It was a cold evening in April 2012 when I arrived at Tegel Airport. I have decided to move to Berlin; I have decided to start my expat life in Germany. I packed my 2 suitcases not only with clothes but also with big dreams and challenges. Little I knew about the real personal, professional, and cultural challenges that this decision will represent; however, I felt ready to leave my family, my lovely mom, and start from scratch this new adventure.
Since I was a little child, I have always admired Germany. Apart from its “cold” culture, language (even if it sounds rude for many people), football, economy, Germany always fascinated me due to its organization, long-term planning perspective and entrepreneurship. Today, 1 October 2020, and after 8 years living in this country, I am receiving the official document that certifies that I am now German. My Latin roots will never disappear, neither my love and appreciation for Colombia, but surely since 2012, Germany stole a piece of my heart. In commemoration of this day, I want to share some bits of my expat life in Germany.
My expat life in Germany started with my desire to have a challenge.
I have always been a person who likes challenges. In fact, I feel empty if my personal and professional life does not offer opportunities to grow and learn something new every day.
Many people have asked me why I decided to move to Germany and if this decision was linked to a German guy. The truth is that I moved to Berlin, not for love but to study for my Master’s. Later on, I stayed because of the career opportunities that the country gave me, and I decided to become German because I fell in love with the culture of its people, so much that it felt right to have a family here.
If we go back to the roots, I decided to start my expat life in Germany and study for my Master’s in Berlin because I wanted a challenge. Back in 2012, I did not speak or understand the German language, so I took it as the perfect opportunity to grow personally and professionally; in the end, the best way to evolve is through sorting out our needs. I knew it would be difficult, and it will represent many sacrifices, but I also knew that my discipline would pay back as soon as I started my life there.
And so it was, the adventure started, and with it, my plan to make the most out of the experience. From learning about German culture to expanding my social and professional network, I had a plan and a bag full of goals, and I was determined to achieve them! Below I share a bit of what I did, which goals I had and how I filled my first days living as an expat in Germany.
My goals and personal growth plan as an expat in Germany
I dream big, and I like to do things right and with passion. I saw my life abroad as an opportunity filled with excitement and a chance for a bright, happy future. Below I share what I had in mind back in time :
Learn as much as possible about German culture
I lived in Berlin, a city with an interesting culture and a rich history. I definitely wanted to know as much as possible about my host city and country. Back then, I remembered I focused on:
- Interacting as long as possible with Germans.
- Visit museums of German history.
- Take elective classes in German culture, history and language.
- Be brave and talk to people about the country, traditions and culture.
- Read books on German history, especially Berlin history.
- Go to every historic corner of Berlin and review materials about events that occurred there.
- Travel and see important places and events in Germany.
Learn German language and be able to communicate at an optimal level
What is to be in a country if you cannot express yourself, your needs, communicate, write, read and be independent language-wise? To tackle this issue, I focused on:
- Speaking German on the street, even if in Berlin, most people speak English or Spanish.
- Read books in German.
- Read every single piece of advertisement I saw on the streets and do my best to understand its message.
- Have a tandem partner with whom to practice the language.
- Listen to the radio and watch television in German.
Professional development in a new country
I have always been ambitious, so finishing my Master’s degree wouldn’t be enough if I really wanted to develop myself professionally. I set up for myself the following goals:
- To graduate from my master’s degree with grades above average
- Choose my areas of expertise carefully based on personal interests but also market trends. In the end, I chose entrepreneurship, change management, multicultural management, online marketing and digitization. I could not be happier with that decision!
- Join a company to put into practice all the knowledge learnt at University.
- Lead new projects related to my areas of interest at work.
- Take online courses to keep updated with trends, particularly online marketing, that passionate me so much.
- Apply all my knowledge about entrepreneurship and digital marketing to help start-ups and offline business start their online strategy
Creating a network of people
Humans are social creatures; there is nothing more satisfactory than connecting people, belonging to a community and supporting each other’s success. So I decided to invest my time in:
- Volunteer work in social activities at my University
- Attending extracurricular events and activities (sports, art, dance, language classes, etc.)
- Joining groups of people interested in common topics such as learning German, art, international cuisine, globalization, sports, etc.
- LinkedIn to keep in touch with people I meet at personal and professional events
- Building my personal brand and identity
After living 8 years in Germany, I often get 2 questions: Being a Latina, how have I managed to live for so long in such a “cold culture”? If I am totally Germanized by now?
There is an obvious answer to the first question: I do like and enjoy German culture, particularly the value they give to privacy and long-term strategic planning. The second question is a bit trickier since the answer is yes and no. I have surely learnt a lot from Germans, took over something from their personalities and adapted myself to their way of living; however, deep inside me, there is always a Latin heart. My Latin roots will always call me to speak loud, dance until morning light, enjoy more music in Spanish, do things with an intense passion and have a warm heart and charisma. My purpose is not to behave like a 100% German but to enrich my life with their behaviour, traditions, projects and contribute to a harmonious and productive society.
Today, after 8 years living in Germany, I consider myself very lucky: I dreamed big, and I gave my life to pursue those dreams. I feel proud of the courage that has brought me to where I am today. Now I remember a quote from Elon Musk saying that “when something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour”. That is exactly what I did! Despite the tight deadlines to apply to German Universities back in 2012 and the high probability of playing against me, I worked hard, and I did it! I may have become more punctual, more efficient, more direct, perhaps more strict with my life planning, but overall I have become (so far) the woman I dreamed of.
The chapter I shared here was only the start; my adventure in Germany continues, now as a businesswoman, entrepreneur and recently mom. I hope that sharing my experience inspires others to take personal, professional and cultural challenges positively. Whether it is to change jobs, start a project, start your studies, dive into a new hobby, move to another city or country, my invitation is to take on challenges with love and self-confidence.
I invite you to check this article (in Spanish) to learn more about the challenge of living in Germany. If you want me to share more about my life in Germany or talk about a particular topic of expat life, please free to write in the comments below or send me an email!