From Munich to Manhattan: A BMW Engineer’s American Journey

WirtschaftsWoche: Immanuel, it’s been five years since you moved to the USA with just two suitcases. How did it happen?

Immanuel Klaiber: During my studies at the Technical University of Munich, I did an internship at BMW in the USA. When I returned and was about to finish my master’s degree, I was offered a position with my old team there. It was a complete surprise, but I was open to the possibility. Then I heard nothing for a long time until suddenly I got the call that the contract was ready. At that point, I didn’t know the salary, the conditions, nothing. It was crazy. It wasn’t until I had my visa in hand that I realized I was really moving to the USA. (laughs) I wanted to go, but my happiness wasn’t dependent on it. I was quite comfortable in Munich.

WirtschaftsWoche: When did you start your new job?

Immanuel Klaiber: In January 2019. At first, I didn’t even have an apartment. I stayed with a friend from college on my first night, but needed to find other accommodation by the second night. I booked an Airbnb and lived with six total strangers in the middle of nowhere for the first few weeks.

WirtschaftsWoche: Couldn’t BMW help you with the search?

Immanuel Klaiber: Yes, BMW supported me financially. I got a regular American contract and didn’t go through an official expat program that would have handled things like housing and health insurance. Instead, I received money for the flight and other expenses. If I hadn’t done an internship there and had an idea of how things worked, I would have been completely lost. (laughs) Since moving here, I’ve moved three times in total.

WirtschaftsWoche: How did you find your apartments?

Immanuel Klaiber: I found my current apartment on Spareroom. I live in Hoboken, which is across the Hudson River, west of Manhattan, in the “forbidden” state of New Jersey. (laughs) The housing market is tough: leases usually last only a year, and you often get the renewal offer in the last month. Rent can be increased as much as the landlord wants, and if you don’t agree, you have to find a new place. I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to live here for a few years now.

WirtschaftsWoche: How were the first few weeks?

Immanuel Klaiber: Work was great. My colleagues were absolutely wonderful. But they also arrived and left at the same times every day. In the USA, you have comparatively few vacation days, so work is a fixed time slot for many people. It felt more like working at a small to medium-sized business or a family-run company because the location has only 500 to 1000 employees. As a young professional, that’s fantastic because you can try out everything: if you’re interested in a project, you’re naturally included, it’s not very hierarchical, and you can easily talk with the executives.