Firstly, thanks to everyone who's been sharing their knowledge in this and other threads. I'm a new member here, but I've often found these forums a helpful reference. :)
I'd be grateful for any thoughts on my conclusions so far.
My situation: I have four years of NI contributions because I left the UK in 2001, shortly after finishing my studies. I have another 23 years to contribute, and I can still pay voluntary contributions for 13 of the missing years. (Not clear yet whether I might be eligible for class 2 -- I was a pupil barrister for the year before I left the UK).
Six of the years abroad were in Poland and Slovakia, the others in various further-flung countries.
I'm now working as a freelance teacher in Germany, earning peanuts. The future's very unclear, but I'm assuming for now that I'll continue to live in Germany. I'm also an Irish citizen, but have never lived or worked there.
My provisional understanding is:
-- I have to pay into the German system, because I'm a teacher.
-- I'll get very little back from the German system.
-- The Poland/Slovakia years should make me eligible for a UK pension already, but they won't contribute to its value.
I think my main question at the moment is: can I (should I?) essentially forget the German pension, think of my contributions to it as a tax rather than something to keep me in my old age, pay the 13 years voluntary contributions, and continue to make voluntary contributions in the UK?
Thanks for any advice people can give!