The sassy and self-taught Jennifer
If you meet Jennifer and think she has a RBF, that’s because she does.
But that’s OK. She knows it.
Don’t let that RBF fool you though. Jennifer is sweet and loyal, trustworthy and smart. She would do anything to help her friends and loves a good adventure, whether planned or spontaneous. Aside from her being a close personal friend of mine, I found her a great fit for the first Power Frau to feature in this series because of these reasons and many more.
Without further ado, enjoy the first installment of the Power Frau series and have fun getting to know a bit about Jennifer and how she navigates life in Germany and learning German!
Originally from Ireland, Jennifer is a 20-something Product Manager in AdTech Software. She’s been living in Hamburg (and Germany as a whole) for about 6 years and in her free time she likes yoga, cooking, crafting, and wine.
What initially brought you to Germany? And is it why you're still here?
As for so many internationals here in Hamburg, I initially came to Germany for love. I arrived in 2014 for a fun-filled summer, only to find myself still here six years later. The relationship is no more but thankfully I fell in love with and made a home for myself in the beautiful city of Hamburg.
What do you love most about living in Hamburg/Germany?
So many things, it’s hard to pick just one thing. I love the culture of bars and restaurants in Hamburg. Everything really centralises around treating yourself and enjoying the finer things in life. Coming from Ireland, I really have a great appreciation for the public transport and health care systems that are in place. They really are crucial aspects to making your life easier and more carefree wherever you live.
I think one of the things I love most about Hamburg is the fact that there is water everywhere. From the Elbe and all of it’s Fleets to the Alster. You’re never far away from water which is extremely important to an islander like myself.
What is the hardest part about living in Hamburg/Germany?
I think cracking into German society to the point of feeling ‘accepted’ or ‘not just another expat’ is actually quite difficult. This is important because I think feeling integrated to that level is beneficial as it brings with it the confidence and skills needed to really get into the German language.
When you’re in groups of just internationals, it can be hard/not needed to practice German and even when there are Germans around it is very often that English is the common language, not German.
If you could change one thing about the expat/international life, what would it be?
One of the most difficult things about the expat/international life is the fleeting nature of it. You’re never really sure how long people are around for and where they’re off to next. Ironically of course that’s also one of the best things about it. However, that does mean, as an adult, you find yourself in the difficult situation of having to constantly make new friends or knowing that the friends you have now will leave at some point to either go home or off on another amazing adventure somewhere else.
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.
My German language-learning journey has been quite the rollercoaster ride. I did French in school, not German. So I really arrived here without any German at all. I can normally pick up words and phrases easily, but I definitely wouldn’t say I have a particular knack for or confidence in my foreign language abilities.
I spent a summer working in a restaurant and when it was quiet I would look through the menu and compare the English/German words to start learning some vocab. I followed that up with some very beginner classes at a German language school but I was a terrible student. I only ever did my homework on the day and I was always extremely tired going to class in the evening because I was also working full time.
I think for me the most productive part of learning the language came from watching ‘easy’ shows in German or spending time with German friends and their family where you’re forced to listen to and become accustomed to German.
My abilities are a lot better now than when I arrived of course and I can work in German, when needed. There are days where I am very confident and speak at ease on certain topics and other days where my brain malfunctions and you’d be forgiven for thinking I just arrived in Germany. But thankfully it’s more of the former and less of the latter.
Tell us about a time where you said the wrong thing or misunderstood something in a funny way.
For me umlauts have always posed a problem. For example, as soon as I learned how to pronounce ü, I could never order a ball of ice cream (Kugel) without throwing in some unnecessary umlauts and confusing everyone involved. Likewise, I repeatedly mixed up the words for night (Nacht) and naked (Nackt) and would wish people a good naked instead of good night.
What's your favorite German word(s) or expression(s)?
One of my favourite expressions is definitely ‘Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof’. I’ve no idea why but it just gives me the giggles. And anyone who knows me knows of my love for the words ‘Stimmt’ and ‘doch’. Stimmt is just so multifunctional and took me so long to get my head around when I first started learning the language. Any time I thought I’d figured it out, I’d hear it used in a new context which opened up the word even more. And well, the usefulness and sassiness of the word ‘doch’ needs no explanation.
Do you have any tips on how to make friends in Hamburg? After moving abroad?
That’s actually a very good question which also really depends on who you are as a person. So for me, a lot of the friends I have made here have been through work or friends of friends. Of course that’s not always an option as some people prefer to keep work and private separate, which is totally understandable. And in those situations there are always great opportunities in things like meetups or specific ‘events’ such as craft nights, workshops etc where I met one of my best friends here in Hamburg. Friend dating can be difficult, so I think if you meet someone you think is cool or want to hang out with again really try and get that contact, even just their social media if you don’t want to directly ask for their number. That way you have some avenue of reaching out to them instead of just waiting to see if they show up at another party or event.
What are some must-see spots in Hamburg/Germany?
I don’t know if I would have anything too original to add here but one pretty cool thing I did come across this summer are the sand dunes right in the city of Hamburg. In Boberger Niederung Nature Reserve you have sand dunes, a lake, a Flugplatz and much more which is quite a unique thing to see just a 20 minute ride from the Hbf.
Some of my favourite spots are of course the Alster for a little coffee or beer walk on a Sunday, exploring the cute and colourful streets in neighbourhoods like Sternschanze, Eimsbüttel or Eppendorf or heading down to Elbstrand or the Treppenviertel.
What's your go-to song that hypes you up and makes you feel like a Power Frau?
Oh that’s a good one. There are many songs that get me hyped up, for example Girls Just Want To Have Fun or raining men but if we’re talking hyped up and power Frau it’s gotta be Strong Enough or Woman’s World by Cher. If there’s ever the perfect example of a power Frau it’s gotta be the queen that is Cher.
Finally, in your opinion, what makes you a Power Frau?
That’s a hard one. And I will fully admit I’ve left this as the last question to be answered as I really wasn’t sure what to say. We’re all very quick to build up and praise our friends but it’s quite difficult to do the same for ourselves.
I suppose what makes me a Power Frau is my ability to adapt and overcome. Both personally and professionally. I spent a lot of time on a job and a study which didn’t work out as planned and now I’m working and thriving in an industry where everything was basically self-taught. Living abroad in the past years I’ve had many things which could be considered setbacks only to come back stronger and in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I think also living abroad away, from family and friends which you have depended on for most of your life, really forces you to embrace the strong, powerful independent side of yourself.