American Expat Living in Germany - Interview with Eifel Mausi

Published: 23 Nov at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Germany
Eifel Mausi is a small town Texas girl who followed love across the world. Today she lives in the Eifel region with her German husband, teaches at a local university, and continues to work on her German skills as she shares the beauty, history, and culture of the Eifel with all those who visit her blog. Eifel Mausi's expat blog is called Eifel Mausi - Your Go-To Expat (see listing here)

I may be an expat in Germany, but I will always be a Texan first and foremost.
I may be an expat in Germany, but I will always be a Texan first and foremost.

Here's the interview with Eifel Mausi...

Where are you originally from?
I'm not really originally from anywhere. Both of my parents were in the Air Force, so I moved around a lot as a kid. By the age of three, I had already lived in four different states and two countries. The majority of my life, though, has been in Texas. I lived outside of Fort Worth for many years, and then later moved out to West Texas before coming to Germany.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in a small village just outside of Bitburg.

How long have you lived in Germany and how long are you planning to stay?
As of 2016, I've been in Germany for just over one year. My husband is German, and so we plan on staying here indefinitely. Maybe once we retire, we might move back to Texas, but until then, we're pretty permanently settled in Germany.

Just one of the many enchanting castles in the area.
Just one of the many enchanting castles in the area.
Why did you move to Germany and what do you do?
I moved to Germany for love. After several years of long distance dating, my husband and I got married, and, as it goes, one of us had to make the move. Although his English skills far surpassed my German skills, we agreed that the job prospects would be better for me in Germany than him in the states. I currently teach English at a local university to students studying to become teachers.

Did you bring family with you?
I brought my kitty cats, who are like my children. That was probably the most stressful part of the entire move.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It was pretty rough for the first six months. At first, it was this really exciting adventure, but once that wore off, it was really hard. I felt isolated because of the language barrier, lonely because I had no friends, and forgotten because it seemed like everyone back home was just moving on with life like I had never even existed. (I had to stay off of Facebook for a solid week after that first Thanksgiving.) But, it gradually got better. Taking language classes and finding a job improved things dramatically.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Making friends has been a little difficult. I have wonderful co-workers, but they all commute in for work and actually live several hours away. I chat online with other expats, but I actually try to limit socializing with any of them in person. I was told by a former expat several years ago that surrounding herself with other expats actually kept her from ever really connecting with Germany, and she was so unhappy that she ended up moving back to the states. So, I've tried to be very conscious of that. That being said, I have found it difficult to make German friends; although, I definitely have friends in my husband's friends.

Typical Eifel countryside.
Typical Eifel countryside.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The Eifel has some of the prettiest castles in all of Germany. It also has picturesque villages, breathtaking nature trails, and impressive Roman ruins dating back several thousands of years.

What do you enjoy most about living in Germany?
If I had to pick one thing, I would say the landscape. It's just stunning - and it doesn't matter in which season. I guarantee, it's one of the greenest areas you'll ever see. Forests, rolling hills, mountains, volcanic lakes, flowers - it's something you just have to see.

How does the cost of living in Germany compare to home?
The cost of living in Germany - even here in the rural Eifel - is astronomical compared to Texas.

Typical Eifel treats.
Typical Eifel treats.
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Germany?
Definitely being away from family and friends. Within my first six months of moving to Germany, I lost both my aunt and uncle. It was devastating to be so far away when it all happened, and not to be able to make it to either funeral. It's hard to feel like you can't be there for the people you love when they need you.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Germany, what would it be?
Learn as much of the language as you can before you get here. You most likely won't be fluent by any means, but the earlier you can start chipping away at that language barrier, the better. It is the main obstacle you will have to overcome, and it is the main cause of loneliness after you get here.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Aside from the language barrier and the distance from family members, I would say finding a job was the hardest aspect so far. The system works so much differently here. The German education system really prepares them for niche areas, and so employers want people with in-depth education and training in specific jobs. It's not like in the states where we have a broad education with an additional point of focus. Even with a Master's degree, I found that I often didn't have as pointed of an educational background as employers here were looking for. I did eventually find a job, but it took about a year, plus language courses and what felt like a million job applications.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
My husband and I don't have any plans to move back to the states, except maybe after we retire. If that happens, or if life throws us a curve ball and we make the move for other reasons, I know I will definitely miss certain things about Germany (specifically the castles, the landscape, and speaking German - as odd as that sounds), but Texas will always be my home.

Typical Eifel village - although, these are newer houses.
Typical Eifel village - although, these are newer houses.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language. It will help you to find a job, but it will also help you to connect with the people and their culture. Not learning German will isolate you more than anything else will.
  2. Understand that Germans need more time to warm up to strangers than most Americans do. I've talked to a lot of expats who are unhappy here because they feel like Germans are cold and unfriendly. I can't disagree with this idea strongly enough. But Germans really do need more time. Don't just try to befriend them once. Try a couple of times. The quickest way to knock down that wall? Speak German to them. Even if it's horribly broken German with tons of grammatical errors and spoken with the harshest accent ever. Ask them how to pronounce a certain word. Ask them how to correctly conjugate a verb you just used. You will be amazed at how quickly they will warm up to you.
  3. Force yourself to get out of the house every day in those early months. If you're here, but you don't have a job or friends, it can be really easy to hide out in the house and wallow in fear/anxiety/loneliness. Make yourself go somewhere - the grocery store, a cafe, your local library. Just get out of the house and interact with someone - even if it's just to pay for something.
  4. Start an integration course as soon as possible. It will help in the longrun because you've gotten it out of the way, but it will dramatically improve your language skills, plus it will give you somewhere to go everyday, and it's a social setting. You may not like everyone in your class or even befriend anyone, but it will pull you out of that newbie expat slump that we all fall into.
  5. Make standing Skype or Facetime appointments with people back home. My best friend and I have a standing Facetime call every Thursday. This was a lifesaver for me in the beginning because it always gave me something to look forward to, and it helped me to feel like everyone back home wasn't moving on with their lives and forgetting about me. (By the way, no one is doing that; although, Facebook will definitely make it feel that way.) It's also important because, even though these people are your family and best friends, you can drift apart a little bit. You get busy, they get busy, the time difference gets in the way. You have to really put in that effort to keep those relationships strong.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I mostly write about the Eifel region: castles to see, villages to visit, stories behind statues/buildings/names, cultural traditions, etc. Although I maintain a level of privacy in regards to my personal life, I do always try to weave in tidbits about my experience being married to a German, acclimating to Germany, and so on. I especially try to reach out and offer resources to the military communities in Spangdahlem and Ramstein.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
The Eifel Mausi Facebook page is the best way to reach me.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingEifel Mausi is an American expat living in Germany. Blog description: An English language guide to the Eifel from the perspective of an American expat.
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