25 August 2016

Nicolette Stewart - Expat in Frankfurt, Germany

Nicolette Stewart - Expat in Frankfurt, Germany

We’ve had the chance to talk to Nicolette Stewart, 32, an American expat who has moved to Frankfurt with her family. Mrs. Stewart who has been living there for ten years now works as an editor and writer.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from? What made you move out of the United States?

A: I was born in the United States. A desire to see more of the world got me searching for a job—any job—that would pay for that to happen. That job turned out to be a year au pairing in Germany, and I never left.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: I am currently based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: It was all a coincidence really. Frankfurt was where I was initially hired to work as an au pair, and though I have lived in several other German cities since it won out because of the dear friends I have here.


Q: How long have you been living in Germany?

A: I’ve been living in Germany for ten years now.


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Germany?

A: Difficulties? The first year was hard, but I think that had more to do with where I was in my life than with Germany itself. It was a time for making decisions about my career and what I wanted from my life. There have been ups and downs, but that happens no matter where you live. Speaking German has made the expat experience a lot easier for me than it would have been otherwise I think.


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance were particularly difficult in your Germany? What was your experience with these?

A: Germany loves paperwork, and that can be tedious to the point of torture when you’re navigating them in your second language. But you tackle them step by step, and you get through. I had the benefit of coming from a country that Germany currently has a good political relationship with, and that absolutely makes things easier.


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

A: I live with my daughter and husband, but they aren’t expats; my husband is German (we met three years into my stay here) and my daughter was born here so there is no adjustment on their part to speak of.


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

A: I had no problem making friends here, particularly because I stubbornly insisted on speaking German with everyone I met. Chatting with strangers is pretty normal in the United States and I am pretty extroverted, both things which gave me an advantage at meeting new people in a new city.  My advice is to join a club related to your passions and interests. That way you will be meeting people you already have something in common with. In the beginning, I made a lot of friends via my interest in bikes, for example.

Until I had my daughter, I always avoided the expat communities as I wanted to get a German Germany experience and not an expat bubble Germany experience at the beginning. But that was when it still seemed that I might return to America one day. Now Germany is just home, and I don’t limit myself to one group of people or another—just whoever I get along with best at the time. I still tend to shy away from expat communities, but now for a different reason: those communities tend to have a high turnover rate of people coming and going, and I just can’t take the heartbreak of having to say goodbye to new friends so often entails.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Well, I’ve written a guidebook about some of my favorites in Frankfurt actually: 


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

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: 2, 50

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 5-10, 00

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: I don’t really eat at expensive restaurants. J

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

A: Wine 2, 00 to the sky’s the limit. No idea with cigarettes.

I have lived in Germany for too long to have any idea what things cost in the United States. When we visit it seems that food in the US has become drastically more expensive than in Germany, though eating out has always been slightly more expensive in Germany. Wine here is a lot cheaper as well because we live in the middle of wine country and aren’t paying for the stuff to be exported across an ocean.


Q: How do you find the local culture and people in Germany?

A: German culture differs from American culture in many details, but there are a lot of similarities too. As for the people, I don’t think you can really make general statements about all the people in a country. I have great friends here, but I think there are great people everywhere. The question is how do you find them.


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

A: As I am famous among my friends for saying: “Germany is as great as any other place and as crappy as any other place.” There are pros and cons no matter where you are. Personally, I am a fan of the healthcare system, the public transport systems, and the bike paths over here.


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

A: I wish I could live closer to all of my friends and family, but even if I lived in the US some of us would be just as far apart (California is just as far away from my hometown as Germany is.)  Technology makes it easy to stay in touch. They don’t feel as far away as they are. I’ve never experience homesickness, not even as a kid. Just not in my personality I guess. 


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

A: Nope. Germany is home.


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: I can’t say that my individual experience has been hard. And I’m very lucky in that aspect—a person seeking asylum here would have a totally different experience, for example. I’ve been lucky in my friends, in my work, and in finding joy in the place I chose as my home. If I hadn’t come to Germany, I wouldn’t have met my husband, had my daughter or found my dream job. I am very thankful that all that has been possible.


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in Germany?

A: Keep an open mind. Try not to focus on what you are missing, but on the new and different things that are adding a new layer to your life experience.  And try to learn the language—that is probably the only way that an adopted country is every truly going to feel like home—and it makes all the paperwork you’re going to have to do a hell of a lot easier.


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

A: I am biased because I work for them, but Young Germany and Deutschland.de are two good ones to check out.

You can find me blogging about books at Bookpunks, and though I don’t currently write much about my life in Germany, the archives of my personal blog Clickclackgorilla are full of stories from the start of my life here.