„I will be glad to be loud on Sunday“ – Expat Interview with Maggie Overby

28. Juli 2015

After Sarah’s interview last week pushed my blog statistics to new heights, I’m really excited to share yet another expat interview with you today!

In April I took the Blogging Your Way Instagram Bootcamp, a great online class taught by Holly Becker, and when I learned that my fellow classmate and blogger Maggie (who I met online in a previous Blogging Your Way class) was about to move back to the United States after a two-year stay in Germany, I didn’t hesitate and asked her if she would share her experiences on living in Germany with me and my blog readers. And so she did! It is so interesting to hear an American’s perspective on being an expat in Germany and returning back home. I hope you enjoy Maggie’s interview as much as I do!

expat interview with Maggie OverbyMaggie, please tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Maggie Overby and I am 40 years old with two children, my daughter is 14 and my son is 10. I am an interior design/ DIY blogger and a huge fan of vintage and second-hand shopping which I often blog about at MaggieOverbyStudios.com. My husband is a helicopter pilot with the U.S. Amy and we moved to Katterbach, Germany (near Nürnberg) on orders for what we thought would be three years. Unfortunately due to base closures and realignment in Europe the assignment was cut to two years. We are now headed back to the States for my husband’s new assignment in South Carolina.

How do you feel about the move?
As with all our moves I will leave Germany with a mixture of sadness and excitement. I have loved so many things about living in Germany and definitely feel like we did not get enough time here but I have also missed home and will be glad to get back to things that are familiar. It can be difficult living in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language so I it will be nice to return home where I can more easily navigate the language and customs.

What will you miss the most about your life in Germany?
First and foremost I will miss the markets and second-hand shopping. Every Sunday we hit one or two of the German flea markets for an afternoon of shopping and of course a bit of eating. I love a banana Nutella crepe and my husband usually goes for a Currywurst mit Pommes. I have also spent the past two years collecting West German Pottery, acquiring almost 400 pieces so I will miss the hunt for new treasures.

West German Pottery

  • I will miss the Backerei. I love the beautiful breads, my favorite is a butter pretzel.
  • I will also miss seeing people dressed well, not necessarily that they are fashion forward (although surprisingly the men specifically seem to be) but that they do not dress as casually as people do in the States. You rarely see someone in their workout clothes or sadly as I see in the State way too often someone out in public in their pajamas. I enjoy seeing people taking pride in their appearance.
  • I will miss driving fast on the Autobahn.
  • I will miss the fact that people following the rules means you don’t have to have a lot of rules. In Germany you are expected to use your own common sense and people actually seem to have common sense.
  • I will miss the openness of the land, being able to take jogs, and walks, and bike rides to pretty much anywhere you like.

What are you glad to leave behind?

  • I will be glad to leave behind drinks with no ice.
  • Teenie tiny appliances.
  • Getting stared at all the time.
  • And the phrase I hear often in Germany “That is not possible.” It seems often that “rules are set” or that “this is the way it is done” so Germans are sometimes unwilling to think that there may be another way. I’m sure the language barrier could sometimes come into play here but I find many things to be done the same way they have been done for years because it works. I’m a creative thinker and often looking for a “better way” maybe easier or faster but I can’t agree that there is only one way or that “that is not possible.”
  • I will also be glad to be loud on Sunday, mowing the grass or using my loud saw and nail gun to build something. These things always seem to be something I need to get done on Sunday but I can’t because I want to be respectful of the rules.

Living in the US again – what are you most excited about?
As a person whose business is based around construction and interior design I am looking forward to a lot of things that revolve around that. Going to Lowes or Home Depot and having endless options of wood lumber and trims (not too much wood construction going on in Germany.) Being able to find tradesman like a glass cutters or upholsterer who I can communicate with. Reasonably priced home décor stores (that are NOT Ikea) like World Market or Home Goods. Rugs, it sounds silly but I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent trying to find reasonably priced rugs. I am also a seamstress so fabric stores are high on the list as well. I have been astounded by the price of even the simplest fabrics in Germany so I will be excited to look at rows and rows of fabric I can afford.

What is the biggest difference between living in Germany compared to life in the US?
The pace of living for sure. In the States we are go, go, go but in Germany with Sunday being pretty much a day of leisure and so many holiday where all retail is closed you are forced to take a rest. In restaurants a three hour meal is not uncommon so it helps you to learn to slow down and enjoy.

What is the first thing you want to do when you are back in the US?
EAT. Being from New Orleans and planning to spend several week there before heading to our new home in South Carolina, I have a whole list of great food I want to eat that just aren’t available in Germany. This is exactly what I did. One of my first visits was to a new farmer’s market style eatery with lots of fresh food made from local products that was just amazing. (I’ve actually made a few visits.)

Po Boy

What worries you or keeps you up at night when you think about the move?
My, this is a long list. Each step requires so many layers of organization: shipping our household, shipping our cars, actually getting the whole family along with pets and luggage on the plane, finding a house. I guess what keeps me up at night would be the feeling that I forgot some crucial part, some big step that could lead to major catastrophe. Also the financial expenses of the move quickly add up to sleepless nights. The Army pays for things like shipping your household and a single car, but pets, a second car, fees for new schools for the kids are all on us and it adds up quickly.

How „German“ have you become?
These “german” things become more apparent now that I been home for a while. I find that the tight lines that first annoyed me when I moved to Germany seem more efficient now that everyone seems to be lingering about the cash register in a leisurely fashion. I’m not sure who is in line. I am much quieter now, New Orleans is a pretty loud and boisterous town so I was pretty used to being loud but now I have taken on the quiet German ways more. I will also miss having fresh less processed foods like those you find at the Backerei readily available.

What do you bring back to the US?
During our time in Germany we did a huge amount of traveling throughout Europe. Knowing our time here would be limited and we may not have the chance to do this again we wanted to see as much as possible. Living in the States I have the feeling of having endless time to see the country so we often put travel off until later. Returning to the States I want to spend more time traveling as we have done in Europe. There are so many amazing things to see and do and I would love to make it a priority to take the time to do them.

Hohenschwangau Castle

The typical German: Reserved, quiet, will always tell you their honest opinion, very literal, rule following, hard-working, set in their ways, love a creative hair style, neat and clean, not really concerned about personal space or staring.

The typical American: Loud, sometimes obnoxious, where I’m from we are pretty chatty, friendly and open, fast paced.

What are your five favorites places in Germany?
The German Alps, Heidelberg (one of our first trips in Germany so I have very fond memories here) Dresden was beautiful and had great shopping, Leipzig where they have an amazing monthly flea market, and I loved Nürnberg which was like a home town. If we were not traveling this is where we spent most weekends.

Do you have any tips for others who take the leap?
Embrace the fact that most of the time you have absolutely no idea what is going on, how things work or what language you are supposed to be speaking. You’ll order a meal or attend an event and what happens is a complete surprise. Over time I came to accept this, and found that sometimes the surprise is exactly what I didn’t know I wanted. New is scary but it can also be a whole lot of fun.

Thank you Maggie for sharing your experiences with us and all the best for your new life in South Carolina!

If you want to know more about Maggie, her DIY projects and latest vintage finds, please head over to her blog. Don’t miss the tour of her German house! Maybe I should do a tour of our house here in Chattanooga, too! It would be such a great memory. You can also find Maggie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More expat interviews (in German) can be found here.

Photo Credit: Maggie Overby

Ich bin Tina. Promovierte Linguistin, Englisch-Expertin, Professional Coach und Ex-Expat-Partner. Meinen riesengroßen Wissensdurst stille ich mit Podcasts, Büchern, Seminaren und Networking-Events. Hier teile ich mein Wissen, um Dir Inspiration und Impulse für Deine persönliche Weiterentwicklung zu geben.

Improve your English.
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3 Kommentare
  1. I just love it! Thank you for this interview, Maggie and Tina! …Although now, I am really a tinylittlebit more concerned about going back to Germany in not so many weeks ;-) …
    The best part is „What are you glad to leave behind?“ — Especially after our life in the US I understand your answers concerning the Germans and their attitude (just staring not saying anything/ believe in rules and not very ongoing) so much more! It will be a big transition for our family to go back to these lazyquiet-sundays and I am not sure yet how to survive them ;-) Do I really have to do my groceries for the whole weekend on Friday/sat??!! Aaahh!! “ The „staring thing“ is something I already hated before I came here and it will be more obvious for me when I am back — but perhaps I ve learned a little from the Southerners and find a way to react with nice words and a smile ;-) Well..thanks again for this interview. I am pretty sure I will think of your words more often in the next weeks! All the best for your new start in South Carolina! -sarah

  2. Tina, ich finde deine Seite super. Es gefällt mir, dass sie mal in deutsch, mal in englisch ist. Es gefällt mir, einen Einblick in ein Expat -Leben zu bekommen – mal von der einen, mal von der anderen Seite. Es gefalllen mir deine Interviews. Das hier mit Maggie fand ich auch wieder toll, denn das deutsche Leben mal beleuchtet aus der Sicht einer Amerikanerin….da kommt man dann auch mal ins Grübeln über eigene Verhaltensweisen. Und was jeden Amerikaner wirklich stören muss, das ist die hiesige Zugeknöpftheit, die Reserviertheit, wie wir hier mit Fremden umgehen. Und die müssen noch nicht mal aus dem Ausland sein. Jedes Mal, wenn ich aus den USA zurückkomme, ist das ein richtiger Schock. Und ich bin jeweils nur einige Wochen dort. Eine Weile kann ich etwas vom amerkanischen way of life rüberretten in meinem eigenen Verhalten, bin freundlicher, offener etc.. Und dann verliert sich das leider wieder, trotz der guten Versätze und ich bin nach und nach wieder zunehmend …..deutsch eben. Schade,aber ich übe….. In meinem Umfeld wird, wenn ich mich zu dem Thema äußere, immer mal angemerkt: „…..na ja, kann schon sein, aber die Amis sind so oberflächlich. „Da kann ich nur sagen, auch hier hat man im alltäglichen Leben im Regelfall oberflächliche Kontakte: beim Einkaufen, in der U-Bahn etc. Auch hier ist nicht alles tiefgründig. Und für diese ganz normalen Kontakte muss ich sagen: Lieber oberflächlich freundlich als oberflächlich unfreundlich.
    @Sarah: Das glaube ich, dass es eine große Umstellung wird, die Rückkehr nach Deutschland. Aber mit den Sonntagen gehts mir anders. Da bin ich froh, dass es hier ist, wie es ist. Wir wohnen mitten in Berlin, und wenn da jeder auch noch Sonntags heimwerkt und die Musik dröhnt – ach danke, nein! Das funktioniert auf dem Land, wenn du ein Riesengrundstück und keine direkten Nachbarn hast, Aber wenn du um einen Innnenhof 40 Wohnungen hast, weißt du die Sonntagsruhe zu schätzen. Und ein Tag in der Woche mal etwas lower, das empfinde ich nicht als einschränkend.

    Ich wünsche dir ein gutes Wieder-Ankommen in Deutschland.

    • Liebe Marta,
      vielen lieben Dank für Deinen ausführlichen Kommentar! Habe mich sehr darüber gefreut :-)
      Du kannst Dich wirklich glücklich schätzen, dass Du regelmäßig wieder eine Outsider-Perspektive einnehmen und die deutschen Eigenarten bewusster wahrnehmen kannst. Wenn man im Alltagstrott drin ist, fällt einem vieles ja nicht mehr auf…
      Mir sind auch die oberflächlichen Kontakte lieber als unfreundliche oder vielleicht sogar gar keine Kontakte. Gerade in den Anfangsmonaten war es schön, so schnell mit Fremden ins Gespräch zu kommen, auch wenn ich sie später nie wieder gesehen habe. Das war und ist eine gute Übung für den Small Talk – mit dem ich auch nach 4 Jahre noch meine Probleme habe – aber der auch doch ab und an zu „richtigen“ Freundschaften führt.
      Ich wünsche Dir ein schönes Wochenende und eine angenehme Sonntags-Ruhe ;-)
      Liebe Grüße,

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