I’m Steven. I’m an American living in Regensburg, Germany, on a three year contract with my company. I work for a multi-national web hosting company, and our European office is here in Germany. In the summer of 2011, my manager asked if anyone wanted to work in Europe for a few years. The timing was perfect: I had just sold a place, so my stuff was already in storage. I’d always wanted to see Europe, and there’s no better way to do that than to live there for a while. The catch is that I had never been to Europe at all before moving here, so “everything” was new.
I had a lot of help to get started here. My colleagues helped me sort out the Auslanderamt, the Finanzamt, and even the bank to get an account started. I had help finding an apartment – some of my colleagues went with me to view places, to translate contracts, and that sort of thing. Without their help, I would have been utterly lost, because I spoke no German at all when I arrived. Having a good support system was hugely beneficial for me.
When I first arrived, I was astonished at just how “green” Germany is. My mental picture of Germany before I moved here was informed by television and movies, and I thought it was more cities. When I flew into Munich on that first day, I saw the countryside between the airport and Regensburg, and it was all farmland and tree lines. It makes sense, in retrospect, that a country that makes this much beer would also grow a lot of hops and barley, but it was still a surprise at first. Since then, I’ve seen just how much Germans love the great outdoors, and how any time there’s even the tiniest sliver of sunlight, they’re all outside in parks and river-beaches.
Has your lifestyle changed when you moved to Germany?
I went from the standard American drives-everywhere life to one with a much smaller radius. While I travel much more here, my life in Regensburg is almost entirely lived in a span no greater than ten or fifteen kilometres. My grocery store, my office, and most of the social things I do in the Altstadt, are all very close. When I was in the States, everything required a car, but here most of it is done on foot, or sometimes just by bike.
Do you find Germany a multicultural society?
I think that Germans have a very strong cultural identity, but I tend to travel in circles of people who are not just German. My office colleagues are from various countries, and Regensburg has a large university so the city is full of people from various countries. It’s been my experience that the larger cities in Germany are “very” multicultural. Living in Bavaria, I tend to see people with a strong sense of Bavarian identity out in the nearby villages. Attending any local event, like the raising of a maypole or a wedding, has shown me German traditions.
Can you think of a cross-cultural blunder you have committed recently?
This is not so much cross-cultural as linguistic. I went to get a haircut, and I intended to ask for a “Schneiden”, a haircut. What I actually asked for was a “Scheiden”, which is a divorce. Luckily, the hairstylist had a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience in Germany?
My time in Germany is wrapping up – on the 1st of October, I fly back into Miami and resume my life in South Florida. I’ve made some dear friends here, and I’ve had experiences that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Ultimately, though, Germany has never been my home. Living here for three years helped me to realise just what home really is to me. I’ll be back there soon.