by Brittney Walker-Zaleski


If you want to leave Germany you must first deregister from everything and everyone, absolve yourself of tax obligation and statutory health insurance contributions, give yourself permission to sever contracts, forgive yourself for not devoting more time to learning the language. Go to the Bürgerservice, get an Abmeldung, a piece of paper that says who you are and where you’re going and when you’re leaving, but not when you’re coming back. If you want to leave Germany and you crave closure, get an Abmeldung sealed with the bureaucratic kiss of an official stamp. 


After 4.5 years of living in Germany, and only knowing enough of the language to order coffee and eavesdrop on tourists, I took my final oral Deutschprufung in a hotel lobby on my first night in Tallinn. An 81-year-old German hotel guest told me his wife was dead and that he was traveling through the Baltic states alone. The hotel receptionist, having overheard our exchange, suddenly morphed into a CEFR examiner, and deemed me a B2.