What it’s like to be Mexican in Germany

Sandra stands in front of the mountains while hiking in Bavaria, Germany
Written by
Sandra Valencia
Published on
May 11, 2023

Living abroad isn’t always easy—especially in a historically homogenous country like Germany. But it can be hard to find some real talk amongst all the dreamy imagery. Introducing What It’s Like, a new content series. Diverse perspectives sharing candid conversations about what it’s like to be ________ in Germany. 

What it’s like to be Mexican in Germany

Meet Sandra, originally from California, USA 🇺🇸 and Guadalajara, Mexico 🇲🇽. Currently living in Munich.

Tell us a bit about you.

Full disclosure: I am a Mexican-American, born in California, and grew up in the city of Guadalajara from age 10 onward.

It’s important I address this because I entered Germany as a US Citizen, which comes with its own bureaucratic privileges.

It’s especially important to know this, as many Mexicans I’ve met, and who may read this will think “She’s not really Mexican”, and others will note my accent and think “But your English is so good.” I’ll talk about that later.

So why write Mexican? Simply because I identify as Mexican. And even more so since moving away.

Why Germany?

I first moved to Germany in 2017, to study advertising in Berlin. I did have the added motivation of my previous relationship, but I always wanted to live somewhere that had nothing to do with the US or Mexico. I had worked at ad agencies and brand studios before in Mexico, but felt there were more opportunities as a young creative and woman outside the country.

After graduating, I was able to apply for a Seeking Employment in Germany after Graduation residence permit, then landed a job in Munich. German bureaucracy? Oh yeah, been there, dreaded that. I was very close to being denied my permit due to insufficient funds in my bank account, it’s tough to show these things when you’re a student making do with less than 600€ a month.

I had quite a different experience in Munich’s foreigner office; here everyone seemed to be apologetic about slow internal processes. At least I was comforted by the fact that they knew.

Tell us about life in Germany.

If you’ve lived anywhere outside of Bavaria in Germany, most people would have told you “Bavaria is so traditional, conservative, boring, etc.” but I just think it’s something you have to try out. Especially, if time is running out and you betta werk :)

Of course, coming from Berlin, you pick up on the main differences, poor and sexy vs. posh and wealthy. And, I’m not just talking about economic wealth, people seem to take their leisure and time very seriously. I arrived in Munich shortly before the pandemic, so instead of exploring the beer gardens and jazzy nightlife, I discovered a new passion: hiking. My lifestyle went from weekend clubbing and too many interesting events to choose from, to weekend nature and really tuning in with wellbeing.

I’ve also discovered a huge Mexican community in the city and found that Munich has been voted most liveable by foreign residents.

What has been hard for you, living in Germany?

Remember I talked about “Your English is so good!” Well, I’ve had the experience that many Germans seem distraught or unable to make sense of people with dual nationalities, and when I do come to telling them about my Mexican roots, they* tend to make stereotypical remarks about my love for Tequila (I prefer Mezcal).

*Mostly Germans who have not lived or traveled abroad.

Germans really want you to speak German. And, I’ve experienced this on all parts of the spectrum. From randos on the U-Bahn saying “Wir Sind in Deutschland!” To kind friends and shopkeepers trying to help out with your basic German.

Here’s an obvious one: mostly cash payments and the EC card. I thought it didn’t bother me until I went to Sweden and Denmark.

And I get this one from many foreign friends: No good customer service.

What do you love about Germany—what makes you stay?

As much as I hate to say it: the rules. Somehow this bureaucracy and sense of policing each other, makes things work. And now, I see it as being mindful of others’ time, space, efforts.

Now in Munich, I very much enjoy the closeness to nature and the lightheartedness of locals.

What really excites me is meeting more foreigners like me, who seem to be enjoying their lives and finding safe spaces to rant about their struggles.

And of course, Bavarian public holidays: 13 per year – go JC!

How has it been, being so far away from home?

Food is hands down what I miss the most. It gets me so excited and happy that there are Mexicans creating more options like real taquerías in Berlin. But if I can find something, I learn to cook it. Shout out to Asian markets who have saved my spice life ❤️.

What's a piece of advice you'd give to other Mexicans thinking of moving here?

Hay una comunidad muy grande de latinos y Mexicanos listos para apoyarte, porque conocemos el camino. Crea tu red de apoyo y apoya a los demás. 😊


Read more of the series here. 🌎 If you’d like to contribute your story and experiences in Germany, we’d love to feature you! Write to us at hello@getworldify.com.

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