The latest addition to my Expat Living interview series is the super fun and talented vlogger, Dana Newman. Originally from the United States, Dana now lives in the beautiful Munich, Germany.
All About Dana Newman.
Dana Newman is an expat YouTube vlogger and writer whose debut novel, entitled Found in Prague, is based loosely on her experiences living in the Czech Republic when she first moved to Europe in search of her roots.
For the inside scoop on expat life (such as Oktoberfest tips and tricks and the secret of the “magical” European diet) as well as travel videos from around the world, check out and subscribe to her Wanted an Adventure YouTube channel.
Where are you from?
South Florida by way of Connecticut, in the United States.
Where are you living now and how long have you been there?
Currently living in Munich, Germany. I’ve been here for 4 years – no wait *recalculating, recalculating* – 5 years now.
Have you lived anywhere else around the world?
Do you plan to stay in your current location or move somewhere else in the future?
I’ve finally gotten to a point where I feel comfortable and confident speaking German, so I at least plan to stick around this country a while longer.
Whether it’s in Munich or somewhere else, things are still open. I love Munich, but wouldn’t be opposed to moving somewhere else in Germany for the right reasons.
What’s your personal story? What made you decide to take the big leap and leave home?
My heritage is Czech and my mother was the first generation to be born in America after my grandparents were forced to leave their homeland in 1949 (during the Communist occupation) due to my grandfather’s political involvement.
I grew up learning about my Czech roots and always being fascinated by them. After college I didn’t know what I wanted to do “when I grew up,” but something pulled me toward Europe.
So I sold everything and bought a one-way ticket to Prague, thinking I would settle down there.
However, several months into my life in the Czech Republic, I was sent to Munich to file my visa paperwork and while there I wandered into an Irish Pub, where I met the German man who would go on to become my husband.
It didn’t take long for me to relocate to Munich to be with him.
Do you ever miss home? What do you do to cope?
At this point Munich has become my home, so I find myself missing Florida less and less.
The one thing I still miss is the food! Tex-mex, American-style Chinese take-out, BBQ ribs …
But 3 years ago when I still missed Florida a lot, I did the following to help myself cope every time I felt myself missing home – I’d remind myself of all the reasons why living in Europe was so great! This helped keep me here and get me to this point.
How do you blend in and be accepted by locals?
I don’t know if I really blend in, but as far as being accepted, you have to start by accepting them.
Every culture has their quirks and Germany is no exception. If you want Germans to accept you and your cultural quirks, you’ve got to accept theirs.
Also, learning the language is a huge part. Even if you can get by speaking English and if the conversation moves into English at some point, at least starting the conversation off in German shows you respect the country and culture enough to try and speak their language.
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?
When I moved to Prague I spent the first 6 months learning Czech. Then I met my future German husband in Munich and within a few weeks switched gears entirely and started on German.
I taught myself the first level before moving to Germany and then spent my first two months there taking intensive courses.
I think what helped me learn the language the most was my attitude. I didn’t go into it thinking “I will try to learn the language,” I went into it assuming I’d come out the other end, at some point, fluent.
I’d say it took me a good 3 years to feel really, truly inside and out confident in all situations.
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?
I don’t know if this is the most shocking, but it really amused me.
Jaywalking is a big deal no-no here in Germany. There are signs on many crosswalk lights reminding people not to cross on red, thereby setting a good example for the children.
Here’s the funny story bit. I noticed this when I first moved to Prague, and for some reason assumed it was just a Czech thing, maybe something left over from Communist time.
Then I went to Munich and met Mr. German Man. On our second date, we were walking down the street at night, and things were pretty much deserted. We neared the crosswalk, and I decided I’d tell him about the hilarious Czechs that actually stop at the red light and wait even if there are no cars anywhere in sight.
“Ha ha, isn’t that hilarious?”
I saw his facial expression immediately change and as we neared the red crosswalk he got increasingly more uncomfortable, and all of a sudden I realized I’d put my foot in my mouth, as the Germans do it too! I felt horrible.
We got to the light and he stopped for a moment, but then I guess he wanted to show off, so he looked both ways and then oh-so-brazenly led me over the read. What a risk taker!
What is your number one tip about how to live life as an ex-pat?
Don’t spend too much time dwelling on the negatives of the place and culture where you live.
You probably won’t love every single quirk of your new home. That’s okay as no one is asking you to.
And it’s okay to lament about it from time to time – grouse about the horrible bureaucracy, the weird eating habits or whatever’s got you irked etc. to your expat roommate or friends, but don’t take your frustrations out on the locals.
It was you, after all, who chose to move there.
While a little grumbling to an empathetic ear can be cathartic, going on and on too much can leave you with a sour taste in your mouth, so best to keep it short and sweet, then move on to talking about what you do love about your new home.
What do you love most about living abroad?
Things certainly don’t ever get boring.
Living in Europe means that I’m close geographically to so many different countries and cultures. Not only does it make traveling easy, but living here I meet people from other places on a daily basis.
I love learning about other cultures, so it’s perfect for me.
Did you make the move solo? Or are you with a spouse or significant other, other members of your family, or friend(s)?
I made the first move to Prague solo and then when I moved to Munich it was also alone, but I had Mr. German Man waiting here for me.
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?
Ah, the work question.
When I arrived in Prague I took a TEFL course and used that in Munich to teach English for three years.
In Prague, my native English skills landed me a job at a computer helpdesk call center, which is what got me my very first visa to stay living long-term in Europe.
I’ve written and published a book and am currently working on the second one. I also host a YouTube channel about travel and expat life in Germany. I also do proofreading, editing and German to English translation.
Expat Living Information
If you like these expat interviews and my personal tips on living abroad, check out my Expat Living section. Read fun articles like Things That Seem Weird About Toronto After You’ve Lived in Berlin or more practical ones like how to send your bags abroad.