Hi! I’m Anika. I grew up in a suburb northeast of Houston, Texas, but moved out when I turned 18. I lived in Austin for university, studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia (where I got bit by the travel bug), and moved to San Francisco with my degree in hand and a job with Americorps to start my career. Since then, I’ve lived in Austin (again), Washington, DC, and currently, Mainz, Germany. I love to travel, although the arrival of my 2 sons (now 5 and 2.5) has slowed it down a little. I love writing, and wanted to make sure I kept a log of my favorite travel memories –hence, the blog!
1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband and I had both really wanted to live abroad “someday”. We were both on the job market, and he got his ‘dream’ job in Mainz, Germany. I figured I could make something work, and that it may be our best chance at living overseas. We didn’t own a house, have kids, or have much debt. We still had (have?) a sense of adventure and wanting to explore Europe. We didn’t speak German, but we were up for the challenge!
2. How do you make a living ?
I work full-time for the German office of the American software company where I’ve worked for the past 11 years. I had actually quit the company before we moved here, but used my network of prior colleagues to find connections locally to Mainz, and found a role that fit my interests & career goals quite well. I manage customer escalations, and serve as a kind of mediator between customers and our internal teams. The best part: I work across all of Europe, from my home office. The flexibility is awesome.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I talk to my mom, dad, and brother, almost daily. And I’m in touch with old friends here and there, usually when we are planning a trip where someone lives. We’ve become close to friends who moved from the US abroad around the same time, and have kids around the same ages as ours – and meet in new places when we can. Between Facetime and Whatsapp, we are keeping Apple and Facebook in business – I use them both so much on a daily basis, it’s crazy! But home is such a fluid concept for me – it’s not really Houston, even though I have people there. Now Mainz is home. And I’m lucky to have ‘my people’ in so many different places all over the world.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Germany?
So many things. Quality of life here is so high, and personal /family time is really valued. When I delivered my sons, I remember feeling so sad that no one around here reached out for a full week – but I later learned that my friends were trying to respect my privacy and enjoyment of the only time our family would just be ‘us’. It was so special to think of it that way.
The weekly markets are also insane- I love that I can access seasonal, fresh fruits and veggies multiple times a week, direct from the farm (and some sellers even know me by name!). It makes my food taste better, and I’ve learned a ton about seasonal eating and healthy cooking. There is so much more than schnitzel and bratwurst to enjoy here.
I also love the access to basically anywhere in Europe. I’m a 25 minute train ride to one of the busiest airports in the world – we can go nearly anywhere by plane or train! Finally (man, I could go on…), I love how so much is made here. Even at Aldi, a good chunk of what they sell is made in Germany. I really appreciate knowing that what I buy was made by people who earned a living wage, is contributing to the country’s economy, and is (maybe just my opinion) of a reasonable quality. And I don’t even have to try that hard to find ‘locally made’ products!
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Germany?
As an Indian American, I feel somewhat lonely here sometimes. I’ve struggled to find a cultural community with which I can identify or even celebrate holidays like Diwali. The flip side of it, is that I’ve had the chance to introduce my friends here – wherever they’re from – to our culture. And it’s fun to share my food, holidays, music, movies, etc… and learn from the various cultures we are exposed to here, too. Another upside: everyone knows who we are in our neighborhood. Sometimes it’s nice to be different.
6. What do you miss most?
6 years into this gig, and I miss less and less about the US. If you stay anywhere long enough, I guess you just get used to things (and also, I finally found good corn tortillas here!).
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
My friendships evolved from when I came here and only made expat friends, to having only friends from other countries who ‘married in’, to finally having friends who just live nearby and have kids the same ages as mine.
Honestly, the flip switched when I had kids! I took some baby/mom classes where I met a wonderful mom friend, who introduced me to a whole crew of mom friends. We live within four blocks of each other, meet often for playdates or mom nights out, and get on swimmingly. It’s been a lifesaver – when I was a new mom, now as a working parent, and to help me feel like I finally have real friends – and am truly integrated to life and culture here. I decided to stop trying so hard to make friends who I thought were like me (expats) and just sort of exist where I live – and it’s worked really well.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Air conditioners do not make you sick! It’s a myth I just can’t wrap my head around. I’m running the a/c right now so that I can tolerate being inside my warm house, and it is gloriously cool.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
German customer service is an oxymoron. Once I learned how to speak politely in German (surprisingly, not that easy!), people were so wonderfully nice & responsive. Whether I’m on the phone or asking for help in a store – it’s way easier to ask for help here and get it than I ever thought – and I would say it’s on par or better than my experience with American customer service. Also phone wait times here are (generally, though I’m looking at you Telekom) way less.
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?
It’s much lower. We pay much less in rent for much more space & access to an urban / semi-urban environment. We have great public transportation connections too – at a reasonable cost once you figure out how the monthly pass system works. Granted, we were most recently in San Francisco and Washington, DC, but even compared to places in Texas, things cost a lot less here. Some things cost more – but it’s usually because they’re higher quality. Salaries are generally lower than in the US but I found once I added back in the health insurance, cost of living difference, and additional benefits (paid parental leave, lots of paid holidays, paid sick leave, free daycare), it’s no contest. I’m way more relaxed about money here – even with 2 kids!
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Give it time. I was impatient in the beginning, and really wanted a plan for when we would move back. I wish I’d had a slower approach to enjoy our time here – I knew even then it wouldn’t be forever – I would have saved myself a lot of stress about when we would need to plan our move back ‘home’. And maybe I would have figured out earlier that there’s nothing wrong with living as if you’re permanent in a place, even if you aren’t – it changes how you approach your cultural adaptation and relationship forming in a big way.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started writing when I moved to DC as a way of documenting life as ½ of a married couple. I wanted to remember our adventures together, remind myself why I liked traveling and exploring, and share some of my favorite experiences with whoever’s reading!
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