Expat Voices: Aliye Kurt - Suedhoff on living in Bonn
Turkish-Canadian expat Aliye Kurt likes living in Germany much more than she had imagined but notices "stereotypes that limit the education and career chances of cultural minorities."
Name: Aliye Kurt - Suedhoff
Nationality: Turkish - Canadian
Country of residence: Germany
Lived in Germany for one and a half years
City of residence: Bonn
Occupation: Social Psychologist (academic) and Executive Coach at SetSail Coaching
Reason for moving to your new country of residence: Job & family
What was your first impression of Germany?
Quite positive! Although I had visited Germany many times before I moved here, I was initially somewhat reluctant about moving here. But over and again I've been positively surprised about living in Germany.
What do you think of the food?
My favourites are German bread and beer! Most typical German dishes don't appeal to me but I love reibekuchen (by now even with apple sauce!) and the cakes. It's also great to have easy access to Turkish food.
What do you think of the shopping?
I don't think there's anything special about shopping in Germany. In places like Berlin it's more fun with little boutiques but in the area where I live it's mainly limited to chain-stores. One exception would be the Christmas markets - that could be interesting and fun.
What do you appreciate about living in Germany?
Being a person who finds comfort in order and predictability, I appreciate living here because things simply "work" in Germany. This allows me to enjoy the freedom and time to focus on things that I'd rather focus on. In general people are open, friendly and leave you space to do your own thing. I also appreciate the beautiful nature and landscape and how people take care to preserve it.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Germany?
The weather! It's mid-July but it feels like April!
What puzzles you the most and what do you miss the most since you've moved here?
The cyclical nature of the integration debate. This reflects the ambivalent attitude towards cultural minorities: Yes, they belong to Germany - but wait, do they really??
I miss the real "multikulti" environment in Canada a country which had pro-actively managed immigration compared to the reactive approach of Germany.
How does the quality of life in Germany compare to the quality of life in other countries that you've lived in?
It's comparable to Canada and the Netherlands although I find the infrastructure even better in Germany. The discipline and order, which for some people might be seen as limiting, contribute to the quality of life in Germany. In terms of the quality of working life, despite many initiatives women are still at disadvantage especially at the management level.
If you could change anything about Germany, what would it be?
Stereotypes that limit the education and career chances of cultural minorities.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Being open is a must for moving to any country. Learning the language is absolutely necessary to feel "at home" in Germany. Different to, for example the Netherlands where a newcomer could get by by speaking English to a large extent, in Germany you simply have to speak German.
Best strategy to have a good start here is to plan for experiences that you know will be positive. For example (depending on your interests), visiting the Christmas market, touring the "Romantic Wine Route", or experiencing the alternative art scene in Berlin. This way you can create a positive foundation to build on.
Would you like to add anything that we haven't addressed in the questionnaire?
Expats need to remember that, no matter how many moves they've done so far, each move is unique and one needs to manage the expectations really well. Do not underestimate the challenge of moving to a new country even for a seasoned expat - being away from your family/friends, changing your home, your job are all taxing. Be as patient and understanding with yourself as you would be with your best friend! And talking about friends, try to establish social bond as quickly as possible -3 is the magic number for that.
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