Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why YOU should be an Expat

Last winter I dedicated a blog post to my son to let him know what he could look forward to during a 2-week visit here, and today I dedicate this post to my daughter. She's 21, entering her final year of college, studying for the GREs, and pondering which grad schools she wants to apply to. Luckily she also knows me well enough to know that I'm not pressuring her, but saying this is an option and something to consider. I want to tell her why I think she should BE AN EXPAT!


You're young.

Most of the expat bloggers I've communicated with or have read about are closer to your age than mine. Do it while you're still young and free enough to be able to take chances and do something daring!

You CAN speak German.

I know you often feel like you can't, but you can. Besides, the only way for your language skills to grow is by living in a country where they speak that language. And if you choose some other country, like Italy, for instance, you'll learn that language, too, because that's who you are. There are plenty of expats in Germany who know less German than you do.

You will be challenged every single day.

This is the big one. I can think of no better reason than this. Daily intellectual challenges are not for everyone, but I think you'll get bored if you're not challenged. People will challenge you. The language will challenge you. Being away from what you know will challenge you. Simple, everyday tasks will challenge you.

Travel opportunities

You know that the life of an expat doesn't automatically mean jet-setting around the world at every whim. But with planning and saving, it is not out of the realm of possibility to spend a long weekend in Paris, a few days in Rome, or hop up to England or - better yet - Scotland. A quick check shows me a flight from here to London is about €100 ($134). From Chicago to London is ten times that.

And don't forget Blind Booking by German Wings! For as little as €66 ($88) you can let them pick your destination from a short list of great European cities (Zürich, Barcelona, Budapest, Stockholm...) and visit a place you might not otherwise have ever visited.

Language exposure

No matter where you live outside of the U.S., you will find yourself surrounded by other languages. Even in our small community, it's not just German that's all around, but also Greek, Turkish, and Italian.

Work & life experience

If/When you return to the U.S. at some point, having lived in a foreign country - especially a non-English speaking country - makes you more desirable in the job market because of the invaluable work and life experience you gained overseas as well as being able to speak a second language.

Bilingual children, if you go that route

"If I marry him, we can have British-speaking babies!" Remember that?? If you fall in love with a European and decide to have children, they could grow up bilingual. Imagine children who can speak both American AND English! :-)

You'll find more people who think like you in Europe than in the U.S.

The majority of people in Europe accept climate change as fact. They are against war in general, armed citizens, and meddling in other people's affairs. Most understand the importance of education, travel, history, and culture. They are interested in the USA but don't consider it the greatest country in the world. Most also don't consider their own country the greatest in the world.

You probably won't need a car (saves money)

Public transportation isn't exactly cheap, but compared to parking fees, car maintenance, gas prices (ca. $8.50 per gallon in Germany), and auto insurance, I'm convinced you can save money by not owning a car. You can get everywhere in Europe you'll ever need to go by train, S-Bahn, or bus. When you do need a car, there's always Carsharing.

The food

Remember how much you enjoyed the wide variety of cuisines you could find in Berlin? Greek, Turkish, Indian, Hungarian, Spanish, Arabic... In the U.S. you have to live in a big city to have options beyond Taco Bell, Olive Garden, and Panda Express for "international" cuisine.

Blogging

You and I could write a mother-daughter expat blog! Wouldn't that be fun?!

Drawbacks

Naturally it's not all a bed of roses. There are downsides to being an expat as well.

It's expensive as hell.

Nothing is cheap over here. I buy clothes when I visit the U.S.. Traveling from Stuttgart to some other exotic European city is more affordable than flying from Chicago, but once you get to that city, you'll pay a ton for lodging, food, tours, and attractions. 

You'll miss your best friends and family.

There may be days when you'll wonder why you left home to move to a place where communication is not always easy and where you sometimes feel alone. There will be days when you'll wonder if your friends back home still care about you.

Inconvenient when family events occur (weddings, births, deaths)

There are times when you need to fly back home either because of a planned event or an unexpected one, or make the decision to stay where you are and miss it. This is never an easy decision.

Sorry....I can't think of any other drawbacks!

Neutral

Two homes

It doesn't take long, as you know, to get used to the way things are in your new country. You miss things about your first home, but then when you return you miss things from your new home. To be comfortable in two different cultures, though...Priceless!

Your friend circle will change

This happens with any move out of town or state. You'll communicate for a while with your friends back home, you might share updates on Facebook, and you'll see each other when you can. But you will also make friends in your new home, find new interests, and develop other fulfilling relationships.

Football

You'll  have to give up easy access to the Packers, but you'll get FC Bayern München and Thomas Müller in exchange!

What could you do here?

  1. go to school (tuition fees are minimal - ca. €300 per semester)
  2. be an au pair (for a family with a child/children with disabilities)
  3. teach English
  4. live with us while you do volunteer work and search for a job
  5. develop an additional marketable talent - travel photography?  writing?

3 comments:

  1. I like this post! As someone that moved to go Germany to do my Master's (in a German program, no less) I am totally pro-studying in Germany. You should also remind her about the price difference between US and German schools (thousands of dollars per semester vs. a couple hundred Euros per semester).

    Also, there are tons of English programs in Germany. Unfortunately, I could not find one I loved, which is why I settled on a German program, but like you said, she can probably speak German well enough anyways (or at least better than me, and I got in).

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    1. I wasn't actually sure if tuition costs for Master's programs were low in Germany (as they are for college) until I read a recent post of yours, so thanks! I might have to add a paragraph to this post. :-)

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  2. To the daughter... Your mom makes some excellent points that, in my opinion, can't be argued with. I'm living in Germany and married to a German but only know about 20 words. If you know the language, you'll get along fabulously! Do it do it do it! :) Besides... German men are gorgeous. There's always that. ;) hehe.

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