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Exploring Transatlantic Transitions: The Europeans Who Found Home in the US


While tales abound of American families uprooting to European shores in pursuit of a different lifestyle—be it in France for a unique upbringing, Italy for a better quality of life, or Portugal for affordable healthcare and retirement—there exists a cohort of Europeans who have traversed the Atlantic and firmly planted roots in the United States, declaring it their forever home. While CNN Travel often showcases expats "living the dream" in Europe, we sought to unravel the experiences of those who have ventured to the other side of the pond. We sat down with several Europeans who have embraced American life to understand what drew them to the United States and what keeps them tethered to its shores.

Florian Herrmann, aged 44 and hailing from Munich, Germany, initially arrived in the United States in 2006 through a university exchange and internship program based in California. Upon its conclusion, he returned to Germany briefly before being enticed to work for a small family business in Wyoming. "I've always been driven by my career, extremely focused on it," reflects Herrmann, who later ventured into establishing his own tourism marketing venture in the U.S., known as Herrmann Global. He recounts how his perspective underwent a profound shift upon setting foot in America, where the prevailing sentiment is "the sky's the limit; if you can envision it, you can achieve it." He particularly resonates with the American ethos of championing the underdog.

Herrmann, who retains his German citizenship, expresses intentions to pursue U.S. citizenship once the process for Germans to obtain dual citizenship becomes more accessible. "Here, the mentality is 'Let's give it a shot.' And if it doesn't pan out, it's viewed as a learning experience," he observes. In contrast, failure in entrepreneurship in Germany often carries a weight of stigma and foreboding for future prospects. Herrmann, residing in Lander, Wyoming, alongside his American wife and their two children, extols the virtues of dwelling in a close-knit community with a resilient, "cowboy mentality.

In the tapestry of transatlantic migration, individuals like Herrmann illustrate the allure of the American dream and the profound impact of its ethos on those who choose to call it home.

Small-town America is still absolutely amazing," Florian Herrmann asserts. "There's a support system I just don't see happening anywhere else in the world. You know the police officer, the courthouse staff, the neighbors. My friends from Germany visit and see me waving to a police officer, and they wonder what I'm up to." While Herrmann revels in Wyoming's wilderness, he concedes that the solitude can be palpable at times. Despite considering a temporary return to Germany, the notion of a permanent homecoming feels foreign. "I've become too Americanized. I adore my life and the way I live," he admits. "When I return, I realize, 'I couldn't make a life here anymore.'" "I know I'll be laid to rest here," he adds. "I feel like an American. This country has given me so much, and I'm committed and grateful.

Gabriele Sappok, aged 54, established Imagine PR in New York City in 2006 after departing Stuttgart, Germany, to be with her then-boyfriend (now husband and business partner). The innate optimism of American life is what fuels her passion. "I cherish and love the general vibe here, whereas in Germany, it often feels like the glass is half empty," reflects the German citizen with a US green card. During her visits to Germany, Sappok notices her compatriots' disdain for Americans' seemingly casual inquiries about well-being. "When people ask how I'm doing in the US, it genuinely brightens my day," she shares, highlighting the stark cultural contrast between Europe and the United States, as well as within Europe itself. "In Germany, there's an unspoken expectation not to be overly cheerful because it can cast doubt on your sincerity," she explains. "You're almost required to harbor a degree of cynicism and critique, as if it's a mark of intelligence." Sappok expresses dismay at Europeans who disparage the United States. "This is a good country, genuinely a good country," she asserts. If she and her husband opt to return to Germany, it would likely be for the support provided by the social system there. "Ultimately, it'll come down to whether we can afford to grow old in the US, especially in New York City," she muses. Sappok acknowledges her privilege, having benefited from free university education in Germany, which she feels she hasn't fully reciprocated since moving to the US early in her career.

I do feel a twinge of guilt at times, but as long as I can pursue my work and continue doing what I love, I have no desire to relocate," she reflects. The only aspects she admits missing from her homeland are family and certain culinary delights, notably the Swabian specialty known as maultaschen, a cherished dish from her native Stuttgart. "You can find a lot of things in the US, but those dumplings remain elusive," she laments.

Originally hailing from France, Laurence Noguier, co-owner of Chicago's Bistronomic restaurant, made the leap to the Windy City in 1998 at the age of 27. She lauds the spirit of American entrepreneurship as a cornerstone of her affection for her adopted country. "In the US, if you have a vision, a solid work ethic, a dash of common sense, and the determination to see it through, you'll find support and encouragement aplenty," she asserts. "People here exclaim 'go for it!' and willingly offer connections and resources to propel you forward." In contrast, France, she notes, often demands significant capital and connections to embark on entrepreneurial ventures, with the fear of failure casting a long shadow.

Yet, Noguier's fondness for the United States transcends its economic opportunities. "I'm inherently optimistic. I can't abide by the 'it was better in the past' mentality," she declares. At 53, she experiences less ageism in the US compared to France. "Here, I feel valued as a woman in her 50s. Age isn't a barrier; I feel empowered, like my voice matters more than it might back in France," she explains. However, she does find the relentless pursuit of improvement and efficiency in the US occasionally draining. While healthcare costs in the US dwarf those in Europe, Noguier dispels the notion that the US lacks healthcare and retirement provisions, calling it a misconception.

Noguier, who holds a green card and aims to pursue citizenship, describes herself as tethered to two countries. "I feel more American when interacting with French people from France. I encourage everyone to experience life in another world," she enthuses. "Though I'm proud of my European roots, I've found a better fit for my personality here in the US.

Clodagh Lawless, owner of The Dearborn tavern in Chicago, traces her origins to Galway, Ireland. She first set foot in America in 1998 after her parents secured visas for the family to relocate.

Living in the United States has granted Clodagh Lawless the privilege of forging connections with people of diverse ethnicities. "The US is a melting pot of cultures, offering a worldly education that surpasses any classroom," Lawless reflects. Unlike her upbringing in Ireland, where opportunities to interact with individuals from other countries were scarce due to limited migration, the US provides a vibrant tapestry of cultural exchange. Lawless, who attained US citizenship in 2017, extols the rich diversity she has encountered.

Moreover, Lawless finds solace in Chicago's climate compared to the perpetual rainfall of her native west Ireland. "Living in Chicago for 27 years, I've come to appreciate the distinct seasons of winter and summer," she remarks. While she remains open to possibilities, Lawless cannot envision a permanent return to Ireland. Her sons embrace their Irish-American identity with pride, a sentiment Lawless shares. "Becoming a US citizen was a profoundly moving moment for me. The opportunities and privileges that come with being American never fail to stir my emotions," she confesses.

Lorna MacDonald embarked on a transatlantic adventure from Penzance, England, in 1979 at the age of 17, aboard a 45-foot sailboat with her family. Motivated by a thirst for adventure and a desire for growth, the MacDonalds set sail for the Chesapeake Bay but found themselves captivated by the allure of St. Augustine, Florida. They settled there permanently, eventually establishing The Raintree, a cherished local eatery that MacDonald still owns. In 1986, MacDonald proudly became a US citizen.

Despite periodic visits to England to reconnect with school friends, MacDonald harbors no desire to return permanently. "When I gaze upon my hometown of Penzance now, it feels rather disheartening," she reflects. "The economy pales in comparison to what we have here, and the weather exacerbates the dreariness." MacDonald's enduring connection to her homeland coexists with her unwavering appreciation for the opportunities and vibrancy offered by life in the United States.

Terry Ward, a travel writer based in Tampa, Florida, epitomizes the transcontinental spirit. Amidst her vibrant career, she is currently navigating the intricacies of obtaining Italian citizenship. Ward's journey reflects the fluidity of identity and the interconnectedness of cultures in today's global landscape.

In a world defined by fluid identities and cross-cultural connections, individuals like Terry Ward exemplify the boundless possibilities of embracing diverse experiences. As she navigates the path to Italian citizenship from her base in Tampa, Florida, Ward embodies the spirit of exploration and adaptation that transcends geographical boundaries. Her journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of travel and the richness that arises from embracing multiple cultural identities. In a globalized era, Ward's story reminds us that home is not confined to a single location but rather encompasses the myriad places and experiences that shape our lives.