Expat at ALDI SOUTH: from Chicago to Mülheim an der Ruhr

ALDI SOUTH is also growing in the USA. It receives the required IT support from Mülheim an der Ruhr, a business location where many expats are based. One of them is Rob from ALDI US. 

Rob, would you like to introduce yourself? Where do you come from? Where do you currently live? 

Rob: I am an American expat, live in Dusseldorf and work for ALDI SOUTH. I graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2016 with a focus on Operations Management and Information Systems. I then started working for ALDI SOUTH in the USA as a full-time IT Specialist. I came to Germany to work for six months on an international project. 

How did ALDI SOUTH support you here in Germany at the beginning? Your partner was able to come with you to Germany. How have you settled in? 

Rob: ALDI SOUTH helped me a lot with the move to Germany. All of the official paperwork and the process of applying for a visa were taken care of for us. In addition, I was assigned a Relocation Agent who coordinated an apartment search and accompanied me to appointments at the Office of Migration and Foreign Registration. My partner received the same support. I am really grateful for this help, as it has reduced the amount of stress involved in relocating to another country. So we were able to settle in very well very quickly.  

A new start in a foreign country sounds so exciting. What have you found to be the top three positive and negative aspects of living in Germany? 

Rob: I really enjoy living in Germany. It’s great to be able to experience a new culture. There are three positive aspects that have been most important to me: the opportunity to immerse myself in the German culture, to travel to different places that I would not have been able to reach so easily from the USA. But above all, I appreciate the efficiency of public transportation and the short distances in Europe compared to America. On the other hand, of course I really miss my friends and family. There are also language barriers, which sometimes lead to misunderstandings. And lastly, it’s not so easy to pursue the hobbies and activities I used to do in my home country.  

You just mentioned the German culture – which cultural differences have you noticed between Dusseldorf and your home city? 

Rob: I think there are a lot of cultural differences between Dusseldorf and Naperville. The lifestyle is different. For example, Americans drive everywhere in their cars. This is because cities are much farther apart in the USA and also because the weather is more changeable. Meanwhile, in Germany, I use public transportation and really appreciate it. Another small cultural difference is the fact that on Sundays almost all the shops are closed. I had to prepare for that. I do enjoy the calmness on Sundays here, but usually this was also the day when I did the shopping and ran other errands. 

You are working on an international IT project. What exactly is your role? 

Rob: I work in the role of Solution Expert, meaning that I coordinate cross-functional IT matters that are required for country deployment. 

And how is the communication, what have you experienced so far? 

German lesson at work: “I think my pig is whistling!” 

Rob: Lucky for me, the project language is English so I don’t have any communication problems. However, I am learning a lot of typical German phrases from my colleagues, some of which you can’t learn in a textbook. For example, “Ich glaub’, mein Schwein pfeift!” (which some Germans use in surprising or shocking situations. It literally translates as “I think my pig is whistling!”). 
So far, my overall experience in the project has been great. I really enjoy working with my colleagues, who come from so many different backgrounds and are all focused on making things run smoothly.  

Which hobbies do you have here in Germany? Do you also meet up with your German colleagues outside of work? 

Rob: I try to stay as active as possible – I like to go to the gym with my partner, play volleyball and ride my bike along the Rhine river. I also play basketball, of course. Since our basketball team mostly speaks German, I can improve my language abilities while I play. Another hobby of mine is travelling. In this respect, Europe offers me fantastic opportunities. Next stop... Barcelona! 

After spending one and a half years in Germany, what is it that you hope to take back to the USA with you?  

Rob: I hope I can take a lot home with me. My main goal is to learn as much as I can in this project to ensure that the deployment in the USA also runs smoothly. This will involve achievements but also a few challenges. However, outside of work, I would also like to take the European mindset back with me to some extent. As I already mentioned, the lifestyle is quite different. You gain a slightly different perspective and see the world with different eyes. I also want to continue to improve and practise my German. 

Rob, we thank you for this interview and wish you all the best with your project. We of course also hope you and your partner will continue to enjoy your stay in Germany. 

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