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Oliver, Frankfurt

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I am originally from the UK and first went overseas to asia for study. After travelling, studying and working in a few different East Asian countries, I knew that I would never be able to settle down in a single country. I was lucky in that I was able to find a job in the UK that allowed me to travel extensively all over the world and when the chance came to work permanently overseas about 10 years ago, I jumped at it. First in Switzerland and now in Germany.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Funnily enough, my biggest challenges came from trying to get practical local information from a distance.Like how much should I look to earn, or where the best schools are, or which districts are the best to live in. The blogs and discussion forums were very experiential rather than practical, so I decided to set up my own!

How did you find somewhere to live?

The market in Frankfurt is very fast moving and also expensive. I struggled to find my first apartment because I was searching from a distance. I would try and book viewings and come to the city for a visit. The problem was that by the time I arrived, the apartments were all taken! I eventually solved the problem when I met an independent estate agent. He did the hard work and negotiating in order to find me my first place to live. This bought me a year of time in order to find my ideal place myself.

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Are there many other expats in your area?

Frankfurt is a really international city. You hear English and many other languages on the street as much as German. My biggest challenge in this regard is actually meeting and socialising with Germans. Its so easy to stay within an English speaking community.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

The locals are welcoming and friendly, and many are willing to indulge my bad German while I try and get things sorted out. It is fun witnessing all of the well known stereotypes about Germans for myself. Many of them are totally true!

What do you like about life where you are?

Before moving to Frankfurt I was in a very small, quiet city in the hills. Now I have a big metropolis at my doorstep with a great nightlife, restaurants and cafes from all over the world and cultural festivals every other weekend. I like the fact that there is always something to do and somewhere new to go out. Frankfurt is definitely not a boring city.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I dislike the feeling I have when I go home. Things always change and now when I go back I realise that I don’t quite fit in anymore. It would take me a long time to settle into life in England again if I ever go back.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

The biggest difference is in the style of communication. The Germans are very direct. It is particularly obvious to people from the UK or other indirect countries in Asia for example. The Germans often have to say things directly that I would try to give subtle hints about. It is easy to take offence at their directness and I know that they can often be frustrated by the unwillingness of Brits to say what they are thinking.

How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?

Luckily, I’m in Frankfurt, not Antartica. The shops and choices are pretty much the same as back home in the UK. It can just be difficult to lay my hands on seasonal essentials like mincepies…

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The Germans definitely can’t make fun of English food :-). They have an unhealthy reliance on sausages and cabbage in their diet. The food is good but a little repetitive, but again, thanks to the international atmosphere in Frankfurt, you can get pretty much any type of food that you are looking for.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

The simple advice would be to just go for it. Language and logistics should never be a reason to hold back. There isn’t a language in the world that can’t be learnt on the go, and many of the logistical issues of moving overseas can’t really be tackled effectively until you move. Sorting out the problems is half the fun!

What are your plans for the future?

I am happy to not have any specific plans. I know that I will be an expat for sometime to come and I look forward to the surprise of where I end up next.

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