Get to know our Xipats!
Frank Blau (USA)
Frank arrived in Vorarlberg in 2017 and since then has immersed completely in the Vorarlberger life, being a very active community member. He's a Go-To-Person for all things Expat, Tech, Space, Poetry, Music & more.
Helen Schürmann (Germany)
Helen is a self-initiated expat who came to Vorarlberg after her husband took a job in Liechtenstein. Helen has a professional intercultural background and started her very own startup. (Interview in German).
Kaury Ramos (Venezuela)
Kaury is a real lovepat, she moved to Vorarlberg after meeting here husband in Venezuela.
She's a wizzard with all things
communications / marketing / social media.
Pragathi Chandrashekhar (India)
Pragathi´s first international move brought her to Vorarlberg, accompanying her husband, both working in IT.
Asheley Waeffler (USA)
Asheley has lived in Vorarlberg (Dornbirn) for 11 years, and is currently getting ready for her next move. Initially having not such an easy time to settle in, Ashley and her family started quickly to adapt and cherish the safe environment and potential of the region.
Emilia Ongaretto (Italy)
Emilia moved to Vorarlberg in 2016 and currently lives in Bregenz. Emilia is a true ray of sunshine and very active within her Italian & Austrian community building bridges through Arts & culture. And she's an expert with UX Design, where she's hosting a group within V.
Johannes Grissmann (Austria)
Johannes is originally from Vorarlberg, Austria and has moved to Sydney about 8 years ago.
Learn more about his Expat journey and why he calls two places his home in our interview below.
Meet our XiPERSONALITIES - THE LONG EDITION
We are very happy to kick off our new series "XiPersonalities" featuring Frank Blau (57, US citizen, Data Architect, data base designer, technological evangelist) - a big supporter in helping to shape Xipat since day 1.
Frank, our heartfelt thank you for volunteering to speak up about the perks of being a Xipat in Vorarlberg and how you navigate life, love & work in the Ländle!
Frank Blau, 57, 2 kids (32, 30), originally from US, data architect, technological mentor, builder of robots, music & book enthusiast, atheist being friends with all religions alike, thus a multipotentialite cooking in many pots (love this saying which Frank brought up a couple of times during our talk, thanks for that!)
I arrived in Vorarlberg 3 1/2 years ago in 2017.
There were mainly 3 reasons which led me to move from the US (Seattle?) to Vorarlberg:
1. The desire to make a change from the personal and social chaos that was defining my life in Seattle at the time.
2. To spend time in Austria, a country that I had visited and felt a strong connection to.
2. To leverage my personal experience knowing that there's a vibrant community of tech and entrepreneurial people in the area that could use my professional skills and personal interests.
How was your relocation experience? Did you receive support?
Actually, the mechanics to move here were pretty complicated, luckily I had a local 'buddy', my partner at that time who supported me in navigating through the bureaucratic procedures at the BH etc in order to get the visa. And thanks to my professional background, I'm in data architecture ..., it was fairly easy to obtain the visa as a 'Schlüsselfachkraft' ('Rot-Weiss-Rot-Karte').
Without knowing the local system and language, it's very hard to get around, especially since people speak dialect and not the 'high German' you might have learned before arriving...I experienced this the second time around after the relationship broke down and I needed legal support not only to manage the personal aftermaths, but also to navigate the logistics etc and to ensure the visa / residence - only this time without a local buddy. Luckily I found a relocation specialist while searching on the internet who supported me at that time (happy to share the contacts).
After being let go from a job due to Covid, it was an especially hard time, not knowing what this might mean for my residency status in Vorarlberg, but the BH was really nice and in the end I got a 'Rot-weiss-Rot-Karte +‘ which allows me to freelance if I desire. Right now, I'm waiting for my permanent residency (1.5 years and a B1 German class to go!) while working in the DACH area.
What do you like about Vorarlberg/Austria?
+ The social security & healthcare system are really very good
+ the rents are compared to the US very moderate for the size of housing + Austria/Vorarlberg is generally a very good place to live with a quality of life that brings me a lot of joy.
What surprised you the most living in Vorarlberg?
Actually, I was very surprised that the culture is so different, especially in terms of family & friends and the willingness for change: People here are not really used to moving abroad or far away from their families, even though they might been studying and/or working abroad for some years, once coming back to Vorarlberg they tend to stick very close to where they came from, the same village, same people.
Also, I was surprised that in some work teams, people didn't speak English so well, and me, not being able to speak German, especially not vorarlbergerisch, was a little tough.
An important thing to remember here is that EVERYONE is connected... most of the people in a given community (like tech) tend to know each other from school or relationships. Be nice to everyone possible, because you never know who else they are connected to!
Another thing I didn't expect, was that people had the best intentions promising certain things, but then not following up the promises made. Not out of bad intentions, but I guess just because they don't 'have to' respectively can't imagine, what the whole expatriation involves and means in setting up a whole new life abroad and thus the need to have some reliable information, support, people...
What would you recommend newbies relocating to Vorarlberg?
Find a local buddy to help you with the settling in.
People may say one thing and make promises based on good intentions, but don't fully rely on it, make sure you have everything in place beforehand (visa/residency/insurance...)
- HR: employee assistance programmes, an open mindset, being supportive to make employees feel well, being able to talk to them confidentially about work and management issues
- in general it's hard to talk about so called 'taboos', like depression, alcoholism, divorce etc and to find adequate support in such a case
...and another funny thing I learned about in Austria is the so called 'Kurschatten'.
Favorite places in Vorarlberg?
Burgers @wirtschaft in Dornbirn, https://wirtschaft-dornbirn.at
Opera im Festspielhaus, Bregenz
werkraum.at im Bregenzerwald
Where do other Xipats find you?
Up next our XiPersonality #2 - Helen Schürmann, 27, from Germany, currently working in Marketing, having a university degree in intercultural communication. Thanks to this professional background paired with her personal experiences as an expat in various setups, Helen shares highly valuable insights and tipps about how to immerse yourself into the local culture. Especially how to find your local tribe onsite and create a new home abroad.
Many thanks for your time and expertise, Helen!
PS: Since we want to showcase the vast diversity of expats in Vorarlberg, we try to conduct the interviews in the native language of our XiPersonalities, hence our interview this time is in German (truly a hard one for a native Gsiberger :-))
Unsere XiPersonality #2 - Helen Schürmann, 27, aus Deutschland
Vielen Dank liebe Helen, dass du uns einen Einblick über deine Erfahrungen über Leben & Arbeiten im Ländle gibst. Und kleiner Spoiler Alert gleich vorweg - Helen hat einen Abschluss in interkultureller Kommunikation, was uns natürlich super positiv überrascht hat und wir sie dann gleich mal entsprechend „ausgequetscht“ haben, um über ihre persönliche Story hinaus ein paar Profitipps für die XIPAT-Community zu bekommen :-)
Herzlichen Dank nochmals an dieser Stelle für das tolle Gespräch und die vielen Ideen!
Und, wie euch sicherlich auch bereits auffällt, ist unsere aktuelle XiPersonality-Story diesmal auf deutsch, da (next Spoiler ;-) Helen aus Deutschland kommt und wir gerne die bunt gemischte XIPAT-Community auch sprachlich entsprechend repräsentieren möchten.
Liebe Helen, zum Start bitte um eine kurze Vorstellung: wer bist du, woher kommst du, was machst du, was interessiert dich...?
Mein Name ist Helen Schürmann, ich bin 27 und komme aus Deutschland und zwar aus Neuenstein/Öhringen in der Nähe von Heilbronn. Seit September 2017 bin ich in Vorarlberg, aktuell wohnhaft in Feldkirch und arbeite in FL.
Meine Hobbies sind Singen - ich bin beim MTVO-Chor in Götzis - Reiten, und Skifahren.
Wandern wird noch...ich weiss, das klingt in Vorarlberg ein wenig komisch, aber ich bin an sich lieber am Bodensee und weniger in den Bergen ;-)
Ich habe in Nürnberg mit BWL gestartet, dann aber auf die Uni in Chemnitz gewechselt und dort meinen Bachelor in interkultureller Kommunikation gemacht und arbeite jetzt im Marketing/ Vertrieb.
Bisherige Auslandserfahrungen: Ich war 1 Jahr als Aupair in Durham/UK und während meines Studiums dann 1 Jahr in Mailand/IT.
Und was hat dich dann ins Ländle verschlagen?
Mein Mann war schon da, er arbeitet in FL und daher bin ich dann zu ihm hierher nachgezogen. Es war keine klassische Entsendung, dh es hat uns keine Firma ins Ausland geschickt, sondern wir beide wollten ins Ausland arbeiten gehen und somit also eher ein Zufall aufgrund der Jobsuche meines Mannes, dh wir sind beide sogenannte self-initiated Expats.*
(*Anm: finde auf unsere FB-Seite eine kurze Übersicht über die verschiedenen Arten von Expats).
Wie war das Settling In, was hat gut geklappt, was weniger?
Ich bin direkt nach meinem Auslandsjahr in Mailand hierher nach Vorarlberg gekommen, was dann doch eine größere Umstellung war, als ich zuerst gedacht hatte, da ich von einer internationalen Stadt aufs Land übersiedelt bin, das war ein wenig ein „Kulturschock“. Und sicherlich sind die Rahmenbedingungen bzw Umstände nicht 1:1 vergleichbar, ob als Aupair in UK oder als Studentin, verglichen mit meiner aktuellen Expatsituation, aber obwohl ich deutsch spreche, hatte das Settling-In hier in Vorarlberg wesentlich länger gedauert - also schon mehr als 1 Jahr - als bei meinen früheren Auslandsaufenthalten.
Was jedoch wirklich super geklappt hat und sehr mit dem Settling In geholfen hat, war die Anknüpfung an lokale Gruppen dank meiner Hobbies Singen und Reiten. Dadurch konnte ich recht rasch ein soziales Netzwerk vor Ort aufbauen und ich finde, der Kontakt zu Einheimischen ist sehr wichtig, um aus der Expat Bubble rauszukommen und sich hier zu integrieren und die Kultur besser zu verstehen. Denn auch wenn ich aus Süddeutschland bin und vergleichsweise zu meinem Mann, der aus Ostdeutschland kommt, kulturell irgendwie näher zu Vorarlberg bin, so bin ich summa summarum doch „di Dütsche“ ;-)
Was nicht gleich so einfach geklappt hat, war es eine Wohnung zu finden, also eine, die uns wirklich taugt, da die besten meist schon informell im Bekanntenkreis vergeben werden. Daher dauert es schon, bis man eben sozial besser vernetzt ist im Land und dann rechtzeitig von guten Angeboten erfährt und Empfehlungen bekommt. Bei uns hat es 1 Jahr gedauert bis wir unsere jetzige Wohnung gefunden haben. Sehr ähnlich ist es auch mit Jobs, da funktioniert das meiste genauso über informelle Kanäle.
Ich hatte damals über die klassischen Jobportale gesucht, wie ostjob.ch oder laendlejob.at. Insgesamt hatte ich auch nicht viele Bewerbungen geschrieben, ich bin nur an sich ein Mensch, der schnell nervös wird, wenn man nach fünf Bewerbungen noch kein Angebot hat. Und zum Glück habe ich dann eine Stelle in St. Gallen gefunden und hatte somit bereits einen Arbeitsvertrag unterschrieben, bevor ich her zog. Diese Position wurde allerdings leider nicht verlängert und ich habe vom nächsten und aktuellen Job dann über das Netzwerk von meinem Mann erfahren und glücklicherweise auch bekommen.
Die Bürokratie selber ist nicht besser oder schlechter als in Deutschland würde ich sagen, mein großer Vorteil ist hier sicher die Sprache; anders eben ;-) man muss Begriffe wie „Bezirkshauptmannschaft“ halt erst einmal verstehen und das deutsche Äquivalent dazu finden.
Was sind deine Top-Tipps für künftige Expats-to-be basierend auf deinen persönlichen und professionellen Erfahrungen?
Also ich würde sagen, die 3 Hauptfaktoren bzw Ausgangsbasis für ein erfolgreiches Settling-In und Knüpfen sozialer Kontakte mit Einheimischen sind: Sprache, Job, Hobby.
Wie bereits erwähnt, finde ich es sehr wichtig aus der der Expat Bubble rauszugehen und gleich mal Kontakt zu Locals zu suchen. Denn einerseits ist das wichtig, um Sprache und Kultur kennen zu lernen und zu verstehen - vor allem wenn man die Sprache noch nicht so gut kann - und zum anderen eben gerade dann, wenn man auf Job- und Wohnungssuche ist, da wie gesagt sehr vieles über informelle Netzwerke funktioniert.
Ich denke, jede/r hat Hobbies, an die man anknüpfen kann und somit Likeminds findet, in UK ging ich zB 1x/Woche zu einem Meetup mit Locals in einer Kirche, um ein wenig rauszukommen und ein eigenes Netzwerk außerhalb der Familie aufzubauen. Das kann ein Format sein, wenn man nicht gerade atheistisch ist ;-)
Baseline ist, ich finde es sehr wichtig sich gleich mal einen Verein, Club, Meetup zu suchen, um raus zu gehen und sich nicht sozial abzukapseln. Hier finde ich es vor allem wichtig, auch raus aus seiner eigenen Community zu gehen, also nicht nur mit anderen Deutschen in Vorarlberg zusammen zu sein. In UK zum Beispiel habe ich in der Familie und im College immer Englisch gesprochen, und war dort auch im Musiktheater (Durham Musical Theatre Company), wo ich sehr viele Locals kennen lernte und mit diesen auch viel Zeit verbrachte. Die Freunde in meinem Alter waren jedoch ausschließlich Internationals, die meisten davon aus Spanien. Das war in England nicht weiter schlimm, da ich ausser mit meinen spanischen Freunden immer Englisch sprach, von den deutschsprachigen Gruppen habe ich mich jedoch bewusst fern gehalten. Aus diesem Grund habe ich dann beim nächsten Mal in Mailand bewusst Kontakt zu italienischen Kollegen gesucht, um wirklich die lokale Sprache und Kultur kennen zu lernen. In Mailand war das natürlich eine andere Sache, da ich dort nicht ständig Englisch sprechen wollte (was sich natürlich nicht ganz vermeiden lässt, aber auch nicht schlimm ist), dh der Bezug zum Italienischen entstand hier über die Uni und Locals.
Manche Firmen/Unis organisieren zB für ihre Internationals Formate, wie soziale Meetups, wo sich internationale Studenten, Expats austauschen können und Infos über Leben & Arbeiten/Studieren/Ämter uä vor Ort erhalten. So gab es damals an der Uni Chemnitz den sog Kulturcampus und Themenabende über die verschiedenen Kulturen, und ich habe beim Programm IAESTE mitgearbeitet, das den Austausch von internationalen technischen Studenten unterstützt hatte.
Soziale Netzwerke wie FB können punktuell ganz hilfreich sein, ich muss allerdings sagen, in meinem Fall war es nicht immer zielführend, da diese Plattformen oft eher als Datingplattform genutzt werden und wenn man nicht Single und auf der Suche ist, dann ist das nur bedingt empfehlenswert. Also rein sachliche, verifizierte Infos/Support zu finden, ist nicht immer so einfach...
XIPAT möchte ja genau da ansetzen und die Expat Community mit praktischen Infos vor Ort unterstützen und miteinander vernetzen, sowie mit Experten bzw bestehenden Einrichtungen matchen. Gerade auch aufgrund unseren eigenen Erfahrungen als Expats und nunmehr Repats haben wir das Gefühl, dass es oft schwierig ist, den adäquaten Support und Verständnis für das Expat/Repat-Dasein und die speziellen Bedürfnisse zu bekommen.
Wie geht es dir damit, hattest du auch schon so eine Erfahrung?
Ja, absolut, Expatriation verändert einen, ich denke, das ist gerade auch wichtig zu verstehen, bevor man weggeht und mehr noch, wenn man wieder repatriiert, denn zuhause bleibt gefühlt alles wie "immer" - bei Freunden & Familie geht das Leben weiter ohne einen - und wenn man nachhause zurückkommt, ist es oft schwierig, da anzuschliessen, wo man weg gegangen ist. Darüber sprechen zu können und verstanden zu werden, was man erlebt hat, wie es einen verändert hat, das ist sehr wichtig, denn jeder Auslandsaufenthalt macht was mit einem...
Helen, vielen Dank für deine ehrlichen Insights und Tipps. Dürfen wir dich abschliessend noch nach deinem XI-Lieblingsort & -wort bitten?
Also mein Lieblingsplatz ist rundum den Bodensee (Surfmax in Hard) und Bregenz, See & Stadt, ich weiss, das klingt ein wenig eigenartig, wenn man in Vorarlberg ist, aber ich bin nicht so ein Fan der Berge... ausser zum Ski fahren ;-)
Lieblings-XI-Wort: Ich habe da jetzt kein spezielles Vorarlberger Wort, aber: "Schlagobers" finde ich sehr witzig :D
Und was mich anfangs sehr irritierte war „Heil(e)“ – für uns Deutsche immer wieder sehr befremdlich.
Vielen Dank Helen!
XiPersonality #3 - Kaury Ramos
- A love & life story 2.0 -
We're truly excited to present Kaury Ramos and her heartfelt, inspiring story about what brought her to Vorarlberg, what made her stay and what made her fall in love with the Ländle and its people and quirks. We asked her how to get settled in professionally & socially and build a new home abroad - in her case, we feel she managed to even built a whole glocal village of likeminds from all over the world, now all of them living in Vorarlberg.
And one key take away right at the beginning - international, foreigner, immigrant, refugee, expat...many labels, many stories, and no one size fits all, everyone is unique and has their own challenges and opportunities. Intercultural awareness about the sheer multitude of backgrounds, experiences are key to finding the right kind of support (big shout out for more intercultural awareness & readiness, we truly learned a lot only by listening to Kaury's story and uncovering own biases :-/)
Thank you Kaury for this open, heartfelt talk sharing your journey and tons of insights, covering the whole range from very personal stories to sound career advice.
#dualcareerinvorarlberg #lovepat #portableskills #venezuelagoesvorarlberg
Kaury, please introduce yourself!
I’m Kaury Ramos, 42, born and raised in Venezuela (Caracas), now living in Dornbirn.
In Venezuela I ran my own digital agency, creating digital content, websites, social media etc, now being employed within communications/marketing/social media.
And I’m in Vorarlberg since 2017, having traveled back and forth between Venezuela and Vorarlberg for nearly 3 years after having met my now-husband in Caracas.
So, you followed your heart and this brought you to Vorarlberg?
Yes, love actually, I met my husband in Venezuela in 2015, where he was posted for a couple of months for work and happened to stay in a hotel just next to my office. And thanks to new technologies and matching algorithms aka Apps like Tinder, we got geographically matched :-) His profile caught my eye, because he was looking for someone locally to show him the country and get to know the area and culture while he was working in Venezuela.
So, things got more serious with time and after having traveled back and forth between V&V, we decided to take it to the next level and in 2017 I moved 'All-in' to Vorarlberg and we got married the same year :-)
How was the settling in? Your partner is from Vorarlberg - how is it to immerse into 'his' cultural home, did it feel right away like your home too?
Actually, it is a process to feel at home, this doesn‘t happen overnight... It was a little bit of a culture shock at first coming from a big city to this mysterious land, but it‘s such a magical landscape and I fell in love with the Bregenzerwald, the mountains (Kanisfluh is my favourite). and I was lucky to have (besides my husband) my mother in law, who’s kind of my 'local manager' , introducing me to the community in my new home and teaching me the most common XI-expressions (one of my fav's: “gugg amol”).
And I realized that in order to really make life, love and work work here in Vorarlberg, the main key was to learn the language.So, I decided to do this as a fulltime job for the next couple of months, and deep dive and immerse myself into German classes to truly reach a professional level.
Also, I was hoping to catch up in those classes with like minded internationals which could help me to (re)build a social network. But honestly speaking, this class wasn't the right match respectively not meeting my expectations. Don't get me wrong, the teacher and setup was good, but maybe a little naive, if I might say so, but the group was not at all a cultural fit. Not only was I in the beginning the only woman in a class full of men, but beyond the gender issue, they were all refugees who had a whole other story behind what brought them to Vorarlberg. Actually, it was a very tough experience, not only because of my different background (language, country, reasoning for coming to Vorarlberg...) but also the people themselves having very different, very traumatic migration histories.
After this first experience, I consciously startet to search for other language classes and I even discovered a special Workshop at WIFI about speaking Gsibergerisch, this was really helpful and I made some very good friends there.
So, the Nr 1 key to immerse yourself into the new country and culture is to know at least some basics of the local language - and here it's definitely not that easy with high German alone, since most people in Vorarlberg speak gsibergerisch, so you should definitely be able to know some classic words/expressions.
What do you feel - besides the language - is necessary to relaunch yourself socially and professionally?
Socially: there are actually quite some expats networks, you'll find a couple of international groups on Facebook, MeetUp and it's great to meet and exchange with likeminded people who are very helpful especially in the beginning. Especially when you're looking for practical information, medical tipps, because in such cases you might rather talk to a doctor who‘s able to speak in your maternal language and/or in english at least.
I made really good friends within the local expat networks around here, respectively at the language classes, and we started to meet regularly to practice German and then slowly integrated our partners at those meetups as well. This was actually very helpful as a glocal couple to better understand each other's challenges and share it with likeminded people.
And what was really very helpful was a mentorship programme by WK+ÖIF. My mentor helped me a lot with the social and professional know-how for Vorarlberg and she became one of my closest friends here.
Professionally: I started to work at Sutterlüty to do something, and I wanted to truly practice German on an everyday basis - there I got to know all the different kinds of dialects, quite a challenge having mainly learned ‘High German’ ;-). I stayed there for 3 months and then I got back on my marketing track and started to freelance in my area of expertise in a Cowork space - “Die Gelbe Fabrik”, CoWork Spaces are definitely a great way of getting out and connected not only socially but especially also on a professional level, giving you access to a diverse network of people and opportunities. People there mostly speak english and happily share their contacts with you, that’s how I found my first job.
But, if you're planning to get employed and permanently stay in Vorarlberg, you need to learn German. It’s not so international like Munich or Berlin, you really have to get to know the local people and networks.
What surprised you the most?
Definitely the seasons - i'm not used to having seasons, and I needed to learn how to dress for Winter. I’m coming from Venezuela, a country close to the Equator with l an average temperature of +/- 25 all year round, so this was definitely the biggest change to experience the different seasons and winter for the first time - starting of with basic questions like what to wear, which jackets, boots... and I fell in love with it (as my pic hopefully shows ;-)).
Also the landscape, I call it the magical land because I didn't expect it to be so beautiful, I thought we in Venezuela have one of the most beautiful landscapes with waterfalls, lush greenery, long stretched coastlines with amazing beaches, but then getting to Vorarlberg, to Bregenzerwald for the first time (and still) to discover this tiny magic land abroad...this was very nice surprise.
Actually, when you are an international, I think most of the people are only aware of Lake of Constance, but not of much else, especially since there's not a well known big city, so this was and still is a very nice surprise.
What also surprised me in the beginning was that people kind of stared at me, because I don’t look very European, but they didn’t dare to ask me from where I am, this sometimes felt hostile, but luckily, as already mentioned, I had my mother in law as my local manager backing me up ;-)
Do you sometimes miss Venezuela?
I haven’t been back in Venezuela for 3 years now, and honestly, it changed so much politically and economically over the last years, that it doesn’t feel like the same home anymore which I left. So I don’t miss it that much, except my mum, dad and sister who are still there, but with the virtual means today, we’re regularly in contact.
And compared to other expats I know, who are from the UK or somewhere else in Europe, I feel maybe more at home in Vorarlberg, because due to the lack of possibility to travel as often back/forth to Venezuela because of the distance, I needed to fully adopt and immerse myself into the life in Vorarlberg.
So, I’d say I’m lucky calling both places home now.
To sum it up, what are your key tips for getting a head-start in Vorarlberg? And our fix staples - fav word and place?
...actually very simple basics I would say...
1) learn some German, at least some basics will bring you already a long way and making local contacts
2) get out & meet people - join a cowork-space, club, classes, meetups, this truly is key to establish your own network
Favorite Word: guck amol (*remark: when Kaury mentioned it, I understood ‘guacamole’ and didn’t get it right away...sorry ;-)
Favorite Place: in Summer - @Rohrspitz, in Winter - @Hittisau/Riefensberg
Kaury, thank you so much for this open talk!
And a BIG thank you for your special workshop in social media, we’re still “digesting” the tons of insights and hoping to be able to apply all your tips 2021+!
Meet Pragathi from India - our XiPersonality #4 living & working in Dornbirn
Please tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to Vorarlberg?
I’m Pragathi Chandrashekhar, 28 yrs old and I’m from Bangalore. I came to Vorarlberg in 2018, following my husband who did his masters in Germany and then started working in Vorarlberg. After looking for a job for some months, I started working at Inet logistics and now work @Hexagon Geosystems.
It is actually my first time living and working abroad.We both work in IT and live in Dornbirn.
How was the settling in?
Actually, it was pretty smooth for me because my husband was already here and thus, I qualified for the spouse visa (red-white-red-plus card) and he could manage all the bureaucracy directly with the respective governmental institutions.
How do you stay in touch with your family back home?
I talk to my parents every day, I’m the only child and it’s the first time to live abroad, Normally we would have planned to go back home to visit them at least 1x/ year, but unfortunately at the moment this is not possible, so we stay in contact virtually and hope to be able to fly to India at the end of the year.
What do you like the most about life in V?
I love the region, the landscape looks like a picture, especially the Bödele area, my favorite place to go for a hike or with the bike, it’s beautiful no matter which season, the view is amazing.
Also the Vorarlberg people are very kind, friendly people - I was really surprised when everybody greeted me on the streets, that’s something I needed to get used to - in a nice way, but it’s just not common in India.
What didn’t work so well?
The one thing which was a little tough especially in the beginning was to learn the language in order to be able to navigate the bureaucracy. And sometimes the people at the public institutions were not very cooperative and even got impatient if I didn’t understand right away what they needed from me (eg I would have been able to join my husband earlier, if the procedure and papers needed for my immigration would have been communicated in a more comprehensive way).
I was also surprised by the weather. In India we have either sun or raining season, but here you have all 4 seasons, and you can even experience quite some weather changes in one single day.
What about socializing, have you made any friends here?
So far, I haven’t really found a true international community - I guess also due to the pandemic and lack of opportunities to meet other people beyond work. At work we are also not that many internationals - besides me, there’s another girl from Russia and luckily I made friends with a german work colleague who takes me along for hikes etc.
Before the Covid restrictions I also had contact with some friends in Lindau, Germany, which is just a short drive away.
Do you have a recommendation where to find real Indian food in V?
To be honest, so far I haven’t discovered a really good place, I prefer to cook Indian food at home and order the variety of spices from online grocery stores like Dookan, Get Groceries. So I prefer to taste local food when going to a restaurant, but the food in Vorarlberg compared to Indian food is very mild and it includes really a lot of cheese :)
What’s your top tip for newcomers to V?
Definitely to know the language, at least a couple of words to be able to have some basic communication skills to navigate in daily life like making appointments, etc
Where to find me:
FB & Bodensee & Bödele
Pragathi, many thanks & habidere!
Meet Asheley -
Meet Asheley Waeffler from sunny California who moved to Dornbirn, Vorarlberg 11 years ago, she shares her stories and insights on Expat life in Vorarlberg in the following interview:
You already live in Vorarlberg for 11 years, why did you come here in the first place?
Back in California I met my boyfriend, now husband, who is originally from Switzerland, while he was doing his master’s degree in California. After finishing his degree, he received a job offer in Vorarlberg, so I decided to come here with him.
How was the settling-in process?
I really didn´t like it here in the beginning, also due to the first job that I had. I came here in 2010, and the situation was quite different from now, so the settling in process was a bit challenging. First, I didn´t speak the language, so that was a barrier, and there weren´t a lot of international communities. The job I had was in Friedrichshafen, Germany at an International School, and although the commute is not that long, back then the shops closed at 6pm, so when I came home in the evening I couldn´t go out to get anything, which was a huge change from my life back in the US.
After living here for 11 years, do you feel at home in Dornbirn?
Honestly, I had a hard time feeling at home in Dornbirn, but after having my kids (2 boys) this changed. I think Vorarlberg is a great place to have children. They have so much freedom here and so many opportunities. For example, if they were in a play school in the US, they would never be able to go out and take the bus to go for a ride, like they do here or we also wouldn´t be able to just take the bike and go for a ride with the kids. So, this is something that I appreciate about life here.
What has been difficult for you living abroad?
It has been difficult to find friends, although in general the people are very friendly, most of them have their friendships since they were in school together, and so being from another country and not being able to speak the local language 100% made it hard to get into a circle of friends. The closest Vorarlberger friends I have, have also lived for a time in the US, so I guess having this experience of living abroad in common helped to establish a friendship. But all of my really close friends are also expats themselves.
Of course, it is also tough being away from my family in California, especially as my children are the only grandchildren to my Mum, so this makes me feel guilty at times for living so far away.
What would be one of the biggest differences between California and Vorarlberg?
People in California are incredibly open minded also because we have a big multicultural mix of people living there. When I came to Vorarlberg there weren´t that many internationals living here (which has changed quite a lot by now) and so you always felt like an outsider. The mentality here was difficult to understand for me.
What are your plans for the future?
We will move to Schaffhausen (Switzerland) this summer. And believe it or not, although I am very excited, there will be things and people I will miss from Dornbirn. My husband got a job in Zurich, and so we decided to move our life closer to his work and his family, as they are from that area. We already bought a house in Schaffhausen and I am really looking forward to putting down some roots in Switzerland. Luckily, we’re not too far away and we can come back for a visit whenever we want!
Thank you very much Asheley for this interesting interview, we wish you all the best for your upcoming move and a great start in Switzerland!
MEET EMILIA - Our XiPERSONALITY #6
Emilia Ongaretto (39) from Italy / currently living and studying in Bregenz
Please tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to Vorarlberg?
I am from a city close to Rome and have been living in Austria for 7 years now. My journey started in Innsbruck working for a hotel and in 2016 I came to Vorarlberg, Bregenz, where I still live now. I really like to live close to the water, it feels like living next to the sea sometimes.
Unfortunately during the pandemic I lost my job and I am now studying graphic design, and hope to find a new place to work soon, as I really enjoy living in Vorarlberg. It feels like a little paradise here with the mountains, the lake, the nature is just beautiful.
Your German is very good, where did you learn it?
Thank you! I learnt German during High School and later on I studied it for one year at the Humbolt Universität in Berlin. Once landed in Vorarlberg, I attended together with other expats a special course in which they taught us to talk in dialect, which is quite important here. And personally, I think that the dialect is beautiful. It is strong and it also gives the place a specific identity. We also have a lot of various dialects in Italy, so maybe this is why I was always open to learning the dialect. In my experience people express themselves much more authentically and spontaneously when speaking dialect versus talking in the formal ‘High german’, so it was important for me to understand the local colorit to truly understand the Vorarlberg people and their lifestyle. Actually, there’s also a book which was really helpful to learn the language, ….(book title).
Fun fact: when I write my shopping list I always mix Italian and German, whatever expression fits better :)
How was the settling in?
At the beginning I missed my family, my roots, but with time I just realised that the roots have grown. I also stopped to make comparisons between Italy and Austria, as this did not help me in my settling in process. Also I guess that sometimes being homesick is normal, but I try to look at the positive side and don´t think about my home too much. I’ll try to do it like the sunflowers do, always following the sunshine.
What do you like the most about life in V?
Vorarlberg is like paradise, we have everything here - mountains, lakes, cities, maybe not as big as Rome (laughs) -,and I am also very active in a club called “Dante Alighieri” which focuses on Italian art and culture, where we organise various cultural events with a link to Austria and Italy, like Villa d’Este, where Franz Liszt composed Les jeux d’eau.
There are quite some Italians here in Vorarlberg and this also helps me to feel at home, although I always try to mingle with local people to burst the expat bubble.
Another thing that I really appreciate about the people in Vorarlberg is their work ethics, they are very professional and always prepared and actively contributing to projects, bringing in their ideas. IT’s a very dynamic society with a good work-life balance.
What didn’t work so well?
In Italy we never plan our time off, we just get together on short notice, we like to be spontaneous, so in the beginning when I wanted to meet someone they always told me, I am sorry, but we already made plans for the day/ weekend. It took me some time to get used to this, but by now I am ok with that.
What about socializing, have you made any friends here?
Yes, I am a very social and outgoing person, so it was quite easy for me to make friends. It also helped that I am part of the Italian club.
Do you have a recommendation where to find real Italian food in V?
La Scarpetta and Etna in Dornbirn. Casa Mattoni in Hohenems.
What’s your top tip for newcomers to V?
To be very clear about your own reasoning for relocating, for work, for socialising and then build your social network on site, which takes time. And for sure the language.
Where do you find me?
on my blog https://findadayoff.com/ where I post about food, music, graphic design
on FB: here I founded a group for UX-Designers in Vorarlberg https://www.facebook.com/groups/uxdesignvorarlberg >> see the pic below)
at the Club Dante Alighieri: https://www.ladante-vorarlberg.com/events-news
Emilia, gracie mille!
Get to know Johannes Grissmann
- Xipersonality #7
There is a new twist to our Xipersonality series, starting now we will not only share stories from Expats in Vorarlberg but also stories about people that are from Vorarlberg and now live abroad.
We are very excited to start this series with a young man that I have known for more than 20 years, Johannes (Jogi) Grissmann.
Johannes is originally from Lochau, Vorarlberg and about 8 years ago he has decided to move to gorgeous Sydney, Australia.
So of course, our first question was, why Australia?
Ever since my first experience living overseas for an internship in London 15 years ago, I am fascinated by multicultural places. After I finished my master’s degree in Zurich, I went back to Vorarlberg and worked there for 5 years before taking the initiative to resign and move overseas again.
My initial plan was to complete my 6-week trip living and working in Shanghai; however, this plan was slightly adjusted. What was supposed to be a practice interview to prepare for Shanghai ended in a job offer here in Sydney. By then I had already fallen in love with the city and the lifestyle, so I signed the contract. I returned to Vorarlberg from my trip to sort out final paperwork and bought a one-way-ticket back to Sydney, and the rest is history.
What was the most difficult part about starting life in Australia?
I didn’t feel it was that difficult for me to start a life in Australia. Firstly, I was fortunate to have my employer organise the visa and my accommodation for the first couple of weeks. Secondly, I’m an easy-going guy, which makes it easier for me to adjust to new situations and make a new place feel like home.
I think as an expat living in a place where the language is not our mother tongue, we will get to a point where we are engaged in deep, emotional conversations and feel like we can not 100% express what we want to say. At times, we may say something in a certain way that is rooted subconsciously to our background but is perceived differently by people with other cultural backgrounds. To me these moments are when I feel most alien to the place I choose to live. These moments, however, have also made me develop something very valuable and important, the ability to listen more carefully and understand context before responding. Overall, it is about being more empathetic towards others.
What do you like about life in Australia?
The work-life-balance here in Sydney is simply second to none. My partner and I are fortunate enough to live at Bondi Beach so I can surf in the morning before riding my motorbike to work, which gets me to the city in 15 minutes.
To me it feels like the warmer climate and great weather year-round influences the way of living. People spend way more time outside before and after work because there is so much on offer. This naturally leads to a more flexible and relaxed work-life-balance, where work does not dictate everything. Australians work to live, not live to work.
Was it easy to make friends and do you have more Australian or more international friends?
There are a lot of expats in Australia, and by nature because we are in the same situation, it is easier to get to know them. There is however a downside to this, as lot of people from the expat-community leave after about 4 years.
The idea of just temporarily moving here for a limited time and then moving on has never appealed to me. I wanted to be open to all opportunities that would come my way. I always try to have a good mix of local and international friends. It did take more time to build friendships with locals at the beginning, but after almost 8 years here in Sydney, I have established a strong community of local and expat friends who have also decided to make Sydney their home.
What have you learned while living abroad?
Living overseas in a multi-cultural environment has helped me become more open minded. I have learned to see things from a new perspective, and I am definitely more aware of cultural differences. My partner Bree (Korean-American who grew up in California,) and I talk a lot about these differences, and we have experienced that sometimes a specific word or expression can have a subtle difference by culture.
All those experiences I had living overseas have also helped me lead intercultural teams, being more conscious about where everyone is coming from, culturally as well as who they are as individuals.
You seem super happy in Australia, you have even mentioned in our talk that you feel more at home in Sydney than in Austria, is there anything that you miss?
I think after living at a place for such a long time, it is only normal to feel that way. I have an attitude where I try not to miss things, but instead look forward to things. Of course, I miss friends and family, and my godchildren in particular. I would love to be there as they grow up. However, I made the decision to live overseas, so instead I video-call them as often as I can, and I look forward to seeing them on my next trip back ins Ländle (Vorarlberg).
I don’t miss skiing as I’ve now replaced it with surfing, but yes, I do miss a good Leberkäse (for everyone that has never heard this word, it is sort of a meat loaf that is typical in Austria and some parts of Germany and Switzerland) with Laugenbrot (sort of a pretzel) and mayonnaise.
I keep some Austrian traditions alive here by making Schnitzels and Apfelstrudel, being able to share my culture and food with friends.
As an expat you realize home can be two places at once, and in my case, it is Lochau (Austria) and Sydney (Australia).
Johannes, thank you so much for this interview, it was a great pleasure seeing you again after so many years, even if it was only virtually.