds that Germans mature very early, so they leave their parents at age 20. By age 30, they like to have their own home and a car, and by the age of 50, they organise their lives so they can start travelling. She has noticed that many couples do not have children, perhaps because they like a less stressful life.
“The system in Germany works, it protects the worker. Every month you get 200 euros for a baby. If you are a single parent, you get 180 euros from the state. It is also impossible for a parent to avoid paying the child's subsistence. The only problem is the high price of apartments. In the village where I live, apartments are 450-500 euros a month. I think I would never have succeeded in Germany if I did not have my aunt,” she says.
Although many Croats live in Germany, Ivana says she avoids associating with them. “In Germany, I prefer to get together with Germans, and I avoid Croats because I cannot rely on them. We agree on something, but then they do otherwise. With Germans, you have your plan, schedule, and agreements are respected. Also, Croats are very curious; they love to know everything,” she explains.
In her leisure time, she walks in nature, travels, and she has also started writing a blog called “A German from Zagorje”. “Since I like to travel, I have decided to launch a blog where I would introduce people to the towns I visit. I think I am being read by about 55,000 people. At the same time, I tell Germans which towns in Croatia they should visit,” says Ivana.
The only thing missing in Germany is Sunday lunch with her family. She is not thinking about returning to Croatia just yet. She wants to make more money, travel and discover the world, but a return to her hometown is definitely in the more distant future. For now, Croatia will remain a destination for her annual holiday leave, just like this year. “As soon as I came to the airport, what I first noticed was that people were unhappy, that they were fighting for survival, as opposed to the Germans, who are devoted to enjoying the life. Their living standards are at a much higher level,” says Ivana.
“People see me differently now and think I am lucky since I have left. But, it was not easy for me to leave with the last 200 euros and two suitcases. Nothing came down from heaven, and I still have to work hard to achieve something,” concludes Ivana.