1 September 2016

Ava Meena - Expat in Schweinfurt, Germany

Ava Meena - Expat in Schweinfurt, Germany

We’ve had the chance to talk to Ava Meena, 25, a US American expat who has moved to Germany with her husband. Mrs Meena who has been living there for seven months now works as a housewife/blogger.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Charlotte, NC, USA.


Q: What made you move out of USA?

A: My husband was working for a German company and was offered a chance to train in Germany for 13 months.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A:  We live in Schweinfurt, Germany. We didn’t exactly get to choose the country, but we did accept the offer made by the company to move to this city in Germany.


Q: How long have you been living in Germany?

A: We’ve been here for seven months.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? How are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my husband and our bird. My husband has embraced life in Germany quite well and is overall very happy here (and so is the bird).


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I miss home and family a great deal. Sometimes I ask my family to send American food items to help with that homesick feeling, and other times I try to focus on the reasons why I enjoy living in Germany.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: They are great people when you get to know them on a deeper level, but tend to be impatient and aggressive on the surface (or at the grocery store). 


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Germany? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: It was very difficult to meet people because we live in a small town. At first, we tried to make friends with some of my husband’s co-workers, but we had a little success there, partially because of the language barrier. We searched for several months and eventually met one expat who introduced us to another, and so on until we finally have a small circle of expat friends here.


Q: How does the cost of living in Germany compared to your home?


  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: I usually drink ‘fancy’ coffees, and my favourite medium sized one is €3.50. At home, a similar drink is usually $5 or more (€4.13, for comparison).

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: I estimate it’s between €7-10 per person, but there’s no free water here. An inexpensive restaurant here has similar prices to a place like Panera Bread at home.

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: My experience so far suggests €15-20 per person. This could be much higher, however, because German dinners last much longer than American dinners and consequently there are usually more rounds of drinks, desserts, or post-dinner coffee purchased.

  • How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: I often buy satisfactory wine for €5 or less. I usually spent close to the same amount at home, but I had very few options, whereas here there are many options for decent, cheap wine. Beer, on the other hand, is much cheaper; my husband’s favourite beer is only 50 cents/bottle. I’m not sure about the cigarette prices, but I can tell you that they have cigarette vending machines on nearly every street.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Germany?

A: If you speak German and/or live in a large city you may be able to handle opening an account yourself. Otherwise, you’ll probably need to hire someone to help you deal with the fine print. We often get long letters in German and random fees from our bank and it can be difficult to figure out what exactly is going on. Furthermore, banks here are very secure and usually require several passwords or codes to log into your account online. Germans also don’t use checks. Instead, they use bank transfers (sometimes called ‘transfer checks’) – so you’ll definitely need a bank account for those.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: My husband’s company hired a relocation service to do all this for us – I never even had to step into a government office. However, many people have told me that it’s a difficult and confusing process. One thing that did really help us was having US driver’s licenses from South Carolina – which could automatically be exchanged for German licenses without having to take multiple tests or courses. There are 12 or so states that have a similar agreement with Germany, so if you can move to such a state before coming to Germany, it may help you.  You will also need to bring a copy of your driving record if your license doesn’t date back further than two years.


Q: Would you say that healthcare Germany reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: We have private insurance, which has turned out to be extremely reliable. I’ve gone to the doctor several times, and I have been fully reimbursed for everything so far. But if you have public insurance you must have a referral for any specialist, and you are often bumped to the end of the line, unfortunately.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or Germany? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: This was another service that was covered by the company during our move. I would recommend that you get private insurance if you can afford it and/or think you will need to visit the doctor often. You will also need several other insurance policies once you live in Germany; most Germans have third-party private liability insurance, legal assistance insurance, bicycle insurance, etc. (Here’s a link about some of the different insurance policies: German insurances)


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Germany? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Again, this was a service that was provided by the company. They hired movers that actually came and packed everything for us (which was a total lifesaver) and then transported everything to a warehouse for long-term storage. It was fantastic, and I don’t know how we would have managed it otherwise.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: The biggest challenge is the fact that everything is a challenge at first: buying groceries, getting phone service, ordering at a restaurant, mailing a letter, and so on. All these little challenges add up until you feel overwhelmed and just want the simplicity of knowing how to do something again.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Germany?

A: The best positive attribute about life in Germany for me is the ease of public transportation and the opportunity to travel in Europe.  And the German cuisine is definitely an added benefit. One of the more negative aspects of living here is how impatient Germans are and how bad they are at waiting in line. Just last week at a train station a man came up behind me in line and forcibly tried to move me out of his way, almost knocking me over. That kind of behaviour is considered normal here, and it’s very hard for me to deal with as I come from a place where everyone tends to be very polite.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: There’s not all that much to do in Schweinfurt, so I often visit nearby cities like Bamberg and Nuremberg. I would recommend checking the city website for your new home or a place you’re visiting because they’ll usually have the upcoming events and popular venues listed.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: As of right now we will be moving back to the USA in October. The purpose of my husband’s training is to take knowledge back to the US, so we definitely will be going home at some point.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Join expat/American groups, ask for help, soak up the culture (don’t isolate yourself), and don’t stop trying new things.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Germany?

A: My favourite blogs about life in Germany include Oh God, My Wife Is German and Liv Hambrett. I also recommend the websites The German Way & More and The Local.