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Interview with Elisa Stella – the Expert Expat Assistant!

In the Facebook Expat Community I am mostly known as “Elisa Stella – Expert Expat Assistant”: I am an Expat myself, I feel at home in Düsseldorf and actually in any place where I understand the language.

I was born in Italy, moved to Asia in 1984 – came back to Italy 1988, then Berlin, China again, Milan, London, then 2007 Nuremberg (Franconia, Southern Germany)… In Düsseldorf (Rhineland) since 2011. Meanwhile I learned English and German, some French and a bit of Mandarin as well.


We moved to my parents’ country of origin

My name is Irene. I was born in Russia, but my parents and I moved to Ukraine in 1996 as it was my parents’ country of origin.

What do you like / dislike about the country and the people?

In Ukraine I like friendly people, clear language, astonishingly rich culture, beautiful, picturesque places and delicious national cuisine. But I don’t like the political situation and the war in the East.

Has your lifestyle changed after coming to this country? If yes, in what way?

To be honest, I have never  thought about this question. We lived in a small town in Russia and then we moved to the capital. It’s obvious for me, that living in small towns is more comfortable than in metropolises.

Does the Ukraine seem multicultural to you?

Oh, yes, the definition “multicultural country” suits Ukraine very much. In the streets one can meet a lot of foreigners, both tourists and locals. I know that a lot of students come to our country to get their higher education here. Perhaps, the education in Ukraine is not expensive and the given knowledge is rather good.

What do you do for a living now?

After graduating from the University I took a job according to my diploma at the office and spent there 4 years. Now I am developing a business of my own. I write my blog for women and about women.

Have you ever been a victim of racism or discrimination?

No, never!

by Anastasia

Nothing at all to be afraid of

So much has changed that I can’t believe it’s only been a year and a half since my first interview. I’ve got back into teaching, which I never expected I would do, and I have loved it more than I ever did in the U.S.. Due to a few hateful social media posts I’d seen about refugees and Muslims, I decided spontaneously one day to get involved and see what I could do to help. I attended a few meetings, visited a local language school, attended an international Kaffee und Kuchen organized by a local couple, and the next thing I knew I had a job teaching beginning German to a group of very motivated refugees from Syria and Eritrea. I am now teaching Integrationskurse at the local VHS.

I have also started a project interviewing refugees about their stories – their lives back in their home countries, their journeys to our town, their experiences within the last year, and their impressions of Germany and Germans. They have been open and willing to share their stories with me, and it is so important that they be heard.

Have your ideas about how Germany and Germans changed since our last interview?

Not really, but I have actually had more contact with Germans through my teaching and the Freundeskreis-Asyl in my town than I ever had before. The locals who have gotten involved with the refugees in our area and are helping them integrate are such warm and giving people. I didn’t have the impression before this that Germans are cold and distant (as many seem to think), but what I have seen is that many are more generous and caring than even I realized.

Tell us about your experience with refugees…

Those I have met and know personally are warm, caring, smile easily, laugh despite what they’ve been through and being separated from their families, and they are working hard to learn German and integrate. They want to learn and work, they do not want to live off the state, and they are tired of waiting (for an opening in an integration course, for official recognition and work permits, and for an end to this damn war). They have been learning how important degrees and titles are in Germany, that punctuality is key in interactions with Germans, and that rules must be followed.

Many have told me it seems life in Germany (Swabia) is mainly about Arbeit und Termine (work and appointments).

Social interactions and visiting is much more informal and relaxed in Syria, from what they tell me, but they’re getting it, and they’re helping each other as well. I know several Syrians who help as interpreters for friends, acquaintances, and newcomers whose German isn’t as advanced as theirs. What they have learned in one year is astonishing. Obviously some work harder than others, but I have yet to meet a refugee who has the attitude that he won’t or can’t learn German. In contrast, I met an American a few years ago who’d been living here for 4 years, and she said she couldn’t learn German because everyone around her spoke Swabian. Huh??


What strikes you most about the attitude of the German people towards the refugees?

The people I’ve seen and interacted with have warm and open attitudes. They can laugh at themselves and realize that Germans are quirky and set in their ways, and they’re doing what they can to help the refugees fit in. Many community activities have been and continue to be planned to bring locals and refugees together – sharing food, music, culture, film projects, and information.

Where there are problems I think they are usually based in fear. That was what originally motivated me to get involved. After I read some anti-refugee/foreigner posts from Americans at the height of the refugee crisis in Germany, I had to wonder, “What are you so afraid of?” and I set off to find out. As soon as I met and spoke with them, and especially within the first few days of teaching, I knew there was nothing at all to be afraid of. A different culture, a different religion (in some cases), a different language, different customs…we can learn so much from each other.

Has Germany changed since the influx in refugees coming in?

It has in some ways, though in my daily life nothing has changed. One can’t watch the news or read the newspaper without finding stories about the plight of the refugees and their struggles – and success stories! – here in Germany. I have to laugh at the comments sections of various articles from American news sources – I have often read, “Just look at what’s happening in Germany and you’ll see why we need to [turn our backs on refugees].” What exactly do these people think is happening in Germany? When I look out my window and drive into town, I can see little that has changed. If I looked for problems, I’m sure I could find them. But I look for and see good things that are happening.

My life has been enriched by the local volunteers and refugees I have come to know.

Check out Elizabeth’s blog here.


From Moldova to Germany….in 1979

I was born in Kishinev (Moldova) but my parents were Germans. My grandmother first applied to come back to Germany before the 70-ies, but we only managed to get all the papers sorted out with the German authorities in 1979. We were first located in a “camp” – terrible experience I tell you… something similar to where many refugees are now living.

I used to work in a factory for 15 years and i am a taxi driver now since almost 11 years. I am a very hard-working man, I only sleep 4 hours a day.. I have so many clients I have to drive to various places in Heidelberg and surroundings. I like my job, it is very diverse, I earn a lot of money, much more than a person sitting in an office 8 hours a day.

You speak fluent Russian?

Thank you. My parents were smart enough (smiling -ed.). In Moldova back in the 60-ies/70-ies my parents had a choice to send me to a Moldovan school or a Russian one. Russian was the choice! You know, as a child you pick up languages on the streets, you do not need to go to school to learn your mother tongue.

Do you still feel yourself a bit Moldovan?

Hard question… my father was buried there…so I still go back once every 5 years…and it is always a huge pity to look at the country where everything is falling a part… Me Moldovan? I can’t say…

German regulations and rules

There are a lot of regulations in Germany and yes you might get frustrated by some of them…. but you will appreciate them at the end, believe me!

I am working in a court doing my Praktikum and I can tell you that the court system is far from perfect ;-)…well to some extend. One often has to wait up to 12 months (or even more) to even get an initial court date. Judges are often over worked and rarely prepare for cases, thus many mistakes are made… unlike what I have seen in the USA.


Germany: The place to be?

According to the report published by InterNations, in the Quality of Life Index, Germany ranks ninth overall, owing to its transport infrastructure, safety, and healthcare. The obvious drawback is the German climate, with over one-third of expats (36%) feeling dissatisfied with the weather, compared to 22% globally. However, the natural environment finds favor with 89% of the respondents.

The report states that around nine out of ten expats (92%) are satisfied with the transport infrastructure, and another 91% rate the travel opportunities positively. Around nine out of ten are happy with personal safety and peacefulness (90% and 88%, respectively), as well as Germany’s long-term political stability (86%). Those statistics are convincing enough for one in three expats to plan to stay in Germany for the rest of their life.


You can check out the full report in which Germany was positioned here and the expat community in Germany right here. Thanks InterNations for pointing this out 😉


The German quality

After having lived in Frankfurt for more than 10 years, I do strongly believe that most Germans tend to be perfectionists! They like to analyse things from all angles… Thus, German goods and services are excellent, however, a bit expensive and not so modern.

I am flying home

I am originally from Ukraine, but I moved to Berlin when I was a kid together with my parents…. they are Jewish, you see.

People here often ask me whether i am nostalgic about Ukraine… perhaps I was only during my first two-three years in Germany, I remember we flew to Kiev a lot. Then I started school and nostalgia began to weaken with each month. My beloved grandmother died in Kiev, and a “special occasion” to fly back to Kiev vanished ;-( Last time I travelled to Kiev was in 2010, and to be honest, i both felt at home but at the same time lost…. the people, the culture were so close and so distant at the same time.

Germany is my home…and it has always been so…. after my last trip to Kiev in 2010,  I remember I was sitting on a plane back to Germany and I thought: “At last, I am flying home.”

Do you like our music?

We are Romanian street musicians, travelling around Europe with our music. Do you like it, by the way? We are here in Cologne only until Monday, then heading to the north Germany: Hamburg, Rostock and so on… and then back home for good. It’s been a very busy European summer for us.

Great German organisation!

My name is Anna (originally from Moscow, Russia) and I am a PhD student in Heidelberg. Before coming to Germany, I had applied to many european universities and only in Germany I got a very good scholarship to acquire a PhD in biology and bioinformatics. I’m enjoying every day of my German experience 😉

Everything is greatly organised. Oh, the famous German organisation we all have heard of!!!! The curriculum of my studies is also well-structured and full of exciting workshops and social activities. I share accommodation with two other girls: one from Spain and another one from Germany and we get on really well. The German friend helps us learn the very difficult German language…she makes us practice it every single day in our common kitchen 😉

I am happy here in my new home!

Advice on moving to Germany

We asked many multicoolties what advice they would give to newcomers moving to Germany. Here’s what they said… 😉

“First thing first, learn the language! Just learning a little bit makes your life infinitely easier. You’ve got to embrace new changes, traditions, and learn to interact with others. Germany is a land of opportunities. There is so much to do, see and try in this country. The weather here is unpredictable! It will certainly take a while for you to get used to it. Sunshine is not to be taken for granted, so get out in the sun at every opportunity.”  Gaurav Kumar from India

Don’t get disappointed or frustrated by the slightly frosty behaviour of some Germans. In most cases it’s not because they don’t like you but yes, we need a lot of time to feel comfortable with someone. Until we totally feel that we can trust someone, Germans often react a bit shy, which can be misinterpreted as “cold” !”  Mona from Germany

“In Germany, we say “Probieren geht über Studieren” (The proof of the pudding is in the eating – ed.). The country offers many opportunities, you just have to find the right people. Speaking of whom, there really are many people who are willing to guide newcomers through their new life in Germany. And a guide is what I would recommend to anyone. Also make use of any international groups your institution has to offer or just look for some groups on Facebook and let yourself be known. Your call won’t go unnoticed! Just cherish diversity and don’t let the anti-multicoolties let you down!”  Irma from Russia

Never give up while learning the German Language, it is only a matter of time!” Mai from Egypt

“Learn the language as that is the most important part of integrating with the German people and culture. They have the “der, die und das” – three genders – one for every noun – and four different ways to conjugate each, depending on the context… That’s enough to drive anyone crazy. But don’t worry, you will be understood! German food is certainly in need of spices! Yet once you get accustomed to it, you might find something good. Germans love to have a good steak and the majority of the people are meat lovers. You’ve got to have patience with the German bureaucracy. Everything here takes time! The paper work here will drive you nuts. Also very importantly, hang on to every piece of legal paper or you’ll end up like the story of the King who lost his Kingdom for the loss of a horseshoe.”  Catherine originally from India

Learn as much of the language as you can, so you don’t feel like a total outsider. Even if it’s just to know how to order in a restaurant or go shopping. Travel, travel, travel – take advantage of this time aboard and explore other places – you’ll be so happy you did. Taking yourself out of your home country can be scary, yet empowering to step out of your comfort zone. Try new foods or join an expat group; basically fully enjoy this time because before you know it, it will be over in the blink of an eye.”  Jessica from the USA

Have patience: it took two-three months before I met people who wanted to manage real friendships! And forget stereotypes and enjoy!” Clémence from France.

Adventures of a German-Ghanaian in Russia

My name is Richard Adu. My mom is a Ghanaian and my dad a German. I am 25 years old. I am a banker, a model and a hair stylist. I finished my first degree two years ago and now here in Russia I am getting my second degree in International business.

When and how did you come to Russia?

I came to Russia almost a year ago. 25th August will be a year.

Your first impression of this country. Your likes or dislikes about Russia and the Russians?

Russia is a great country with great values, culture and rich history. I like how they remember their heroes, especially those who fought during the war. I personally witnessed how thousands of people gathered at Mamaev Kyrgan on the 9th may just to remember the heroes of Russia. It was really nice.

One thing I don’t like about Russia is the level at which the young ones are addicted to alcohol and cigarettes. It’s very easy to see those under the age of 18 years smoking on the streets without anything being done about it. I am not Russian but I love Russia and I care about the future of this country.

The most unusual custom or tradition in Russia? 

Unusual custom? I don’t think I can pinpoint any custom or tradition as unusual because a custom to me is a custom and it loses its value when it becomes usual.

Have you ever been a victim of any kind of racism here?

Oh yes…. on several occasions. Not everyone though. Most Russians are very welcoming and respect blacks. And few ones who still live in the past and lack the civil values always try to disrespect you whenever they see black people. Even some of our teachers are very racist. For me I think with time everything will be okay.

A piece of advice to a newcomer 😉

Most people in Africa think everyone in Russia is a racist but I will advise anyone who want to come to Russia to delete that misperception because it is not true that everyone is a racist in Russia.

Russia is a beautiful place with some beautiful people in it.

Interview by Anastasia

My italian life

Hello! My name is Amber, I am Dutch, but my boyfriend brought me to Italy.

What was it like to learn the Italian language?

It is a difficult language, grammar, even the order of words in a sentence. But to live in Italy you need to learn the language, because not all Italians speak English and therefore helps much if I speak their language. I did it for three months a school and then worked in a shop, watching TV and listening to music.

Did you have any problems when you first arrived to Italy?

All-day speaking in another language is sometimes heavy and then for the rest nothing. : D

Have you always wanted to live in Italy?

My mom yes 😉 me not.

Do you follow the news from your own country?

Yes, i do but not really much, not that i want to watch it everyday.

Do you like Italian food?

Si, really much! I don’t really like the Dutch food 😉 . And from the moment my mom went to Italy, we eat only Italian at home.

What ideas did you have about Italians before moving here?

That most of the italian men are very fond of their mothers ;-). And it is true but they will never say that it is true 😉 I also thought that they were really happy and open.

What do you miss the most about your home?

I miss my friends really much and my family, of course.  At the beginning in Italy I felt lonely. That it took more time to go somewhere because I didn’t have a car and Italians do everything with the car ;-).

What stereotypes have been confirmed about Italy?

Actually several of them!

The only thing i didn’t know was that Italians are old-fashioned…. for example, the man pays everything and in the TV the women can do nothing just be beautiful and laugh about every joke.

Is there anything you find strange in Italy?

I think it looks like I go 50 years back in time when I am in Italy. And when you are on holidays you don’t get that, believe me! But now that i live here I really experience this in many ways.

Read the interview in Italian here

Never give up!

Hello! My name is Mohammed Bashir and I am originally from Sudan, Africa. Now I live in Kirov and study at Vyatka State University.

What brought you to Russia?

Well, my higher education, of course. Having finished school I started thinking where to go. At first I chose a university in India, but I spent only more than one year there as I didn’t like it. Then I came back home and started thinking what to do next. To tell the truth, at that very moment I was thinking about going to the Ukraine, not Russia. It was my mother who advised me to study the Russian language in Russia.

Your first impression about Kirov…

Very cold climate and very cold people even difficult to deal with. The most amazing thing is when you ask a person if he speaks English, the answer is always positive. And then … a long pause…. Ok, let’s speak Russian then I have to say.

What do the majority of people here study English for, I wonder? I study it to communicate with different people from around the world and to learn something new every day to make your brain work. I mean international relationship, learning and discovering various customs and traditions.

How many languages do you speak?

I speak Arabic, English, Hindi, Russian and French, a little bit. It took me about four months to learn the Russian language. I passed my exam successfully. Besides, the lectures at the University are in Russian and I have no problems understanding them. Now I realize that it’s high time for me to begin learning Spanish as it’s the second popular language in the world according to the latest statistics.

Education is your passport to the future for tomorrow, it belongs to the people who prepare for it today.

What is the most unusual thing for you here?

To tell the truth, talking to guys there I was very much surprised to find out that the majority of them cannot cook at all. They say that this work for their girlfriends and future wives. I do not agree with them. I myself like the process of cooking very much. Besides, there are not many things that give us energy for living and staying healthy. One of them is food. So, it must bring you as more delight as possible. Being a schoolboy I asked a girl from my neighborhood to teach me how to cook tradition African dishes. And she helped me a lot with it. Now I prefer to watch TV shows to study this art, but I never use recipes taken from the net and without any commentaries as I find them useless.

Besides, it’s really marvelous to make a day off for your wife even if she doesn’t work. All you need is to wake up a bit earlier on Sunday and cook everything yourself. Your wife will be thankful to you and this will help to strengthen the relations inside your family and you will respect each other even more.

Your advice to a newcomer 😉

Never give up. It’s always not the same as from the first sight.

We all have terrors that spoil our life. But overcoming them is the most delightful thing in the world!

by Anastasia

Oh, Germany! Wohnwagen, Anhänger and Ameisenpulver

My name is Andrea Masini: it sounds very Italian and, indeed, I am Italian! Since September 2012 I have been living in Belgium, where I’m working as a researcher at the University of Antwerp. Right now I’m doing a five-month internship at the European Commission, a dream come true. It is amazing to share the office with colleagues from France, Poland, Estonia, the UK (but for how long?), Slovakia, Spain… and Germany.

Oh, Germany! My ‘special relationship’ with the country of Goethe, Fuβball and Bratwurst started many years ago… in Italy! From 2006 until 2012 I was working in a beautiful campsite next to Venice, which is mostly visited by Germans, starting from Pfingsten until mid-September. When I started working at the ‘Europa Camping Village’, my knowledge of the German language and culture was rather limited. Although I had studied German for five years at school, I couldn’t really communicate with people.

On the very first day of work, when an old German lady asked the innocent question “Wo ist die Briefkaste?”, I panicked, and I pointed my finger to an undefined direction. Probably, that postcard never made it to Germany.

But after a couple of months, my German improved dramatically. I became very proficient with all of the campsite-related vocabulary, mastering elaborated concepts like Stellplatz, Wohnwagen, Anhänger and Ameisenpulver (very much needed if you have a tent). After a while, I could quickly react to requests for ‘Münzen für die Waschmaschine’, and for the ‘Trockner‘ as well.

Also, I was very happy to pick up phone calls from numbers starting with +49. In 90 per cent of the cases, they would start with: “Ich hätte gerne eine Frage, und zwar,” followed by a request to reserve a place for a camper in the area where dogs are allowed. However, I wasn’t aware of a small detail: the campsite was mostly visited by Bavarians. After the tenth time I had said “Passt schon!”, a nice man from Fulda told me that what I was talking was actually Bavarian! That’s why I started engaging with Hochdeutsch, watching programs on ZDF (among my favourites, all the crime thrillers, so-called SOKOs – especially SOKO Köln, Leipzig and Stuttgart), and trying to read some books.

I was basically becoming German, and I started wondering about a future in Germany, riding a BMW in the streets of Passau with my German wife, showing people my brand new German Reisepass.

I was even planning to add an ‘s’ at the end of my name, so that people would stop asking me why I have a female name. But my process of ‘Germanisation’ didn’t become complete. On a warm June night, Italy was playing against Germany in the semi-final of the World Cup of football. When Fabio Grosso scored the victory goal for Italy, two minutes before the end, I exploded with a spontaneous joy that reminded me of my Italian soul. Es tut mir Leid, Deutschland. I will keep on being Italian, but I like you very much. 😉

And subconsciously you start smiling!

I came to the US through an ordinary tourist visa having received it half a year before the flight. I came there in May. The tickets were bought spontaneously as a surprise for me. 😉

Why America?

America? Well… because I had already seen everything I was really interested in. Next came the visit to America.

Your likes /dislikes about America and the Americans?

Actually, I like everything in America. One can find advantages and disadvantages in everything but they are really different for each of us. As for Americans, they are kind and give you a helping hand if needed. You see there are bad and good people in every country. All in all, I like it being here.

Has your lifestyle changed after coming to this country? If yes, in what way?

Of course, it’s changed a lot. Many people go in for sports here trying to keep fit, they are all very friendly and are always smiling 😉 And this influences your mood as well. Being in a bad mood and visiting a supermarket you gradually realize how it changes seeing amiable and kind faces. And subconsciously you start smiling!

The first thing you do while coming back to Russia?

I will keep on smiling and be very pleased sharing my inner “fire” with others, so that people in my country would be so kind and responsive as they are in the US.

Does America seem multicultural to you?

America is a terribly multicultural country! All cultures and nations are gathered there. This leads to cultural mixture creating a new religion, a new human race and new people! In my country a new religion is a Sect organized to blackmail money. This can not said about local religions. They sincerely believe in it and give it in the way you simply feel spellbound. That’s why I can say: “Yes, America is a Multicultural Country”.

Have you ever been a victim of any kind of discrimination?

Surely not! All races are treated equally. Besides, the age doesn’t matter here.

A piece of advice to a newcomer)))

Before going to any country study it thoroughly on the inside reading the literature, looking through the forums. And then visit the country of your dream first. Otherwise it will turn a nightmare.

Interview by Anastasia




A Franco-German mishmash as a positive side effect

My name is Carmen. I consider myself to be a Francophile German citizen, although apparently I’ve become more and more French. I cross deserted boulevards while traffic lights are red, speak Spanish with a French accent and some years ago my high school teacher even talked me into thinking that I was speaking German with a French accent… Although I might still be far away from that, I might have become more French than I am actually aware of, which is a positive side effect of today’s Europe with its abundant possibilities of going abroad and getting in touch with other cultures.

I am moving back and forth between France and Germany since five years already. My first interest in France is maybe not that different from those of other people. With my family we used to spend many of our summer holidays in different regions of France where I first got in touch with French culture and language which I found absolutely captivating. I soon started to learn the language and also more about Franco-German relations and finally ended up with a Voluntary Service and a Franco-German degree. The reason for my Franco-German activism as a Young Ambassador of the Franco-German Youth Office is the desire to share my passion for this unique relationship and my experiences with other people so that they can do the same.

What do you miss the most from living in Germany? What do you like the most in France?

I do not miss any major things when I am in France. Apart from some German food, a larger offer for vegetarians in restaurants or maybe the vast offer by ‚dm’ pharmacy, I feel quite comfortable when I am in France. I can adapt quite well to new circumstances and after all, France is not that new to me anymore ;-). I could list many things that I like most in France (such as the typical trio of baguette, wine and cheese), but I think that ‚variety’ sums it up the best– variety of landscapes (especially sea and mountains), variety of (regional) culture(s) such as in Alsace or Bretagne, where I did my first school exchange, and last but not least, gastronomic variety which is of great importance to many French that I got to know.

Why are good Franco-German relations so important in your opinion? What could be improved?

First and foremost, both countries have an important role to play in Europe and have initiated several European achievements in the past. But bilateral relations also count in other areas aside from politics, for example, in sports, culture, civil society, economy, science, and many more. Unfortunately, in my role as a Young Ambassador, I see the interest for learning German or French declining gradually in the last years. Sometimes it is only due to miscommunication or stereotypes about the other language. I also see a lack of visibility of the numerous possibilities to learn or improve your language skills by going abroad and experiencing a different language and culture.

I did everything to integrate myself…

I have been living in Germany a little bit more than a year and I only now realise how difficult it was to leave everything behind in Russia and start a new life in a completely different culture with new  beliefs and habits. I initially did everything to integrate myself…whatever that means… learning the language, learning about the German history and culture etc etc. but I do miss the Russian open-mindedness and the sensation of expressing my own emotions openly and of course to have a long conversation in my own language… We try to speak only German at home.

I am married to a German and I have  everything i ever wanted in my life now. Don’t get me wrong! I am not speaking about the financial part of my life. My husband has been very helpful in making this first year easy and enjoyable for me. Let’s see what comes next in life 😉

I moved for love as many people do

Hey there! My name is Jenna Davis and I’m a Canadian born travel blogger and social media manager currently living in Düsseldorf, Germany. While I’m use to jet setting around the globe writing about responsible travel on, I was finding it quite difficult to get adjusted to a new city, a new language and making new friends. In the winter of 2015, I sat down and created a solution, something wonderful. I wanted to make a space where all the thousands of questions that expats in Düsseldorf have asked were answered simply and with quality in one blog post. While more than one sixth of the city’s population are foreign to the area, there is still a serious lack of English content helping those people out. Today, I run the English language publication #LifeInDüsseldorf

Why Germany?

Do you want the real mushy answer? Or a summary of my 4 years in transition? I’ll go with the second one.

I moved for love as many people do. I met a wonderful man while I was backpacking across South Africa, fell head of heels for him, travelled through South East Asia together, started making plans to build a long distance relationship, gave up a couple years later and that’s when I realized, it’s time to leave my home and native land, Canada and start my new life with the man I love in his home country, Germany.

What have been the initial difficulties when you moved to Germany?

This post could go on for ages if I start now. Everything. Every little thing in my day-to-day life was difficult. I thought I had a stressful life as it was in Canada until I realized that I had entirely new problems here in Germany. I couldn’t order a loaf of bread, I couldn’t read the signs on the parking meters, I couldn’t make friends and I could never go anywhere alone. All of these reasons (and a million more) are why I’ve created #LifeInDüsseldorf, to ensure that everyone moving to this city gets a fair chance at starting strong.

Are you enjoying your new life in Germany? 😉

I absolutely love it. I’m not going to lie, I still dream about being up at my cottage on the lake in the middle of the wilderness, and cuddling my dog while watching Netflix on the sofa. However, there are so many reasons I love my new life in Germany. I love that everyone rides bikes to work, I love that people sit and drink a coffee together (none of this XXL “To Go” nonsense), I love that there’s a supermarket on the corner of every street in the city so that I don’t need a two door refrigerator that takes up half of my kitchen. Need I go on?


Does Germany seem multicultural to you?

While I can’t speak for the country as a whole, Düsseldorf is extremely multicultural and most locals are very welcoming and accepting (though there’s a few elderly ladies I’ll remove from the equation).

Have you ever experienced any cases of discrimination/racism?

Well now I have to mention the elderly ladies, you roped me right into that one. Germany is a wonderful place to live and due to the history of the country, most people want to ensure that you feel welcome and accepted. Some of the older generations are a little tougher to convince, I was once yelled at for hanging my laundry on the balcony because I looked like I was homeless. I was then forgiven because “I come from a foreign land and don’t know any better”. I don’t know how she thinks Canadians behave, but I think we’re pretty polite and tidy people.

What stereotypes about Germany and the Germans have been confirmed?

Any stereotypes that I heard in the past like “Germans don’t have a sense of humor” were completely false. However, I’ve certainly come up with my own while living here.

Almost every German I’ve met has a ‘thing’ for frische luft (fresh air). If we are in the car, in the living room, at a restaurant, they’ll always want to get a bit of “frische luft”.

I too now love this idea of always getting some fresh air!

What would you like to “export” from Germany to your home country? And the other way around.

Kraft Peanut Butter. Regardless of how many people tell me how unhealthy it really is for me, I miss it every morning. I still eat my usual, peanut butter and banana on an English Muffin (toasty as the German’s call it), but it’s not the same without good old Kraft Peanut Butter.

Vice versa. I’d bring all the cheese, beer and fresh asparagus that I possibly could (if any of that were legal and light enough to bring in a suitcase).

How important is the concept of nationality for you?

I’m a travel blogger, so that should go without answering. I’m a proud Canadian, but I’m also proud to call Germany my home. I should have been deemed a citizen of the world by the government somewhere along the way, so nationality for me? It’s just a legality.

Tell us a few words about your blog?

Besides what I told you earlier on, #LifeInDüsseldorf is much more than just a blog. It is an online community. It is not me writing “the top 10 _________ in Düsseldorf”, it is me talking to locals, asking forums, chatting with expats, calling businesses and then sharing collaborative content pieces that are put together by everyone in the community. I also run a Facebook page, an Instagram account, a Twitter account and organize unique meetups around the city that will help newer citizens get better aquainted to their new home.

I like living in Rome but I don’t think I would like it in any other part of Italy!

I am Patrizia from upstate New York now living in Rome. My parents were both from Caserta, Italy and immigrated to the US when I was only an infant.  I was an Expat since I was a year old.

Why Italy?

I guess it was destiny!! My mother always wanted to return to her home country and wasn’t able to do that due to a quick illness and sudden death. Our move back was canceled and we stayed in the US. I always remembered my mom talking about Italy as if it were paradise. I guess in a strange way I am fulfilling her dreams. Doing that I have learnt more about my mother and her culture.

Likes/dislikes about Italy and the Italians?

I like living in Rome but I don’t think I would like it in any other part of Italy. I have traveled and lived in other places but something draws me back here. The beauty of the city, and the nightlife, healthy lifestyle.

Has your life style changed since you moved to Rome? If yes, how?

I have been here so long that I am not sure what my old life style was 16 yrs ago 😉 I eat better and more picky about what I have.  I have the convenience of having a car in the driveway or find easy parking.  I adapted to things in Rome now.  I am less materialistic but picked up a few superficial behaviours as well.

What is the the first thing you do when you go back to your home country?  

Visit family of course, then find social networks and make new connections 😉

Does Italy/Rome seem multicultural?

Good question – I can say it is MultiCultural among those that have lived somewhere besides Italy all their lives. Rome has a meetup for foreigners and locals to meet everyday of the week. On some days there are 2 meetups for a Cultural or Language Exchange. So yes Rome is very multicultural.

Do you feel yourself integrated?

I have integrated with life here. I don’t freak out on small things. I don’t have a cappuccino after 11am anymore 😉 I dress not to stand out and put my flip flops in the trash. I sit in the post office for hours and don’t complain about it.

01a Expats living in Rome (25)

Could you tell us a few words about your group Rome expats?

I moved here in 2000 and in 2001 I started on a forum Expats living in Italy and there weren’t many English Speaking Expats that had access to internet so it was harder than to connect, but it was a small forum and we helped one another with information. In 2007 I started using other social media and suddenly I had a website and over 2 thousand members waiting for a meetup. We used to meet up 2 times a week for years but now it’s just once a week. With the emails coming in and managing such a large group, we have less meetups and more online help. 16 years later we have over 9 thousand members! Have a look at our video here. 

Have you ever experienced any cases of discrimination/racism in  Italy?  

Yes… a few times in public with unpleasant remarks. I just ignore it.

Advice to a new expat in Rome? 😉

I don’t think I would have made here without a good network. I have a big network of Italian and Expat friends. It’s a referral system here in Italy. I see lots of Expats that will come to meet up and make friends with others that are living here a short time. I’d say try to make connections with those that have lived here about a year or even more.


French lightness to life!

What do you miss most  about Germany living in France?

Some small things…mostly food 😉 for example, Toffiffee, Koppers chocolate, sausages  … and Easter time! In Germany it is a tradition to making “egg” bouquets with forsythia. In France…those are impossible to find!

What surprises you most about the French culture?

It’s not easy to say. Now a lot less simply because I’m used to living in France … at the beginning it was difficult for me because people talk fast, but mostly they almost do not allow you to speak, you must be very quick to respond 😉 if not I bet there will be someone always ready to speak before you! In public administration offices you really have to annoy people that work there in order to get what you want.  Positive thing to me is the French “lightness” and easiness to life that I unfortunately  can not find in Germany.

Read the full interview in French here.

Thanks to Clémence for the interview!


Germany is more than cars, sausages and Angela Merkel

My name is Julia Henriette Bräuer. I’m born and raised in Germany. However, I moved to France right after leaving my parents’ house six years ago and some of my French friends tell me I have become French. For example, my eating habits have changed. I eat much slower now, I’m taking delight in cheese and wine – which by the way was totally new for me 🙂 – I enjoy visiting grocery stores much more now… And I do notice how different the dinners in France and Germany are. At home in Berlin we’re done with eating pretty quickly, whereas in France even the conversation at the table is very different. In France you also talk a lot about food: what did you cook, how did you prepare it, how long did it take, and so forth.  😀

But in some things I’m still totally German. For example, punctuality.  🙂 

How would you then describe yourself?

I’m a German who’s heart is deeply rooted in France. I couldn’t imagine anymore only living in Germany. Part of my identity is by now definitely rooted in France.

What strikes you as odd now when you visit Germany?

What the French always find very interesting in Germany is the “arithmetic” in waste separation, with all the different colours and bins and separation methods and, of course, the Pfand! (deposit bottles – ed.)

What do you miss from Germany or Berlin while living abroad?

I’d say that in Berlin you can have a much higher standard of living with much less income. The prices in Paris have surged in the recent years.

And vice versa: what do you miss from France or Paris?

I miss the large variety of culture and events. In Paris, you can always find a new exhibition to go to, there a two of the most outstanding opera houses in the world, the Opera Garnier and Opera Bastille, or you just enjoy a little concert in a bar in the Bastille Quartier. I also miss the wonderful 19th century architecture of the Hausman buildings, the wroght iron balconies and the lovely facades of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. And finally, I simply miss the “Parisian feeling”, when you walk for example home from work, over Pont Alexandre III and you see the sun setting over the Seine and the whole city, up to Notre Dame and the Louvre, is in a special light.

These small things already can make you incredibly happy!

Of course, I also miss the good French wine. It is rather hard to find the same variety anywhere else!

Where did your interest in France come from?

My family went never to France and I didn’t even learn French at school. But after high school I felt that I wanted to go to France in order to finally learn Moliere’s language. I worked a year as an au pair in Paris and then I enrolled in a Franco-German course of political studies. That’s where I found the love for France. Later I got involved in the Franco-German Youth Office (Office franco-allemand pour la Jeunesse).

As ‘young ambassador’ I went a lot to different French schools explaining to the students why it’s worth to learn German and how Germany is more than cars, sausages and Angela Merkel.  😀 

What does this Franco-German engagement mean to you?

For our generation it’s normal that the French and Germans cooperate. But you have to remember that 1963, when the Élysée Treaty, the Franco-German friendship treaty was signed, was not so long ago… Imagine, the friendship between these two countries is only a bit over 50 years old and before that these two countries were enemies. Our grand parents fought against each other and laid in trenches in World War II. There are still many differences between France and Germany, but despite these differences these two countries are the engine of Europe.

When Germany and France would not cooperate, then there would be no European Union.

However, when the two countries do cooperate, then our differences are even complimentary and lead to progress. I think many people forget how important this is. Franco-German friendship is too often taken for granted, forgetting how difficult this path has been. Younger generations should be more aware of how important these good relations are. I hope I can encourage more young people to engage themselves in contributing to a functioning French-German relationship.