German expat moving to a "cult-based" city in the USA, quite shocking experience

Although an American citizen by birth, Andy found St George in Utah to be quite of a culture shock when she moved there, after growing up in Germany. She talks about how she came to be living in the US, what she thinks are the good and not-so-good parts about her expat life in Utah, and her advice for those considering moving to the USA.
My mum and I in las vegas
Andy M

-Where were you born?

I was born in the US: New Mexico, Albuquerque. But I moved to Germany when I was about 4 years old and grew up there in Worms, Rheinland Pfalz.

-In which country and city are you living now?

Currently I am living in the USA - in Utah, St George.

-Are you living alone or with your family?

I came out here to meet some relatives of mine. But I have been living on my own since about 3 years ago.

-How long have you been living there?

About 4 years now

-What is your age?

Young, 21.

-When did you come up with the idea of living in the USA?

When I was attending school in Germany, I was really bad in English. It was the great experience/adventure of meeting new people, a new country and a new way of living, as well as the desire to learn English fluently.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?

No, I actually am one of those lucky ones, that gets to call herself a "duo-citizen" since I was born in the United States, but have German parents. So no need for a visa. One thing I have to say though, coming into the United States with a German passport and no return flight, can be quite the pain. Even though I could prove that I was born in the US and have social security, they still made me go into the "immigration" room, where they asked me questions to see what I am doing here. Every time, after about 5 minutes of senseless talking, they tell me to get an American passport. Which I still don't see as a necessity. Laugh, anyways, since 9-11 the Americans just have become very cautious.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?

Yes, I am currently without insurance, insane, being from a country that has such great health insurance. I get offers from my job for insurance, but seriously it's expensive!

-How do you make your living in the USA? Do you have any type of income generated?

You know it was actually harder to find a job for me when I was 18 in Germany than it was to find one there when only 16, barely speaking English. Of course you have to start on the low end, minimum wage, but if your English is good, there are many jobs to find if you really want them. Just walking from store to store, asking for applications, asking to talk to the supervisors, etc.

-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?

Yes, Americans don't really know a second language, and if it would be the case, it be 98% of the time be spanish. Well here in Utah with the Mormons living here (in my opinion a cult, but they call themself a religion, and get very offended if told otherwise). But yes it's important to learn the language.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes? Describe your favorite recreational activities there or those that are available.

I miss home a lot. Being from a culturally diverse country coming to this, hmm... how should I say it, well very close-minded state, very patriotic town, yes it can be quite hard. I don't think I should be talking as if every American is this way. But Utah, for me it is definitely a strange place. People are very judgmental, they seem friendly to your face, but they don't really take you in or talk much, besides "fake" and insincere conversations. I think it would be hard moving into a town that is this close minded. I wish I could have had a different town that I could have lived in and judged it differently.

Utah has a lot of national parks like Zion and the Grand Canyon is not too far away from St George, so a lot of tourists come into this town, and yes I would say the most things you can do here are sports, hiking, climbing, everything you could imagine doing in a town where the weather is hot and dry.

-Do you have other plans for the future?

Well, I miss Europe very much. Since I am not ready to give up on the US yet, I am planning on staying as an aupair in Spain for 2 years, while getting my Associates degree online (which the US offers, that's quite great). My plans are to move into a bigger and different city in the US, with more diversity!! I think if you are a hard worker you can get far in life here in the US.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?

I rent a 1-bedroom apartment. It was hard to find a place this cheap, but I did find a deal, it was $350 per month, plus electricity, water, etc. Normally one-bedroom apartments go from 500-700 dollars in this town, which is a lot, thinking about how low the minimun wage is. As a college student I found it to be hard, to be working tons, having to buy a car, since the public transportation really sucks, high insurance rates, and rent, with just wages barely over minimum at 6.13 dollars an hour. Quite sad, it seemed as if you could get by okay, but it is very hard to save up money and get back out of here. It's like a black hole that sucks you in, this town.

-What is the cost of living in St George?

Like I said above, $500-700 for one-bedroom apartment. There are 3-bedroom places that are quite cheap (since this is a family based town-which their "church" evolves around) for about $800-1000, nice newly-built houses.

-What do you think about the locals?

Well, here in St. George, it is a very close-minded town. It's been hard living in a town mentality that doesn't quite match with my own personal one. Young kids from 18-21 get married, if you are 22 or older and not married it's quite strange. The LDS (Mormon church) encourages the family life and getting married young. Very conserative Stadt/town.

Here in Utah they celebrate holidays that happen to fall on a Sunday a day earlier or later, since Sunday is an absolute rest day. On Mondays stores close earlier so families can spend the "home evening" together. The people are very nice, but I feel like a lot of people are fake. I have talked to many other non-Mormon people that didn't grow up there and they say the same. Locals that aren't used to anything else just don't know any better. One thing though, the women/girls are very beautiful here in Utah.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in the USA?

Negatives: Fooooooood. Fast food, many preservatives in foods. People work too hard, less vacation time (I have worked with my jobs for a long time, 2 years and, still have not seen 1 day of paid vacation). Lack of environmentally concerned people. The big gap between the poor and the super rich.

Positives: Every state you go to looks totally different from the other, the people are very nice and happy.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in the USA?

Move to a culturally diverse city if you would like to live with many cultures. Where I live in Utah, most mothers or households don't even cook, they warm up "ready-to-eat" meals up and that's dinner, lunch, breakfast..... So definitely, be sure you know where you are moving to.

No vacation time?

travelinhobo's picture

As an American, I don't disagree with many things you said/think. However, in regards to vacation time (yes, we are the only first world country with no laws on the books for vacation time) it's quite rare to work for a company full-time and not recieve at least a week's vacation if you've been with them for at least 1 year. I've never heard of it. However, if you're only working part-time (under 30 hours usually), then you're not entitled to vacation time. No matter how much you've worked for the over-paid CEO. :(

you're not alone in that

csquared's picture

you're not alone in that most americans can't relate to mormons and consider them a cult too. i've visited that area and it really is gorgeous...good luck and enjoy your time there!!

Hi Andy, I enjoyed

Roundtrip's picture

Hi Andy,
I enjoyed reading your post, but you may want to think about renaming the title. There are 5.5 million Mormons living in the United States, and over 14 million in the world who find it very offensive to be labeled "cults". I wanted to comment on just a few of your observations of mothers, food, no holidays on Sundays, etc. I have been a Mormon for 30 years now, a convert from the Baptist faith, and I can assure you that all of the mothers I know, cook good, wholesome meals for every meal. You stated that "most mothers don't even cook. I was just wondering how many families you have eaten with, and how many of those were Mormons. Generally, they try not to cook on Sundays, because the Bible teaches that the Sabbath should be kept holy and that day used to turn our thoughts to Christ and spend quality time with family instead of slaving over a stove. The church actually even encourages that people eat fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat only sparingly. They also teach that one should abstain from drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol and should not smoke. This is not a command, it's a suggestion to help you live a healthy life. Those are standards that every state in America has come to encourage as well. As for Utah having too many fast food restaurants and preservatives...I used to live in Germany and Austria. There was no shortage of McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger Kings, etc. As in Europe, the choice is up to the individual whether or not he/she wants to choose a fast food restaurant, or a restaurant that offers a healthier menu.
As for vacation time, it depends on your job. This is not generic to Utah. If you have a professional level job, you will have a nice paid vacation time. I get almost six weeks paid vacation a year.
As for Utah not being environmentally concerned, please do your homework on that. Utah is one of the most beautiful states I've been to. You just have to break out of your daily cycle of work and go exploring. There are many web sites where you can research environment initiatives in Utah. Maybe you could join one of those groups and help out.
I don't mean to come across as chastising you for your opinion of Utah and Mormons, I just don't want you to make generalized, negative statements about the people and state of Utah and paint a bad picture for others who may want to visit the area. Just remember, "Two men look out from prison bars, one sees mud, the other sees stars. "