Hi guys! I did another interview with an amazing expat. Meet Rachel, a Korean travel journalist who grew up in the U.S. and Seoul, is married to an Italian and enjoys living in Stuttgart these days. Quite cosmopolitan, right?! On her blog rachelsanghee.com she writes about her life in Stuttgart and her travels around the world. So let’s meet this interesting girl!
Rachel, have you ever heard about Stuttgart before you moved here?
Yes! I worked for the culture beat at The Korea Times, an English daily newspaper in Seoul, and Stuttgart was famous for its ballet and also their principal dancer Kang Sue-jin. I’ve written a lot about the ballerina and it was hard not to mention the city and the ballet company. I also knew about the city being the home of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, so I have to say I was quite informed before moving. Obviously, my thoughts were very positive, being the home of the two top car brands and also one of the top ballet companies in the world.
Why did you move to Stuttgart?
My husband, whom I met in Seoul, had to move to Stuttgart, so I obviously moved with him. It was a big jump for me since it was the first time to live in Europe, and I remember the first morning. We went out for a walk to Schlossplatz, it was still a bit chilly because it was April, and we had a beer at noon. I remember thinking, “what a perfect morning.”
How did you feel during your first weeks in Stuttgart? Did it take long to accommodate?
The first weeks were both tiring and exciting. It was mostly tiring because we had to search for a Wohnung (flat), which was hard because we didn’t really know the area that much and we were not quite sure what to look for. Some places didn’t have elevators, some were not renovated, others were very, very old and it was just an overall different experience. We were living in a hotel until we found a Wohnung, and we also had a deadline, so it was quite stressful. But after we found a place to live, it got easier.
What was new to you and maybe strange at the beginning?
Everything! Elevators being such a luxury for many old buildings, how everyone spoke English, the love for Döner, the food, the beer, the fact that nothing is open on Sundays… But I loved getting to know these quirks and differences. It’s one of the best things of moving to another place. I’m still learning everyday. For example, we had a bit of a problem with our neighbors being so loud, and we found out that you can basically hire a lawyer and demand a sort of a rent discount against your landlord. Interesting.
Sounds like you had to learn how do deal with a lot of our quirks at the beginning :-). Is something still strange to you these days?
I don’t find anything so strange in Stuttgart now since I’m very much used to it.
What do you like about Stuttgart?
I’m from Seoul, which is a pretty big city, and for me, it was a breath of fresh air to live in a place like Stuttgart. The city seems like an industrial metropolitan, but then there are vineyards, forests, castles and parks. It’s a perfect mix of both worlds. Some of the best car brands in the world are based here, but public transportation is equally loved and used. It seems like a very local, quiet city, but then tons of tourists come visit the many festivals and events. This diversity makes Stuttgart interesting and after living for four years, I feel like it’s getting more interesting year after year.
What’s your favourite place in Stuttgart and why?
So many places! Königstrasse is just a great street to walk along, the malls Das Gerber and Milaneo are fun to shop in, but I have to say, I love the Stadtbibliothek. Just going there to sit down and enjoy the architecture is enough sometimes. It’s truly a gem and if there’s anybody who hasn’t been, I would recommend it. Go. Today. Now.
I totally agree, the Stadtbibliothek is something special. Is there something you’ve leaned from the people in Stuttgart or a specific cultural trait you’ve picked up?
Saying hello to everyone. In Seoul, you don’t really do that, so that was fun and interesting. Planning ahead is another trait I have learned, which is a very positive thing. Enjoying the many festivals that happen throughout the year is also something I’ve learned to enjoy. I’ve always been also happy at home but now I push myself more to get out and be active.
When it comes to food, what do you think about the Swabian cuisine? Is there a dish you like in particular?
Ah, the Swabian cuisine. It’s quite heavy, compared to the more vegetable based Korean cuisine. I think it’s something that is not too complicated, so you really need to have a very high quality experience, otherwise you will be either disappointed or won’t think much about it. Many restaurants have a Teller (plate) where you can try all of the basics, including the Knödel (dumplings) and the Spätzle (Swabian noodles) and the meat, so I like to go for that one to enjoy a little bit of everything.
I see, you’re a foodie! What’s your favorite restaurant in Stuttgart?
This changes so many times! Currently, I like L.A. Signorina for good pizza (my husband’s Italian so we take our pizza very seriously.), WIP Sushi, Origami for sushi, Breitengrad 17 and China Restaurant Sonnengarten for Asian and for German, I like the more commercial places like Carl’s Brauhaus and also the Zum Ackerbürger in Bad Cannstatt which was amazing Swabian. For gelato I love Kaiserbau!
If friends from back home come visit you for a weekend, where do you take them?
The Stadtbibliothek for some culture and architecture, Königstrasse for a walk, Wilhelma or the Killesberg park for some nature, Metzingen for some outlet shopping and some restaurants I mentioned before. If there’s also an event like the summer festival or the Wasen happening, I would gladly take them there too!
You were pregnant in Stuttgart and gave birth to your first child here. Do you have any advice for other expats that think about starting a family here?
Plan and get your information as early as possible. Hospital “shopping” and also Kita (day-care center) and kindergarten “shopping” is a thing here, so get busy. Try talking to other mothers to get info as well, I found this very helpful.
Do you have some general advice for people who are considering moving to Stuttgart or who are living here for only a short period of time?
Enjoy! There is so much to do now and places to go, but the information is not everywhere, so you really need to get busy and search for the things you want. Get used to searching other blogs like Mel’s and mine (wink wink), the city of Stuttgart’s website and also the Stuttgart Tourismus website. Another tip would be use social media! I personally love Instagram and I do think you can get more than enough info, sometimes even faster than official postings, through there.
Rachel, thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us! I am looking forward to reading more about your adventures in and around Stuttgart on your blog!
To find out more about Rachel, check out her blog: rachelsanghee.com