My name is Jenna Davis, I am a 26-year-old Canadian expat originally from Toronto, Ontario and now living in Düsseldorf, Germany.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I moved abroad for a reason that many other expats around the world might also be familiar to. I moved for love. I met my (German) husband almost 6 years ago while I was backpacking across South Africa during my very first press trip as an international travel blogger (I’ve now visited more than 50 countries). Two years later, I decided to make the big leap, quitting my marketing job in the city and moving to Germany to see how our relationship would blossom. So far, so good!
2. How do you make a living?
Unlike many other expats, I never found a job in the city that suited my passions (it’s also not a simple task to find a job in Düsseldorf as an international either). Instead, I allowed myself to build up a travel blog that would serve as my resume and allow me to work for tourism companies around the world as a Content Creator, Social Media Manager and Blogger Relations Consultant. For the last few years, I have been making my living off of working online as a freelancer.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Facebook, 100%. I know I should pick up the phone more often and give my grandma a call, but the long distance calls and time difference often plays a big part in why I so often head to Facebook to keep in touch with my loved ones. I try to make 1-2 trips back home each year to ensure that my friends and family haven’t disowned me for being so distant, but it’s always the #1 jot note on my bucket list each and every year:
#1 Make more time in my week to Skype/Facebook Video with my family and friends back home.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Germany?
I feel like I’m at the center of the world. Countries that were once out of reach for me while living in Canada, have now become weekend trips. It is incredible how affordably and easily you can travel to a new place while living in Europe. The Düsseldorf Airport is just a tram ride away!
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Germany?
Whether I wanted it or not, living in a new country brings a lot of culture shocks. One culture shock I’ve never gotten used to while living in Germany is the lack of smiles around the streets. The food is similar, the prices are similar, the opportunities are similar… but the one thing I miss the most is having someone smile at me while walking down the street and waving a friendly “Hello! How are you?”
I often believe that the world could be a much brighter, better place if people were more friendly. Wave hello! Say thank you! Smile as you pass by! These small things in life make a big difference in my day-to-day happiness.
6. What do you miss most?
My family. I often say that while Canada is a truly amazing country, the opportunities in Europe feel endless. If I wasn’t living in Germany, I’d probably head to another new country for new experiences (Austria or Netherlands, perhaps?). I just wish I could fit my whole family in my pocket and bring them along for the ride. Plus, peanut butter and poutine… I could use a little more Canadian peanut butter and poutine in my life!
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I crawled my way through hundreds of websites, Facebook groups, meetup.com events and organization pages to find my place here in Düsseldorf. I joined as many events as I could, and visited 1 new place everyday. Sadly, I still found there to be a huge lack in information for English speaking expats in Düsseldorf, which led me to create the now very successful blog - Life in Düsseldorf.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Oh boy! This is the wrong question to ask a girl who has written a post about 20 of the most bizarre things about the German lifestyle (and counting). Where do I start? The strange square pillows, the separate mattresses on the king bed (though I love it now), the milk and eggs out of the fridge, the mindblowing amount of alcohol consumption on any given day, the massive toilet flush buttons, the terrifying Silvester (NYE) firework traditions…. the list goes on!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I’ve got to go with the common “trains always run on time” assumption. I’m not saying that the Deutsche Bahn (DB) is a bad organization, they’re not (the free wifi on ICE’s are amazing, the staff are often friendly and they’re pretty luxurious compared to other trains)... however, the trains running throughout Germany are more often than not, late.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of an apartment rental is about the same, the cost of clothing, household goods and electronics is often more expensive, and the cost of fresh groceries is often cheaper. I’d say all in all, I haven’t noticed much of a difference in my life in regards to the cost of living, though I have adopted an interest in dining out (too often) and have seen a decline in my bank account since then.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
No matter where in the world you decide to move, you are always going to face barriers, challenges and unbelievable culture shocks. The important thing to remember is that you need to create a life you enjoy living. Düsseldorf is well-known to be the fashion and art capital of Germany… I’m not a fashion or art fan myself. However, I managed to find beautiful places to hike, awesome second hand shops and flea markets to visit and neat ways to keep busy. I created my perfect life, and I believe everyone can, no matter where in the world you are, you just need to have a little bit of creativity and imagination.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
As mentioned in question #7, when I arrived in Düsseldorf 3 years ago, there was a huge lack of English language information online.
However, I wasn’t really inspired to do anything about it until I watched a number of my new friends get up and leave. They’re still leaving. Expat life isn’t for everyone, but some of these people left simply because they couldn’t find their rhythm in the city. I did, because I knew if I wanted my marriage to work, I needed to embrace the city I was living in (my husband’s hometown). But for the people who didn’t feel a need to stay in Düsseldorf, the simple solution was to get up and leave.
I wanted to create a blog that would inspire them to stay, to explore the new and unseen and to join an international community filled with amazing people. The blog has now been up and running for almost 2 years and has an average of 15,000 visitors each month (locals, expats and travellers)!
Jenna's blog, Life in Düsseldorf
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