A while back we received a tweet from Ali Garland asking if we knew of any job opportunities in Freiburg. We didn’t but suggested she talk to one of our previous interviewees for this column, Andrew Couch of Grounded Traveler. Unknown to us, and as she explains below, Andrew was the reason why she was looking for work in Germany.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
Nope, never been asked that question ever. I’m from the US. I spent the first half of my life in New Jersey before moving to Atlanta when I was in high school.
And what did you do there, then?
My last 9 years living in Atlanta were spent working in the not-so-exciting world of aviation insurance.
How did you end up in Freiburg?
I ended up in Freiburg because of Twitter, in a way. A couple years ago I decided I really wanted to travel more and try living overseas. I was also switching my blog to self-hosted at the time, and I needed some help. Andy of Grounded Traveler saw me tweet that I needed help, so he stayed up late in Freiburg one night to help me on Skype. Over the next week or so, I started reading his blog, realized he moved to Germany without even having a job lined up, and I started emailing him questions. We ended up having a really great conversation on Skype, and it just sort of snowballed from there. We fell in love over Skype and email before we even met in person. It was 4 months of getting to know each other before we met in person in Prague. It wasn’t much longer before we decided to get married. So less than a year after that first tweet, I moved to Freiburg to be with my new husband.
Have you lived abroad before?
Not really. I did a study abroad program in Spain when I was in college, but that was just 6 weeks. But I have done extensive traveling, and living in Europe has always been a dream of mine.
So what’s so good about Freiburg?
I like that it’s big enough to feel like a city but small enough to not get swallowed up. It’s a really gorgeous city, and we live just a block away from the river, which is really nice for an evening stroll. I also like that the old town (in the center) still has a lot of pieces that look hundreds of years old.
And what don’t you like?
While Freiburg is a decent sized city, it’s not terribly close to an airport. We have to go an hour to get to the small airport in Basel, or 2 hours to get to Frankfurt. I also really miss Mexican food. Germany isn’t known for spicy food, and spice is rather essential for Mexican food, so the few places I’ve found here aren’t so good. I now make my own salsa.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
I definitely still feel like an outsider. I’ve only been taking German classes since the beginning of June, so I can’t even have a decent conversation in German. I’m still getting used to the differences you don’t notice when you’re just visiting a place. Culture shock still hits me sometimes, and adjusting is a slow process. But I’m getting there!
How do you support yourself?
Right now Andy is supporting both of us with his job (um…something with computers…) since there isn’t much I can do without speaking German. But I have two blogs that I work on daily, and I make a small amount of money from that. I’m hoping to develop that into some better sources of income so I don’t ever have to be stuck in an office again.
Any advice for wannabe Böbbele/Freiburgers?
If you’re not coming here as a student or with your own business, take a look at the industry you want to work in. Since it’s not a huge city, there aren’t a ton of companies here, which means not a lot of options if you want to switch companies. Also, bicycles are much more popular than cars here, and I wouldn’t even recommend owning a car unless you’re going to live on the outskirts of town.
Is the move permanent?
It’s permanent for the foreseeable future. We own the apartment we live in, and we like it here, so we’re not in any hurry to move. But we are hoping to make a few changes that allow us to travel for longer periods of time and keep Freiburg as a home base.
Finally, tell us about something typically Freiburg (or German)
Trash sorting comes to mind first. Germany tries to be very environmentally friendly, and as a result we have to sort our trash into way more categories than I knew existed. There’s one for food trash, one for paper, one for plastic and packaging materials, one for “other,” plus several different types of glass and plastic jars and bottles, and aluminium cans. There’s actually an annual magazine that explains how to dispose of anything you could think of and the pick-up schedules.
Ali Garland is an American living in Germany. Her travel addiction led her to visit all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She recently returned from a round the world trip and is now fumbling her way through life as an expat. Ali writes at Ali’s Adventures and Travel Made Simple, and you can follow her on Twitter, @aliadventures7.
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