American Expat Living in Germany - Interview with Kari

Published: 18 Sep at 2 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Germany
Kari Martindale is a writer who blogs about her everyday debacles bumbling around Germany, posts the whereabouts of her hat, and generally laughs at life at karilogue.com. She is now working on "Some Guy’s Hat", a project that will take her to the 29 sites pinned to an old hat she picked up at a flea market in the Black Forest.

Kari holds a Master’s in English (Linguistics) from George Mason University, a B.S. in Area Studies (Arabic) from Excelsior College, and was a candidate to graduate from the College of William and Mary with a B.A. in Linguistics. She is a previous translator, but not of German--a language she knew about five words of before moving to the country! Kari's expat blog is called Karilogue (see listing here)

Kari Martindale in her
Kari Martindale in her "home" town Dieburg

Here's the interview with Kari...


Where are you originally from?
I'm American, born and raised in Pennsylvania. My family and I most recently lived outside of DC.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Germany, in the quaint, cobblestoned town of Dieburg.

How long have you lived in Germany and how long are you planning to stay?
We've been here two years and plan to be here for a total of 3-5 years. I'm not looking forward to the day I have to bid farewell to my home in Europe.

the start of the Maerchenstrasse road trip: Hanau
the start of the Maerchenstrasse road trip: Hanau
Why did you move to Germany and what do you do?
My husband's job brought us to Germany. It gave me time to write, and to finish my first novel, travel/humor, about my adventures through all 50 states. I plan to self-publish the novel "Fifty by Thirty" in October.

Did you bring family with you?
My husband and I have a 7-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old dog. The kid now speaks German. The dog still speaks Dog.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It was difficult to arrive in a country not knowing the language--a first for me, since I was once fluent in Spanish and Arabic and until this point had traveled many regions of the world without many communication difficulties. My husband works with English speakers, so my daughter and I felt quite alone, no one to converse with. The language barrier magnified the typical hardships that come with a move.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Meeting people was not too hard, but making actual friends has been very challenging. We do not spend a great deal of time with other expats, but we do get together with friends and colleagues from time to time. Otherwise, we just have acquaintances like neighbors or parents of the kids in my daughter's class.

Köln with the husband
Köln with the husband
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There is so much to do here in Germany. Castles appeal to everyone; our current favorite for the family is Burg Rheinfels in the town of St. Goar. It not only remains with walls and a tower, but features a series of tunnels and trenches that are so much fun to explore. I enjoy barefoot trails and parks like the one in Bad Orb. Recently, my family biked a loop at the Bodensee, riding through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. When we first arrived, we took a road trip up the Maerchenstrasse--Fairy Tale Lane--which was a great introduction to Germany. My daughter and I sometimes have "brown sign days," where we start driving in a direction and then follow a random brown sign to whatever landmark it represents! All you really have to do to find something fun to do in Germany, is leave your house.

What do you enjoy most about living in Germany?
I love Germany's central location. It's so easy to hop over borders or take short flights to anywhere in Europe. I also love, love, love the Christmas Market season!

How does the cost of living in Germany compare to home?
I actually find that it is only slightly higher. Although the Euro remains quite a bit stronger than the Dollar, which definitely hits the wallet at times, many necessities (food in particular) are less expensive than in the States. And it's fresh. Eating out at restaurants doesn't take a huge dent out of your pocket. Some things are more expensive here--appliances, electricity, etc.--but overall I don't find that Germany makes living much more expensive.

Nürnberg's Christkindlesmarkt
Nürnberg's Christkindlesmarkt
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Germany?
I don't think there are "negatives" to the country. However, there are times when American-German politics play a role in how warmly I am received by people. There is obviously the downside of being so far away from friends and family, as well. That's when Facebook, Skype, blogging, and other recent technology plays a huge role in how we handle the separation. Not only do I use the typical communication platforms, but playing Scrabble and Words with Friends with people from back home helps me feel connected to them. We aren't carving out time to email - we're just playing a game together.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Germany, what would it be?
Keep an open mind and remember that You are now the foreigner.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Watching my daughter struggle in her first months of Kindergarten when she knew no one was by far the hardest experience.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
That's an interesting question. I won't know until it happens, but I think I will experience a mix of stress from the move, excitement to be reunited with friends and family, and sadness at leaving this world behind.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language. While you're just beginning, don't be afraid to make mistakes!
  2. Get out. Get out of the house, get out of town, get out of the country--just explore!
  3. I can't say this enough: you are the foreigner here. The onus is not on your host country to learn English to communicate with you, or to employ the same processes and services to which you've grown accustomed in America.
  4. Sign up for things, be it an exercise class, a language course, or a parents’ association. You’ll meet people, strengthen your language skills, and feel like you fit into your community.
  5. Don't miss out on all the local festivals! Christmas Markets are my favorite, but there's Karneval, fall festivals, Easter Markets, medieval markets...everywhere you turn, there's an excuse to celebrate!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Karilogue.com features my adventures, experiences, and debacles, all of which lead to great travel tips for the reader.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Through Karilogue.com or the Kari Ann Martindale Facebook page.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingKari is an American expat living in Germany. Blog description: Everyday trials and tribulations, debacles and successes, tips and travelogues, from an American bumbling around Germany. This is my expat adventure, which I share with my daughter, Sequoia; my husband, Paul; and my dog, Flash.
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