Steffi asks the questions we're all thinking
Steffi is a Copywriter & Social Media Manager from England, working mostly for the automotive and tech industry. She’s been living in Bavaria (near Augsburg) for about 3 years and absolutely loves any and all mountains. When she’s not working or checking out the mountains, you can find her doing something sporty (isn’t the hiking already sporty enough? lol) or blogging. She also enjoys buying books and reading books – two VERY different hobbies, she assures me.
Keep reading to find out about Steffi’s journey to Germany, what blog topic rustled some feathers, and how she finds the motivation to keep going when it comes to learning this good ol’ German language.
Check out Steffi’s blog here!
What initially brought you to Germany? And is it why you’re still here?
I moved with my best pal and boyfriend (they’re the same person) after he got a job offer here. Unfortunately, his first employer ended his contract after only four months, but we decided to stick around for a bit and see what happened. In our hearts, we kind of felt like Germany wasn’t quite finished with us yet. Turns out we were right!
What do you love most about living in Bavaria/Germany?
The people (for the most part) are super friendly and welcoming! The nature here is obviously a massive plus. I love to be in, near or on the water so all the lakes and clear rivers are amazing! I don’t think I’ll ever swim in a pool again. And it’s got lots of small towns, even the cities are small which is perfect for me because I’m really not a big city kinda gal.
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.
HAHAHA 😂 German and I have a love-hate relationship. Prior to moving to Germany, I didn’t know any German, save for a few basic swear words. Honestly, I had a constant headache for the first 6 months of learning the language. It’s difficult, especially because until this point I was monolingual. However, there came a point when it suddenly felt like it just clicked. After that, I fell deeply in love with it. I completed A1 & A2 in a language school and I’ve been taking Adhoc private conversation lessons for about a year now. I can get by pretty well. I’d say I’m sitting at a comfortable B1 level, maybe even low B2. I understand A LOT more than I speak which is super frustrating because I want to have a coherent conversation with people but I sound like a child when I talk! However, I’ve noticed a definite decline in my skills since beginning my new job which is conducted almost entirely in English. So my goal this year is to go back to school and actually complete a B1 or maybe B2 exam.
Do you have any favorite German word(s) or expression(s)? Why do you like it?
The basics are the best, in my opinion. I really overuse Genau, Warum, Wieso and that lovely filler Ach so! So much so that I actually integrate them into my English speaking now, especially if I’m on autopilot. I did it with my sister last week on a video call and she was terribly confused, bless her.
Two more that have been pretty useful given the mean German winters are: Arschkalt and Zwiebelschalenprinzip.
Have you had any funny fails or experiences while learning German that you can share?
Ohhh yes! One that sticks in my mind because my good friend (and neighbour) will not let me forget it, is when I moved here, I thought the supermarket REWE was pronounced like “ROO-AY” which actually sounds a little like another German word, Ruhig.
What are some of your favorite ways to learn and practice German? (I think you may have some media recommendations for us. 😉)
There’s the obvious app with the terrifying owl that everyone knows about. And, of course, you can take German courses through your local Vhs (Volkshochschule) for a very good price.
My favourite way to practice is definitely through private lessons online (italki is my favourite site – it’s flexible and affordable!) or forcing myself into situations where I have to speak the language.
My favourite way to learn is through watching or listening to things – YouTube channels, TV Shows, movies, podcasts, comedians. It’s not like we’re short on choice these days!
Another great way is through dual language books, where one page is in English and the second is in German. I’ve got Mark Twain’s essay “die schreckliche deutsche sprache” and my friend bought me the Grimm fairytales in the dual-language edition. Both have been a great help and I can read out loud to myself to practice pronunciation.
You also run your own blog talking about culture, language, and travel. Where do you get your inspirations to write on your blog?
Most of them come from my own experiences with learning languages or cultural differences, but I do also draw inspiration from posts I see online or questions other people ask me.
I did a more serious two-part series last year after the EM2020 about why Europe seems to hate the English. That got a fair bit of backlash from my English friends and family, but I felt it was important to have that open conversation and it was something I really enjoyed doing. I’d like to do more writing like that.
You started a series on your blog called ‘What the f*** is an Expat Coach?’. Without giving too much away, what is your goal with this series and what has been your biggest learning so far?
So this series has now finished (for now!) but it was really interesting to conduct!
My goal was to give a more honest and open explanation as to a) what an Expat Coach is and does and b) the different types of Expat Coaches out there.
I’m naturally sceptical of anything “new” and I remember shortly after I moved to Germany, there seemed to be this boom of Coaches appearing on the Internet, particularly Instagram. Coaching is a largely unregulated industry and I’ve had bad experiences with “health/fitness coaches” in the past who were completely unqualified to give advice.
There’s very little information about what exactly an Expat Coach is online. I don’t count “coaching for expats” or “helping expats find their way” as helpful information. So my goal was to give coaches the platform to really explain their work and why they do it.
I also wanted to address the definition of an expat, because it’s an ongoing topic of conversation and, again, I think it’s a very important one to be having. I’m in the process of writing a post about my top learnings from this series so I’ll leave it at that!
You recently started a new career path! Since you’re still fresh in the super fun Probezeit (probationary period), do you have any tips for other internationals starting a new job in Germany or going through the application process?
Be patient and be persistent. It’s hard to hear and can feel a bit rubbish when you’re going through the process (believe me, I know) but hold on.
I’d also recommend building a community of other internationals that have been here for a while. They’ve been through the experience and can advise you or lend a friendly, sympathetic ear. That’s actually how I got my new job – through my wonderful little Instagram community!
What would you say goes into your thought process when you think about staying in Germany long-term versus potentially moving back to the UK?
I go through this thought process about 8 times a year. Economically, politically, and professionally, Germany is the best place for me to be right now. But I miss my friends, my family are all getting older and, of course, there’s the language barrier. Everything has an added layer of complication in Germany.
However, both my boyfriend and I made the commitment last year to stay at least 5 years year and then have a conversation about where we’re at. We’re in year three now so we’ll see where we are in 18 months time 😬
Finally, in your opinion, what makes you a Power Frau?
I would say my resilience plays a big part. Or stubbornness. Both. I hate being told I can’t do something and I don’t like to quit. That plays to my advantage a lot here in Germany – even though life can be quite stressful, I always find a way to survive.
Another thing I would say makes me a Power Frau is putting myself out there on the internet and growing a successful blog and small Instagram community. I’ve always wanted to write full time and I’m good at it (you wouldn’t know it from these rambling answers but, seriously, I am) – building my own blog gave me leverage and evidence when it came to getting my dream job. And I did that all in Germany, a country that is not my home country!