Culture Shock- Germany vs. USA

expat, travel

Thinking of moving to Germany? Whether you’re moving abroad or simply looking to get informed before your next visit to Germany, there are a few cultural differences to you should know in order to be prepared. Here are some of the most interesting/surprising differences I’ve noticed while living abroad as an American expat in Germany:

Closing times – Depending on where you live, stores in Germany (esp. grocery stores) tend to close much earlier than American ones. Particularly in Bavaria, be prepared to deal with closing times as early as 8pm. Oh, and shopping for groceries on a Sunday? You can forget about that.

Grocery stores – Want to know another hilarious fun fact about German grocery stores? Self-bagging. Americans can consider themselves lucky to have someone bagging their groceries at the cashier. In Germany, it’s a race against the cashier to see if you can manage to bag your stuff as quickly as they scan it! Beware- I’ve had my fair share of angry stares when I didn’t bag my groceries fast enough. And god forbid you need to try and go back for an item you forgot! Most stores have a single pathway from entrance to exit- so don’t try going the wrong way or you’ll face the wrath of the Almans!

Strict rules – Speaking of doing things the wrong way- good luck trying NOT break any rules when you’re in Germany. From walking on the wrong side of the street to speaking too loudly on public transportation and/or asking too many questions about the menu at a restaurant, you can expect to see some raised eyebrows if you stick to your American habits while in Germany. Most Germans are not accustomed to the overly-friendly, inquisitive, chatty nature of Americans. Furthermore, if you walk into a restaurant expecting anything remotely similar to American service where “the customer is always right,” you might want to get a reality check. Germans may have a reputation for being “rude” in Americans eyes, but have you ever thought that maybe Americans are just a bit spoiled by our waiters’ forced smiles/getting custom orders every time we go out eat? (I’ll have one Venti-Skinny-Decaf-Soy-Cinammon-Dolce-Latte with 2 pumps of Vanilla and just a little bit of whipped cream, please)

Pharmacies – For Americans, pharmacies are gigantic- offering an assortment of medication but also groceries, alcohol, makeup, and more. The local German “Apotheke” offers only the essentials for medication, and would certainly surprise any American walking in and trying to grab their painkillers off the shelves. Here, you must request pretty much everything from your pharmacist and face some pretty skeptical stares if you order anything stronger than 400 mg of painkiller meds.

Paying in cash – I never thought this would be an issue when I moved here, but it’s very important to carry cash when you live in Germany! This is especially true when living in Bavaria, where many restaurants only accept cash. That can make for an awkward date when the bill arrives!

Beer – Need I say more? If you’re moving to Germany, be prepared to encounter a very heavy beer culture. Know the differences between Hell, Pils, Weizen, and more. If you’re not a fan of strong beer, try a Radler (that’s what it’s called in Bavaria)- it’s a refreshing mix of Sprite (or some kind of lemon soda) and beer. Not into alcohol? Stick to a delicious Apfelschorle- apple juice mixed with sparkling water. Prost!

Here’s a selfie of Florian and I enjoying some Augustiner beer at our local fair!

Weather – It shouldn’t be a huge shocker to anyone coming from states with seasons, but the weather in Germany gets cold. For someone like me coming from sunny California, the weather in Germany was surprising, to say the least. If you don’t have the stomach for the long, harsh winter months starting January and ending around mid-April (sometimes end of April! As the Germans say, “April, der macht was er will,” meaning “April does what it wants”), than you might want to think carefully before moving here. Most days tend to be cloudy, rainy, and snowy in the winter months. The best time to travel to Germany? Late April, early May, or even in September/October (Oktoberfest, anyone?).

Here’s a photo I took in Bamberg on a rainy day, just outside of a Birkenstock store!

Education – Are you also carrying around a good chunk of student debt? *Laughs in European.* Tuition is basically free in Germany, aside from the basic cost of like 100-200 euros just to cover university administrative fees as well as your semester ticket to use the buses/transportation. FYI- this is worth the price and actually an incredible deal, considering you’d typically pay 2-3 euros for a 10-15 minute bus/train ride.

Insurance/Public Benefits – Did someone say universal healthcare? Americans are quaking. Looks like someone is doing it right- Germany ensure everyone has basic human rights by covering their citizens’ healthcare and avoiding the chaos/anxiety/stress that many Americans face every day. Deutschland 1, USA 0 (because Americans are still dying due to lack of health coverage / starvation / homelessness / more).

Religion – We already touched on a bit of politics, now let’s cover religion! Overall, Germany is a pretty openly religious country, with predominately Catholic and Protestant influence, and (like most places in Europe) churches everywhere you look. Regardless of your opinion on religion, there’s one thing anyone who has been to Germany in December would agree makes it the most wonderful time of the year, and that’s the Christmas markets! Filled with various wooden booths selling candy, snacks, trinkets, and that oh-so-glorious Glühwein, the German Weinachtsmarkt / Chriskindlesmarkt is a must-see for anyone thinking of traveling to Germany.

What are some of the cultural differences you’ve noticed while in Germany?

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What I Learned After 6 Months at Adidas

career, expat

Working for one of the biggest global players in the sports/fashion industry alongside an epic international team- how can you top that?

I had come to the end of one of the best chapters of my life. After 6 months of working the job of my dreams flew by, one big question was on my mind: What’s next?

This uncomfortable realisation reminded me of two previous adventures- when I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia (4 months) and later when I lived with my boyfriend in Hannover, Germany (6 months). These seemingly tiny increments of time were actually long enough to where I could make the most out of my adventure, but could also feel like my adventure was cut short- just when I had started settling in and feeling like I was on a roll.

At the beginning of my internship, I certainly did not expect to get along so well with my team- and was pleasantly surprised when they became pretty much like extended family for me. I also didn’t know how intimately tied I would become with the Adidas brand. It became much more than just a sports brand. I quickly realized that for me, Adidas (both as an employee at the headquarters and as a loyal consumer) is a lifestyle. Diving deep into the company history, I learned that the brand represents a passion for staying active, consistent innovation, and pushing the boundaries of the present by leading with the future.

Although I still can’t fully answer the question of what is next in my career, I am confident that my time at Adidas and all of the hard work I put in will pay off. If this experience taught me anything, it’s that anyone can achieve their dreams if they continue to persevere. This means, not only believing that you will get your dream job, but also matching that mindset with clear actions.

Here are a few tricks I use to stand out as a candidate during my job search:

  1. Maintain a great profile online so that when people see you, they immediately want to work with you (LinkedIn, social media, etc.)
  2. Ensure your resume AND cover letters align with the job description and the company branding.
    • Ask yourself, do they want to see a super creative CV?
    • Or, is a clear, detailed list of your certificates/skills more important?
  3. Networking is key! Don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends, and previous colleagues to get some help during your application process.
    • One great way is to use LinkedIn to connect with people/companies you want to work with- but just make sure to be polite and not spam anyone!
  4. Apply, apply, and keep on applying!
    • As exhausting (and sometimes degrading) as the job search can be, you have to keep your options open, and don’t count on getting exactly the job you want- at least not right away.
    • Try creating an excel sheet or some kind of document to keep track of where you’ve applied, the status of the application, etc. This will help as interviews start coming around!
  5. Be realistic!!!
    • Keeping tip #4 in mind, you have to also make sure you are honest with yourself about whether or not you REALLY want to work at the places you’ve applied.
    • No matter where you end up working, make sure that it’s doing something you enjoy! There’s nothing worse than working somewhere you don’t even want to be.

The hard truth is, you may not be able to “top” these epic experiences of your life. But you have something to look forward to- you will always hold these adventures as reference points to help drive you forward in your quest for the next best thing.

Have you ever felt this way while living abroad as an expat, participating in a study abroad program, or during an internship/part-time role at a company you love? What were some of the ways you coped afterwards, and where are you now?

Leave a comment below to let others know about your experience!

Life Update: How I Got an Internship at Adidas

expat, life update, mental health

You might think that spending months without having to go to work everyday sounds like heaven. Well, I’m here to tell you firsthand that it’s not- especially when you’re living as an expat in a new country. My journey so far here in Germany has been a rollercoaster of emotions, a never-ending search for jobs, and- to top it all off- a heaping dose of homesickness. Though I enjoyed having the liberty to work freelance for several months, I learned the hard way that staying at home most of the week was not good for my mental health.

Since I live in the heart of Franconia- just around the corner from Nuremberg- I am also situated next to some of the biggest companies in Germany (Adidas, Siemens, Puma, GfK, and more). So when I first arrived in Germany, I thought: “Lucky me! It’s going to be super easy to get a job at one of these English-speaking German companies.” Little did I know that the competition to work for a renowned company like Adidas was fiercer than I anticipated. Not only are people applying from within Germany and Europe- but from all around the world!

Photo from the day of shooting the Adidas application video

My first attempt at applying was for a traineeship in corporate communications. I put all of my effort into the required video application- creating my own script and even trying some new video editing techniques to make it vintage/80s style. Unfortunately, I eventually received an email that I didn’t get the job. Not only was I rejected, but I felt incredibly disheartened that I didn’t get any feedback on a video that I had put so much work into.

At first, I wanted to bury my old application video and prevent it from ever seeing the light of day. But now I’ve realized that it was good practice for me to begin aligning myself with the Adidas brand and it might actually help others who are thinking of applying or who need to make an application video! Check it out below.

After I swallowed my shame, I decided that no matter what I would keep trying until I got a position at Adidas- even if it took me a year (which it almost did). I constantly re-made my resume, researched what others did to get a job at Adidas, and looked for any constructive feedback I could find to improve my chances of getting hired.

Once we hit the middle of summer, my heart began to sink and I really lost hope in any possibility of working at Adidas. But then, completely out of the blue, I got an email about scheduling an interview! I felt overjoyed but once again didn’t get my hopes up because I had no idea if I’d get a call back after the interview. Turns out, I got along so well with the woman from HR on the phone that I was immediately asked about the second interview.

Originally, I wasn’t sure about what to wear to the interview- so I asked my neighbors and friends that work at Adidas. I settled on a sporty dress with my favorite bright pink Adidas sneakers (see photo below)- though I was pretty tempted to go all-out Adidas and wear my belt bag and a more formal black dress. Settling on the striped dress was a great choice because of the sweltering summer heat that day. Comfortable shoes were also smart, as I would be walking A LOT since we’re still saving up to get a car.

With Herzogenaurach (the city of the German Adidas headquarters) roughly a 30 minute drive away, I decided to do my second interview in person. As I pulled up to the campus, I got chills on my arms and felt incredibly excited about the prospect of working there. The Adidas outlet store and the giant Arena building just blew my mind. I had no idea the size of the campus was so huge! I saw people walking by wearing Adidas sweatpants, loose shirts, and even Adidas slides on their feet- and I couldn’t wipe the grin off of my face. Not having to wear tight business clothes or worry about planning outfits every day? This was my kind of workplace.

Side view of the outlet store from the bus stop where I was waiting

The interview was unlike any other interview I’ve done- we walked around the campus, grabbed something to drink at the cafeteria, and went outside to talk. I absolutely loved how there were power outlets everywhere- even on the tables outside. Working is not limited to the four walls of an office, and the beautiful architecture of the campus offers inspiration everywhere you look.

I was really excited to tell them about my career experience and get to know what they liked about working at Adidas. Interestingly enough, they wanted to know more about my personality and personal life than anything else. I couldn’t be happier to share my story, and it started to feel like a conversation with friends- making me feel even more comfortable. We got along really well, and I was so excited to find out whether or not I got the internship.

One of the things I tend to do (as someone with anxiety) is tell myself I am not worthy of certain things- especially big things like working at a company so amazing as Adidas. These toxic thoughts are something everyone goes through- so just know that if you’ve also had them, you’re not alone. I worked hard for almost a year trying to get this position, and did it all on my own. I told myself that regardless of whether I got the job or not, I would continue trying and take this as just another step closer to where I wanted to work.

Once I found out that I was hired, it took a lot for me to really congratulate myself and believe that it was real. Even now, I am sitting here in awe that my efforts finally paid off. It’s important to appreciate yourself and every little effort you put into life because there is no point in always doubting your potential.

The other day, I read a post on Instagram that my friend shared saying “We are so used to just being thankful for the chance to succeed that we have not learned to acknowledge and celebrate that we DESERVE success.” This is especially relevant to me, as an American Latina and daughter of immigrants, to embrace my success and know that I, too belong at the table.

I am so excited to start this new journey of my life, and really grateful I can use this platform to share my stories with you. What are some things you’re excited about in life right now? Comment below and stay tuned for the next blog!