Wolfsburg is an international city where people from many different nations work and live. Melissa and Eon de Klerk came here from South Africa a year ago. In this interview they talk about why they like our city so much and what they miss from their homeland. And they both reveal what surprised them about Germany.
Melissa and Eon de Klerk, how did you feel when you left South Africa: did you get on the plane full of anticipation or did you feel a bit uneasy?
Eon de Klerk: I remember that I arrived in Germany safely but my suitcases unfortunately didn’t – they were still somewhere at the airport in Johannesburg. I only got all my stuff again after a few days.
Melissa de Klerk: I came to Germany in December one month after Eon – with our dachshund Milo, who flew for the first time. That was pretty stressful. But once all three of us were reunited in Germany, everything was fine.
What brought you to Wolfsburg?
Eon: I worked for Volkswagen South Africa for several years in Uitenhage near Port Elizabeth – a city a bit larger than Brunswick. During that time I had been to Wolfsburg on several occasions, the first visit in 2010. Back then I could only communicate in English and Afrikaans. When I was given the opportunity to work for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles on a permanent basis a year ago, I wanted to do so at all costs. In the meantime I also speak good German.
Was it difficult to persuade your wife to accompany you to Wolfsburg?
Eon: Not at all…
Melissa: We had in fact been toying with the idea of emigrating to Germany for four years. When the job finally worked out and the time had come, it felt great.
Have you settled down well in Wolfsburg and do you already feel at home?
Melissa: I like living in a smaller city. I can do a lot of things in Wolfsburg without having to drive far. Phaeno, art museum, planetarium – there’s a lot going on here.
Eon: We’re just happy to be here. I really enjoyed the old town festival in Fallersleben. The atmosphere is just great…
Melissa: …and the Christmas markets. We don’t have them in South Africa. I have the impression that the whole city really cares a lot that people are doing well and that everyone can participate in cultural life.
What do you miss from South Africa?
Melissa: The beach. And of course our families.
Eon: We skype to keep in touch and send lots of messages and photos by WhatsApp.
What surprised you most about Germany?
Melissa: That I quickly got a job interview at a language school and I was able to start working as an English teacher shortly after – something I had never done before. I found it a bit strange that I couldn’t pick up my parcel because my residence permit was not sufficient proof of identity. Passport, registration certificate, driving licence etc.: I really do take everything with me wherever I go now.
Do you already have a favourite food in Germany?
Melissa: We have of course already tried dumplings. Actually, we eat a vegetarian diet, and cook most of our meals at home.
How did you establish a new circle of friends?
Melissa: The pandemic has slowed us down a bit. I heard that it can take a while to make good friends.
Eon: Many people are a bit reserved at first. But then things actually move quite fast and you’re invited to a barbecue or asked if you want to go to the cinema.
Is there a special experience you want to tell us about?
Melissa: We have bought a house in Almke!
Eon: Our dream was to have our own house so we could put down roots here. Hopefully this will be our home for the next thirty, forty years.
Melissa: To become a real Wolfsburg local – that’s what I want. In the first weeks I had feared that many people would be bothered by the fact that I come from abroad and do not speak German very well yet – but that fear was completely unfounded. Everyone’s really nice to me.
Are you already a fan of VfL?
Eon: I don’t mind football, but I’m really into ice hockey and the Grizzlys. In my cabinet I have a collection of a few jerseys from past season. Most people watch rugby and cricket in South Africa.
Last but not least: You have a blog in which you talk about your life in Germany. Why?
Melissa: I come from the media industry, I just like writing. I also want to share my experiences of what life is like in Germany and what we are experiencing here. I think there are many people who would like to emigrate to another country but very few know what is involved.