Welcome to the 3rd post from my Expat Woman Series. The goal of this series is to showcase women who have made successful lives for themselves abroad and how they managed this, so we can inspire others to consider moving abroad, or help ones who have taken the leap, and are already here.
This weeks post showcases Jackie, a Canadian originally from Hong Kong who is currently an expat in Hamburg. I met Jackie at a local Hamburg art community called Creative Nights which she founded 2 years ago. Not only did she start a thriving art community, but she is also rocking an international career in marketing and has made an outstanding life for her self abroad. She is one of the most driven female expats I know, which is why I've included her in the series.
Hi everyone! I am Jacqueline and I love art, crafting, travelling, food and more food! Originally from Hong Kong and eventually moving to Canada for 12 years, I then picked my next place called home which is Hamburg. Three years ago, I packed my bags from my Canadian home and moved to Hamburg without actually knowing what to do with my life. Now, I work at a Marketing agency and on the side, I have passion project going on which is Creative Nights - a creative after work crafting community with different workshops and events hosted every month for anyone who is interested in making some cool art and meeting new people!
Why did you move abroad?
Great question! To be honest, after graduation, I didn’t really know what to do with my life. I didn’t think of a so-called career path for myself, I was not the person who plans ahead of time either. One day, my boyfriend suggested that I move to Hamburg with him. I was hesitant at first as I did not know what are my chances for jobs in Germany when I didn’t know the language at all and I never thought I would be the person who would move cross-continent for someone else. Then, I thought to myself, what can I lose from this? Nothing, really. On one hand, I can say that I moved here for love and on the other hand, I moved here to challenge myself!
Is it hard to be an expat?
Your experiences here depends entirely on your perspective of viewing situations and your encounters. I can tell you a million things which frustrates me at times living as an expat (ie. Germany’s bureaucratic ways, language barriers etc). However, the positive experiences I have here overpowers any negativity I have had in some moments. Being an expat, you cannot expect the environment to give to you when you don’t contribute and be proactive about it. If you want to make new friends, put yourself out there and join different facebook group meetups! There are many incredible Hamburg facebook groups where I met many of my friends now. I was also lucky enough that I have a British passport so that I didn’t a Visa to work here which makes things a lot easier.
How do you find a job abroad?
As mentioned in the last question, I am a British citizen as well. Therefore, finding a job was a bit easier because I did not require a working visa. When I first started here in Hamburg, I worked in a gaming company in which I applied for when I was in Canada. It was my first stepping stone here in Germany, but the internship didn’t last long and I was jobless once again. Two months being “fun-employed“. I went to different job search sites such as indeed.de or stepstone.de and typed in “English Marketing” because I was interested in Marketing. I then found my new job as a Business Develop Manager in a software company. After a year and a half, I wanted to do something more creative and more “me” so I did something different and went to different Hamburg network groups such as Hamburg Start-Ups to look for my current role as a Marketing & Communications Manager in a Creative Marketing agency. Note: many companies do not post their job posting on traditional job search websites! You can also try finding people who are doing your “dream role” on Linkedin and ask them for an informational interview or even chat over a cup of coffee. Be creative, try different ways to find a job instead of using the traditional ways. This is how you stand out amongst others.
Are you working in your field, what is your job and how did you get it?
Currently, I work in a creative marketing agency previously as their APAC Area Manager and now as their Marketing & Communications Manager. I found this company via a site called Hamburg Start-Ups. Since it is a creative marketing agency, I thought to submit a very funky looking resume. I eventually got invited to a Skype interview and I was rejected. However, I did not let the rejection sink in and with the encouragement of my friend, I re-emailed them persistently for a job. Surprisingly, they invited me to meet their founder and that is how I got the job.
How do you advance your career abroad?
This might sound cliche but I think having a positive personality, great interpersonal skills, being motivated and having the drive to learn new things are ways to advance your career abroad. When I look back into how I have gotten my roles in my previous and current job, I realise that I did not have anything from my education which is relatable to any of the jobs. I studied Psychology in Canada and have multiple jobs in different industries/fields. Once your employer feels that you have the ambition to keep improving and to learn, then I think advancing your career will be a lot easier.
What is your greatest achievement abroad?
Can I say two greatest achievements? I think one of my greatest achievement abroad is building a network of friends which I can speak to about anything at anytime and to share silly and funny moments together. Another achievement is Creative Nights. Creative Nights not only gave me purpose, it also opened many doors for me to meet new people and to express my creative energy which cannot be discovered in my regular 9-6 job.
How did you get the idea to start Creative Nights?
Two years ago, I didn’t feel like I was using my creativity at in my job. I missed the times at school when I do crafting every day for fun. I have no idea why I stopped making arts & crafts but I knew I have to do it again because it represents who I am as an individual (and it also makes me incredibly happy!). At the time, I tried looking for art events and workshops here in Hamburg, but they were either too expensive or they were hosted in German which is a language I did not understand two years ago. Therefore, I decided to start my own! Our very first event was a paint night and the turnout was amazing! It was then I realise how many people are in the same boat as myself - we all stopped using our creative energy somehow along the way! I am a true believer that art is a big part of life and that creativity is a muscle which can only be strengthened through being in the constant exposure of innovative environments. Therefore, Creative Night is a solution not only for myself but for those who strive to gain back or to develop their creative energy.
What is your biggest learning experience from this?
My biggest learning experience from this is to never doubt your own ability to start something new and establish a community anywhere you go in the world. Before I started Creative Nights, I was having serious doubts not only about whether this will work or not but also about myself. When I did it, it was the most rewarding experience ever. Being able to provide a creative space for others to explore their talents and to see them happy with their crafting results at every event is the highlight of all.
How do you learn a language abroad?
In addition attending classes, I try to speak daily in German with grocery clerks, coffee shop baristas etc. I even make phone calls to my doctors, the finance centre and all these other institutions in German as well! The trick is to persistently speak German regardless of others wanting to speak english to you. One of my personal favourite ways to learn German is to try speaking German at a party while slightly intoxicated. The more wine you have the German you speak. It is super fun, try it out!
How do you make friends abroad and have a social life?
To make friends abroad, you really have to put yourself out there. I still remember meeting one of my friends through Linkedin! I joined many Hamburg groups and I attend events after work so that I can meet new people. I was also lucky enough to have colleagues who I can also hang out within and outside of work. Lastly, I met tons of people through Creative Nights. I even met one of my closest group of friends at the first Creative Nights event!
How do you afford to travel while abroad? Do you travel often?
I bring lunch to work every day and try to minimise eating out :). I will treat myself once in awhile for a nice lunch or dinner but usually, I save the money to travel. I am lucky enough that I have work travels as well. Last year, I have travelled every month, sometimes two or three trips within a month!
Compare your life before moving abroad to now, which one is better?
I couldn't say which one is better because I learned lots from my experiences both before moving abroad and after moving abroad. I must say though, moving abroad is kind of like cold water splashing at your face at the beginning because it puts you through many situations where you have to develop the tenacity to learn and to grow. I feel more responsible for my own actions and for my own happiness when I am abroad.
Don't you miss your family and do you get homesick abroad?
At first, I did not miss my home that much but as I live here longer now. I tend to get homesick once every couple months. After being away for so long, you realise how great home is and you start appreciating the smallest details at home.
Are you happy here, will you ever move back home?
I am very happy here! I will maybe someday move back home but I am open to move somewhere else too!
Jackie is a great example of an expat who is really giving her all and making the most of out of her life abroad. I am proud to say she has become one of my good friends, and we are able to inspire each other every day.
Do you have a great story about living and working abroad? I'd love to hear it! Contact me here.