Europe through the eyes of an experienced expat
July 13, 2017
Laia has relocated four times in her life and this time she’s arrived in Frankfurt. We asked her all about her latest move, life in Germany and her thoughts on living amid different cultures.
You’re an experienced expat. Where have you lived?
I am passionate about languages and cultures, so I studied translation and intercultural communication at university. While I was a student I started moving around Europe, completing one year of my studies in Austria and spending summers abroad taking language courses. After my first degree, I relocated to England and afterwards to France for work. I then spent three years in my hometown, Barcelona (if you haven’t been to Barcelona yet, you should; I’ve still to meet a person who hasn’t liked it), before moving to Frankfurt, or "Mainhattan," as many people call it.
What were your moves like?
Each move is different, as every country is different for expat living. Personally, one of the most complicated things for me is familiarizing myself with the local administrative procedures. Wherever you go, you find different rules and regulations. As a foreigner it can be a little bit hard to understand them, especially if you haven’t mastered the language. Having someone to guide you is always helpful.
What is your favourite thing about living in Frankfurt?
The Main, Frankfurt’s river. Despite being well known for its financial district, I think you can find the real spirit of the city by the riverside. Wherever you go, you see people jogging, having a drink or skating. The sunsets are also wonderful from there.
What did you find most surprising about German customs?
Germans are known for producing and consuming quite a lot of beer. Something people don’t know is that Germans also love bread. Before, I thought that France was the country any bread-lover should live in, especially for its famous baguette. Now, I would suggest Germany. Here, you can find bread made with any kind of cereal or ingredient.
Another thing that surprised me was the concept of having just one “warm meal” per day. German people tend to have cold snacks and lunch (normally bread with cheese, cold meats or sandwich spreads) and then a warm meal in the evening. This shocked me as, in Barcelona, lunch and dinner are normally warm dishes. We do eat cold meals; one of our most popular dishes, pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomatoes), is eaten cold but this is the exception rather than the rule.
What advice would you give to anyone relocating?
Learn as much as you can about the other culture, including the language. Some studies say that moving abroad is a U-shaped process: at the beginning, everything is perfect, then you experience the famous cultural shock before reaching a balance point between the things you like and dislike about the culture. The more you know about the place you are going to, the less intense the cultural shock will be and the more you will enjoy the expat life there.
Remember, no culture is better or worse than another one. It is just different and you need to learn to navigate through these differences.
Elvira is another Spanish expat living in Germany. Read her story here.