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Moving from Germany to the USA - Miriam’s Experience


Miriam Kelly
Position: Senior Associate
Department: Rödl National Tax Team
Office: Atlanta, GA
Interned with the Atlanta office from September 2015 to March 2016 and joined the team full-time in 2018.

If someone would have told me when I graduated from high school in Germany, that 10 years later I would live and work in the U.S., I wouldn’t have believed them. I always wanted to spend some time in the U.S., but then life had other plans. I did an apprenticeship at a local bank, went to college with a major in German taxation, and I thought it would never happen. However, before I started my first job after college I thought, if I don’t do it now, I will never do it. So, I applied for different internships and got an offer from the Atlanta office of Rödl & Partner. I have to admit that I didn’t even know where Atlanta was, but it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.

Interning in Atlanta

Within 6 months, I met wonderful friends and colleagues, experienced various parts of the U.S., learned about U.S. taxation from scratch, and fell in love with the city of Atlanta. One of the first things that surprised me when coming to Atlanta was how green everything is. I remember flying above lots of green trees and coming from a hometown with a lot of parks. This already made me feel a little more at home. Atlanta has a whole German community and lots of German businesses in and around Atlanta. I think I spoke more German than English during my internship.

When my internship ended, I went back to Germany and started working, but it felt like part of me always stayed in the U.S. Two years later, in June 2018, I emptied my apartment, sold or gave away most of my things, stored the rest with friends & family, went to different authorities to make sure everything was in order, and then, me & two suitcases flew back to Atlanta. Even though the visa process was challenging, it never felt not doable, and my excitement made up for it, anyway. Although I was supported by friends and family, I sometimes felt that I would disappoint them and leave them behind, but I knew I needed to do it for myself. When I left, I thought I would stay here for 2 or 3 years. Now, here I am, nearly 3 years later, buying a house.


Moving to the U.S. long-term

In Atlanta, I first rented a furnished room and then moved to my first apartment a few months later. Keeping in touch with friends from my internship was very helpful in getting everything organized, but even colleagues I didn’t know from my internship offered their help. Rödl & Partner is an international firm with lots of employees from Germany, Italy, South Africa, China, and other countries who all went through the same process. Being able to talk to friends and colleagues in German was very helpful, as some questions are just easier to ask in your mother language. For example, what many people don’t know, is that you need to take a whole new driving test to get your U.S. driver’s license in Georgia and bring your own car to the test. Luckily, one of my friends let me use her car. For the first 1.5 years, I did not have a car of my own, and if you live within the city and close to the subway, this is absolutely feasible. Although, life got way more flexible when I bought my first car because you can discover so much more. 

At work, I remember I felt a little lost in the first few weeks of our weekly meetings where we discussed different topics of tax reform, and I thought I would never learn this law-heavy language and what all the abbreviations mean. I was also tired a lot from switching between German and English because using English daily was challenging. But it got better and better over time. Working in this environment and using English every day at and outside of work really helped. 

My favorite memories and experiences 

What I love so much about living in Atlanta and the South, in general, is the friendliness, helpfulness, and that there is always something to do. Atlanta has all kinds of festivals, from a Lantern Parade, arts and music festivals, and to food festivals, every weekend there is something new. 

One of the first things I did when I moved here was sign up for the Atlanta Track Club. Every other week there was a new 5K I could participate in. One highlight so far was participating in the Peachtree Road Race, a 10K race on the 4th of July with 60,000 participants. I am looking forward to this year’s race. 

Atlanta it is about 2 hours from the mountains and 3-4 hours from the beach, so I spent a lot of time discovering Georgia and its neighboring states with their beautiful national parks, lakes, beaches, and delicious food. Traditional southern food includes a lot of fried food—fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles. But also, fresh Georgia grown vegetables and peaches, which Georgia is known for as the “Peach State”. Atlanta also has one of the busiest airports, so that further destinations are only a quick plane ride away. 

Georgia is also a huge film location for all kinds of movies. I met my boyfriend through a friend while he was shooting a movie in Savannah, GA. Back then, I knew nothing about the film industry, and now, I see the small yellow signs with different production names on every corner—having a movie being filmed in the courtyard at work is not so special anymore. Visiting film locations is a lot of fun, though. If you thought Marvel's Avengers movies were filmed in New York or Nigeria, they were actually filmed in and around Atlanta. 
My boyfriend and I also started a podcast called "Classic American Movies" in which he mostly shows me movies that I have never seen before and then we look into the making of it. Oftentimes, I also compare it to German movies. I never saw myself starting a podcast, but I learned how easy it is to be played on Apple Podcast or Spotify. It is a great thing knowing that people close and far are listening, including friends and family in Germany. Making the podcast, especially during the pandemic with no festivals, etc. going on, was a lot of fun. 

Another thing I love about the U.S. is the celebration of the different seasons. Pumpkin carving, corn mazes, and "Pumpkin Spice" in everything are essential for the fall. Walking through neighborhoods like Grant Park where homeowners go above and beyond with their Halloween decorations still fascinates me. Same for Christmas with huge Christmas trees at department stores and even with a German Christkindl market that brings a little bit of Germany to the U.S. When it gets warm again in March, everyone comes out and spends time in the parks, on the Beltline (a walking trail through parts of the city), at one of the many breweries, or on one of their friend's front porch—there is something for everybody. 

Georgia also has various sports teams, from the Falcons (American Football) to the Braves (baseball), the Hawks (basketball), to its own successful soccer team, Atlanta United. Attending a sports game is something else. One fan seat section at Atlanta United games reminds me of German soccer games with people playing the drums and shouting chants. The Atlanta Falcons fans are very loyal and supportive, even if we lose again in the second half. Everybody should experience the team feeling and atmosphere at least once.

Pieces of home

My entire family and most of my friends still live in Germany. Sometimes it is easier, sometimes it’s harder, but with modern communications through Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, or a simple phone call, you do not feel so far apart. Having German supermarkets and bakeries close by so that I can make my favorite cakes or dishes helps to always keep a part of your “Heimat” with you. What I also really like is that most of my clients are German-speaking or have assets in Germany. I use my mother language daily at work, and it is a good feeling to know how appreciative people can be when they know you are German and that you can talk to them in a language they feel comfortable in.

I never thought I would get used to some things, but now I can’t even imagine not being able to go grocery shopping on a Sunday, the thought of an 11-hour drive to visit my boyfriend’s family doesn’t scare me anymore, and I am a big fan of grits.

Never think that because you started on one path that it couldn’t change. Going to the U.S. is a wonderful experience. Don’t be afraid because there will always be people helping you, and your loved ones back home are always only a video call away.

published May 2021


Priscilla Dowling



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