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Expat Outlook: Embracing European and Asian Cultures

Tour DrachenfelsThis week, our Expat Outlook guest is Cristian Citu. A young native of Panciu, Romania, (a region famous for its white and sparkling wines) Cristian had the fantastic opportunity to experience both European and Asian cultures during his tenures in Bonn, Germany (photo right), and Singapore.

Cristian combined his goal of developing his career abroad in an international environment, with the avid desire to learn from and connect with people of different cultural backgrounds. But, above all else, he’s a guy who follows his heart and gets a grip on every new experience as it comes. Pragmatic yet passionate, Cristian talks about the positive impact life on two continents has had on him.

What made you move to Germany and what are you doing here?

I actually moved to Germany twice – once from the desire to live abroad and, the second time, for being with my partner. I always wanted to discover a new culture, to learn from the challenges that come along when you move to a foreign country, and Germany happened to be the first one that offered me the opportunity to develop myself professionally in an international environment. The second time I moved here, I just followed my heart and I was lucky to receive the support of the people I met previously, who have facilitated both my personal and professional reintegration.

How is your German going? Are you taking any lessons?

I would say ‘Nicht so gut’. I have been attending a few modules of German language classes, but every time only for several months followed by a considerable break, and every single time in a new language school. This lack of continuity and consistency is placing me still at the basic level, and my German understanding ability is still limited. Luckily, I work and live in a very international environment, with many colleagues and friends that share the same basic level of German language. Hence, finding the extra bit of motivation for doing homework or studying the German grammar is tricky. Even though I don’t need the language skills on a daily basis, I am totally aware of the advantages of speaking the locals’ language and therefore I recently booked a new learning module.

How long have you been living now in Germany and how much time did you need to adjust to your life here?

My story in Germany covers now a bit more than 30 months: 13 months the first time I moved here, and the rest since I came back. It was a fun fresh start, full of unique experiences and challenges, as well as chances to discover new people and a new lifestyle. The first six months were the most intense, with many new concepts to grasp, many new social rules, but also with some difficulties – for instance, looking for the ideal place to live on my own proved to be one of the most interesting experiences. All in all, I think that people who are ready to move to a new country, have also enough flexibility to adapt in a very different environment and accept the local surprises.

What did you learn from your German experience so far (in terms of people, work, culture, life)?

I think the German culture teaches you very quickly that your respect for people is always reciprocated.

I used to have a relatively hectic work life, and once I moved to Germany I was pleasantly surprised by the balance you can get through a proper lunch break followed by a quick walk in the park to clear your mind.

I am happy to live in a culture that’s built on solid principles and promotes the family values. It’s very nice to observe that the local people are so passionate about an active life and this motivates me to follow the same model.

What do you like the most about living in Germany and the least?

I really appreciate the fairness of most people and the pragmatism in making things happen. I would love to see more openness at personal level, but then I guess it wouldn’t be the real Germany anymore.



You also spent one year in Singapore. What did you do there?

I moved to Singapore to work as a marketer for the regional office of the same company that brought me originally to Germany. Considering the global corporate culture, I can’t say I’ve experienced a too different work environment. But in terms of life outside the office, there were countless differences compared to Europe.

The city-state can be easily described as perfectionist – an infrastructure that many developed countries can envy, impressive buildings or many green areas. Even if you try to find flaws, like piles of trash in suburban areas, or ruined houses that you see around the traditional large cities, you will always fail.  Singapore also offered me great learning opportunities, and I used to attend many evening seminars on entrepreneurship, social business or simple presentations of best demonstrated practices – it’s always been inspiring.

What can you tell us about the cultural differences that struck you when you moved to Asia?

The year spent in Singapore was almost like an intensive class of cultural diversity. Even in a short tour you can discover unique parts of Asia – the crowded alleys of Little India, the flavours of the street food in Chinatown or the mosques calling for prayers in the Arab district. Back in Europe, I used to think that having your dinner out is a fad from once in a while. In Singapore, it is actually cheaper to go out every evening than buying your food in the supermarket and cooking at home. And the cuisine is never the same – the Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Korean restaurants won’t let you down.

It’s also amazing to see how connected to technology the Singaporeans are – it’s unimaginable to be there and travel by MRT (the local metro train) without playing with one of the latest smart-phones. It will remain a mystery to me how they got used to the extremely low temperatures (around 17C degrees) in almost every office, shopping mall or cinema, and how they used to live before the air-conditioning became so popular. And I really need to mention the Singapore people – they are guided by a very profound set of principles, more friendly than you would expect and extremely respectful.

Where else have you been travelling? What did you enjoy the most? Any particular place you’re really fond of?

I have been lucky enough to visit around 20 countries so far in Europe and Asia, but there are many other areas on my travel list that I’d want to see. In Europe I always loved the diversity you can find on a small area, and the chance to explore very different places in a very short time. In Asia I have been fascinated by the unexpected – there’s always something that surprises you when you travel there, and the multitude of unique things that you can discover make it a very special experience.

There is a place that will always rank high among the best destinations I’ve visited – Pulau Rawa in Malaysia. There are many coral islands, with white sandy beaches and great snorkelling spots, but Rawa’s uniqueness comes from its small size (it’s literally around 1 km long and 300 meters wide) so you won’t do shopping, you won’t drive a car, you won’t party in a club, you will just enjoy an incredible peace and forget about anything else.

Would you recommend living in Germany to anyone coming from other corners of the world?

Germany won’t let you down as a foreigner working here. A safe environment, taxes used wisely in infrastructure and social programs, financial packages that would normally allow you a decent daily life while enjoying also a nice holiday and saving some money. Working for companies that create the most successful economy in Europe will only make you more valuable and more attractive to future employers. And if you think that you might get depressed from the low temperatures and continuous rain, don’t despair. Spain and Italy are not so far away for a sunny weekend.

What advice would you give to anyone who would like to move and work abroad considering both your European and Asian experiences?

If you’re still asking yourselves why you should move to a new country, stop doing that! Just get out and explore the world! The global average life expectancy is 67.2 years – even if you live only for two or five years in different countries with a totally new lifestyle, while discovering new cultures and getting used with various working styles, you’re probably still left with a little bit over 60 years to enjoy life in your home country. To me, that’s simple math for expanding your world view!

Photo Bonn from Creative Commons Wikimedia

Photo Singapore Courtesy Cristian Citu


Have you also been living on different continents? What was your experience like?

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