Hi! I’m Raphaelle, 35, I am French and I live in Hamburg, Germany.
It’s hard to determine exactly where my expat life began – do you count stints abroad beyond a certain duration? When you’re on a specific visa status? When you start receiving mail, paying taxes, being on first name basis with a bartender? In short, I’ve been abroad on and off for most of my adult life. During my studies as a mechanical engineer, I used as many of my internships and summer classes as possible as opportunities to see other countries – the US, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia. Then during my master’s degree, I had the opportunity to spend a full year in Japan working as a junior engineer for a Japanese company. It would have been a full Japanese immersion experience hadn’t I met my future husband then – a Dutchman doing the same thing as me. After we finished our degrees in our respective countries, he followed me to South Korea where I worked, traveling all over East Asia for 2 years and change. After a while we felt ready to “go back” to Europe, wherever that would be – and Hamburg is where we happened to both get job offers. I had absolutely no preconceptions about the city, and it turned out to be a wonderful surprise. We’ve been in Hamburg for 11 years now, and our daughter was born there 4 years ago.