Expat Interviews: Claudia Körbler, An Austrian Living in Washington, DC

Ex·pa·tri·ate: (n) a person who lives outside their native country.

Each year, CORT Destination Services supports thousands of individuals and families through the challenges inherent in relocating for work. Our Destination Services Consultants help assignees discover great neighborhoods, find the right home, choose the best school, and get settled into their new community with less stress and more confidence.

In the spirit of helping that our consultants bring to their work every day, we occasionally invite an expatriate to share their thoughts about the experience of moving to, and living in, the United States. Our latest Expat Interview is from Claudia Körbler, an Austrian living in Washington, D.C. We hope you find Claudia’s remarks to be both fun and informative.


Claudia Körbler



Industry that brought you to the U.S.:

My first assignment was with the Embassy of Austria in Washington, D.C. in 2010, and since then I have worked for the World Bank Group and currently for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in the capacity of a Strategic Communication and Policy Specialist.

Are you alone on this assignment?

Yes, I am alone on this assignment. As an Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK), I have lived, worked and immersed myself in many cultures outside my “native” Austrian culture since the age of 18.

Is this your first international assignment? If not, where else have you lived?

I lived in Barcelona, Madrid, Castellón de la Plana, San Francisco and a few other cities. Currently, I am residing in Washington, D.C.

Was the decision to move to the U.S. easy or difficult for you and your family?

The decision to move to the United States was easy, as I always had a great interest in the U.S. American culture and English language. This was also one of the reasons why I studied Simultaneous Interpretation with focus on cross-cultural communication in English, Spanish and German. I moved by myself from Austria to San Francisco and later Washington, D.C. I believe it made it a bit easier, as I did not have a family to expatriate to the United States.

What is one American tourist attraction that you have visited?

Among many, my favorite tourist attraction is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In particular, I enjoy running or biking across it. The scenery and view from the bridge has something majestic. On the one side of the bridge, you are able to see the skyline of San Francisco and on the other side the Pacific Ocean. To me, the bridge is one of the world wonders that leaves you in awe about its beauty.

What is your favorite American saying or slang word?

“As easy as pie.” I remember I heard this saying for the first time when I traveled to New Orleans. After dinner, a waitress in a restaurant wished me farewell by saying, “May you have a wonderful evening, as easy as pie.” I found this phrase to be very charming and fitting in many life’s circumstances.

What word or saying from your native language do you find yourself using often because it just doesn’t translate well to American English?

It is the word “Fernweh” in German. It does not really translate into any English word I would know of. What it means is a feeling of “homesickness” to a place you have never been before and you would like to explore next.

Is there anything that you really miss and can’t find in U.S. stores?

I really miss the tasty, whole milk Austrian Milka chocolate with whole nuts and a sprinkle of poppy seeds. The taste for this specific kind of chocolate may sounds peculiar, but believe me, once you try it you will agree with me. So far, I only spotted this particular chocolate in a Jewish Deli on the Upper West Side in New York. Once I saw it, I had to buy it at all. It is not every day, you get a chance to devour your favorite chocolate in the world.

What is your favorite American food?

I love chicken wings for the life of me. There is something special about the spicy taste of buffalo sauce.

Fill in the blank. Americans are:

Always very friendly! At the beginning of my expat experience, I had to get used to the fact that everyone asks you, and is seemingly interested in, “How are you doing?”

Sometimes I wish Americans:

Would not confuse AUSTRIA with AUSTRALIA. There are no kangaroos in Austria.

What has surprised you (good or bad) about life in the U.S.?

The amount of food options in the United States. You could literally eat lunch or dinner in a different restaurant every day out of the year. In Austria or Spain (where I lived previously), food options are diverse, but limited and bound to some cultures. I became a total “foodie” since living in the U.S., and I have found a passion for every type of food, in particular, Thai and West African cuisine.

The best thing about being an expatriate is:

To create your own chapter in your book of life. Expatriating to a new country and culture requires a tremendous amount of curiosity and risk taking, but it also rewards you with the possibility to re-write every chapter of your own book of life the way you want to read it.

The worst thing about being an expatriate is:

Homesickness! Whenever that little feeling of homesickness trickles in, I eat some of the Milka poppy-seed chocolate and it vanishes immediately.

If you could relocate anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Fiji, or Kenya has always intrigued me.

Imagine that a good friend just called to tell you that he/she has accepted an assignment in the U.S. What advice might you have for them as they prepare to relocate?

Here is some advice I would give to anyone who wants to relocate to the U.S.

  1. Relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
  2. Settle in to your new life quickly and ask for help if you need it.
  3. Identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
  4. Find the right places to meet like-minded people..
  5. Prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
  6. Deal with any transition challenges.
  7. Cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
  8. Enjoy the expat journey! It is yours to own!

Last thoughts:

You will never be ready to become an expat, so do not wait for the right moment. Making a big life change can be scary, but you know what is even scarier? REGRET. I would advise anyone to embrace the experience every step along the way! The first few months in any new place, especially a foreign place, are going to be stressful. So be aware that you are experiencing something wonderful and unique. It is all part of your journey!

Photography ©  Akshat Chaturvedi, Facebook: @immersin