If you tuned in to the first Perspectives of an Expat guest post, then you already know I created this series so I can learn more about the views and experiences of expats all over the world. I met Abbey of Abbey Leigh Photography through a creatives Facebook group before I even moved to Sicily. Abbey is an established photographer who creates STUNNING images that I just can’t get over. *All images contained in this post are her own. She just so happens to also be an Air Force wife, currently living in Germany. Being a military spouse myself, I am incredibly curious to learn how her experiences living abroad differ from mine. So, before I tell you too much about her, I’ll let her speak for herself.
for more Abbey Leigh goodness!
Where are you originally from?
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Where do you currently live and what led you to move there?
We’re currently living in Ramstein, Germany because my husband in the Air Force.
Was this a temporary or permanent move for you?
Temporary, at least 3 years.
What are some of the differences you see between where you live now and where you’re originally from?
Aw, man! There are so many differences! I would have to say many more differences than similarities. I think the main differences between Germany and Virginia and/or America are the people and conveniences. In America, or at least in Virginia, we wave to our neighbors, give a passing smile to a stranger, and give a courtesy wave to people who let us change lanes. Germans tend to be extremely direct and think it’s odd that Americans “waste time” with pleasantries like that. It took about 2 years of living here for me to stop taking offense that, in my opinion, Germans come off very cold. While there are bad apples in every country, I don’t believe Germans mean to be rude, it’s just how they are! What’s funny is because I’ve gotten so used to German customs that when I visit home I can’t believe how nice people are! That’s just one example of the differences between Americans and Germans, but overall, I never realized how much “sugar” I gave and received from people in my daily life growing up and living America. It’s probably what I miss most. I like smiles.
Next, I miss all the conveniences of America! Need an oil change? 15 minutes. Ordered something offline? Same day delivery. Out of milk on a Sunday? Run to the store. Need a couch, garden soil, and wine? Target. Always Target. In Germany, it’s more like: Oil change? 7 days and a couple hundred euro. Ordered something? If it can even be shipped to you, count on at least 10 days-3 months. Didn’t get around to grocery shopping this week and it’s Sunday? Looks like you’re gonna starve unless you’re brave enough to visit the commissary with the rest of the grocery shopping forgetters. Have a shopping list? Be ready to drive all over town and visit at least 3 different stores and still have to order the other half of your list online. Don’t have cash? Too bad, 90% of places don’t take credit card. Google says your road trip will take 2 hours? Wrong. The autobahn and quickest way to your destination has been closed for construction and the detour will add another 2 hours.
Man, I know it sounds trivial considering all the adventures and opportunities I’ve received from living over here but we are so excited to be able to just live our lives without having to think about all the rules and reasons something may not work out. The silver lining is that I will say that I think our patience now is almost limitless! I remember my most recent visit home, I decided to treat myself to Starbucks and my order took a little longer than usual. When my order was finally called the barista went out of her way to profusely apologize for my wait and I just felt awful thinking about the kind of people she must deal with daily to feel such guilt for something that was so not a biggie! Who knows what pre-Germany Abbey would’ve felt or been thinking?
What have been some of the biggest obstacles that you have had to overcome after relocating?
I think many of the obstacles we’ve faced would’ve been lessened had either of us been able to speak German fluently. We’re less than conversational, so while we get by day to day, we’re unable to fully communicate when big issues arise, for example, something with our rent and utilities that are through German companies. We’ve been pretty fortunate so far, but if we were to ever get this assignment again, I will be sure to take language classes. Also, with the military there is so much convoluted information out there that it was difficult to know how to navigate our first international move. We’re much more prepared for our move back stateside than we were coming here. My advice if dealing with the military: question everything, always get their name, and take photos.
What do you love about where you currently live?
All the walking trails! Our family is huge on doing all the outdoors things and Germany has never ending trails we love to roam. I also very much appreciate Germany’s recycling initiatives, dog friendliness, and alcohol laws.
What’s the most valuable thing you learned from living abroad?
Other than patience is a virtue?! With having been to almost 40 countries and counting, I’ve been awestruck, challenged, inspired, and humbled more times than I can count, and still the most valuable thing I’ve learned from living abroad is to be grateful that I’m an American.
What would be the number one thing to see or do that you would recommend to someone visiting that they would not be able to read about in a guide book?
This is a hard one, but our favorite thing to do in Germany is go to local festivals. Check local listings on Facebook events and see what’s happening near you that’s off the touristy path! We’ve accidentally stumbled upon so many fun festivals, for example, a street food festival where I ate the best fries of my life, a festival with live music playing all my favorite childhood songs and beer by the liter to drink by the lake, or a medieval festival where we watched modern day jousting. There are so many more fests Germany has to offer than Oktoberfest!
Where is your favorite “instagrammable” spot(s) where you live?
There are castles galore! Pick any of them!
Outside of where you live now, what’s been your most memorable travel destination? Why?
We personally loved much of Eastern Europe. I would highly recommend Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia to anyone! The people are SO warm and welcoming, the scenery is beautiful, and the food is delicious. It’s a perfect combo!
How often do you travel outside of where you live?
It depends on my husband’s sporadic and unpredictable work schedule, but let’s just say I came to Germany with only Canada and a few Caribbean islands checked off my list, and now I’ll likely leave Germany this summer with over 40. We’re trying to make the most of our time here, for sure!
What do you love most about travel?
The memories and food! We have so many stories from our travels that I love reliving or sharing with people!
Tell us more about your website/blog.
I’m a soon to be Abilene, Texas based fine art wedding photographer with a major crush on a smitten couple, outdoor ceremonies, custom stationery, and lush bridal bouquets! I am a hybrid photographer, meaning I shoot both digital and film for my clients. My aesthetic is best described as candid, timeless, joyful, natural, and colorful. While I consider myself a fine art photographer, my couples are the total opposite of pose-y and stuffy! I aim for classic, not boring, portraiture. While I will soon live in Texas, I will continue to venture back to Virginia often for business.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Living in Europe has been SUCH an experience and there is so much more I could share about our time here! I’m seriously so appreciative you’ve taken the time to read my words, however, all of this is exactly that – my absolutely objective opinion based on my own personal experience. Trust me, there is no amount of reading that could prepare you for this adventure! Don’t let anything someone says, whether it’s positive or negative, sway you from visiting and experiencing expat or travel life for yourself!! Keep saying yes to new things and you’ll eventually figure out what works for you and brings you happiness! Cheers!