Chris Pyak: Reverse Culture Shock and Finding Employment in Germany
Our special guest on The Moving Roadmap podcast, powered by Avvinue, is Chris Pyak.
Chris Pyak is the author of "How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans" - an expats' guide to your first job in a foreign country.
Transcripts are automatically generated and may not be an 100% accurate transcription.
Nicole (Host): Welcome to the moving roadmap podcast powered by Avvinue. My name is Nicole, and I'll be your host for the show. In this episode, we're excited to introduce our guests, Chris Pyak, who is the author of how to win jobs and influence Germans, which is an expert's guide to your first job in a foreign country.
Welcome to the show, Chris.
Chris Pyak: Hello, Nicole. Nice to be here.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. We're excited to have you join in. Great to see you have written a book specifically for expats, as they look for a job abroad. So. Let's start off with more about you. Where are you originally from?
Chris Pyak: So I'm from Germany, and I live now again in Germany, but in the meantime, I spent 10 years living abroad.
I have worked, in, in Estonia for a long time in Latvia, in the UK, in a union. And my last station was Moscow. And when I returned back to Germany, I was really shocked to realize how little employers in Germany appreciate international experience or many of my clients. For example, either they come here on a job seeker visa, or they are trailing spouses.
Meaning the partner found a great shop here in Germany. So they come along and they have great experience themself, a great application themselves, but, they just run against closed doors. Hmm.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. Very interesting. And wow, you lived in many countries. That's really exciting. And then returning to Germany.
So I'm sure that was a very different experience altogether returning to your home country. Probably very comforting as well.
Chris Pyak: It was, it was weird. We had, A lot of people who returned home after a couple of years or a number of years into the home country, they experienced a reverse culture shock.
Yeah, because they have changed, but the place where they went away also changed. So they have to get readjusted. We met last, like, I moved abroad and I changed as a person completely because of living abroad. And then I come home and nothing has changed. That was the challenge for me. You know, we are a country who still sends facts to give you an idea.,
Nicole (Host): Yeah, and it's so funny because you know, All around the world. Everyone does things differently. Their culture is completely different. The workplace is very different. So you got to experience an interesting dynamic as well, going and working with broad and then returning. So does that, you mentioned with sending faxes, yeah.
Every country is different now moving from the US to France. I also experienced some of that difference, when things don't change, In your original country.
Chris Pyak: Yeah. What was the varsity, what advice? One thing that surprised you positively when you moved to France that you didn't expect beforehand.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. So for me, that something that I didn't expect, especially when moving abroad was all the different catch 20 twos. you know, I read a lot of blogs and YouTube videos about, you know, what the journey would be like, of course, in some cases, okay, you need this before this and understanding, okay. I need to organize everything accordingly.
But there are really interesting cases. How here in France, you need to have the phone in order to open the bank and you need the bank to open the phone. So there were a lot of situations like that, which make it a little difficult for foreigners. And that made me see a different side of things right?
In your own home country. You don't really think of things from the perspective of a foreigner. And so now with this experience living abroad, that was, you know, Something I wasn't expecting. but I learned a lot from it. And now as I travel, I also think, and I don't know if this would be helpful for expats or maybe this is actually really helpful for expats and how countries, you know, make sure that there's, you know, warm welcome for, for others coming in.
Chris Pyak: So it's definitely a huge advantage when you have someone who knows the local culture and the local habits, because I see you can run against borders. All over again right next to you is a door. But because you come from a different universe, a different culture, you don't see this. Sometimes it's really helpful.
And I understand that's what your company is providing. That you have someone who gets you through that door instead of running against the wall.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. You know, a lot of the pain points that people experience when moving abroad are very similar. So we're just really working on providing a solution to, to help expats on their journey abroad.
So instead of, you know, dealing with the challenging aspects, it's more focused on, all right, let's get you through this so you can enjoy the reason why you chose to move abroad. So kind of on that, like with the challenging aspects, what was, what were some of the challenging aspects you experienced?
And I know you lived around in multiple countries. So what about your return back to Germany?
Chris Pyak: Yeah, I was just thinking about it. In other countries I had, and remember. I'm a German, native, I had in other countries, less problems than when I had, when I came home. To give you one example. When I moved to Estonia in 2001, you expect bad service and you expecta diverse service to come from the government.
When I moved to Estonia, I was just shocked because I never, ever in my life experienced excellent service. Then I got from the Estonian government. Imagine you want something from the government, you come into an office. And the first thing to say is, Hey, sit down, do you want a cup of coffee?
What can we do for you?
Nicole (Host): Wow. Now that sounds great.
Chris Pyak: I know you don't even go into the office anymore. You can do everything online and you can do everything in English. And, when I returned to Germany, everything is still so difficult here. And, they’re attitude is, Hey, we are the center of the world.
And if you want to live here, then you have to speak German, which of course for me is not a problem. But for my clients who are international professionals, Germany, German language is a local language. Well, and that you can't go to a government agency and fill out a form in English because that's legally prohibited because your official state language was German.
So you have to apply to everything in German. I believe the Germans don't understand the stone government. Well, that's a real obstacle also in the, in the job market. 1% of German companies, higher in English.
Nicole (Host): Wow. 1%.
Chris Pyak: Exactly. And I give a lot of speeches to international professionals about how you break into the German job market.
And after the speeches, sometimes the women come to me and they cry. I have this kind of effect on people. And, I remember one incident here with the American women's cup in Dusseldorf and, one of, both women, they are looking for a job for more than a year. And one of them had a degree from Berkeley and the other one had the degree from Cambridge.
That was a fight to get to them. Sunday experience in Germany, nothing happens. No one is interested, hundreds, drop applications, not even an answer and deciding a situation. This is a woman. They come here with desperate houses. They had a very good career themselves.
And then. Suddenly you realize you can't get anywhere. And in every instance, what makes it so happen. But it's interesting about what you are doing also, I think that you can face these obstacles in every single instance and that can suck the life out of it. Absolutely. It's wonderful. If you can just leave it to someone else.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. And you, and you just made a really valid point, you know, Like, it can be so difficult for someone moving abroad, especially if there's a language barrier, you know, moving to a country is one thing, but then when there's a language barrier, it just escalates the pain of doing the normal thing.
And, you know, as the example you gave, you know, women that have. Highly recognized degrees from recognized institutions and still there's a barrier for them. And it's really a lot, like you said, like with the language, the culture. so that can be really difficult. Similarly here in France, everything is in French and there's that sense of pride and which I respect, but I can also see how it's, it can be very challenging.
You know when trying to navigate as a foreigner. So for sure. So when you moved back to Germany, what were some of the steps you took?
Like when you decided, like, when did you decide you were going to move back?
Chris Pyak: Well, after I fell in love, I was on a holiday and I met a beautiful woman on the beach and, we, we spent time together.
Two wonderful days together. And at the end of that, I said, you know, she's from Moscow and said, I would come and visit you in Moscow. And we too will end up together. And of course she said that, yeah, you know, blah, blah. So, she flew home and I sent, while she was on the plane, I bought the tickets to visit her and send her the tickets.
And then she said, well, now you come. So, we lived together in Moscow for about six months. Okay. And so then we, when we started to get married and buy property all of that, also a nightmare, by the way. Yeah. Then we decided, okay, do we want to raise our children? And, I love, Russian people and I love the Russian culture.
But, Russia is a deeply corrupt country where you cannot feel safe. Especially if you run a business like I didl. So we wanted to raise our children yeah. In a place that was safe. And so in 2011, I moved first back to Germany. And then about six months later, my wife followed.
Nicole (Host): Wow, what a story? No, but it's like a love story, but then also you made a life decision thinking about your children.
And I think a lot of people when, when they have children in the, in the picture, things change, right? Like the focus is not where do I want to spend my time, but where do I want to raise my children? do we want to raise them in another country? And what would that look like? Or is it best to, you know, give your children a similar upbringing that you had.
Chris Pyak: Yeah. I remember very vividly. One night after my wife came home, we came home from a party and we walked to our little side street next to the railway station, very dark and dirty, and two police men came to watch us and I saw him and immediately I felt relieved and I felt protected and safe.
And believe me, that's not a feeling that you have in Russia when you see the police coming to you, the devil's out for me, a hard moment, like, Oh, wow. Yeah. That's actually, I really am so used to the police being here to protect me that I immediately feel relief when I see a police officer. And I know in many countries you will have a different feeling when you do
Nicole (Host): It's very true. Yes. Depending on where you are in the world. Yeah. The police can definitely come across differently. So at least that moment helped you also realize, you know, what, I want to be in a safer place and have my children in a safer place for sure. Yeah. So now looking back, and of course you moved, you lived in many countries, but what would you have done differently and maybe give you the best example here.
What would you do differently in planning your move?
Chris Pyak: Well, that's, that's a good question. The most important tip that I can give is to start building relationships, even before you move. From the morning when you decide, okay, I, this is my plan. This is where I want to go, start building relationships in the countries because at the end of the day, you always depend on other people and the more connections you have, and, the more people trust you and to more people you have that you can trust the easier everything will be.
You can be a really rich person, if you move to a country where you have no connections, You can still become a victim to circumstances or victim to, or to bad people. And, you can not count that other people will be there to help you, even in some countries that the government will be there to help you or the police will be there to help you.
So, build connections, especially when you plan to build a future in this, in this country for at least three, four, five years. If you have to find a job also, Yeah, fun story. I used to travel a lot during this time when I was living abroad because my job is not location dependent, so I could basically work from wherever I wanted.
And, before I went to a country for a holiday. Yeah. I always wrote to the Germans in that country. And the feedback would give me an idea of, is this a good place to live? For example, I wrote, I think about 30 people in Brazil, when I wrote, there's plenty of them during the fall holiday. And after I think, four weeks, or so, one person responded.
And when I went to Malaysia, I wrote to seven people and they all answered within the hour. So this taught me that probably in Brazil, it's very easy to find friends. So you don't need to answer to some random stranger on the internet. And maybe in Malaysia, people feel a little bit lonely. That's why they were so happy to start the communication.
Nicole (Host): That is such an interesting perspective. I mean, even looking at the numbers, 30 people that you outreached in Brazil, and then the seven in Malaysia, I've been to Malaysia. Love it. And are the sweetest people and such a beautiful country.
Nicole (Host): Yes, I have yet to go to Brazil but, really interesting perspective.
So start building a relationship before you even move, and I love how you even, you reach out to Germans in that country. So not just any expat, you're looking at feedback from someone who maybe is coming with a similar perspective.
Chris Pyak: Yeah, because that was when I just moved abroad nowadays, actually my, my circle of friends and relations, they come from all over the world and a lot of people who meet me, they want to make me a compliment.
They always say, Oh, you are not a typical German, which doesn't reflect very well on us.
Nicole (Host): Oh, that's too funny. Great advice. I mean, I, I consider that’s great if I, especially for our listeners who are considering to move abroad and they're trying to build up their, their lists that are forever long checklist of what should they do, but, you know, building a relationship, I think that's really important because after you move part of the.
Expatriate experience is building a community and that can take time. So I think that's a really great, great advice for people who are considering some of the broadest to start building that relationship, whether it's professionally, whether it's just to get feedback and insight. So that's a really good one.
Chris Pyak: Yeah, two additional tips that I could give is, number one, what I found useful is, not to move into your final place right away, but first, to rent something for like six months or so, because all the research you do about a city on the, areas in the city where you want to live, they're never exactly the same as actually being there and seeing how life is.
So if you have the option. It's a good choice to first rent something for like six months. So you have time to really see all areas of the city and then pick an area where you really want to live. And the second advice is every single city would be more expensive than you thought, so plan twice as much as you expected.
Nicole (Host): Very good tips. so you're absolutely right on that. in the same way, you wouldn't want to buy a property without getting to know the area. Of course, when you're buying overseas, it's a very different experience, but, renting a place, getting familiar, what you read in blogs, what you see on YouTube channels about a location.
It's always different when you go and you experience it for yourself. So I like that. I like that advice. random then. Very cool. So thanks so much for joining today. I'm going to end up with just one random question. So out of all the places that you've traveled.
Where's your favorite city that you've visited
Chris Pyak: Pärnu Estonia. It's been about iit, for six years. And it's just the perfect place for me. People who normally say, I'm a different person when I'm in Estonia. Yeah, because, this is a country I like the Lord of the Rings, it has a lot of things, endless forests, clean air and the sky you have to Baltic sea in front of your door. You have a white sandy beaches and, it's, it's just my home of my heart and all always will be.
Nicole (Host): Love it. So if you haven't been to Estonia, there's a perfect reason. I'm a Lord of the Rings fan. So I'm adding it to my bucket list for sure where to go. all right. So where can our listeners find you? we see that you have your book, how to win jobs and influence Germans. So if we have a link to include in the description, Our listeners can, of course they can look at that book, but where can they find you on social or website?
Where can they find you?
Chris Pyak: Yeah, well, my book you'll find on Amazon. It's called "How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans" and myself you find on my website, immigrantspirit.com. especially if you are looking for a new career in Germany, a lot of parts of the European union, and you need someone to open a few doors for you.
But there, you can get job interviews and you get a position that really reflects your education and your skills. check me out there. I work with about 20 clients per year, but I worked very intensively and they actually guarantee that my clients get a job.
Nicole (Host): Wonderful. Well, that's amazing. Thanks so much, Chris.
We love hearing about your journey and your experience living in many countries and then returning back to Germany. So thanks so much for joining us on a movie roadmap podcast.