Where are you from, Jackie, and what are you doing nowadays?
I'm from California. Before moving to Germany, I was playing soccer on a semi-professional team and started with the Puerto Rico national team. I had just graduated with a Bachelors in Finance from California State University, East Bay, and was trying to plan the next 5 years of my life.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Germany?
I technically did not choose Germany, but my previous soccer agent negotiated a soccer contract with BV Cloppenburg (in Cloppenburg, Germany). I was open to anywhere in Europe, but was also glad I landed in Germany because my family has roots here and the Bundesliga is arguably the best women's league in the world.
As a US national, what where the procedures you had to follow to move there?
At the time, I did not have to really do anything except make sure my passport was valid. I was very thankful and lucky that my agent and club handled all of the particulars - living accommodations, transportation, health insurance, etc. This process, however, is extremely common and is done this way by almost all foreign players coming to Germany.
For others who are not playing sports here, you need to register with a health insurance (e.g. AOK, IKK, etc.), which will put you back about 180 Euro per month. Living accommodations are somewhat easy to find via newspapers and online listings. Make sure you go during the day (or at times when you are most sensitive) so you can hear how loud outside traffic is. I made that mistake before and did not check the noise levels. For transportation, if you do not have a car, the trams, Deutsche Bahn (German train) or bus lines are dependable and will take you pretty much anywhere.
How long have you been in the country?
Proudly since January 2011. It was my 5-year anniversary last week!
What has attracted you to Erfurt?
I have to be honest - Erfurt would probably not have been my first choice because there is no women's soccer here higher than the regional league. However, since my boyfriend also plays less than an hour away, we decided to make this beautiful, charming city our midpoint.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
I was blown away how traditional, yet picturesque the city is! I have heard from various people that Erfurt has the most breathtaking Altstadt in the country and after seeing 8 months of seasons here, I agree! It is wonderfully preserved and has a unique mix of modern life and old town feel. Also, I was taken back by how clean the city actual is! The Anger (the main shopping street) can have a few bumble gum wads on the ground here or there, but the rest of the Altstadt is so squeaky clean - even between the cobblestones and alley ways!
Was it difficult to find accommodation there?
Those bragging rights belong to my boyfriend. We researched the apartments together, but I had to travel to California right when we had to decide where to move. I was super bummed because I love moving (odd, I know). He went to seven different apartment appointments in two days and he found this beautiful, open apartment right by the Altstadt for us and his 2 cats.
What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
Every type is available. Studios, apartments, shared flats (WGs), condos, houses and gardens (some people find a way to live there, too).
In which field are you working? Is it easy for an expat to find a job there?
Since my arrival in Germany, I have been playing professional soccer. On the side, I have worked in reception and personal training - the latter of which I loved. I would say office jobs are somewhat easy to find if your German is above average, but you need certification for personal training positions in a fitness studio.
Oddly enough, since searching in Erfurt, I have had an extremely difficult time finding a part-time job and have had nothing but declinations to my applications. Employers have told me I am over-qualified with an MBA for such part-time work or my 10 possible working hours do not suffice for a marketing or office job.
How do you find the German lifestyle?
The lifestyle is pretty laid back. In the USA, we work extremely hard, but also partake in many leisure activities and know how to enjoy life. I feel like people here can have a normal job and still have no time for anything else. How? I do not know. I feel like in California, there is so much to do that my life starts only after work has ended! To be honest, I feel the weather also plays a huge role with people's moods and energy levels. There is another thing we do not use a lot in the USA - Krankenscheine (doctor's note for sick days). Sometimes it is unbelievable the amount of sick days people receive for no reason or for an ongoing illness that they could have stopped themselves.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
Arriving in Germany, I was in a town of 27,000 people. I definitely had to adjust to the small town atmosphere - it was a lot different than the metropolitan area of 12 million people of Los Angeles. For example, when I walked into a bakery everyone would stare for a good length of time, which is very rude to do in the American culture. In California, everyone minds their own business.
Driving was also different and a bit tedious at times. There are no cars, yet I cannot turn right on a red light? Or, I am in a lane that can only turn right, but I still have to use my blinker? The biggest traffic pet peeve of mine is when the Omas and Opas (grandmas and grandpas) yell at you for crossing the street when the light is red (only when there are no children present). Why do they always have to tell me what I am doing wrong? Never understood that.
The culture was also very different. Although introverted, I love to talk to people and know their backgrounds. Many people here do not go out of their friend circles, which makes it hard to know if people are unsocial or do not care for anything new.
What does your every day life look like in Erfurt?
During preseason, we have two daily trainings. So, I get up at 6.30 am to be at an 8.00 am training. Afterwards, I usually come home or stay with teammates. During the day, I am almost always working on my blog or running small errands. Everything is so conveniently in the Altstadt in Erfurt, so I can walk anywhere. Our second training is at 3.45 pm (6.00 pm during the winter months because we have to train on synthetic turf). When I come home, my boyfriend and I cook together, or sometimes he prepares dinner for us before I get home - so romantic! We both play soccer and are usually tired from training, so watching movies and resting our bodies is a pastime of ours.
Any particular experience in Germany you would like to share with us?
Berlin and Munich are must-see cities! Both are so different, but uniquely German. Driving through German's southern cities and exploring the villages is fun! You will not find more castles anywhere - except maybe France - and each town has its own flair. Like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, where Harry Potter was filmed, or Nuremberg, the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Erfurt?
Comparing it to Magdeburg and Cloppenburg, where I lived before, it is expensive. However, compared to California, it is cheap. We have more than enough space for two people and a fitness room. I live literally across the street from the Altstadt and have every store, cafe and restaurant at my fingertips. I think it is a fair cost of living considering Erfurt is a more affluent and touristy city than most.
Is it easy for an expat to live there?
Yes, very easy! Although I have a bit of a biased opinion because I know German, I believe many people speak English as well. It is a bit younger crowd, so there are always plenty of events to participate in. Fodors and Rick Steves have unique descriptions of the city.
How do you spend your leisure time?
My leisure time is usually spent writing, creative brainstorming or trying to figure out html coding, which is so hard by the way! After that, comes tea time (my favorite is the Numi White Rose Tea). I also like to read non-fiction with my Amazon Kindle.
Your favorite local dishes?
When I am watching my boyfriend play soccer, I love to eat Bratwurst (grilled sausage) in a bread roll with a dollop of mustard. The Grobe kind is my preferred sort, but it is rare that venders offer them. I guess many people do not like the extra density of the sausage. I also love the Erfurt mustard, which is great for dipping sauce and comes in so many flavors. Cognito on Hefengasse street is my favorite cafe. They make a tomato, coconut pasta dish with avocado and sesame seeds that I wish came in a larger portion. Last, but certainly not least, I cannot walk by the Goldhelm chocolate store without at least going in. Their handmade chocolate combinations and signature truffles are to die for! And the ice cream?! I ate it so fast, I got a brain freeze!
What do you like the most about Erfurt?
The Anger and Innenstadt are my favorite. Erfurt arguably has the best Innenstadt in Germany! It is quaint, traditional, almost car-free, clean and well-preserved. The canals are breathtaking with all of the buildings in the background and looks like perfect postcards every time I take a photo. There is definitely something for everyone - from elegant Michelin Star and fine dining restaurants to quick service and fast-food.
Tegut is also great! There are six locations in the city and two within 5 minutes walking distance from my house. It is a great mix between organic, alternative, natural and regular food items.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
The weather, the food and the culture. California has out-of-this-world, dream weather and there is something about the golden sun that always keeps me happy and energized. The food scene is spectacular as well. You can literally eat at a different ethnic restaurant every day of the month. California imports the best cuisine from all over the world. We are so spoiled, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I also miss the emphasis around natural, healthy food. So many people view America as hamburgers and french fries. However, California has such a green, fit food culture. I miss being able to buy a 3.50 Euro green juice or a vegan chia seed coconut pudding. The culture is just - California. Laid back, yet vibrant. Suburban, yet urban. Structured, yet creative. Young, yet classic. Dreaming, yet driven. I think it is not a coincidence that the major digital influencers (e.g. Apple, Facebook, eBay and Amazon) of recent time have all grown and made home in California.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Erfurt?
Do your research beforehand. Try to go to the city if you are relocating within Germany. Save your money for traveling! No piece of clothing, decor or shoes is worth the experiences you will gain when traveling. Embrace everything new. Travel far enough until you meet yourself.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to have my German C2 certificate before summer. By early summer, I would like to have the next few years of my life organized and have an action plan. Within a few years, I will move back to California and start another chapter there. Hopefully, in a sunny loft in Santa Monica or Manhattan Beach.