An expatriate in Germany
People come from all over to visit Dusseldorf, says Clare Mosley.
Why did you move to Germany?
I moved to Dusseldorf in September 2010 to become an au pair (a live-in nanny) for a German family. The family lived in Monchengladbach, about half an hour away, but after I finished my au pair year, I moved into Dusseldorf permanently.
What do you do there?
I started work as a freelance English teacher, in conjunction with a local language school. English is extremely important here and children begin to learn English in their second or third year of school. Most of my students are adults learning business English.
What do you like or dislike about life in Germany?
I meet some interesting people in my line of work. I can be teaching investment bankers in the morning, engineers at a crane company in the afternoon and personal trainers in the evening. It is really varied. The hardest part about the job is the freelance aspect of it. I am mostly tied to one language school in the city and work there full time, but occasionally there can be a real lull in the amount of work available.
How does the cost of living compare with New Zealand's?
Dusseldorf is one of the most expensive German cities to live in, but compared with New Zealand, the cost of living is much lower. One or two-roomed apartments can cost anything from 350 euros to 700 euros a month (NZ$590 to NZ$1180), but it really depends how close to the city centre you want to live. Heating costs are generally included in the rent. Food and alcohol are a lot cheaper. My partner and I spend no more than 40 or 50 euros a week on food, about NZ$70 to NZ$84.
What do you do at weekends?
Generally my weekends are spent relaxing. I enjoy spending time walking in the Grafenberger Wald, a forest close to my house, and going into the Altstadt (old town) with friends in the evenings. There are also a lot of museums and art galleries in the area, which are great to visit.
What do you think of the food?
German food is definitely not light or for the light-hearted. Traditional German food involves a lot of different meats, dumplings, potatoes and various kinds of cabbage. It sounds simple, but it is super-rich and delicious. However, there are also so many different international eateries that you are really spoilt for choice. My favourite thing to eat on the run is a schweins brotchen - just a few slices of spit roasted pork in a bread roll. Simple but delicious!
What's the best way to get around?
The public transport system here consists of trains, trams, an underground system and buses. There is almost nowhere you can't reach on the public transport system, although in the inner city it is also nice to walk from place to place.
What's the shopping like?
Dusseldorf is a shopper's paradise. There are all the usual chain stores like H&M, Zara and Esprit in the city centre, but there is also the wonderful Konigsallee, famous for luxury stores such as Tiffany's, Prada, Dior and Gucci. It's worth a trip just to window-shop and to see those who come from all over Europe to shop there.
What's the nightlife like?
There is a whole section of town called the Altstadt which is jam-packed full of bars, clubs and restaurants. There really is something for everyone. A night out in Dusseldorf can begin as early as 5pm and end as late as 7am.
What is your favourite part of the city?
The steps to the Rhine river. It is a real melting pot for the entire city centre and the essential summer chill-out spot. It is such a vibrant atmosphere, with teenagers and pensioners side by side, generally watching some kind of street performers by the river.
What time of year is best to visit?
It's a tough choice between winter and summer. The Christmas markets are always something to look forward to. Most cities have one or two large markets, but Dusseldorf has about eight. The most important part of the Christmas markets is the Gluhwein (mulled wine) which will warm you while you browse through the stalls of arts, crafts and various seasonal treats. Having said that, summer is so much fun here. All the bars become open-air as as the tables and chairs are moved out into the streets and it's swarming with people out for a good time.
What's your must-do thing for visitors?
I recommend visiting the Rhein Tower, for a great view of the whole city. The whole Altstadt is beautiful, with plenty of lovely old buildings all within walking distance of each other. For a slightly different but essentially Dusseldorf experience, I would recommend coming around carnival time. It's the last hurrah before Lent begins and it's essentially five days of crazy dancing in the streets, complete with amazing costumes. It's really only celebrated in Dusseldorf and Cologne. People come from all of Germany to take part.
What are your top tips for tourists?
If you're travelling alone, go to one of the Altstadt's six Irish pubs and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Chances are they're in the same position as you and you might be willing to become a new travelling buddy. Dusseldorf is so international that you never know who you will meet.
How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?
The travel takes between 24 and 48 hours and is definitely not cheap. I can get homesick, but my family is supportive of me being here and we speak often, so it's not so bad.
Sunday Star Times