Expat Interview With Kathleen, American Expat Living in Stuttgart, Germany

Published: 25 Jul at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Germany
Lehrer Werkstatt (see listing here) is a blog by Kathleen Ralf, an International School Teacher, Wife, Mom, Runner, Hiker, and Happy Camper. She considers herself more of a Citizen of the World than a Citizen of the USA. Kathleen's blog is a gemischt cornacopia of stuff and things, but mostly Lehrer Werkstatt contains her reflections about life in Germany and life as an International School teacher. There are days when she will post on lessons learned in the classroom both by her and her students. And other days she will focus on the joys and pitfalls of living in a country that is not quite home, but not really foreign.

Meet Kathleen - American expat in Stuttgart
Meet Kathleen - American expat in Stuttgart

Here's the interview with Kathleen...


Where are you originally from?
Washington State, not DC. In Germany we say "Washington ist oben links."

In which country and city are you living now?
Stuttgart, Germany

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
This is my 4th school year here in Stuttgart. In August I start a new journey teaching at an international school in Frankfurt.

Why did you move to Germany and what do you do?
I wanted a change in my teaching career. 12 years in the same place was making me start to think "Is this it? I'm going to drive here every morning for the rest of my life?" Our daughter was 2 1/2 when we moved, and it seemed the best time for her to learn German and connect with my husband's German family.

On the weekends, we enjoy seeing the sights of our immediate surroundings.  Our daughter usually agrees to the long hikes up to ancient castles if their might be a possibility of meeting a fairy princess.
On the weekends, we enjoy seeing the sights of our immediate surroundings. Our daughter usually agrees to the long hikes up to ancient castles if their might be a possibility of meeting a fairy princess.
Did you bring family with you?
Family of Three and 5 suitcases.

How did you find the transition to living in Germany?
Easy for me. I work in an English speaking environment. My husband's mother tongue is German. At first I could rely on co-workers or my husband for help with language. I think it was harder for him, as he was the one that had to deal with German bureaucracy.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
We socialize most with people I work with. This is a mixture of Germans, Brits, Aussies, Americans, Canadian, etc. After 2 years we finally started to make lasting friendships with neighbors. Having a child in German kindergarten also helped. You become part of the mommy (parent) network. And we are lucky to have family here. I don't miss Christmas at home, because I get Christmas here with the Germany family.

Go to a Fest, any Fest.  But the best Fests are the Weihnachtsmarkts.  Stuttgart's is one of the largest in Germany, and it does not disappoint its visitors.
Go to a Fest, any Fest. But the best Fests are the Weihnachtsmarkts. Stuttgart's is one of the largest in Germany, and it does not disappoint its visitors.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The fest, any fest. They are so much fun, the food is great, the entertainment is great, the beer is great. Biergartens are the best way to spend your Sunday afternoon.

What do you enjoy most about living in Stuttgart?
I love that on Sunday, everything is closed. I am frustrated by American commercialism and ideologies. They say they are about family values, but they want someone to be working at the grocery store on Christmas day, just in case they need something. Close up shop and spend some time with your family.

How does the cost of living in Stuttgart compare to the USA?
It is much cheaper to live in Germany. Food prices are 1/3 to a 1/2 of what we pay in the US when we go home. We live on one salary comfortably. We eat out once a week, we eat well at home, we go on a few trips a year.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
On Sunday everything is closed. I know I just said I loved this, but sometimes, when you have not planned well, you end up at a gas station buying milk.

On this day we combined two things we love...mineral baths and climbing to a castle for lunch.  Ate a great lunch at the castle, then relaxed in the Mineralbader at the bottom of the hill.
On this day we combined two things we love...mineral baths and climbing to a castle for lunch. Ate a great lunch at the castle, then relaxed in the Mineralbader at the bottom of the hill.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Germany, what would it be?
Don't expect it to be like your home country. Too many people come here thinking..they look like me, they are like me, and when they realize that Germans are different beings, they freak out. Enjoy Germany for being Germany, don't judge it based on your home country.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Sometimes you just want to be with an old friend who gets you. It takes a while, when you move to a new place, to find someone who is truly a friend you can spill it all to.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Don't buy a car for at least a year. You might find you don't need one. Public transport is amazing, cheap, and convenient.
  2. Learn the language. Nothing is more insulting than an American insisting on speaking English. When you attempt to try to speak German, they will most likely switch to English to help you out.
  3. Pack light. Moving abroad, you don't know how long you are staying. Pack the necessities, do without, buy what you need. You will realize, you don't need all that stuff.
  4. Join a Verein (club). To meet Germans and to meet people with similar interests, join a sports club, a birdwatching club, a motorcycle club, a kayaking club. They have a club for everything.
  5. If you have young children, and you plan on staying in Germany for awhile,put them in German public school. International Schools are excellent, but you can't expect your child to learn German, when they spend 8 hours a day in an English speaking environment. Most international schools will give 3-5 hours of German instruction a week. That is not enough to get the child to speak confidently in any language.


The beer in Germany is great.  If you don't like beer, you will be buying really expensive water.
The beer in Germany is great. If you don't like beer, you will be buying really expensive water.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
At first I was writing to share ideas about things I was doing in the classroom. Then it turned in to something else. I was writing about living in Germany. I was writing about teaching in an International school and all the joys and horrors that brings. Somethings are the same as teaching anywhere else, some things are quite different. Then there is the difficulty of teaching certain subjects in Germany like....the Holocaust for instance...not an easy subject when your class is 50% German.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Feel free to send me messages here on this website.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingKathleen is an American expat living in Germany. Blog description: Reflections on Living and Teaching in Germany
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Mjhl wrote 3 years ago:

Kathleen, Your interview is informative and comforting. I would very much like to ask you questions about life in Stuttgart. My husband is contemplating accepting a job there. Your insight could be very helpful. Thank you for your time. -MJHL

Bonny Buckley wrote 3 years ago:

Thanks a lot for the interview. I'm also from WA, the state, and worked in an international school in China for 6 years before moving to Stuttgart. Now I'm taking German and hoping for a long-lasting visa! I plan to teach here in the future.

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