Blog of the month
Heather goes to Deutschland
My name is Heather Hartmann, and I'm a 28-year old American hailing from Wisconsin. I spent most of my childhood in an extremely small town, before heading to a mid-size town for university. Then it was back to the extremely small town until I decided it was time to make the move abroad. I packed my bags and headed for Prague in the Czech Republic. I spent the last 2.5 years living there, teaching English, and enjoying the delights of 24-hour convenience stores. But after a while, I was ready for a change so I moved to Germany this June. I've settled myself in Nürnberg, which is quite small compared to Prague, but has a lot going on, and a lot of charm as well.
When and how did you decide to move to Germany? Is it complicated to settle down there?
I had spent a lot of time in Germany in the last year, and really enjoyed all the different places I had visited. There's so much to see and do here, that it was the natural transition for me to make after Prague. Not to mention the great location, easy transport connections, beautiful nature, strong economy, delicious baked goods and high demand for English teachers!
I'm still going through the bureaucratic process to have all my paperwork in order, but thus far it's been a breeze (knocks on wood). They are wonderfully clear about what you need, where you need to go, and what steps you must take to stay here as an American. You just need to make sure you get your things in order, and it is helpful (but not necessary) to have someone with you who speaks German to help you out with paperwork.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?
I was in Prague for 2.5 years, but that was my first experience living abroad. Since being in Europe, I've been able to visit Austria, Poland, The Netherlands, Spain, and Ireland. I'm hoping to hit all the missing European countries as soon as possible!
What do you like the most about Germany?
Everyone in Germany has very stylish eye-wear. I don't know what they do differently, but everyone who wears glasses looks great! But aside from that, friendly people, Alpine villages that look like postcards, children in lederhosen and dirndls, getting to wear a dirndl yourself at Oktoberfest, the efficiency and great work ethic, and bakeries everywhere! There's always some kind of festival or market going on, and everyone has flowers in their windows. Oh, and Fachwerk buildings. Love those.
How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with your home country?
To be honest, I didn't have much problem with culture shock. I'd already been abroad for a few years, and things here are much more organized than in the Czech Republic, so the transition didn't really phase me.
As for the main differences, I think the biggest is the attitude towards working. Germans work to live, and I think we could benefit from that in the US, where it seems that we live to work. Don't get me wrong, most Germans work extremely hard; their strong economy and reputation for quality and efficiency speak to that, but they know how to relax. They get a standard 4 weeks of vacation a year, and it's pretty typical to go on holiday for 2-3 weeks at a time. Most Americans seem reluctant to take off for more than a week. Maybe they'd like to do so, but it doesn't happen very often. I think the balance here is much better, although sometimes I really wish I could buy groceries on Sundays! Forget about running errands on a Sunday, especially here in Bavaria... some restaurants and cafes stay open, but forget about buying jeans or that new TV. Sundays here are for relaxing, hiking in 'the nature,' or having a backyard BBQ with family and friends.
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
Mexican food, Target Supercenters, driving, family, friends and pets.
Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with other expat blog members? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?
Memories: The first few weeks can be truly overwhelming. That's okay, and you have to take it as it comes. Languages can be intimidating (I didn't learn any Czech, and I'm just starting with German), but Rome wasn't built in a day. Take it one step at a time, and decide what you want your experience to be. Whether you're doing it alone, with a significant other, or with the kids and cat in tow, it's all manageable in time. Get into a routine, talk to people, and make friends with one of the ladies at the Farmer's Markets and after a few weeks, you just might find free onions or potatoes thrown in with your lettuce!
Souvenir: I don't really buy much, but I take an absurd amount of pictures wherever I go. I did however, buy a dirndl, and that was a fantastic purchase. Everyone looks good in dirndls and lederhosen... that's a fact.
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
I started my blog quite a few years ago, but didn't write in it much until I decided to go abroad. I wrote quite a bit before I left, then fell off the wagon in Prague (too many distractions!), until the last few months I was there. I didn't know anyone in Nürnberg when I arrived, so I thought it was a good way to occupy my time. Most of my friends are scattered here, there and everywhere, so it's a great way to keep people informed about what's going on!
Did you make new friends with your blog?
I've been in contact with a few new people, which is great. Being on your own in a new city can be a bit intimidating, so it's nice to know that there are other people out there! I really wasn't expecting that at all, so I've been pleasantly surprised.
When did you register on Expat blog? Any particular reasons?
I registered in March 2011, when I knew that I was ready to move. I guess I had the hope that I could get in contact with other expats in Germany for advice on life here, and hopefully be able to help others in the same way in the future.
Which advice would you give to people who would like to live in Germany?
Know which German experience you want to have. There's a big difference between Berlin and Bavaria. But there are opportunities everywhere, especially if you have some knowledge of German. Luckily for me as an English teacher, that's not a requirement, but if I'd like to stay in the future and do something else, I'm going to have to improve my skills for sure. Being open-minded is a definite requirement for any expat, and be ready to throw your preconceptions out the window. I think it's a worth-while experience, but it's a challenge. Get in contact with people on the ground, and always ask questions!!
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