Who are you?
Shaun Behrens, a 40-something South African (now German). I work for a software company in Nürnberg as a content marketer.I am in the process of starting my own podcast, Expat Life Germany, which will focus on the experiences of expats in Germany.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved in 2007 with my wife (also South African) for her job, with the plan of staying for three years to travel through Europe. Three years is now 12 years, German citizenship, and 2 children (with one on the way!).
We started out in Schweinfurt, Bavaria, before moving to Würzburg. Now we live out in the Franconian countryside, 40 kilometers away from any large cities.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Most of the administrative things were handled by my wife’s company, but still: any visit to the Ausländerbehördesamt was a challenge in the beginning. Also, finding myself a job was soul destroying. I sent out so many applications, with almost ZERO response (not even rejections!). It took me three months to get a job offer, and another four months to get the paperwork sorted out.
How did you find somewhere to live?
Our first apartment belonged to the company my wife worked at. After that we found an apartment by scouring online sites and newspapers on a daily basis. In 2017, we bought a house, which is a whole other challenge! We searched for around two years before we found something way out in the countryside.
Are there many other expats in your area?
I live in a village of 3,000 people, and there are maybe ten expats here.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Very good! It helps that my German is now fluent. I still have issues with the “unfriendliness” of the Franconians at times, but it helps to remember that it takes time to connect with Germans.
What do you like about life where you are?
It’s out in the country, so I love the clean air, quiet Sundays, beautiful forests, and the simpler lifestyle.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I dislike that my English is slowly disintegrating. I now have a mangled accent, and sometimes struggle to remember English words for things. Otherwise there’s not much to dislike.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
In general, South Africans are very relaxed, open people who smile a lot. Germans, or at least Franconians, are just about the opposite of that. In the beginning, it was difficult to make real friends with anyone other than expats, but once I started understanding how Germans are, it became easier.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I love the variety of bread and baked goods that they have here. Also, bratwurst, currywurst and weisswurst are all favourites! Oh, and German beer is by far the best in the world.
As for dislikes, I am not a big fan of Spätzle, which is something everyone here seems to love.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
If you know you’re moving to Germany in the future, start learning German. And once you move here, keep on actively learning it, constantly. You can get by in cities without fluent German if you can speak English, but the only way to truly experience the culture and to connect with Germans is to learn the language. It takes a while to truly feel comfortable with it, so don’t leave it too late.
What are your plans for the future?
In the immediate future, I want to get the podcast that I’m planning off the ground, and I hope to grow that into something interesting for other expats. We’re also preparing for baby number 3, so that is pretty much all that we’re thinking about right now. 🙂
You can keep up to date with Shaun’s adventures on Facebook and Twitter, and check out his blog (and upcoming podcast!) at Expat Life Germany. Shaun can be reached via email on email@example.com.