The imperfect storm

Pieter den Heten
4 min readMar 21, 2020


Update 26 March 2020: I have tested negative for the virus. My landlord is allowing me to rent my current place for another month, so I can get well and prepare my next move. Most importantly, I have received an outpouring of support.🤞 Thanks to everyone who has been so kind to share my story and help me practically and support me morally. Please let me know if I can ever return the favour. 🙏❤️

After posting a few times on LinkedIn and other social media that I was looking for a new job, I believe it is now time to open up a little bit more about the dire situation I am in. This why I’ve decided to write my first ever Medium post.

In summary:

  • I currently have no job, no income, and I don’t qualify for any support from the country I have worked and lived in for 6 months now (Germany) — nor from the countries that I am a citizen of (The Netherlands & Australia)
  • I have to leave my apartment in Dresden (Germany) before 1 April and as of yet have no other confirmed place to move to.
  • I have been feeling sick since a week and have been in self-isolation for that period. No corona test will be conducted unless it gets worse, but that leaves me in a very uncertain position in terms of my mobility.
Dresden — River Elbe — September 2019

6 months ago now (September 2019) I moved to Dresden (Germany) from Sydney (Australia) where I lived for almost 9 years. I wanted to be a little bit closer to my family in The Netherlands and a new role as Head of UX with a company in Dresden offered me that opportunity.

After almost 5 months into the job I decided it wasn’t the right fit after all. I agreed with my employer it was time to move on and resigned within my probation period. Doing this left me without any rights to benefits. My last day of employment was effectively 2 weeks ago.

I wasn’t worried, because in the past I’ve always managed to find new work quickly.

Little did I know what was going to happen to the world…

My plan was to move next weekend (28–29 March 2020) from Dresden to The Netherlands, to stay and connect with family for a while. Then, I was meant to go back to Australia and stay with my partner, who is currently still there. This is now more or less impossible because of travel restrictions. Besides, my family lives in the most affected area of The Netherlands. They are also in the more vulnerable category of people to be affected by the Corona virus.

This leaves me stuck. I now have to leave my apartment in Dresden before 1 April 2020 when the lease runs out. Notice periods in Germany for rentals are 3 months. This doesn’t allow for last minute changes. You are also required to officially register and deregister at an address. I am now trying to find a solution via friends. It seems I might have some options, but everything is still very uncertain. I can’t even deregister with the council at the moment, which is mandatory in Germany for any move, local or international.

Abstract impression of coronavirus (COVID-19)

On top of these practical and logistical challenges, I currently have been in self-isolation since last Sunday because I feel unwell. I have a dry cough, a fever and all the other worrying symptoms. I still assume it is a persistent cold, and my GP has told me via the phone that a test won’t be conducted unless the symptoms get worse. This also poses another challenge while I’m trying to find a place to stay for the coming weeks or months. With the sincere wish to not infect anyone with whatever I’ve attracted.

I am currently hearing and reading a lot about how governments, especially in Europe, are planning to help their citizens, Germany included. I’ve ‘only’ worked in Germany for 5 months, and the minimum period you need to work and pay taxes for, in order to qualify for any type of assistance is 12 months. This is regardless of the amount of tax and other fees you’ve paid. It is solely based on the number of months you have worked.

On the positive side, it seems I can’t lose my healthcare in Germany. I will have to pay a minimum fee in order to keep it active, which makes sense. But at least I will be safe, which is more than many can say.

I realise that no matter what, I am privileged to be in a country with great public, accessible healthcare. That I am able to work to begin with, and work in a field in which remote work is feasible and even common. I also understand that the situation I am in is the result of a chance I took, and the unforeseen circumstances that are now unfolding.

You’re all awesome, stay strong & stay safe! — Pieter