Expat Interview with Josh, American Expat Living in Germany

Published: 18 Sep at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Germany
Josh is a Michigan native who recently uprooted and relocated to Bochum, Germany. He always had the dream of moving to Germany ever since he took his first German language course in high school. Together with his wife, he sets out to discover if his perceptions of the country in which he has longed to live are everything he imagined them to be. Joshua's expat blog is called Detroit to Deutschland - American Expat in Germany (see listing here)

Meet Josh - US expat living in Bochum, Germany
Meet Josh - US expat living in Bochum, Germany

Here's the interview with Josh...

Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in a city near Detroit, Michigan up until I was about eighteen. I bounced between a few cities in that area throughout my twenties and ended up moving to central Illinois before I moved to Germany in January of 2013.

In which country and city are you living now?
I currently live in Bochum, Germany. Bochum is a city in Western Germany – located near Düsseldorf and Cologne.

How long have you lived in Germany and how long are you planning to stay?
I’m quite new to the country; in about a week I will have been here for eight months now. The time sure does fly by though, that’s for sure! It is our plan to remain in Germany. My wife is German and I already have all of my legal paperwork in order so that I may live, study and work here for at least the next three years. I even have a German driver’s license! In 2016 I should be granted unrestricted residency and can even apply for citizenship a year after that or so, if I so choose – exciting! One never knows what the future holds though, so we shall see…

My garden view in Bochum
My garden view in Bochum
Why did you move to Germany and what do you do?
It was always my ambition and dream to move to Germany ever since I took my very first German class in high school; that was over 15 years ago. I was fascinated with everything about this country – the language, culture, history, architecture, everything. It was like an addiction, I had to keep learning more and more because I was so fascinated. I am currently in the end stages of finishing my degree in International Business and Finance and looking forward to what will come after that!

Did you bring family with you?
My wife is German so the move back here was an easy decision for her. She and I lived together in Illinois for those six months before coming back “home”. I had to leave my buddy in Michigan with my mom, his name is Wayne. He is a cat and is missed.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Hmm, that is a good question. The transition period for me was overall very good, I must say. I had read a lot online before moving abroad about the various stages that one goes through while adjusting to all the “new”. There were only a few times that I felt sort of lost, alone or confused but all in all I would say that I feel very comfortable now in my new home, this word I use very sincerely. Germany has become my home and I feel very lucky to call it so.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
This is something that is still working itself out at the moment. Since I came over here with my wife, her friends have become my friends but as far as me making friends on my own, that is something that I haven’t really figured out yet. I think since I don’t work in an office with other people every day that I don’t really have the chance to meet other people. I do share stories, ideas, thoughts and “expat moments” with other expats online though through our blog network. I like that a lot because it lets me talk with others who are going or have already gone through the various things that one experiences while being an expat.

My wife and I exploring the local park on a rainy afternoon
My wife and I exploring the local park on a rainy afternoon
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I have to say that I really like my area. Bochum is a city located within the Ruhrgebiet, sort of like a district. It is known that the people in this district are very open and friendly, some even say “American-like”. One is greeted warmly when shopping downtown, feels welcome when visiting stores or small mom-n-pop shops and has this overall feeling that people are happy here. It’s a very nice feeling. Housing prices are also a bit lower in this area in comparison with other parts of Germany!

What do you enjoy most about living in Germany?
I really enjoy the fact that I do not need a car to get around. I walk places for the most part but if they are a bit farther away I just use public transportation – the subway or train systems. I like that everything is so closely connected here. Streets intertwine into a ball of yarn-like twists and turns that lead you haphazardly into some of the coolest parts of town I have ever accidentally discovered. Since the country is much smaller than my home country, everything is more so pushed together so places are easier to reach and people live closer together. I like the city living.

How does the cost of living in Germany compare to the US?
The cost of living in my particular area is cheaper than in Michigan. Our rent, utilities, grocery bills and general expenses are more affordable in Germany than they would be in Michigan. To give an example, in my former apartment in Michigan I paid almost 1.5 times the amount we pay here for our apartment and I had much less space. I had a studio apartment in Michigan yet paid for what would be a two bedroom apartment here, interesting.

Wayne, my buddy
Wayne, my buddy
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Hmm, this is an interesting question also. I would have to first say that by becoming an expat you make a very big decision to leave behind your former life and everything that was comfortable and normal to you in exchange for living out your dream. That being said; I, of course, miss my family and friends back home but they have a cool new vacation spot now! Other than that, I am very biased towards Germany and feel very fortunate and happy to be here. So far, everything is going really well.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Besides the fact that learning the language is obviously something you must master, I would say preparation. Moving to Germany, or any foreign country for that matter, is a very large task to undertake. One has to educate themselves on exactly what is needed to make the move; college transcripts, birth certificate, tax forms, bank receipts, marriage certificate, etc. You name it, they need it – and translated! Bring the original version plus a translation into German of every single important legal and financial document that you can think of – they will ask you for it, trust me. Also, call ahead and make your appointments with immigration and all the other important places you will go once coming here months in advance, and yes, I did say months!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I would say it would have to be getting over my own nervousness. Despite studying and speaking the language for many years now, I was nervous to move here for that fact. Silly, huh? I didn’t have enough faith in myself that I could actually do it, actually make a life here and communicate in this language every day – at the grocery store, on the phone, in person, at the doctor’s office, at the bank, etc. But I forced myself to just go outside and talk to people. That is how I had to get over my own fears and I have. Now going outside doesn’t bother me one bit, I enjoy talking with people and expanding my vocabulary even more!

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I don’t know if we will necessarily ever move to the United States but one thing I can comment on in regards to this topic is reverse culture shock. You read everywhere that when you move to a foreign country that you will experience culture shock in one way or another – the language, culture, time change, etc. What isn’t really considered is that when one moves abroad they absorb the new culture, values and ways of life of their host country. This means that when they go back to their home country, even for just a visit, sometimes a “reverse culture shock” ensues. Hearing one’s native language all the time again, being thrown back into one’s former ways of life or culture can sometimes be overwhelming. I have yet to travel back home to America since moving to Germany so I am interested to see how that experience will go whenever I do make the trip.

Sunset at my Michigan home
Sunset at my Michigan home
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Educate yourself! – Don’t simply focus on your fascination of the country to which you want to move but rather take the time to truly learn about the culture, language, history and values of that place. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into and where you are going.
  2. Don’t be afraid! – Okay, this one is easier said than done. It is nerve-wracking to move to a new country even if you are completely sure that the move is right for you. It is like taking your entire world and turning it upside-down, you have to learn everything all over again. How to complete your daily tasks – going to the bank is new, grocery shopping is new, everything is new. Don’t be afraid. It is exciting, sometimes overwhelming but it will become normal after time.
  3. Don’t expect people to speak to you in your native language! – Learn the language of the country to which you are moving. I cannot stress this enough and I know that I am definitely not the first person to say it since it should be quite obvious. – If you are moving to a new country that speaks a different language, do not expect people to cater to you and speak your language. Take the time to truly learn the language, not just simple phrases to get you by. Learn the vocabulary and the grammar so that you can actually communicate with people. This is not only out of respect but also to not exclude yourself from becoming integrated into your new home.
  4. Be open-minded! – This is actually a pretty easy one for someone who moves to a new country; you have to be open-minded to give up your comfortable life for one of mystery and newness. I mean this more in a broad spectrum. Understand that you are the foreign one in this land; you have to be open-minded to their culture and their ways of life. Don’t compare your host country with your home country in terms of complaining – that only makes you focus on bad things. Embrace your new country and try to learn from it so you can adjust to your new life better.
  5. Have fun! – This sounds like a no-brainer but you have to remember to enjoy your new life. You made the move, took the time to educate yourself, you are trying not to be afraid, you are learning the language and you are being as open-minded as you can possibly be. What else could there be? You gotta enjoy your new surroundings! Find things that make you happy and re-enforce your decision that it was right to move abroad.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog chronicles my time in Germany but more so focuses on the differences and similarities between Germany and America. I love taking note of the small details that make you feel like you actually are in a foreign country, it’s interesting. I notice things like this all the time and love to blog about them. My blog also details the various countries I visit, the beautiful cities within Germany and overall my experiences of living in Germany through the eyes of an American.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
There is a direct contact link right on my blog itself that anyone is welcome to use for any comments, questions or just to say hi!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingJosh is an American expat living in Germany. Blog description: My adventures in Germany through the eyes of an American complete with photos, culture shock moments, differences & similarities and hopefully a little humor!
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Comments » There are 5 comments

Thuy wrote 7 years ago:

Hi, I tried clicking on the link but it seems that he has deleted the blog?

Dan wrote 7 years ago:

Congrats, Josh! I hope you're having fun on the Autobahn with your new German drivers license ;)

China Visa wrote 7 years ago:

I did enjoy reading this interview. Highly Appreciated. Thank you!

Mimi wrote 7 years ago:

I couldn't agree more about the reverse culture shock. I moved from London to Nicosia, Cyprus. The culture here couldn't be more different but I adapted and after nearly three consider this place my home. When I go back to London for a visit, it is so weird to hear people speaking English, getting on the tube is exciting for me and the way of life is so different that I feel the reverse culture shock thing big time! :)

Marc Payne wrote 7 years ago:

Hey Josh, just read your interview and it was great. I myself am living here in Deutschland with my German wife here in on the Baltic Sea near Luebeck north of Hamburg. I have been here over 2 years now coming from Tennessee. My wife lived there with me until we decided to come here to be near her family and live the European life. Contact us if you want at my email address and we can share experinces and info on living here in Deutschland!

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