Meredith: Kaffee und Kuchen
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Germany, etc.
I was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. I moved to Germany in July 2013 to be with my German fiancé. After living so many years apart, we are now happy to be married and living together near Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging about a week after moving to Germany in August 2013. I thought a blog would serve as both a personal journal of my time in Germany as well as a place for family and friends to read about my experiences as an expat.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite blog entries are the ones where I share my everyday life experiences as an expat. For example, I wrote about my dogged pursuit of some hard to find grocery items and my struggle with learning the German language. My post entitled “The Adventures of Claudine, the Le Creuset Pot” never fails to crack me up; it shows the great lengths I will go to in order to bring a beloved item back to Germany!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Germany differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I definitely experienced a lifestyle change after moving to Germany. In Canada, I was used to being independent. Once in Germany, I found that I needed a lot of support from my husband for simple matters like getting groceries, setting up a bank account, figuring out a cell phone plan, etc.
In Canada, I had a wide social network of school and university friends, co-workers and acquaintances. I have found it challenging to make friends in Germany due to my limited German knowledge and because I live in a small town. Joining expat meet ups, reading expat blogs and learning German have helped me meet other expats who are going through similar experiences and challenges.
Having visited Germany several times before my move, I was already familiar with German culture. However, I still find that I experience moments of culture shock. For example, I wasn’t accustomed to saying hello and goodbye to complete strangers when entering shops or the doctor’s office. I often forget for the host to say “Guten Appetit!” before digging in to a meal. I also still marvel at how fast people drive on the Autobahn!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Germany? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Before I moved to Germany, I did a lot of research about visa requirements, enrolled in more German language courses and bought a guidebook about living and working in Germany. As already mentioned, I had visited Germany several times before moving so I had a good idea what to expect in my new home.
In hindsight, I wish I had learned more German and packed less before moving to Germany. It’s easy to get caught up with bringing all your earthly possessions (e.g. clothes, shoes, books, etc.) with you when you move. At the end of the day, most everything you truly need will be available in your new home.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One experience that comes to mind is when I was trying to get my German driver’s license. In short, I bumbled my way through an eye test in German with a first time examiner, succeeded at getting my required biometric photos taken in an underground metro station during my 15 minute break from German class (but not before accidentally paying for 16 tiny, unusable photos from the photo booth) and making it to our town’s tiny City Hall during their limited opening hours a few minutes before closing.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Germany?
- Learn as much German as you can. Though many people speak English, being able to speak and understand German will greatly increase your quality of life and will make it easier for you to make friends, understand more about your surroundings and integrate into German society.
- Find ways to get involved with the expat community and the local community. I joined InterNations several months before moving to Germany and a few more online expat communities once I arrived. These groups offer great resources to learn more about German culture, networking, accommodation, insurance, transportation, and much more. My goal is to meet more locals and make more German friends in the coming years.
- Try to experience as many of the wonderful things that Germany has to offer. There are numerous festivals, markets, tours, hikes, conventions, beer gardens, vineyards, galleries, museums and castles to explore all over the country.
How is the expat community in Germany? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community is quite large in Germany, especially in big cities like Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg. I think it can be difficult to meet fellow expats if you live in a small town with fewer foreigners. Though I live in a small town, I live just outside of Stuttgart where there are lots of expat groups and activities. The more I attend these events, the more like-minded people I meet.
If you find it challenging to meet fellow expats, I would definitely recommend reading expat blogs or joining an expat forum. This way, you can still share your experience with people in the same position as you and learn from others’ experiences, too.
How would you summarize your expat life in Germany in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in Germany is full of challenges, fun experiences and lots of Kaffee und Kuchen!