Expat Voices: Hilly van Swol on living in Germany
Hilly van Swol loves the German proclivity towards environmental consciousness and general cleanliness but can’t understand why that attitude doesn’t extend to dog droppings!
Name: Hilly van Swol
City of residence: Frankfurt area
Occupation: Intercultural trainer
Reason for moving to Germany: Personal, let’s say boy meets girl!
What was your first impression of Germany?
Coming from a small country, obviously it was the size. Also the Netherlands being so densely populated, I enjoy having a horizon. The delight of nature!
What do you think of the food?
Good value for money. Well-prepared, good service and a great variety of local beers and wines! Also in the Rhein Main area there is great variety of international cuisine from Indian to Persian, Japanese and Korean. Whatever is your fancy, you will find it here.
I actually picked up cooking as a hobby here in Germany and enjoy each opportunity to meet up with others and make new friends. This really turned out to be a great networking opportunity.
What do you think of the shopping in Germany?
To be honest, I am not much of a shopper, never have been. I do occasionally check out the outlet stores in f.i. Zweibrücken or Wertheim Village. However, lately I was introduced to the old German tradition of checking out Tschibo stores, originally a coffee retailer, which has gone full retail with a new assortment of clothing and household things and decorative ornaments. There is a weekly rotation of products. It’s worth a try!
Visitors flock to the new shopping center "My Zeil" on March 3, 2009 in Frankfurt/M., western Germany. Since its opening on 26 February 2009, more than 400,000 people already visited the new center constructed by Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas.
What do you appreciate about living in Germany?
The professionalism about things here, the safety, the work-life balance.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Germany?
In some circumstances, the rigidity of procedures. Once something has been set, it is difficult to alter or there is a very hesitant approach towards spontaneous new ideas. There seems to be a hidden “no-barrier” that one needs to overcome first – this I find frustrating at times.
What puzzles you about German culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Germans are so conscious environmentally and very much into being clean and proper, which I think is great. However they still do not pick up their dog doodoos…
I guess I miss just little sentimental things connected to my home country, either in terms of food stuff but more so the proximity to water. Here in the Rhein Main area this is at least compensated with the Taunus foothills and the woods.
How does the quality of life in Germany compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Excellent. Plenty of opportunities for sport and leisure, public transport, great mobility offered by the autobahn and low crime!
If you could change anything about Germany, what would it be?
Ha, the weather! The two last summers were not so grand.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Learn the language, it is really not too much to ask and does away with preconceived opinions. Get involved – pursue your interests also outside the expat community.
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