An European expat
May 2, 2017
For the fourth time in her life, Laia has recently embarked into a new relocation, this time in Frankfurt. We spoke with her to know more about her last move, life in Germany and her thoughts about relocation and living among different cultures.
You are an experienced expat. Where did you live?
I am a passionate of languages and cultures, therefore I studied translation and intercultural communication. It was at that time that I started moving around Europe, completing one year of my studies in Austria and spending summers abroad pursuing language courses. Once I obtained my first bachelor’s degree, I relocated to England and afterwards to France for professional purposes. After three years in my hometown, the multicultural Barcelona – don’t miss to go there, I still haven’t found a person who hasn’t liked it–, I moved to Frankfurt, or Mainhattan, as many people call it.
How were your moves?
Each move is different, as every country is different. Personally, one of the most complicated things for me is to get familiar 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 do not master the language! Having someone to guide you through all this, it 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 it is in the riverside where you can find the real spirit of the city. Whenever you go, you will see people around: jogging, having a drink, skating… Moreover, sunsets are wonderful from there!
Can you tell us a myth about Germans?
Coming from a Latin European culture, which is quite different from the Germanic one, I have heard plenty of stereotypes about Germans! One that I recall from my first German lessons is that Germans always wait until the traffic light is green to cross. Even though it is generally true… I would suggest to update the textbooks if they are still mentioning this.
What did you find the most surprising about German habits and customs?
Germans are well-known for being the country of the beer. They produce and consume quite a lot of it, but something people don’t know is that they also love bread!
Before I have thought that France was the country any bread-lover should live in, especially for its famous baguette. Now, I would change it for Germany. Here, you can find bread made with any kind of cereal or ingredient!
Actually, there is another thing that surprised me. In Germany, it is quite common the concept of one “warm meal” per day. People might have some cold snacks and lunch (normally bread with cheese, cold meats or sandwich spreads) and then, a warm meal in the evening. This shocked me a little bit as, in Barcelona, lunch and dinner are normally “warm dishes”. We eat cold meals – actually one of our most foods is pa amb tomàquet- but this is the exception, more than the rule.
What advice would you give to anyone relocating?
Learn about the other culture as much as you can. This includes language, if you are moving to a place where a language other than your mother tongue is spoken, but also the local values, believes, ways of behaving, traditions… Some studies say that moving abroad is a U-shaped process. At the beginning, everything is perfect, then you start seeing all the imperfections (the famous cultural shock) until there is a moment that you reach a balance point between the good and the bad things. I believe this is true and in order to make the cultural shock, less “serious”, the more you know about the other place the better.
Remember no culture is better or worse than another one. It is just different and you just need to learn to navigate through these differences.