Quit Your Job, Travel the World & Move to Germany: An Interview with Passport Two
Do you want to quit your job, travel the world and maybe move to Germany? That’s exactly what Donnie and Aubrey from Passport Two did. Find out more about their story, their journey around the world and their move to Germany in this interview.
Who are Passport Two’s Donnie and Aubrey?
Herr Antrim: Well, thank you, Donnie and Aubrey for taking the time to sit down with me today and talk about your journey and your amazing adventure around the world. First, could you tell us a little bit about yourselves? Who are you and what’s your story?
Donnie: So, I’m Donnie.
Aubrey: And I’m Aubrey.
Donnie: We are two Americans currently living in Germany right now in the Southwest German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. And we kind of just had a dream of living in Germany for years and years. And just about a year and a half ago, we finally were able to do that. We’ve been living here for about a year and a half, but before we moved here, we traveled the world for about nine months.
Aubrey: About nine months, because we knew we wanted to move and live somewhere, but it wasn’t working out with our timeline and things weren’t quite connecting. We felt like we had a window to go do an adventure. So we just decided to go travel for a while. And then our other dream ended up working out after that. We’ve been here a year and a half, I guess, about, yeah. So it’s been fun.
Just quit your job and go travel the world?
Herr Antrim: So you guys just decided to quit your jobs and travel the world for as long as you could. How do you take that leap? What do you say to people whenever they say, oh, I wish I could do that, but I could never because you know, whatever their excuse may be, what do you say to those people?
Donnie: You know, that’s a tricky question because for us, it is something that we kind of have been dreaming about doing for three or four years, and it’s just kind of, I think a lot of things just kind of aligned for us to be able to do so. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot is we hear a lot of people talking about like, oh, just quit your jobs and travel the world, it’s the dream, but it’s not… I don’t think it’s that easy to do so. Part of it was both of us had good jobs but we both were kind of over it a little bit. It wasn’t super hard for us to quit those jobs. But then…
Aubrey: And it was something we kind of knew we wanted to do since we got married and it was kind of always a dream and tried to prioritize that in our future planning too, and just always had that in the back of our minds.
Donnie: I just think that, it’s not easy just to tell everybody, yeah, just quit it and just travel. But I do think after doing it, it is totally worth it. I mean, we had to sell everything to be able to… I mean, get rid of all of our stuff to be able to travel freely. It was a big leap, but after we did it and we looked back on it, it was something that was totally worth it.
Aubrey: We loved it.
Donnie: Incredible experience, yeah.
How to Move to Germany: A Step-By-Step Guide
Herr Antrim: So you have an entire video that goes through all of the steps that you had to go through in order to get your visa and be able to live in Germany. I won’t spoil that in this interview, but I did want to mention it just now so that anybody who is interested in that can see that video, it’s linked down in the description of course.
Anybody who’s interested in moving to Germany and going through that process, they can watch your video on it because it goes into great detail about what the process is and how you go about that and your journey through that and your stumbling blocks and things you wish you had have known before. \I won’t spoil that here, but I did just want to mention it while we’re on the topic of moving to Germany, there’s a link down in the description for that. (Also, it is embedded below.)
What jobs can an American speech pathologist get in Germany?
Herr Antrim: Aubrey, you are a speech pathologist, right?
Herr Antrim: My wife is also a speech pathologist. I don’t want to mention that on video very often, but she is also a speech pathologist. We’ve talked in the past that, if it weren’t for the kids and the family and all of that, being here in the States, she can get a job on a military base and do basically what you’re doing.
I could get any number of jobs in Germany and speak German, teaching and whatever. I’m personally curious about what the application process is. How did you end up in that position, in that job? And could you take us through that job hunt process?
Aubrey: I actually don’t work on a military base but I did apply for a lot of those jobs and those are a great way to get over here. I would definitely recommend looking into that. When I was applying, that was one of the things that wasn’t quite lining up, wasn’t quite working out. I didn’t have enough experience in the field at that point.
They were wanting like a lot more experience, but then I really just continued to look into just different ways for speech pathologists to work in Germany because I knew there was this huge American community, really just like Googled different American speech therapy clinics in Germany and then I found where I work currently and it’s… We do serve American families in the area but it’s not associated with the base. It’s a private clinic outside of the base. I know of a few of those around some of the big military bases.
Donnie: There’s something I think we’ve been kind of surprised by actually is just with the number of expats or immigrants from English speaking countries that are in Germany. How many people do come over here and set up speech path clinics and are able to service enough people that are English speaking people to have full on clinics with multiple employees that are actually quite large. It’s something that I was kind of surprised by moving over here is kind of how a big thing it is.
Aubrey: There’s quite a few. I mean, there’s a lot of people who just maybe work contract. They don’t have employees, maybe in some of the smaller bases, there’s just smaller ones, but we’re in a larger area with a lot of military families and then just also contract families or just people who just found a job in the area that aren’t associated with the military, but are still Americans and we can serve them, see them in our clinic.
Herr Antrim: That’s really cool. Like I said, I’m just personally curious.
Aubrey: We were amazed. It worked out really perfectly and it’s been a great experience.
What’s Donnie doing?
Herr Antrim: And Donnie, what are you doing now that you’re in Germany? I didn’t notice that in the videos there.
Donnie: What I did, whenever we first got here, I signed up for an integration course at a Volkshochschule. It’s kind of like–
Aubrey: Adult education.
Donnie: Adult education center. They offer classes on cooking, languages. I mean, any hobby, anything they have, but it’s for adults to be able to go and take classes but they also do integration courses for people that are moving and planning on living in Germany. It’s six months of intensive German courses.
It’s four hours a day, five days a week. And it’s taught in German from day one and they refuse to speak any other language to you even if they have the ability to. It’s kind of like a crash course just to get you up to a B1 German level. And then after the six months of language courses, they then, for people that are planning on immigrating and doing the citizenship process and everything, they will also have like a German politics and government course that they will also take for an additional seventh month.
When we first got here, I signed up for those courses and that was taking up a big chunk of my day just traveling to the closest city to take those courses and then come back. I was focusing on that and then COVID kind of came up and it put a halt on that when I had one month left. Right now I’m trying to continue on because I have goals of getting to the B2 or C1 level and they have classes that are offered up to those levels but just kind of patiently waiting for that to come back.
After 1 ½ years living in Germany, how good is your German?
Herr Antrim: That was actually one of my other questions is how your German was coming along because I saw one of your videos. You said you were at the B1 level, I think in the video and now you had only been learning German for five months and personally, I think that’s kind of impressive that you went from almost no German to B1 in five months. That’s pretty impressive. That was nine months ago. I just was curious how things are going now, where’s your level and how would you rate your German at this point?
Aubrey: He will play it down, but I will say his German is very, very good. I’m impressed.
Donnie: That’s what the whole course is, is in six months, the end of the six months, we all take a certification exam. Because most of the people like for our visa, I have a requirement where I have to get a B1 level German if we want to get a permanent residency. That’s what everybody is doing. That’s what the whole course… I mean it really just crams German down your throat for six months, but in a fun way, I really enjoyed it.
At the end of six months, I’d hit the B1 level and I was really confident and I felt really pretty good about my German. It wasn’t quite where I thought it would be at B1. I guess at B1, in my mind, I thought if they’re giving you citizenship and people can really communicate on the street, that you’re fluent. I still, I can listen to the radio and understand mostly what they’re saying. I can watch German television and pretty much follow the gist of everything. And if someone walks up to me on the street and just starts talking in German, I can pretty well handle that, especially in stores and restaurants.
Those are pretty easy conversations now. It’s just, whenever we’re talking to people and it gets to where it’s like, let’s talk specifically details about politics or details about these intense subjects where I start to kind of have to just sit and listen and not talk so much, but I would also say at this point, right now, I’m a few months out and because we’ve been in lockdown since November and we haven’t been able to go out and even see people, I’m starting to get a little rusty because I haven’t been using it.
How has COVID 19 affected your German learning?
Herr Antrim: That was actually going to be one of my other questions, is, I know that COVID has got a bunch of restrictions in Germany. They’re a little bit more tightly locked down than what we are here in at least in my area. I knew that that was going to have some sort of impact on how much you can interact with native speakers, how much you can use the language if you’re just hanging out in your house. What are you doing to kind of offset that in your learning process?
Donnie: Right now, our landlady is incredible. She’s this older German lady and she’ll come in every once in a while and I try to talk to her as much as I can but also she has a friend who is this 70 year old German woman who is also our handyman for our apartment. She only speaks German. I try to talk to her as much as I can.
So in our building, if I see that she’s around, I try to go and seek her out to talk to her just to actually like force myself in those communications and it’s really great with her because she only speaks German. There is no fallback in those situations. And then there are some things we’ve done online with some different language courses, or also like meet up groups that meet via Zoom, that I’ve done a little bit to try to talk to people.
But really, the biggest thing for me is I’ve just been trying to listen to a lot of German podcasts and watch a lot of German television to practice that. And sometimes I speak to myself back to try to get that but that’s kind of where I haven’t been able to do so much.
What podcasts can you listen to for German learning?
Herr Antrim: What podcasts are you listening to?
Donnie: My favorite one that I listen to is Easy German. They have the huge YouTube channel, Easy German, but they have a podcast that I love to listen to, just because it’s interesting conversations, but also they don’t speak super fast or in some kind of dialect that I don’t understand. I do enjoy Easy German the most.
Herr Antrim: Their channel is fantastic, very impressive. The extra stuff that they’re starting to do on the side is fantastic for German learners.
How to practice German in Germany
Herr Antrim: You’re taking the course when you can. You have the land lady to talk to, you’ve got some podcasts. Is there anything else that you’re doing to advance your German learning?
Donnie: You know, our area too, where we live in Germany is a little bit tricky because of the huge American community that’s here. We have the massive NATO base and American base. I’ve seen different estimates, but anywhere from 60000 to 80000 Americans live in our kind of area.
It’s kind of difficult here going out into stores and restaurants, because even when I’m speaking German, a lot of them will hear my accent and immediately just go ahead and speak English. They don’t even really give you the chance to practice it so much. I mean, just, they’re very friendly and they’re just catering to us, which is super nice, but I have tried to find specific stores and different people that I can go talk to, kind of like I guess the landlady in a way, but I know they won’t switch to English with me and I even talk to them and explain to them that I’m learning German, so I want to practice it.
Really, I think kind of the best thing that I’ve done is just forcing myself to try to find those people to speak to and forcing myself out of my comfort zone to speak to them. But the rest of it, it’s just finding any way that I can on the radio or podcast, TV or anything just to give myself exposure, I guess is the best thing that I’ve been able to do.
Herr Antrim: I had that problem the first couple of times I went to Germany that they would always switch over to English as soon as they heard my accent.
How to improve your German accent
Herr Antrim: Now, my accent is actually good enough that they don’t do that. That’s something to be hugely proud of. But my question, I guess, would be what are you doing to improve your accent? What are you doing to work on your pronunciation? Because I noticed that that was kind of a stumbling block for you at least early on.
Donnie: No, I mean, it still is too. I would say what I’ve been trying to figure out is mainly when it comes to like the and different things like that, there are certain sounds or pronunciations of words that I just, I can’t just like sound out or figure out myself and I’m not used to making with my mouth.
As weird as it is, what I’ll try to do is just listen to those podcasts and things. When I notice there’s a word that has like an or something that I just didn’t know how to pronounce before, I will sometimes just play that on repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat, just trying to just drill that in my head, so I finally get used to what that sounds like.
And then I will just by myself with my headphones in or something, just sit there and just, , just trying to like mimic it as much as I can. I think that’s the best thing that I have found for myself is just kind of just forcing myself to listen to it as much as possible and just repeat it as much as possible. I still struggle with it, but I’m working on that a lot.
Everyone starts somewhere
Herr Antrim: It’s definitely a struggle because like I can look back at some of my earlier videos on YouTube and I can hear my own accent. I’m like, ah. . Whenever I was doing this, I would write out a video script and then practice via making these videos for YouTube. That was actually really helpful for me.
What I’m saying is it might be a good idea for you to make some more videos in German to force yourself to kind of put the language out there. And then, because, like for me anyway, I’m a little self-conscious when it comes to, I don’t want to make a mistake and I’m trying to teach people this language. I don’t want to mess something up in a video.
That self-consciousness kind of forced me to improve my accent to where it is now. So anyway, I just like seeing your videos in German. I think it’s encouraging for German learners. Just a thought, maybe make more videos in German and force yourself into that.
Donnie: We’ve had people commenting and they’ve been asking for an update video on both of our German, really. To be honest, I have been nervous about making that, just because I almost feel like there’s an expectation that I should be. I mean, if I had gotten that far in the first five or six months, that now I should really just be exceedingly good at German and my pronunciation should be perfect.
I have been a little bit nervous, just put that, just because of COVID and I know how much I’ve plateaued because of that, but I definitely know what you mean. Watching those videos for myself, I sat there and just cringed the whole time hearing myself in that accent. But I also know I have to give myself grace and just something I need to work on.
Aubrey: It helps you grow. And that’s what you were doing at the beginning of COVID, whenever the school shut down for a while, he started doing those videos and that was good practice. I think that’s a great idea. You should get back to that.
Donnie: Okay, I will.
The Intermediate Plateau
Herr Antrim: It’s one of those things where like, yes, it’s a little awkward to put yourself out there like that, but the community I’ve seen on your videos, the community that you have around your channel is phenomenal and they’re always… They give tips, but they don’t come down on you, like, oh, you messed up that dative case. How dare you? But they’re more encouraging on your channel and it’s nice to see that they’re there to help you but also to get you past that plateau.
One thing I would say is that the B1 or B, well, even all of the Bs, the intermediate level of German, is known as the intermediate plateau because it’s so difficult to get from B1 to C1. That area in there is just… There’s so much information that has to be in there and so much that you have to pack in.
The difference between A1 and B1 getting from that level is really not that much. You have some basic conversations and some little things here and there, but the difference between B1 and C1 is just a huge leap. My favorite thing is the comic strip from Itchy Feet.
I don’t know if you’re familiar, but Itchy Feet has this comic where it says they’re on mount fluency and they’re onto the B1 plateau. And they’re like, yay, I finally made it. And they’re like, yeah, don’t turn around, and then behind them is mount fluency where it’s the rest of the levels are just huge, because like, I wouldn’t even rate myself as a C2 at this point, because it’s so much information in between there, don’t get discouraged just because you’ve plateaued, it’s probably actually less to do with COVID than you probably think. There’s just so much information in there.
Donnie: That’s definitely a great thing to think about and know. Also, I think I had my first sort of realization that that might be the case, whenever… This integration course, the intensive classes, like four hours a day, five days a week, for six months to get to B1. I thought, okay, well, that’s six months to B1, then C1 is just a couple more months after that. But actually for the intensive courses that they offer, six months A1 to B1 and six months of B1 and then you get to B2 is how they kind of structure that here.
I think that was my first realization just seeing, oh whoa, the same amount of time that it took me to get from A1 to B1 in these intensive courses, I focused just on one level after that. So that was a little bit daunting to look at whenever I saw that, and I was about to sign up for that, and suddenly I thought was this all worth it? But it definitely is. I mean, that’s great to know that other people are going through that, for sure.
Herr Antrim: I don’t know exactly what the numbers are for how many hours it says that it should take you in order to get to whichever level. I looked it up before. I’ll put it right there on the screen for right now, for whenever I look this up later. (See below)
How long does it take to learn German?
|According to |
US State Department
|According to German Language Academy||According to Goethe Institute|
|“Professional Working Proficiency” |
(B2 or higher):
|A1: ~150 Hours|
A2: ~150 Hours
B1: 300 Hours
B2: 240 Hours
C1: 240 Hours
C2: 240 Hours
Total: 1320 hours
|A1: ~60-150 Hours|
A2: ~150-260 Hours
B1: ~260-490 Hours
B2: ~450-600 Hours
C1: ~600-750 Hours
C2: ~750+ Hours
Total: 2270-3000+ Hours
But the difference in levels is really intimidating, if you start to look at it like… Most people can get to an A2 level without any real difficulties. They can probably do it within a few months, but once they get to B1 and they start seeing the rest of it, they’re like, that’s usually when people start giving up.
That’s the reason that the most popular videos on my YouTube channel are A1, A2 and maybe a few B1 videos. But once you get to that level and you’re starting to look at like what else do I have to learn? Then people are like, maybe this isn’t for me. I think I’ll just go learn Spanish. And then they realize Spanish is the same way.
How is Aubrey learning German?
Herr Antrim: We’ve talked a lot about what you’re doing, Donnie, but what are you doing, Aubrey for German learning?
Aubrey: Well, that is something I really haven’t done a whole lot of yet, but I started using some different online courses that have been great. I mean, my German’s probably like A1, probably solid A1, probably right there.
Really just done the online courses, and then I had started an in-person, just like one night a week class in the fall, but then of course it got canceled because of COVID. I did notice whenever we were able to travel and go around and do things, that really motivated me when I was hearing a lot more German just out and about, like, oh okay, I really do want to learn German.
And then since… We haven’t been able to do that, I have felt less motivated, but like last two, maybe two weeks ago, I was like, okay, I’m going to start at least like a few hours a week, like maybe 30 minutes a day, try to do a little bit of a German course. Really online is kind of my source right now. And then there’s also on DW News. They have this fun little, like, almost like a sitcom that you can watch starting from the beginning–
Herr Antrim: Nicos Weg, right?
Aubrey: Yes. I’ve done a little bit of that. But I want to get back into that. I think that’s what I need to start doing a little bit more of.
Herr Antrim: Yeah, Nicos Weg is so awesome. I know a few teachers here in the area that use it in their classroom and it’s got so many exercises and stuff to go with it. It’s not just, watch this video, but Nico‘s actual process and how he went through the learning German and going to Germany and all of that. And it’s phenomenal for German learners. I’ll link that down in the description as well, but Nicos Weg, fantastic way to learn German.
Words of Encouragement for German Learners
Herr Antrim: What would you say to anyone who is currently struggling in their German learning, and do you have any words of encouragement for them?
Donnie: For me, just the realization that German is a very difficult language and a lot of people get that, especially Germans. I think for me, one of the most encouraging things has been forcing myself to get out and speak as much as I can, whether that be here around the community with Germans or even just online on different meetup groups, Zoom calls, where they have kind of like conversation groups.
But forcing yourself to talk and then realizing that even though you’re making all different article mistakes or you’re making the little grammatical mistakes and you’re getting your sentence structure wrong, all those things, people still can understand what you’re trying to say and you can still communicate. That’s the thing that I think has been the most motivating thing for me, is just going out and realizing, okay, I know I’m making horrendous mistakes speaking, but I’m still getting the point across, they’re responding and communicating and talking back to me and can have full conversations.
I think it’s just realizing everybody struggles, there’s a lot of common struggles out there, but also don’t think just because you’re not perfect or you’re making all these mistakes or you’re only at a B1 level that you still can communicate and get a lot of value out of learning it.
Aubrey: I agree, because I think for me, I started with all the really strict grammatical learning, which is really important. I mean, you need to know all the grammar structures. I think I started getting in my head a little bit of like, I can’t actually start saying anything unless I know I’m saying it all exactly perfectly, but then I feel like I kind of got to a point, I was like, okay, no, I just need to start trying it and I think I just need to start learning more, just vocabulary, just to be able just to try some different words instead of trying to make sure my sentences are all exactly perfect. So now, I probably sound silly, but I’m just trying to throw it out there a little bit more.
Donnie: And then, I would say the other thing too is communicating with different Germans and realizing how much they appreciate us actually learning it has also been a big motivator for me is just showing that you’re making the effort goes a really, really long way, especially I think with German, because they kind of have the tendency to think that if an American speaks another language, it’s a big if an American speaks another language, it’s going to be probably like Spanish or something like that.
They just don’t expect, I think a lot of people to speak German. A lot of them whenever they meet us and we actually can speak to them in German, I mean, it really makes a big impact on them and they really appreciate it. I think that’s a big encourager too, is just, they know you’re not gonna be perfect but just the fact that you’re trying and you’re learning it is a huge step for them.
Herr Antrim: I think it’s a lot of people get kind of self-conscious about their German language skills and how well they can speak in that kind of thing. But then when it comes to an actual conversation, it’s not whether or not you know your case system and your genders of nouns and the how to conjugate. None of that’s really going to matter.
If you throw together a bunch of words, as long as it’s the words that need to be said in order for you to be understood, that will still get you a lot farther than trying to throw out grammar things. While my channel does focus a lot on grammar, it’s there as a support system for learning the vocabulary and learning how to communicate.
I see that as a huge advantage for German learners is just knowing that it’s not about necessarily the grammar, but can you communicate in this language? Can you speak to another human being and that human understand what you’re saying? That’s a huge motivator for a lot of German learners.
How to make friends in Germany
I do have one question from a Twitter follower that wanted to ask you something. It’s Kathy Felisiano, I think, but she wants to know how difficult was it to adjust to living in another country? They’re considering retiring to another country and they wanted to know about like making friends and socializing and thinking that might be challenging since they’re not actually going to be working while they’re there.
How difficult was it to adjust to living in another country FT? Considering retiring to another country and concerned making friends and socializing would be a challenge because not working. Thanks.— Kathi Felisiano (@KathiFelisiano) February 5, 2021
Aubrey: I think something important to do is to get involved in other things, even if you’re not working. Like most of our friends were either from my work or from Donnie’s classes that he was taking. And then I know at least in Germany, social clubs are a really big part of their culture. There are lots of different ways to meet people through those different clubs and organizations. Some kind of involvement would be great.
Donnie: For us, because of our particular area that we’ve been living in, there are so many Americans. We have just figured that… What we’ve found is a lot of the friends that we come, or that we make, come from the places that we run into the most, I guess, or go the most. A lot of times that’s going to be like the language schools and work and things like that. We’re not really meeting a lot of Germans in those places naturally, because they’re not taking German courses and stuff. We’ve just been trying to make a lot of friends in those areas that we’re already, I guess, involved in.
But like Aubrey said, there’s a German word that I really struggle with pronouncing is Verein, but the social clubs are a huge part and that’s the thing that everybody, all the Germans that we know have been really pushing for us to join is one of those, because they have social clubs for literally anything that you could possibly want to join and they’re very active.
That’s something else that we’ve been wanting to do but COVID has messed that up as well. But it hasn’t been too hard. Germans are just, they can be kind of hard to meet and initially break that first shell to become close friends with. But I think it’s just, you have to join some kind of group like that, where you have a common interest and then that will get you in a community and you can make friends and make that transition pretty smoothly.
Herr Antrim: I was always amazed of the Vereine that are in Germany, the clubs and organizations that you can be involved in. There’s literally a club for everything there. Just Google what’s in your area and find something near you that you’re interested in and you’ll find people.
Check out Passport Two on YouTube!
Herr Antrim: Well, thank you again, Donnie and Aubrey for joining me today. If any of you out there are looking for videos to help you learn the differences between German and American cultures, you should definitely check out Passport Two on YouTube. I’ve linked my favorite videos from their channel in the description down below. Go there now and binge all of their videos, subscribe to their channel.
Aubrey: Thanks so much for having us. It was great talking to you.
Donnie: It was a lot of fun. We hope to have you on our channel soon. We’ll talk to you soon.