Expats Alone at Home in Germany

by Hilly van Swol-Ulbrich

A hot and sultry summer’s day in Frankfurt, Germany.

“Oh”… says Dewi,“I am amused, while at home in India, we set our air-conditioning to cool down to 27 degrees”…and chuckled… “This is what you call summer, and say it is so hot!”

We smiled as we crossed the street on the way to the canteen. For my eyes the buffet offered a great choice – for the eyes of an Indian, with specific religious dietary restrictions – I could see that she would soon grow tired of the canteen.

“So, how have your first weeks been”? And we talk about the difference in the workplace, what to observe in daily life, the do’s and the taboos. Dewi also asked about relevant places for shopping and favourite places to go and maybe visit.This is the moment where I dare to ask her whether she is single… and my mind immediately adds the adjective description: possibly lonely. Oh no, not that Dewi appears lonely, or carries anything sad, or is “looking for someone special”- none of the above is implied.

But with the changing demographics of the Expat population, we, the service providers, HR people, relocators or intercultural trainers like myself, have already noticed the different make-up of the Inpats. The decline of the “typical Expat family” has been slow but steady, whereas the increase of the young, single expat has been more like a surge. Yep, globalization has created generation “Nomad”.

When young professionals come to work in cities like Frankfurt, which has a clear Business character, and the nice, pleasant, ever-so-helpful German colleagues go home in the evening and wish everyone “ein schönes Wochenende!”, they do not know that the Expat colleague for the most part is: Home alone..

Not speaking the language, not knowing where to go, can become a burden. And indeed in the many conversations I have had, I could see the otherwise sparkling eyes cloud over, whenever I would carefully approach the subject. Why mention it – you might ask? Well, for sure, to set expectations right and to avoid that misassumption that Expats are shunned by the locals. This is not the case.

Fine, now that that has been cleared up, what to do about it? Let me share with you some great resources that will make your life easier in Germany as a single expat.

Check out the following websites:

www.Meetup.com and use your relevant search criteria, based on hobbies, interests, location, country of origin, or words like “Expats” or “new in town”.

www.Expatica.com, with the Germany portal, that carries a wealth of information and opportunities for users to register, and with a What’s On? calendar is a must.

Did you know that there is also www.global-dinner-network.com? A great initiative based in Berlin.

And what about Frankfurt?, you might ask… There you can visit www.Expatcuisine.com, where expat events are offered off line, real time, allowing people to meet and make their own new friends. So no reason to stay home alone…

And Dewi? She just signed up for the coffee tasting event, fully realizing that George Clooney will not be there, but possibly many other Expats like herself, looking to build their own network and create home away from home.

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