From Ohio to Germany: The Dusty Compass
Hallo zusammen, or hello everyone! I’m Danny, and in case you haven’t noticed, I really love traveling and living abroad. Originally from Ohio, I’ve witnessed a revolution in Egypt, taught English to schoolchildren in Stuttgart, been on top of the world’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa, in case you’re wondering), and gotten Delhi Belly from India. But most of the time, I’m working an ordinary nine-to-five job in Frankfurt, Germany.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I’ve actually moved abroad on five separate occasions: twice as a kid for two summers in England, once as a yearlong high school exchange student in Germany, once during a university semester abroad in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and then my most recent move to Germany, where I’ve been living since 2012.
This last segment came about as a result of a bit of soul-searching. After graduating from university, I didn’t know where to go or what to do. All I knew is that I loved learning foreign languages, traveling, and experiencing different cultures. So I decided to take a gap year and teach English in Germany. I loved it so much, however, that I scrapped my plans to return to the U.S. and ended up staying here!
2. How do you make a living?
Since 2013, I’ve worked full-time in the field of corporate communications here in Frankfurt, Germany. When my yearlong program as an English teaching assistant in Stuttgart came to an end, I was looking for ways to stay. I initially applied for a Master’s program in Berlin, but in the exact same week that I got my acceptance letter, I also received a job offer for my current position. Working in the German corporate world was a bit of an adjustment at the beginning (especially since everything is very formal), but once you learn the ropes, it all starts to make sense.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Skype and FaceTime are my main means of communicating with home. I try to talk to my parents once a week (Sunday evenings are almost always set aside for this), but sometimes I go a bit longer without hearing from or talking with my family.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Frankfurt?
It always surprises me to hear that Frankfurt doesn’t have the best reputation - at least among Germans. I love how international and young the city is, and I’m also located right in middle of Germany (and Europe)! Plus, Frankfurt has a huge expat community; I don’t think I’ve ever had a more multi-cultural group of friends.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Frankfurt?
The winters! I mean, coming from Ohio, I really ought to be used to this time of year. But for some reason, the dark and gloomy winters are never fun to deal with. Having said that, Germany’s Christmas markets in December and the Karneval festivities in February/March definitely help liven things up!
6. What do you miss most?
Easy: Tex-Mex! Can someone please help me convince the Germans how delicious tacos are?!
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I always recommend checking Facebook for local meet-up groups (just type "new in ______" to see if there’s anything in your area). Also, any sort of hobby-based club is a great way to meet people with similar interests. I took Swedish classes at Frankfurt’s community center for fun a year or two ago (I know, I know, I’m such a nerd…). This ended up being a great way to get out after work and meet new people.
I will admit, though, that I was a bit lucky when I moved here. I already had a friend base from when I lived in Germany as an exchange student in high school.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
No matter how long I’ve been here, I still find it strange that in Germany, you’re expected to bake a cake, provide refreshments, and basically host your own birthday party when your day of the year comes around. If you ask me, your friends should be doing all the surprising - not you! Oh, and make sure you don’t wish anyone a happy early birthday, either. That’s bad luck here!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
A lot of people think Germans are rude and standoffish. While I can understand where that impression comes from (after all, there’s not a whole lot of small talk in public spaces), I think it’s more about being considerate and not bothering other people. In fact, whenever I’m back in the U.S. for a visit, I’ve actually found myself feeling uncomfortable at how personal and open some of the small talk is. Talk about reverse culture shock!
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
One of the things I love about Germany is how affordable it is. Sure, my tax rate is higher and my take-home pay is probably a lot less than someone of the same wage bracket in the U.S. But I know that rent and groceries are cheaper, and I also have a social safety net to rely on. So at the end of the day, I feel like Germany makes it quite easy to have a decent standard of living, no matter how much money I earn.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Stay curious, get out and explore, and - most of all - listen to your heart. While a lot of people will applaud you for taking the step to move abroad, there will also be others who might try to discourage you from it. In the end, what matters is what YOU want.
Also, be prepared for living abroad to lose its magic once the honeymoon phase has passed. If you’re looking for some tips on how to keep expat life exciting, I’ve written a post about it here: http://www.thedustycompass.com/living-abroad-loses-magic/.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I celebrated my first blogiversary this fall, meaning I’ve only had The Dusty Compass for around a year (since October 2015, to be more exact). I think I started my blog for the same reasons that any of us write, take pictures, or keep a journal: I wanted a place to preserve all my memories and express myself. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences while living abroad - it’d be a pity to forget them as time passes!
Danny's blog, The Dusty Compass
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