Pivt User Interview Series : Susanne Leitner-Expat Coach
Introducing Pivt User Interview Series! Hear from real Pivt’ers about their experiences moving and traveling.
This week we hear from Susanne Leitner, Expat Coach at Amoveo!
Where have you lived?
I grew up in Germany and moved to New York in 2006 with my husband and two kids, ages 5 and 8.
What was the reason for the move?
The reason to move to the US was a new job assignment for my husband.
What was the most difficult thing to adjust to? How did you tackle it?
We had a vague idea what it would be like to live in New York area and we decided to move to Westchester for the kid’s school and my husband had to commute into the city. The most difficult thing was to adjust the family to their new environment, my husband came to the US with just his school English, the kids couldn’t speak English at all, everything, even groceries shopping, was different.
At the beginning it was quite a cultural shock as nobody at home prepared us for the move. So it took a while to know how to get around, not being overwhelmed in the city and finding a new network and friends and of course the kids were homesick the first year and as a parent you always question yourself if this was the right decision.
Luckily, since I was a stay-at-home mum, I loved to explore the city and on week-ends my family had to see the things I found most interesting. I signed up for a Newcomersclub in the village, went to sports classes and to cultural courses taught in English to improve my English and also to learn about my new country. With young kids it’s much easier to find new contacts through the school, however I didn’t want to stick all the time within the German Community. Step by step I learned what worked well and how to expand my network and today I’m blessed with many friends from around the world. Though, I do wish Pivt had been around. Things would have been much easier!
From your experience, what are the biggest challenges expats face?
The most challenging facts at the beginning are mostly the same for every expat. Get as quickly as possible over the first phase of your new environment like having a nice place to live, phone, internet, where to buy your daily needs, all bureaucratic and necessary to-do-list and then decide what you need to feel at home. What are your hobbies? Where can you find these places – is the language barrier the most important thing to tackle first? – Who do you know and where do you find like-minded people? Are you interested in culture, outdoors, travelling? Then make a list what’s important and take it from there (check out Pivt).
Why did you decide to become an expat coach?
This came quite naturally to me after deciding to get the education as a coach and at NYU they asked me what niche I’m planning to take for my business. Since I was already involved as an organizer at our local Newcomersclub and we were living in an international environment I heard a lot about the difficulties many expats experience and I went through the same situations years ago. I then realized that I can put all my experience and knowledge into my coaching praxis and started to develop workshops for expats and their families to help them to adjust easier to their new life.
Do you see any trends amongst expats?
No, not really – I do see though that the younger generations are generally more flexible and that’s a great asset for moving abroad.
What do you want people thinking about moving abroad to know?
It’s clearly an adventure and it’s a good thing to think about it that way – you need new structures and being exposed to a new culture keeps your mind flexible and you become more fearless. In our global world with so much change around us, moving abroad will benefit you in so many ways.
Do you have any moving hacks you can share?
I think the best way to prepare for a move is to avoid any uncertainty – so preparing yourself by getting a lot of information in advance eliminates some bumps along the way. If possible take an Expat course (a lot of companies offer these courses to their employees) to be prepared what will happen during the first year.
Any last pieces of advice for expats?
Be curious and dare to step out of your comfort zone – try new things and see what works well and to quote Hannah Arendt :
“Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time”
Home to you is…Definitely New York but whenever I am in Europe it still feels like home, too.