Laura: German-American Abroad
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to New York, etc.
A German-American girl in her mid-twenties who moved to New York 2 years ago. I grew up in the Southwestern part of Germany, close to the border of Luxembourg and Belgium. My entire life has been pretty stable in the sense of being raised in one place, going to German schools, having German friends. When I received my B.Sc. two and a half years ago, I desperately needed a change from everything. Travel addiction, what can you do?! So I decided to try it out with the biggest city in the US – the Big Apple. Never regretted coming here ever since!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started writing my experiences down in German from the time I got here. My personal journal always comes in handy. However, I wanted to improve my English writing and broaden my reader’s community. So I went for a Wordpress blog about 1 year after I moved here. I was also afraid of forgetting how I felt during certain experiences and wanted to share these right away with my readers. But the main reason was probably that I was very much over the fact of having to write one e-mail after another with the exact same content. Even though this blog was intended for friends and family back home, it appears that mostly strangers read it nowadays.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have many, some of which are written down in the Highlight Section of my blog. The best of the best, giving you some insight in my life in New York:
- New York, New Yorkers and other thoughts. On how the people can be here.
- Christmas in New York. The city has its own special flair during the holiday season.
- Working in the Empire State Building. My second full-time job and I got lucky: I got to work in the epitome of New York!
- Living My Life: 2 years New York. Two years of being here bring with them many reflecting thoughts.
- Surfing at Far Rockaway. Many re-creational adventures are offered here. You don’t have to go to a beach in California to experience surfing!
- Stories During the Hurricane. Yes, I was actually here during the once-in-a-lifetime hurricane that hit this city.
Tell us about the ways your new life in New York differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
It differs in many aspects. New York was the first city I had a full-time job in. New York was also the first city I moved to and was not a student anymore. All of these factors combined awakened a lust in me to explore every single aspect of it. Which means in the beginning I was hopping from spot to spot, being the perfect little tourist. I have less friends here than I do back home but life is more exciting. The opportunities this city offers are grandiose and very different than anywhere else. You can bump into an interesting person or a cool event just by walking down the street. The night life is better but the chance to become burnt out is also higher – unfortunately. This city can make you very happy but also very sad at the same time. It is close to Boston, Philly, and DC and it’s great to get away from it for a day or two. A culture shock here is more subtle because so many neighborhoods can remind you of home and so many Europeans walk the streets of Manhattan. However, I was very disappointed when it came to healthcare and quality in food, which is both handled so much better in Germany. The first big onset of homesickness was 9 months after I moved her but it lasted for a good six months, too.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in New York? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
New York is a city of many coincidences and fateful happenings. I hate to say but if I could change a single thing about my time here, I probably wouldn’t have learned from my mistakes and met the people I was supposed to meet. There is one thing, though, that really bothers me. Something no one really tells you about before you move here: This city makes it hard for you to focus! So cling to your values and dreams and plans. Make sure they don’t drift away once you set foot here. I’ve had an incredible hard time making my dreams come true in the first six months I was here. I feel I am finally a step closer to them again.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Watching my German friends struggle when telling jokes to their American acquaintances. I’ve been asked to translate for them so many times, I cannot count anymore. And each time the joke gets lost in translation and both parties just look at each other – dumbfounded. Which is hilarious by itself, of course. Other funny experiences were related to nightlife and clubbing. A poor guy who was trying to talk to you in English when you would just pretend you only speak German or French or any other language. Or my German friend, who smoked and drank in the subway station one night with the cops just walking by. When he was stopped and pulled out his German passport, they let him go. While they would have arrested or written a ticket for any other American, his European accent saved him out of these situations many times.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in New York?
- Have your visa set in stone. I am lucky I don’t need one but I know of Europeans who come here and think they can just stumble over a company who will sponsor them. It is better to have one to start out with and then look for a different job than the other way around.
- Be careful how much money you spend, especially in the beginning. A common trap not only for tourists but also residents. This city is incredible expensive and I wouldn’t recommend wasting your savings because you will need every penny at one point in time.
- Talk to everyone, go out by yourself! Germans are conservative, shy, and don’t like to be blabbed at in the subway. People in New York can be quite the opposite. If a guy wants to flirt with you in the train, it doesn’t mean he wants to make a month-long commitment. Don’t be afraid of sitting by yourself in a random bar because you will always meet someone who will be curious about your whereabouts. Enjoy the very social aspect of this city that can appear frightening anonymous at times.
- And one last one: If you can do something today, don’t put it off until tomorrow. Enjoy every scenery, experience, and acquaintance just as it happens. New York teaches you to appreciate the moment by itself – something I had almost forgotten how it felt.
How is the expat community in New York? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I haven’t seriously tried to get in touch with expats in New York. I joined a few expat sites and am reading blogs from mostly European people who were featured on these sites (French, British, Finnish etc.). The only way I get in touch with German expats is through German bars or festivals. Zum Schneider in the East Village is a great place to make friends with Germans because all of their staff is from some place in Deutschland. Also, I met many people at the Oktoberfest in Central Park two years ago. Friends I am still in touch with today!
How would you summarize your expat life in New York in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in New York is sweet and bitter, adventurous and disappointing, hot and cold, dangerous and innocent, challenging and easy, interesting and overwhelming – in short: A city of the best and worst extremes imaginable.