German Expat Living in USA - Interview with Dan

Published: 29 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,USA
After spending 3 months for a voluntary internship on the West Coast with his wife in 2004, Dan knew he would take the opportunity to work and live in the U.S. in a heart beat, if it would ever come. One year later his wife got a job in North Carolina and they both started their adventure. In 2013 Dan began to blog about the expat life in America to share his own experience and help others along their journey. Dan's expat blog is called Live Work Travel USA (see listing here)

Me and my daughter during a cruise in 2012
Me and my daughter during a cruise in 2012

Here's the interview with Dan...

Where are you originally from?
I'm from a small town in Southern Germany near the Lake of Constance.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live with my wife and American born daughter in Charlotte, North Carolina.

How long have you lived in USA and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been living here since 2005 and I'm going to stay as long as the immigration authorities extend my visa. Well, as soon as my daughter turns 21, she'll be able to sponsor her parents for a greencard, if we haven't won the greencard lottery by then.

America offers so many choices for everything. This sign on Route 66 was a great symbol for that.
America offers so many choices for everything. This sign on Route 66 was a great symbol for that.
Why did you move to USA and what do you do?
Living in the USA has been a dream of mine ever since I experienced the American life during a 3 month stay in San Francisco back in 2004. A year later my wife got a job offer in Charlotte, NC and we decided to take this big step and follow our dream. We were young and the opportunity was too good to pass on. We had nothing to lose.
I work in graphic design and marketing for an American company.

Did you bring family with you?
I brought my wife (actually she brought me) and my daughter was born here in Charlotte, NC. So she now has both citizenships, which is kinda nice.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Since I made this step together with my wife, it was a lot easier than doing it alone. We're a great team and she has awesome co-workers who have helped us during the transition tremendously. But while this help was much appreciated, we still were expat newbies and had to deal with a lot of new situations like American bureaucracy and how things are different than in Germany. We've learned a lot during our journey and it can be frustrating at times.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Some of our co-workers became good friends and also helped us out with a lot of questions we've had. Outside of work you just have to go explore your new environment and you'll meet a lot of people. Some of them will become your friends. Americans are very easy to talk to and they are usually the ones who start the conversation, because they pick up on your accent. You'll also meet a ton of other expats and will have this immediate connection with them, because they all went through similar experiences during immigration. Today we have a good mix of American and international friends and acquaintances.

Napping at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (2004)
Napping at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (2004)
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Charlotte, NC is located 3 hours from the NC and SC beaches and 2 hours from the Smoky Mountains, so you have a lot of fun things to do within driving distance. In the Charlotte area we love to go to the Whitewater Center and climb on their high ropes courses, do whitewater rafting or canoeing. I also really like Charlotte's many and free disc golf courses (frisbee golf), which is a lot of fun.

What do you enjoy most about living in USA?
I was getting really tired of the cold and dragging winters in Southern Germany, so North Carolina's weather is just what I need. Short winters with little to no snow and hot summers. Still, Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons with perfect temperatures in the 70's and 80's.
I also love the quality of life here in the States. There are a lot more opportunities for both business and pleasure and people are very friendly and always helpful no matter where you are.

How does the cost of living in USA compare to home?
Overall I would say we earn a little bit more than in Germany, pay less taxes, but expenses are generally similar to Germany. Of course stuff like gas is a lot cheaper in the U.S., but if you want to eat healthy food (e.g. organic fruit and vegetables), you have to pay a lot for it. Admissions for amusement parks, etc. are also pretty hefty compared to home. Daycare and college tuitions are horrendously expensive.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in USA?
The #1 negative will always be, that we don't live close to our friends and families back home. You just can't have it all, that's life. The other negative is our visa status, that doesn't allow us to apply for a greencard, even though we pay taxes and came here legally. Our jobs are not in high demand for the U.S. government and therefore don't really qualify us for a greencard. So our only hope lies on the greencard lottery until our daughter turns 21 and can sponsor us for one.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to USA, what would it be?
Drop the prejudices, stop trying to educate Americans because you think you know better, and just enjoy the experience and explore. It's so worth it!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
That our existence here in the U.S. lies in the hands of the immigration authorities. If they stop extending our work visa at any given moment, we would have to leave the U.S. within 60 days. The thought about that situation is a little scary after everything we've built for ourselves here.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
If we do return to Germany, either by choice or not, we would just start over again like we did 9 years ago. We'll still have family in Germany and everything is easier with a little help. It'll probably go a lot smoother, because we're already citizens and there won't be any language barrier.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Don't think you'll learn English after you immigrated. Start now and practice your communication skills while you're still in your home country. You'll need it to start your new life and it makes it so much easier. Just because you learned English in school for 10 years, doesn't mean you can communicate with a native speaker fluently. It needs a lot of practise.
  2. Bring all of your degrees, certifications, marriage licenses and paperwork, because you might need all of them at some point. Be it for your SSN, a job or for applying for a different visa status. If you can have it translated to English before you move, even better. Also get references from your former or current employer as well as your insurance companies. Sometimes it helps to prove that you've been driving a car for many years, so that you get a slightly better insurance rate.
  3. Careful with conversations about politics, religion and gun laws here in America. People can people very sensitive and passionate about these topics, so know who you're talking to and be respectful of other options.
  4. Just because an American says "We should get together sometimes", doesn't necessarily mean that they want to meet you, unless the same person mentions that over and over. Being polite doesn't mean that they are looking for friendship, not saying that it can't happen.
  5. Don't try to just hang out with other people of the same nationality so that you feel more comfortable. Go meet some Americans. It'll be better for your English, too.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Live Work Travel USA is my attempt to help expats from all over the world getting adjusted to the U.S. a little faster. There are so many questions you'll have during this journey and sometimes it can be hard to find the answers you were looking for online. Immigration forums often times are full of information, discussions, rants and also conflicting members, which makes it very time consuming to find good answers. My blog will hopefully help you to get these answers a little faster. In addition to that I interview other expats from all over the world, share my experiences and interesting findings and opportunities.
I would love for you to stop by and leave a comment on my blog or sign up for my newsletter for updates. To check out my blog, click on "Visit author blog" below.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can contact me through comments or the contact form on my blog. I'm also available on Facebook and Pinterest.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingDan is a German expat living in USA. Blog description: My USA blog will guide you through immigration and provide you with helpful tips and answers while you're getting adjusted to your new American life. Travelers will find lots of great tips for a stress free and enjoyable visit in America.
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