Moving to Germany, 2 years later

As many people have asked, and continually do so, I have finally decided to sit down and answer a why German post. Coming from Hawaii to Munich always seems to baffle people in conversation, and when the initial shock is over questions about the expat experience come up.

Where are you originally from?

I was born in California, raised in Hawaii and then moved back to Cali for a couple years for college. I would say Im not from either 100% but a good solid west coast mix.

 

What made you decide to move away from the US?

Have you ever been to California or Hawaii? paradise. ok you got me. However, economically it is a disaster.  At some point I found myself beginning to get trapped under mounds of debt and realized that having no health insurence was not a way I wanted to live my life. I was in dire need of some stability. So I packed my bags and searched for a new home with more opportunities and benefits.

 

How did you decide on settling in Munich?

I initially did some test runs in my search for a new home. I had some time in Geneva, Paris and London, but all the while I had a nack for visiting Munich and eventually fell in love with it.

 

Do you have family or live alone?

Most of my family is gone now ( one of the major reasons I left America) However, I did start out in Munich as an aupair but now I am a full fledged adult and live alone. On occasion I will visit my German family so I cannot say I am entirely out here alone and roughing it.

 

Was it easy making friends or adjusting to the culture?

HAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Oh boy is this the question. I could write a thesis on this bad boy, and have probably verbally done so many times. The German culture – in contrast to American- is a very hard nut to crack. In America it is easy to walk out and talk to any old Joe on the street and build an ever lasting friendship eventually. but no, not here. Germans are very reserved and very exclusive. You meet people basically only through other people and if you cant speak German at all it can be very difficult. I mean I must admit I have heard Munich is extra difficult regarding this and if I was in another city it may be easier..but I chose the hard route. All in all I cannot fully complain though, in a way I really appreciate it a bit more in comparison to the over friendly American style. I find here when you actually can get into a social circle, the friends you make tend to be far more loyal and valuable.

How do you cope with homesickness?

In all honesty I do not have so much homesickness as Munich feels to me more like a home than any other place I have previously lived. Sometimes though, when Ive had a hard day or want to cry from studying the language I will go get a Starbucks. It may be over price, under quality coffee but it does taste the same in every country.

 

How long did it take to learn German?

This is a pretty reletive question. First things first, German is extremely hard. Most expats I have met tend to avoid learning it. They find when everyone here speaks english it doesnt make so much sense but also I takes a loooootttttt of work and investment.  I was lucky. I chose to start my Munich transition as an aupair so I had some good time in between working hours to hunker down and focus on studying. I did sacrfice a lot of my free time to catch up from a life of single language living and many a times cried because learning German grammar is a night mare. Now I am about a B2 ( just under native speaker) my comprehension is about perfect but since I work in english my speaking is not soooo ideal.

 

Do you feel at home yet?

For the most part I can answer this yes. In my first year it was really hard and I often felt very alone and reminded I did not belong. I did not know the city well and was very shocked by the culture. Going into my second year ( and once I learned German) I began to feel more at ease. Now that the second year is nearly over I can say I am very well settled. I have a perfect flat, job, my language skills are blooming, the social situation is..almost solved.. all in all I am just about as cozy and content as an expat could be. I’ve come to find that calling somewhere home is not about being happy because everything alway being perfect, its about feeling happy when nothing is going right. It is always a struggle in some way or other to make it here but at the end of the day I find it always works out well for me. Some way or another.

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11 thoughts on “Moving to Germany, 2 years later

  1. It’s nice to hear that you’re settling in.

    I’m not so sure if other areas of Germany would be any easier in terms of making friends. I had a German ex who moved around Germany for work and even he, as a native German, found it extraordinarily difficult to make friends. I remember thinking it was rather sad that two years in, in one town that he still felt that he didn’t really have friends and was rather lonely. (We were in a long distance relationship, so I wasn’t around most of the time.)

    Muenchen is a beautiful city. I really loved it when I visited and it would definitely be one of the two cities that I would choose to live in if I were to be in Germany.

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    1. Hey there! yes from what I have heard Munich is a bit more reserved and difficult than other areas of Germany. For example, Berlin is very alternative and often more open due to the larger number of people and foriegners..but whos to say for certain. I do have German friends who have moved to Munich and said even they cant get into social circles so easily like your ex.
      thats super cool you visited! woud love to hear more about your experience and opinion on the city as a foriegner x

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      1. To me, Munich epitomizes what I think of as traditional German culture (which I recognize is a vast oversimplification and a stereotype). I love the architecture, the English Garden, and of course, Weisswurst und Bretzel. The city, I thought, had a good mix of energy and being laidback too. Frankfurt felt more uptight. I love Berlin (my other pick of where to live) – great city with a bohemian vibe. In the small towns, I always felt too awkward and out of place because I was literally the only Asian. I was constantly stared at.

        I didn’t meet anyone who was a native to Munich, everyone had moved there from somewhere else, so I don’t have any opinions of the people.

        I never got used to the standoffishness and insularity that I experienced. Despite the fact that we had been together for several years, many of his friends never really accepted me. Being a foreigner and only a rudimentary speaker of German didn’t help, but highlighted the “German-ness” of his friends. My ex was unusual in that he was very keen on meeting new people.

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      2. Hi Aspen, you are a really sweet and wonderful young women. Im from Germany and I live in Berlin but my godmother lives in munich as well. When I was 20 I was living in the USA for one year. I was also an Au Pair and did not have so much luck with the familys. I was at two familys one in a suburb close to chicago and one in Aspen/ Colorado like your name. Even if it wasnt always easy I learnt so much and it was nice to learn something about a new culture and country. So you reminded me at my time as an Au Pair when I found you on youtube. Keep up the good work and all the best for you Fenja

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      3. Hello Fenja! Thank you so much for the lovely note, absolutely made my day. How interesting you were an aupair in the states.In my time there I never really knew we even had an aupair culture, I always thought it was more european. I agree though, great learning experience! xxA

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  2. @afastpacedlife:

    “we had been together for several years, many of his friends never really accepted me. Being a foreigner and only a rudimentary speaker of German didn’t help”

    What would you’ve done if the situation were reversed? Imagine one of your best friends had a partner of several years who never made the effort to learn english.

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  3. It’s interesting to hear that you’ve been having troubles making friends in Munich.

    I found it quite easy to make acquaintances when I was in Hamburg, and not too bad to make friends. Even some good life long friends in a short time (I’m best man at my German friend’s wedding, i’ve known him less than two years!) In fact, I met a lovely Local Hamburg woman literally on the side of the road one morning and we just started talking I got her number and I couldn’t imagine my life without her now. People have been quite warm and curious about me (I’m Australian.. But I imagine a cute Hawaiian/Californian would have even more luck!). Most of my German friends appreciate that i’m easy goin, laid back and spontaneous. They feel they can be more of themselves and less judged than by some of their fellow Germans.

    Though, I have found it terribly difficult to pick up the Language, in fact for my first year I learnt the basics, and then didn’t move from there (I worked at an American company). Only after I left that company did I go to a language school an finish my B2 level. But I have still found that my speaking and grammar isn’t great. Sometimes with my friends they will speak in German and I will reply in English, It must look pretty weird but it seems to work.

    By the way, if you’ve never been to Hamburg, (other than the recent riots 😦 ) I certainly recommend it in the summer, it’s amazing! Paddleboarding on the Alster, going for a drink at Strand Pauli, the river beach bar, and going out in Schanze or Reeperbahn is inexpensive, relaxed and fun. Also, the Stadtrad shared bicycle system is second to none that i’ve ever used!

    I was wondering what type of work you do? As you were able to transition into it from being an Aupair, and you’re in an English speaking company. Did you apply in German, or stick to English? Were you able to work on your transitioning visa? or did you have to wait a few months?

    I’m looking for a new job in Germany and I find that i rarely get any response after applying to jobs. Any tips?

    Liebe Gruße!

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  4. It’s interesting to hear that you’ve been having troubles making friends in Munich.

    I found it quite easy to make acquaintances when I was in Hamburg, and not too bad to make friends. Even some good life long friends in a short time (I’m best man at my German friend’s wedding, i’ve known him less than two years!) In fact, I met a lovely Local Hamburg woman literally on the side of the road one morning and we just started talking I got her number and I couldn’t imagine my life without her now. People have been quite warm and curious about me (I’m Australian.. But I imagine a cute Hawaiian/Californian would have even more luck!). Most of my German friends appreciate that i’m easy goin, laid back and spontaneous. They feel they can be more of themselves and less judged than by some of their fellow Germans.

    Though, I have found it terribly difficult to pick up the Language, in fact for my first year I learnt the basics, and then didn’t move from there (I worked at an American company). Only after I left that company did I go to a language school an finish my B2 level. But I have still found that my speaking and grammar isn’t great. Sometimes with my friends they will speak in German and I will reply in English, It must look pretty weird but it seems to work.

    By the way, if you’ve never been to Hamburg, (other than the recent riots 😦 ) I certainly recommend it in the summer, it’s amazing! Paddleboarding on the Alster, going for a drink at Strand Pauli, the river beach bar, and going out in Schanze or Reeperbahn is inexpensive, relaxed and fun. Also, the Stadtrad shared bicycle system is second to none that i’ve ever used!

    I was wondering what type of work you do? As you were able to transition into it from being an Aupair, and you’re in an English speaking company. Did you apply in German, or stick to English? Were you able to work on your transitioning visa? or did you have to wait a few months?

    I’m looking for a new job in Germany and I find that i rarely get any response after applying to jobs. Any tips?

    Liebe Gruße!

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    1. Hello there!
      Thanks for the nice big reply (:

      Australia you say? how interesting! I have met quite a few Australians in Germany( more than Americans actually) I’d love to hear how you decided to get all the way over here. Too bad your not in Munich, I would take you for one of my expat interviews!

      But thats great to hear you had such an easy time meeting people and making friends, I’ve heard Munich is especially hard, perhaps it could be the difference in cities? or I’ve just not had the best of luck.
      Bravo on the B2. It is soooo hard when you work in english. As an aupair I spoke German to my kids and was able to pick it up quick from the practise and then after I worked in a kita and only spoke Germans with colleagues. However once I joined my current company my speaking skills dropped so quick after speaking so much english everyday.

      I cant say how the visa situation would work for you-I just know alot fo American passport holders. buuuuut for jobs I would say apply in German and make sure you have a really great German CV (photo included!) write a good cover letter in German, its important to show you have skills and are making an effort. Even if its full of mistakes, theyll see your history and where you are from so its neverthless making a good point about your abilities. Thats all I really focused on, but also I made a big effort to call/contact the places I applied, so perhaps that helps alot here also. Who knows! but I believe its always worth a shot to show some personality.

      Hopes that helps and best of luck!

      xxA

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  5. i understand the sentiment of having a mountain of student debt. did you decide to pay it off before you moved? I have debt that I can only pay off in 10 years or less but my career does not exist in germany. I would love to move but it seems impossible.

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    1. Unfortunately I am still working on paying it off, this is one of my struggles of affording to live abroad is the lingering debt..but it is doable! Career does not exist here? oh man that is a bummer

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