Veerle Ullrick is Belgian and moved to Stuttgart in 1994. After facing some challenges at the beginning she now happily calls Stuttgart her home. But Veerle’s relocation to Stuttgart was not her first, she has undertaken numerous international moves to Chicago, Düsseldorf, Warsaw and finally to Stuttgart. All these experiences inspired her to start her own company in 2004, reloxx relocation service. I’ve talked to her about her experiences with relocating to Stuttgart from both sides, a relocation officer and an expat herself.
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Veerle, what brought you to Stuttgart?
As for so many expat wives: it was my husband’s job that brought me to Stuttgart. For him it was coming back to the roots – he is Swabian and studied in Stuttgart for a few years.
It was not your first move, you have been kind of all over the place before you settled down here in Stuttgart. What was different with moving to Stuttgart compared to your experiences with other countries and cities?
Well, for the first time I moved to a city where I already knew some people, friends of my husband who became my friends as well and who had visited us at our destinations abroad. So for the very first time it wasn’t starting from “zero”.
What did you know about Stuttgart before you arrived here?
I knew very little from Stuttgart, to be honest. Main railway station, Königstraße, Schloßplatz, Udo Snack at Calwer Straße and the TV tower, that was pretty much it.
Did your expectations about Stuttgart live up to reality?
To be honest, I didn’t have many. Stuttgart was still pretty much a sleeping beauty in the mid 90s and people kind of felt pity for you when you told them that you move to Stuttgart.
Was something very strange to you at the beginning?
I was quite surprised that Stuttgart, although being a city, had a bit of a countryside mentality. For instance, in 1994 going out for dinner on a Monday evening was very difficult with most restaurants closed. Also there were no cafés or bars to sit outside on the terrace and enjoy a drink. The choice of restaurants was quite limited. I still remember how happy we were when we discovered the (then) only Japanese restaurant, Kicho.
Thank god these days are over… How long did it take until you’ve really settled in and felt like home here in Stuttgart?
The first year was pretty tough, I have to admit. But then step by step we felt more at ease, made new friends, discovered the city and the region.
Is there something you like in particular about living in Stuttgart?
Fortunately, over the past two decades, Stuttgart has become more and more open and international. For me, it has the perfect size to offer everything one could wish. Plus there is this fabulous cultural package of jazz festivals, opera, ballet, theater, museums. On top of all, it is really green. Do you know of any other metropolis where the vineyards grow right into the center of the city? And yes, the local wines became really good over the years, too!
Oh yes, that’s true. Do you have a certain place, restaurant, museum… you love the most?
This is a very difficult question – I have so many favorites. The Grabkappelle on the Rotenberg is my favourite place for a sunset picknick – that makes me very happy every time. Favorite restaurant is Perbacco at the Paulinenbrücke. Apart from the Städitsches Kunstmuseum at Schloßplatz and the Staatsgalerie I love the Mediterranean atmosphere and architecture at the Lapidarium in the Mörikestraße. That’s not enough? Check out a very recent book by Emma von Bergenspitz: “Glücksorte in Stuttgart” and you will be surprised how many wonderful corners this city has!
You are a mom of two. Do you have any tips for other expat parents what to do with children in and around Stuttgart?
In the meantime my girls are grown up, but the open-air swimming pool in Möhringen as well as the Fildorado in Filderstadt were always their favorites during summer. Also on our list: the forest-playground on the Waldau Degerloch and the “Jugendfarm” in Riedenberg. And let’s not forget: Lake Constance is just a two-hours drive from Stuttgart. If you want to get away from it all, have a dip at the Strandbad in Überlingen (very casual), or go back in time at the Art Nouveau jewel “Parkstrandbad Hotel Bad Schachen”.
You have founded the relocation company reloxx in 2004. Did your personal experience with moving to Stuttgart inspire you to do so and why?
It was in fact my personal experience of moving to Warsaw that inspired me to offer professional help with home search and administrational assistance. When you arrive in a new country and city and you barely speak the local language because you didn’t have the time to learn before arrival it is very difficult to get around. To know where you can live, how you can find an apartment, how to sign up for utilities etc. or even the easiest of tasks sometimes.
What are the greatest challenges expats face when they relocate to Stuttgart?
At this very moment I think the biggest challenge is finding suitable accommodation. The situation on the real estate market is very tense – small offer, high demand and high rents. Even with a good budget it is hard to find anything that lives up to your expectations. Another challenge are kindergardens There simply aren’t enough. There is some improvement, but it is still difficult in some suburbs.
How can the services you and your team provide help with these challenges?
We do know the real estate market inside out since many, many years. We built up a good network of private landlords and real estate agents, so we can give our clients a head start every now and then. And we know how to address the administrational challenges to keep as much hassle as possible away from our clients.
What would be your personal tipps for expats moving to Stuttgart?
As soon as you have arrived in Stuttgart, focus on exploring the different areas, so you can make your mind as of where you would like to live. This will definitely help when you start house hunting. Join expat groups for personal exchange, learn or improve your German. And: THINK POSITIVE! Small miracles happen every day – and we are sure working very hard for our clients to make them happen.
Veerle, thank you very much for your time and for sharing your experiences with us!
More about Veerle and her relocation service:
Tipps Veerle shared in the interview:
Transparency: This Expat Interview is part of my cooperation with reloxx.