Today’s Interview with an Expat is with Brazilian blogger Allane Milliane.
Allane is the genius mind behind the successful blog Packing My Suitcase. In just one year of blogging she has managed to rack up an impressive 7,000 followers! I’m not surprised – her content is gold. I first landed upon her blog when I was looking for insights on German culture and found quite a few gems such as When in Germany, do as the Germans do; Tips for integrating with the Germans; and How I changed after moving to Germany. Originally from Brazil, Allane is currently living in Munich with her German husband “W” and dog Enzzo, which gives her a very unique perspective on German living. In addition to her German cultural material, Allane also offers travel tips for visiting just about anywhere in the world (but especially her hometown of Munich) and pointers for traveling with a canine companion! (Yes, that’s a dog pun.) I whole-heartedly encourage you to visit her blog and lean on her vast travel knowledge to help plan your own trip around the world!
Hi Allane! Please help us get to know your expat story. Why did you become an expat, how long have you lived as an expat, and why did you choose to live in Germany?
Hi Becky, hi everyone!
There is no simple answer to these questions, so I will try to summarize it as a short story.
Previous to living in Germany, I was doing my Master degree in Geneva, Switzerland, and in the meantime I got engaged with a German, W., who is my husband for 3 years now.
When I finished my studies in 2012 I moved to Germany and got married. Back then, deciding where we were going to live was a tough decision for me, since I wanted to follow a career on politics, Geneva seemed like the best place for me in terms of work. However, W already had this job in Munich, so it didn’t really make sense for him to move to Switzerland. Besides, I already had friends in Germany, and loved the country. So, that’s how I ended up moving to Germany and have been living here since 2012.
Your impressive blog has entries both in your native Portuguese and English and your “About Me” page says you speak 5 languages. What other languages do you speaK, and how have your language skills affected your life as an expat?
Besides Portuguese and English I also speak Spanish, French and German.
Spanish always seemed easy for me and I was always in love with this language, so while I was still a teenager I took classes in a private course, and had many Mexican friends on the way to help me improve it.
As for French, I took a 3-year course back in Brazil, then lived in Paris for 3 months and in Geneva for 1 year.
And German I did 5 months intensive course back in 2012, and after 3 years living in Germany I had no choice but improve it. (haha)
Knowing all these languages has certainly helped me with traveling, working and connecting with people. Sometimes it’s weird to change from German to French or Spanish, as I don’t use them that much at the moment, but switching between German, English and Portuguese became something normal in my daily life as an expat.
After your initial move abroad (Germany or elsewhere), what was surprisingly hard/surprisingly easy about adjusting to life in another country?
My first move abroad was to Canada, when I was only 16 years old. At that time, the hardest part was being away from my mom and surviving the Canadian winter (haha).
The easiest part was making friends and having fun in a complete different country.
This initial experience certainly prepared me for the next moves (France, Switzerland and Germany), and each one of them prepared me for life.
How is living in another country different from traveling to another country?
Living in another country gives you an entire different perspective of the place, the culture, the habits and rules. While visiting you see only half of it.
I still remember when I first came to Munich, I was a teenager doing a Europe tour, and would have never imagined that one day I would be living here. Back then I saw the city in a completely different way, not negatively, just different.
What one thing in Germany did you experience that you wish they had in Brazil?
Security. Brazil is unfortunately a dangerous and violent country, you always need to watch out for yourself and your belongings. It isn’t an easy way to live. Here in Germany I don’t have to worry about being robbed in the public transportation, etc.
Likewise, what do they have in Brazil that you miss while living in Germany?
The friendliness. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen a total different side of the Germans and I don’t think they are cold or anything, but the Brazilian people are simply very warm, and cheerful. We like to hug, and share our personal life’s details and all of that. Sometimes I miss this, but in a small dose.
How often do you travel back to Brazil, and do you ever experience reverse culture shock?
I fly back to Brazil once a year, and yes I always feel the culture shock, especially in the way people drive, and how people always try to cheat lines and take advantage of you. I hate that, these are the things that always shock me when I get there, apart from the warm weather.
At what point in your expat stay did you feel like you really belonged?
I think that when I finally got to speak German and work full time speaking only German. At this moment I felt like I was integrated, like I had achieved the biggest step towards feeling at home. At the same time, my husband always make me feel at home and like I belong here.
What was the funniest culture-clashing situation that happened to you in your years as an expat?
(hahaha) I already started laughing before I began to type. In terms of culture matter I can’t remember of anything specific, just that once I started singing “happy birthday” to a German friend 1 day before his birthday (here in Germany they think it’s bad luck to do that, and I didn’t know) so everyone was silent looking at me. Another one learned!
But in terms of language matter, something happened to me a few months ago. I went to the supermarket to buy a few things and remembered that I need to buy a product that I normally use in the washing machine to kill 99% of the bacteria on the clothes. So I bought one and used for a few months, until my husband found the product near the washing machine and asked me if I was using it on the clothes. I said yes and he said: ”well, this is actually to clean the floor”. My bad! But the clothes actually smelled wonderful! (hahaha)
What has being an expat taught you?
To respect another culture, even if you don’t agree with everything, and also that in the end we are all human beings, it doesn’t matter which language we speak or which cartoons we watched as kids.
What advice can you offer to the novice expats out there?
Be patient. Try to take a step after the other. Remember that human beings can adapt to basically any situation in their lives: to the cold, to a place, to other people, to rules, etc. So be patient, because you will get there, you will get used with your new life.
Many thanks to Allane for participating in this interview and sharing her wise words. Interested in learning more about Allane? Be sure to check out her blog!
Interested in being featured as an expat? Contact me using the box to the right!