30 June 2017

Danny - Expat in Frankfurt, Germany

Danny - Expat in Frankfurt, Germany

We’ve had the chance to talk to Danny, 27, an American expat who has moved to Germany alone. Mr. Danny who has been living there for almost five years, now works in corporate communications.

Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but spent most of my childhood in Ohio.


Q: What made you move out of the United States?

A: Ever since I took my first trip overseas to England at the age of nine, I’ve been obsessed with Europe. After spending my senior year of high school as an exchange student in Germany, I fell in love with the country and decided to move here after graduating from college.


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

A: I currently live in Frankfurt am Main in the German state of Hesse. I studied German and International Relations, so it seemed like the next logical step to move abroad after finishing my studies.


Q: How long have you been living in Germany?

A: I’ve been living in Germany for nearly five years now. After working for a year in Stuttgart as an English teaching assistant, I moved to Frankfurt am Main to start my current job in corporate communications.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: Alone.


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

A: Occasionally, I do get pangs of homesickness. This happens the most around the holidays. However, over the past few years, I’ve learned that having a good group of friends - many of whom are fellow expats - helps me create a home away from home.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: One of the things I love about Frankfurt is how international it is. This makes it very easy to meet other expats and connect with people from different cultures and backgrounds. In general, Germans have a reputation for being a bit more reserved; however, I feel that once you get to know them, they open up quite quickly.


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: As mentioned above, most of my friends are fellow expats. Here in Frankfurt, there are a ton of Facebook groups geared specifically towards people who are new to the city. I think this is a great way to socialize with other expats and find new friends!


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

A: In general, one of the things I like about Germany is that it’s very affordable. Of course, this varies depending on whether you’re living in a city or in the countryside, but things like groceries are a bit cheaper than back home in the States.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Good question. I’m a tea drinker, so a cup of tea costs around €2.50.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Anywhere from €6.00 to €10.00.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: For more expensive places, you’re looking to pay €20 or more.

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

A: A good bottle of wine costs around €5 at the supermarket (I recommend Riesling from the Rheingau!). As for cigarettes, I’m not a smoker, so I’m afraid I can’t help you there.


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

A: Here in Germany, I’ve always been with a local Sparkasse and have never had any difficulties opening an account with them. A lot of my friends bank with N26, though, and they seem to be quite happy with it. Just a word of advice: Some places here in Germany will only take cash, while others only accept local debit cards. So make sure you’ve always stocked up on some Euros before visiting a restaurant!


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

A: Like anywhere in the world, bureaucracy is bureaucracy. Work permits can be a bit complicated in Germany, especially if you’re not from the EU (you’ll often need an employer to sponsor you). Also, things like mandatory address registration can be a hassle. In fact, I wrote a blog post about how I caused a bit of confusion when registering because I put down the wrong religious confession. You can read all about it here: http://www.thedustycompass.com/why-i-never-want-to-hear-the-words-church-tax-again/


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

A: Definitely! While there are arguments to be made for public vs. private health insurance providers in Germany, I feel that healthcare is very reliable. Plus, there are no copays when visiting doctors, and hospital stays are also very affordable.


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

A: Here in Germany, healthcare is mandatory. It’s a co-payer system, which means part of your paycheck is automatically deducted for healthcare and the costs are divided evenly between the employer and the employee.


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: Honestly, I came to Germany with nothing more than a suitcase and a carry-on bag, since I was a recent college graduate and didn’t have many belongings.


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

A: Learning the language is certainly one of the biggest challenges. While I was lucky in that I studied German at university, I still found it difficult at the beginning to work in a foreign language. However, I should note that in bigger German cities like Berlin and Frankfurt, English is spoken by just about everyone. In fact, most Germans welcome the opportunity to practice!


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

A: One of the biggest pros about living in Germany is the ability to travel around Europe so easily. Within an hour or two, I can be in a completely different country. On the flip side, being so far away from home can be difficult at times. I miss out on family gatherings and holidays, and I don’t see my parents very often.


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

A: Contrary to what most people say, I think Frankfurt is a great place to visit. In fact, I’d recommend using it as a base for at least a few days when visiting Germany. Not only is Frankfurt’s airport the largest in continental Europe - it’s also very easy to take day trips from here to places like Cologne, Heidelberg, and the Rhine River Valley.


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

A: While I can’t say for certain where I’ll end up in the long-run, I currently plan on staying in Germany for the foreseeable future. I enjoy the opportunity I have to be a part of a new culture, broaden my horizons, and, most of all, travel!


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

A: Don’t let the language get to you! While you really should learn German if you want to stay here for a while, there are numerous institutes that offer affordable language classes. Plus, many Germans will applaud you for your effort to learn the language and will be willing to forgive any grammar mistakes you make.


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

A: As someone who blogs in his spare time, I can’t help but give a shout out to my own website - www.thedustycompass.com - where I write a lot about traveling in Europe and living as an expat in Germany. To get an overall feel for German culture and language, I recommend checking out Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster (www.dw.com).