Teacher and researcher in one of Bremen's universities, but also blog writter, Mandi lives in Germany since 2008. She gives us her vision, as an American expat, about the country of Goethe.
Native Seattleite, former Brooklynite, now living in Germany. Traveling. Running. Photographing. Living.
Hi Mandi, can you introduce yourself and tell us what's your actual project in Bremen?
I am an American originally from Seattle, who arrived in Germany in 2008 by way of New York. I earned my Ph.D. in Sociology about a year and a half ago, and am currently teaching and researching at one of Bremen's universities.
You've been already in two other countries as an expat (Greece and Uganda), how was it like?
I was born indeed born in Athens, but my American parents returned to the US when I was still a toddler, so I don't have any memories from Greece. Even so, the country has a special place in my heart! After university, I spent a year volunteering for an AIDS organization in Kampala, Uganda's capital city. That experience certainly shaped me as a person and taught me how to be open to new cultures and ideas.
Why did you choose to live in Germany?
I was awarded a year-long fellowship to conduct a research project in Hamburg. Long before my fellowship came to an end, I had already decided to try to stay in Germany as long as I could!
What happened after you reached Germany? How was your integration?
My first few months in Germany were spent in intensive language courses sponsored by my fellowship, and then on a study-tour of Bonn and Berlin. For me, this was the ideal way to begin my time in Germany and helped lay the foundation for a smooth transition into German society. Even so, I would say that my first year in Germany was tough emotionally. Speaking German every day at work in Hamburg and in my day-to-day life was really exhausting, but it ultimately proved to be the best method for developing fluency. And it made it easier for me to build a network of German friends!
How could you describe german culture?
This is a hard question to answer because there is no one German culture! My experience has mostly been in the North, which is quite different from the South or the former East German. For example, in the North there is a strong Maritime tradition -- no one wears Lederhosen and most think Oktoberfest and Karneval are silly! But in any case, I would say that as compared to the US, there is a strong sense of solidarity and taking caring of those in society who are in need, there is more concern for taking care of the environment and saving energy, and friendship and loyalty are taken very seriously. But again, these are only based on my experiences and are over generalizations -- there are always exceptions to the rule!
Wich part / city of Germany do you like the most? Why?
I am certainly biased, but I am fond of Northern Germany. I have lived in Hamburg, Berlin, and Bremen and find that they all somehow fit well with my love of harbors, water, and big cities. They say that Northerners are a bit more reserved than those in Southern Germany, but it suits me just fine and I have made some of my closest friends here!
Through your blog, you speak about your expat life, what inspire you to write your articles?
In the first years after I arrived in German, I wrote mostly about typical experiences and obstacles facing expats living in Germany -- like learning the language, culture shock, etc. These days, those types of topics are less relevant in my life, but I still try to write posts that might be helpful for others looking for information. For example, my post on taking the Goethe-Zertifikat C1 is one of the biggest draws to my website!
Any advices for a soon-to-be expatriate in Germany?
My top tip for those coming to Germany is to invest lots of energy into learning the language. It's really the key to adapting to the culture as smoothly as possible!