Gyo has found her multi-cultural groove
Gyo (AKA Gyovanna) is a badass Latinx American woman living and working in the area of Nürnberg, Germany. She’s been living in Germany for 3.5 years, and in the Nürnberg area for 3 of those. She currently works at Adidas as Manager Digital Content Planning at Adidas. (No, you can’t have her discount code!!) She’s a travel lover and enjoys exploring new places with her German partner, but also loves staying at home to snuggle with her two cute cats. When she’s not working, you can find Gyo doing yoga, going out with friends, gaming, or scrolling through TikTok. (relatable)
Not only is Gyo a baddie – she has a podcast where she talks about travel, wellness, and self-improvement. Make sure you check out her podcast ‘Life’s a Trip’ here!
What initially brought you to Germany? And is it why you’re still here?
Initially a big part of me moving here was because of my boyfriend (now my fiancé) combined with my personal and professional life. We tried long distance for 2 years and it was getting difficult to balance that on top of working full time after grad school. As soon as I moved to Germany, it wasn’t very easy to find my groove- but now that I have built my career and found a great social circle, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. For the time being I definitely see myself staying here, but I’m open to anything the future holds.
What do you love most about living in Nürnberg/Germany?
I love how Nürnberg is a combination of old and new – it’s full of history and yet the diversity of the people living here keeps it exciting and fun. Germany is certainly different culturally to what I grew up with, but the country is beautiful and the people are incredibly loyal and have an invaluable lust for life.
Let’s talk about your German language-learning journey. How did you start, how has the process been, how do you feel about your abilities now, etc.
I started learning German at the basic level (A1) in late 2016, a little less than a year after meeting my fiancé. Upon moving to Germany in 2018 I took some intensive German language courses, earned my B1 level TELC certification, but then stopped midway through my B2 course in order to start working at Adidas. Ironically, I didn’t really need German to work at Adidas since it’s an international company and we speak English at the office anyway. Overall, the process was quite tough – although I was already bilingual (speaking Spanish & English) before I started to learn German, it felt exhausting to try and rewire my brain and somehow fit a whole new language in there. I’m happy to say that now I feel much more confident and it’s really helped me settle in / become more independent over the years.
Can you tell us about a time where you said the wrong thing or misunderstood something in a funny way when speaking German?
Honestly, regardless of my level of German this still happens all the time and will probably keep happening – whether it’s me speaking or mishearing something. I think it was funny the first time I lived in Germany (back in 2016 I came to live with my fiancé in Hannover for 6 months) and I saw how obsessed people were (and still are tbh) with asparagus here. I had to chuckle to myself when I read a sign that said “EXTRA DICK” because I didn’t speak much German at the time. That’s my earliest “language fail” memory and still makes me laugh because it’s so silly now that I know it just means “extra thick”.
Do you have any favorite German word(s) or expression(s)? Why do you like it?
My favorite German expression is “Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof” because it was one of my go-to things to say in order to break the ice back when I couldn’t speak as much German. It’s such a random phrase when you translate it from German to English – “I only understand train station” – but it’s just a funny expression implying confusion, and honestly it’s quite appropriate when you are a beginner German speaker trying to make sense of it all.
You are from the Golden State of California, which is often romanticized because of the warm climate. How was it to adjust not only to the weather differences of Germany, but also the general cultural differences?
I get this question all the time, most Germans are like “Why would you leave California?!” It’s been a roller coaster getting used to the German winters and the culture, but I love having seasons and the spring and summertime make it super worth it to live here. There are so many gorgeous places to see here, regardless of the season. Although the German people might not be known for being as “warm” as Californians, I really admire their culture and respect for the rules, for those around them, and for time with family and friends outside of work. It’s something I’ve gotten so used to that when I went back to California to visit my family this year, I had a tremendous case of reverse culture shock and got super frustrated in my old hometown. Except for the food – sorry Germany, but I don’t think your Mexican food will ever be as good as the tacos in Los Angeles.
As expats/immigrants, we often have an identity crisis at some point because we are stuck between our home culture and the culture where we have moved to. Can you talk a bit about your identity journey and what it has been like as a Latinx American woman in Germany?
Identity is one of my favorite topics and I love chatting with expats/fellow first generation people about this! As someone with parents who came from countries outside of the U.S., I’ve never felt like I “belonged” in one place. It’s not a negative thing, more like I feel really lucky to be a “global citizen” and to have lived in / visited so many countries. I spent most of my childhood traveling with my mom around the world, so it’s actually quite fitting that I ended up falling in love with a foreigner and moving to a new country. I think my identity as a kid was the classic “all-American” but as I grew up, improved my Spanish, and learned more about my family and heritage (Mexico and Chile), I started to really embrace having multiple nationalities. I also think that moving here has helped me get a small taste of the huge struggle my parents went through with immigrating to the U.S. It’s very humbling and has helped me relate to them in a whole new way, and for that I’m extremely grateful. Without their experiences, sacrifices, and knowledge to guide me through the “Heimweh” (homesickness), I wouldn’t have the life that I do now. Three years later – I’m working for a German company and engaged to a German man, and I think it’s even cooler that I get to add another country to my identity and call this place home.
You have a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Are there any ways in which you apply the knowledge you gained from these studies in your everyday life?
Absolutely. My background in Anthropology comes from my mother – she is a PhD professor and has taught Anthropology at the community college and university level since I was a child. Some of my fondest memories are growing up watching these fascinating documentaries with primates and Jane Goodall, cultures that eat “bugs for breakfast”, or learning about evolution and the origins of humankind. I have always been curious about other cultures, that’s why cultural anthropology was a no-brainer for me to study as my major in college. I apply this knowledge not only when I’m traveling and trying to be respectful while learning about others, but even here in Germany in my personal and professional life. I believe as humans we can only be truly inclusive when we all become conscious of our cultural biases and avoid ethnocentrism – especially when living abroad.
Finally, in your opinion, what makes you a Power Frau?
It’s such an honor to be the “Power Frau” this month and I am loving this female empowerment! I like to think that at this stage in my life I’m finally coming full circle and using all of my experiences and knowledge to the fullest. I’ve achieved my dream career, I have an amazing partner who supports me (and who I’ll get to marry soon), and I’ve built a life for myself in a foreign country on top of learning a very difficult language. I’d love to take all the credit, but so much of this is thanks to my incredible network of friends and my supportive family. The world has changed so much in just the last couple of years, but I’ve tried to flip the script and use this time as motivation for me to embrace every moment I have and erase any expectations of what could happen next.