From Texas to Frankfurt: No Ordinary Homestead
I’m Tiffany and I grew up in Texas. I went to high school in Virginia before moving to Miami where I attended the University of Miami. That’s where I met my husband, who happens to be German but had been living in the US for a while. We currently live near Frankfurt, Germany, in an old timber-frame farmhouse built in the 1830’s with our two-year-old daughter, a 110-pound Newfoundland dog and two cats we brought with us from Florida. We have learned to become more self-sufficient living in this house because it’s forced us to learn how to do renovations ourselves, given us the space to garden and encouraged us to do a lot of other things like learning to make our own wine, bake our own bread from hand-milled grains and can overage from our garden and orchard.
1. Why did you move abroad?
Shortly after we met, my husband spent the summer in Germany doing an internship at a Swiss investment bank. After graduation, they offered him a job and we decided to go for it. I graduated a year early by making up my credits in summer school and a few weeks after classes wrapped up, I was on a plane headed for Germany. We thought we’d just spend a few years here, but it’s now been a decade! Amazing how quickly the time passes.
2. How do you make a living?
I worked for an investment bank for several years when we first got over here. It’s a great opportunity for people who don’t yet speak fluent German because nearly everyone in the banking industry speaks English. But it certainly doesn’t encourage you to learn the local language.
After a few years of putting my Finance degree to work in banking, I received an opportunity to start working from home. And I jumped on it. My husband and I have always had strong entrepreneurial ideas and that is when I started blogging, created a natural bath & body care company called Newf Brand based in the US, started doing other Internet marketing ventures and continued doing web consulting that I had started while in Miami.
I’m still doing all of the latter now, running my blog No Ordinary Homestead, continuing to building Newf Brand, launching new Internet marketing ventures and expanding my web consulting offerings thanks to all that I have learned over the years.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
The Internet has brought the world so much closer together. And with programs like Skype you can talk face-to-face to your friends and family virtually which really makes you feel quite a bit closer than you really are. I email with friends and family on a daily basis and many of them read No Ordinary Homestead regularly, so they know a lot about what is happening in our lives.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Germany?
Living in Germany has lots of perks. Being so centrally located in Europe is definitely one of them. Not that we’ve travelled nearly as much as we’d like to; but there are many inexpensive options for travel in Europe that allow you to just pop away for a weekend to Spain or France...or vacation in Italy for a few weeks.
I also love the food in Germany. We have incredible access to local butchers and farmers even in our rather small town, which is great since I love to cook. But there are also so many delicious local dishes to try, not to mention some amazing beer and wine producers all over the place.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Germany?
Learning a completely new language is a tough hurdle. When you first arrive and need a dictionary just to go grocery shopping, you really feel out of place. But thankfully there are many things that look similar and you can sort of guess your way around. But when it comes to ordering food at a restaurant or trying to ask for directions, you’re really at the mercy of how well you can form words with your gestures.
6. What do you miss most?
Getting used to not being able to shop on Sundays was a bit strange for us at first, especially when we were both working outside the house full time and really only had the weekends to fill the fridge. But you learn to get everything done on other days of the week instead and just enjoy the quiet Sunday eventually. It’s nice to know that one day of the week you absolutely have to find an alternative way to spend your time besides being in some sort of store.
We also really missed a lot of convenience foods from the US at first. We still miss places like Wendy’s and Taco Bell from time to time. For me, it was a lot about figuring out how to make my own pancake mix, Ranch dressing or seasonings to cook the things I was used to having back home. And now that I have recipes for pretty much all of those things, there really aren’t too many things we miss. Aside from friends and family of course! No substitutes for the real thing, there.
7. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
After living in Germany for 10 years, I guess there’s not really much that I find strange about the culture anymore. I do miss that they don’t appreciate what we typically consider “breakfast” in the US. There’s just something about going out for a big stack of pancakes or steak and eggs for breakfast. But we’ve learned to make it ourselves at home when we need something more substantial than rolls, sausage and cheese.
8. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That everyone wears Lederhosen ALL THE TIME. So not true, even in Bavaria. Yes, you will see them often, but it’s usually for a special occasion.
9. What advice would you give other expats?
Don’t be afraid to speak up in German. One of the biggest hurdles to learning the language (for me) was the fear of speaking to other people. They may look at you a little funny if you mispronounce things, but Germans will typically also correct you (for your own good). And then they will likely ask where you’re from because they’ll recognize right off the bat that you aren’t a native when you’re screwing up the sentence structure.
10. When and why did you start your blog?
I started blogging in 2006. We had just gotten our dog and I wanted to share about those adventures with our family and friends around the world without having to retell all the stories over and over again. It was a big step for us since having cats barely qualifies as having pets.
Then we bought our farmhouse and I started another couple of blogs about our renovation projects as well as the steps we were taking towards self-reliance. But when our daughter was born, I realized there was still a whole lot I wanted to be sharing, not only the new parenting angle, but more about life as an expat and other daily goings on. And that is when I combined all four of my blogs into No Ordinary Homestead.
Blogging has been an amazing way to interact with people across the globe which are sharing the same sort of experiences with us or have been in our shoes. I’ve met some really amazing people (a few even in person) and just learned a lot from so many others who leave comments and advice. The blog is also an incredible way to catalogue life. Things move so quickly on a day-to-day basis sometimes that it’s easy to forget all you’ve accomplished in a year or even just a few months.
Tiffany's blog, No Ordinary Homestead
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