The latest addition to my Expat Living interview series is Kathrin Jaensch. Originally from Bavaria, Kathrin now lives in the ever beautiful Vancouver, Canada (where I once spent 24 hours exploring the city).
All About Kathrin Jaensch
I’m a Münchner Kindl, born and raised in a small town in Bavaria.
After high school I spend a year working and travelling in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia.
In Vienna, I studied Communication and Journalism Studies and became a freelance writer for various magazines including GQ Germany and the city magazine PRINZ.
Now I’m living in Vancouver, doing a certificate in Social Media and Online Marketing and writing for blogs on the side.
Where are you from?
I’m from a small town in Upper Bavaria, just outside of Munich, Germany
Where are you living now and how long have you been there?
I moved to Vancouver last August, so I’ve been living here for a little longer than a year now.
Have you lived anywhere else around the world?
I lived in Australia for a year right after finishing high school. Mostly living on the road, I only spent a few months with a postal code in Sydney and at the Gold Coast.
When I was twenty I moved to Vienna, Austria to study for six years. Being from Munich, Vienna did not feel very foreign though – big into pastries and beer, quirky people with snarky humour and a dialect no one can imitate. As a Bavarian that made me feel right at home.
Do you plan to stay in your current location or move somewhere else in the future?
Vancouver is where my life is right now. You never know what the future might hold but for now I want to settle in this amazing city.
I can’t see myself getting tired of Vancouver anytime soon. Amazing beaches, mountains and forests to run, bike and dog walk, a vibrant restaurant scene, great craft breweries and quirky little shops and bars all over town, the Gulf Islands are just a short ferry trip away – we have it all.
I truly love this city and felt at home right from the start.
What’s your personal story? What made you decide to take the big leap and leave home?
Two years ago I met a Canadian guy in Vienna.
He was visiting my roommate and I ended up showing our houseguest around the city because I had some time off. We toured around Vienna and went on a spontaneous weekend trip to Budapest.
After one week he had to fly back to Vancouver – and I was shocked how much I missed him after that short a time.
We started to chat and skype daily and two weeks later I booked a flight to Vancouver to stay with him for 3 weeks. A gamble at the time, but my intuition was right.
Many Skype hours and travel miles later I moved in with him and wrote my thesis in Vancouver. I still had to finish school in Austria but was able to pick a Canadian related topic for my paper.
We travelled to Germany together and I stayed on to finish my final exam and get my working holiday visa ready, while he had to go back to Canada.
Two months felt like forever but finally I was able to hop on the plane and come back to my new home. We got engaged this summer and nothing excites me more than knowing, that there won’t be a longer period of separation again. We’ve had our share of airport goodbyes and time conversions.
Do you ever miss home? What do you do to cope?
I love the challenge of starting from scratch and meeting new people, but of course I miss home too.
When “Heimweh” hits it is mostly one of the three Fs missing: Family, friends and food. Okay, and beer. Though Vancouver’s craft breweries do a good job of keeping my bavarian heart happy.
Skyping with my friends and parents at home regularly is crucial to me.
And cooking up white sausages and getting pretzels helps getting rid of those blues too.
How do you “blend in” and be accepted by locals?
By not trying to blend in but embracing and observing differences.
Of course some things you can’t help but adapt but most of the time I feel like my personality has never been very attached to being German but rather to being a traveller.
Vancouver really doesn’t make you feel as an outsider. People talk more openly with strangers, which definitely takes some getting used to. Again, I was always the one having a chat with random people on the bus in Germany too.
Did you have to learn a new language? If yes, what? How did you go about learning the language and how long did it take you to become fluent?
No, thankfully I’ve been very confident with my English since high school and was able to write, study and make jokes in English. I even talk English in my sleep now!
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?
I’m shocked about city development in Vancouver. Being from a city where tradition and culture are valued, seeing old buildings being sacrificed for more and more of the same condos makes me cringe.
I love Vancouver’s Heritage buildings and think that historical architecture is something that should be better protected.
What is your number one tip about how to live life as an ex-pat?
Be patient and relax.
Don’t try too hard to fit in, embrace your home country and don’t pressure or question yourself while getting settled.
Depending on your scenario finding friends or a job, sport clubs or an apartment can take time. Give yourself time to settle and talk with friends at home when you need comfort.
What do you love most about living abroad?
Appreciating the little things more and not taking everyday stuff for granted.
Learning about a culture, politics and media in a country is a neverending mystery and excites me everyday.
And being able to live with my fiancé makes me very happy and grateful everyday. When you once you had 8,350 kilometers between you, doing grocery shopping together is a wonderful thing. No kidding.
Did you make the move solo? Or are you with a spouse or significant other, other members of your family, or friend(s)?
I’m living with my fiance and our doodley dog, so I didn’t have to start from zero in my new home city.
I love his friends and family and truly feel at home.
It was always a big topic for me though to find my own independence as well, my own friends and activities – going from long distance to living together is amazing and very exciting but certainly doesn’t mean you need to be spending 24/7 together all of a sudden.
What do you do work wise? Did you have a job before you arrived or did you look for work when you got there? If you didn’t have a job, how did (or do) you land work?
Looking for work in my field hasn’t been easy. After many applications and little feedback, I went back to school.
The times I got replies, my temporary visa was standing in the way of getting the job. So until I get my permanent residency next spring I decided to further build my portfolio and get some more Canadian education.
Finally getting some positive feedback feels really good and I really feel I benefit from the courses I took.
I also work as a volunteer with stroke patients and do some social media work for upstart small businesses.