My name is Ginny Krauß, I am a 28 year old American Expat now living in Germany. I was born and raised in West Virginia, but lived in Florida for three years prior to my move to Germany. In Florida, I was an Account Manager for an Internet Marketing Company. My first year in Germany, I continued my work for them abroad but I have since left that position in order to focus more on learning German as well as my passion for writing.
Upon first moving to Florida in 2008, I met my now Husband, Thomas there. He was from Berlin and in Florida for an internship. Through him I got to know many other Germans whom were also interning and working there. This was my initial experience into German culture and they were all really wonderful people. After spending 9 months together, our relationship became long distance for approximately two years. We frequently visited each other, but back then flight prices were fairly cheap from Germany to the US due to the economic crisis.In 2010 Thomas accepted an Engineering position in Munich; it was at that time that we both agreed it was a good idea for me to move to Germany. I embarked on my adventure here in January 2011.
What challenges did you face during the initial move?
Leaving my family and friends behind was definitely the hardest part. Having been raised in a small town, we were very close and my family had just faced the tragedy of losing my older brother in an automobile accident. On one hand the timing for me to leave the Country didn’t seem right but on another hand it provided the motivation I needed to embark on a new adventure because I knew then more than ever exactly how short life can be. Other challenges would be looking for an apartment and the entire moving process in general. At the time of my arrival I spoke very little German, so it was very interesting to say the least when we would receive furniture deliveries and I was home by myself trying to explain where things needed to be placed.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I find that the local Bavarians are very nice and it reminds me a lot of the hospitality I was used to growing up in West Virginia. I especially love the atmosphere in local beer gardens during nice warm weather, gathering around with the locals and sharing a table, they are usually always offering a “prost” to others. I’ve found on many occasions, they also didn’t mind how terrible my German was and offered up conversation anyway.
What do you like about life where you are?
From the moment I first visited Munich, I knew that I could live here. I find that for someone having never lived in a European city, Munich is the perfect pace for me. I love not having a car here and being able to use all the forms of public transportation. It took me a bit to get my grasp on the city I will admit, but now I seem to get around just fine. I especially love the English Garden; I spend most of my days there when the weather is nice. From basking in the sun by the Isar to enjoying delicious food at the Chinesischer Turm, time spent there is always time well spent. Through language school I have met people from all over the world who also travel to Germany. Many of them have become dear friends. I find it fascinating that by learning a new common language I am able to communicate with people I otherwise never would have been able to.
What do you dislike about your Expat life?
For me, it’s finding ways to fight off the home sickness that seems to catch up to me here and there. I miss my family and friends and at times the service oriented culture in the US. The customer is not always first in Germany. In the beginning, not being able to understand everyone fully and be able to make small talk with strangers was difficult. But now that I can speak more German, life here seems easier each day. Although, I still haven’t quite figured out exactly how to convey my witty humor when speaking German. Overall I feel I have adapted quite well within a year’s time.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
We were recently married in a Hochzeit at the Standesamt which is a German civil ceremony that is required in order to make your marriage legal prior to having a spiritual wedding. This isn’t a common practice in the US and I found that when explaining this process to friends and family back home it was often a bit difficult. I learned that the entire marriage process was very different than in the US. Here we were required to submit applications for marriage months prior and we had to be approved and then make an appointment for our marriage to take place, where as in the US if you wake up and decide to get married that day you’re most likely able to do so. I appreciate the process that Germany has in place in regards to this. We are currently planning our Wedding in the US and planning from abroad is a task all on its own.
How does shopping differ compared to back home?
Grocery shopping here is probably the biggest difference and one that took a lot of getting used to. Here you can only buy what you can carry; it’s more common to grocery shop a few times per week here while in the US many families stock up with enough groceries to last them for a few weeks. Depositing a coin for a cart and bagging your own groceries was new to me. I was already accustomed to shopping with environment friendly bags in the US so I use the same ones for here as well. But if you don’t bring your own bags, you’re paying for plastic bags at the checkout. I love how environment friendly Germany is and I have now mastered the art of bagging your own groceries in a hurry, since most cashiers do not allow you any amount of time before scanning the next customer.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
To start learning German the moment you decide you may be moving here. I attempted to learn a little while in the US but I never made it a priority, so all of the German I now speak has been learned this past year while living here. My life would have been a bit easier from the start had I arrived here with even the slightest more knowledge than I had.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue learning German, hopefully become fluent and start working here in the field of Marketing. As of right now we plan to stay in Germany for at least the next few years. It is important to me that I am allowed the time to understand the German culture and language. So far, I am enjoying Germany and I look forward to exploring more of Europe.