Welcome back to my Starting Over interview series. Today, meet Cherie, a nurse whose one simple question online led to romance and eventually a move from the United States to Germany. Here’s how love made her an expat.
Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?
Hello! My name is Cherie and I am an expat of sorts, a Haus Frau, a wife, and mother. I also write a blog about my adventures and I am currently living in Germany.
You were a Nurse. Was nursing something that you always wanted to do?
No. I wanted to be a lot of things when I was a child. I dreamed of being an artist or writer, or an artist-writer. I also wanted to be a teacher like my Mom, and a social worker like my Dad. Then, I had my heart set on being a librarian (something that I still wish that I had pursued). But a family friend was a librarian and she strongly suggested that I look into something else. (She thought I would make better money in a different field). I started thinking about becoming a nurse after I moved to North Carolina in my twenties. Nursing was a way to combine being a teacher and a social worker. I loved working as an ER nurse but eventually burned out.
You and your current husband met online. You were from Michigan and he was from Germany. What prompted you to start dating someone from another country.
My Mom was very ill, and little did I know at the time, was going to die 4 months after her cancer diagnosis. I was 40 and that put a lot of things straight in my mind. I decided I needed to make some big changes in my life. The first change was to stop putting things off for another day, another day may never come. So, I was planning a dream trip to England/Scotland. I only had 7 days of vacation time and really wanted to see the best of the best. I was playing an online game at the time and noticed that many of the other players were from various places in Europe. So, I posted a question in the chat section of the game. My question was, If you only had 7 days, what places would you have to see in England and Scotland. I got a few answers back, but Dirk’s answer stuck out, He said, “Screw England, you just need to see Scotland.” From that moment we talked almost daily about Scotland. Eventually, we realized we had a lot in common besides travel and our relationship grew.
Originally, Dirk came to the U.S. Was there ever a plan that he was going to move here or were you still just figuring out your relationship at that time?
It took us a while to figure out the living situation. I had two daughters still in school and a good job. Dirk had his family and he also had a very good job. Eventually, we worked out a plan for him to come to the States until the girls were old enough to live on their own. Then we would go to Germany.
In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over. At the age of 47, you quit your job as a nurse and moved to Germany with your kids. Can you walk us through your decision process?
I was already burned out as an ER nurse. I had worked 12 years in various ER departments, from small Rural hospitals to large Level I Trauma centers. You can only do that for so long before it takes a toll on your own health. I wasn’t taking care of myself properly and burned out. So, over the next 5 years, I had switched to another area of nursing, but I did not enjoy it as much as working in the ER. So, I was ready for a new start, something besides nursing. My husband was very supportive of this and really wanted me to find something that brought me joy. We owned a small Tattoo Shop in Michigan and decided to sell that to start a new shop in Germany. We asked my daughters if they wanted to try Germany as well, and they both agreed. So, they finished up school and prepared for the move with us. We researched the immigration process for Germany and found out how to obtain health insurance on arrival. We all sold or donated all of our belongings (we each brought 2 suitcases of belongings with us to Germany). We also made a trip to Germany before the move to scope out housing and a business location. So, we really just made a plan and ticked off the list as we went through.
What were your fears with this move and how did you address those fears?
My fears were: will the business make enough money? (It has). Will the girls and I be able to learn German fast enough to integrate into society? (It is a slow process, but we are learning.) We addressed the fears by starting right away in German language school. Dirk planned to take a part-time job if needed to supplement our income if the business took a while to take off. We also made it clear to both of my daughters that this is a life experience. It doesn’t have to be forever, but it will be an important part of their lives. My oldest daughter stayed in Germany for 6 months and then moved back to the USA. She felt too isolated here and missed her friends.
Currently, you’re not working. Are there plans in the works? How difficult is it for a Nurse to get work in Europe?
I am currently not able to work in Germany as I am still in the immigration process. I have looked into obtaining my UK nursing license with the idea that I may take intermittent travel job assignments throughout the UK. The process is very lengthy. It will take anywhere from 6 months to a year for the license to be processed, and this also includes taking a written exam (Like the NCLEX in the States) as well as doing a practical test. Oh, and several thousands of Pounds as well. I have no plans to work as a nurse in Germany as I will probably never have the language skills to work safely as a nurse. Also, the level of nursing skills here in Germany is not on the same level as in the UK or USA. So, right now I am just enjoying being the Haus Frau, learning my new language, baking every day, meeting new people, seeing new things, and writing as much as possible.
What do you love most about your new country? And what do you miss most about the U.S.?
I love the sense of community here. People think of their community when making decisions, unlike the USA where it feels like it is always about the individual first. I also really like having access to good public transportation. In the USA, or at least in most areas of the States you have to have a car to go anywhere. I can go pretty much anywhere here by bus or train. I do miss my friends and family in the States, and I miss tamales. I haven’t found any good Mexican food here.
Looking back at when you made the move, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently or anything that you planned for but then realized it wasn’t feasible once you got to Germany?
Everything worked out quite well for us. Of course, this was because my husband was from Germany, so he already knew the process for most things. I do wish I had been able to learn more of the language before making the move. The language barrier has been our biggest issue with the move. In a perfect world, I would have taken 5 years of German while still in the States. But, since I was working full time, that did not happen.
And to go along with that question, what advice do you have for someone who wants to take a chance on love and move to a new country?
Learn some of the languages before you move. Be sure you actively integrate with your new community. Make friends with the locals, not just other expats. It’s hard to acclimate if you are spending all of your time with other Americans. Don’t be that person who compares everything with their home country. When in Rome…
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Cherie. She embodies what starting over really is about. Stop putting things off because you don’t know when or even if another day is coming. You can find Cherie at the following places.