Expert in the City: An Interview with Carmen Álvarez-Cienfuegos Rico from the Spanish Embassy
January • 25th, 2018
by the Expat in the City Team
Our Expert in the City today: Carmen Álvarez-Cienfuegos Rico
Who are you and what do you do?
Carmen Álvarez-Cienfuegos Rico: I am a Spanish civil servant from Madrid who moved to Munich 6 years ago. After my maternity leave, I joined the Spanish Embassy in 2014 and since then I work as head of the Employment and Social Affairs Unit in Bavaria. Being an expat myself, I feel very lucky in my job supporting other Spaniards in their international experience.
What kind of services does the Spanish Embassy offer to Spanish expats in Munich?
Carmen Álvarez-Cienfuegos Rico: The Spanish Embassy has, among others, a Department for Employment and Social Affairs. Our main mission is to support and advise Spanish citizens who work in Germany or aim to integrate themselves in the German labor market. We have offices in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich and Stuttgart.
We inform about the labor and social security framework on issues like how to look for a job, which are the first steps when arriving in Germany, how to learn German, workers and apprentices rights, healthcare and unemployment insurances, as well as other social and family benefits.
Moving to a new country brings significant new challenges and our aim is to support Spanish citizens in their social and professional integration with information, workshops and personalized advice. Our web www.empleoalemania.de contains important information resources and different materials in Spanish.
The Embassy also offers information with regards to setting up your own business and living in Germany. Can you tell us more about that?
Carmen Álvarez-Cienfuegos Rico: We support Spanish professionals finding a job in Germany. Therefore, it’s important to show all the different professional paths for them. One way of entering in Germany’s labor market is through setting your own business or beginning self-employment. We try to help Spanish entrepreneurs who are starting their own business in Munich with the most frequent requirements and general formalities.
For many Spaniards the language is a significant obstacle in their integration. That’s why we try to give them as much information as possible in Spanish, in order to enable them to find their first steps in Germany much easier.
"The Alps have so much to offer!"
Do you have some encouraging words/advice for expats in the city?
Carmen Álvarez-Cienfuegos Rico: Munich is an attractive city for newcomers on behalf of its huge professional, social and cultural offer. However, it’s important to inform and prepare yourself before moving to Germany. There are many aspects you should know before looking for a job in Germany that are different from the Spanish labor market. But once you have got a job, it’s easy to find opportunities to evolve professionally and to improve your position.
Beyond professional integration, it’s important to find friends and social support so you can feel at home and enjoy the city. So try to look for contacts and personal network within the international and German community in Munich.
My final advice is to be flexible and open to new experiences. Don’t try to judge people and situations too soon and let yourself surprise by what this city can offer. Being an expat is not always easy, sometimes it can be very hard, but remember that moving abroad gives you a lot of social and professional benefits: you improve your “employability” by acquiring communicative, social, meaning-related and change-related skills. You learn a foreign language and intercultural skills and you gain personal experiences that will help you in your future life.
What is your favorite spot in Munich and why?
Carmen Álvarez-Cienfuegos Rico: My favorite spot in Munich is Haidhausen. It’s an interesting neighborhood at the East side of the city, near to the river. I also like the so-called "French Quarter" very much. Here you can find an international atmosphere with different restaurants and local shops and ateliers, away from the traditional touristic sites. The famous Gasteig, home of the Philharmonic, and the food market at the Wiener Platz are worth a visit.
Three tips for expats in the city
Carmen Álvarez-Cienfuegos Rico: Learn German: If you want to find a job and personal relations in Munich it’s important to know the German language. Stay patient and perseverant; although German is hard to learn it is not impossible.
Build up your network: Try to find friends, professionals and business contacts who can help you and give you advice on local affairs.
Explore the city and its surroundings: Munich has a vivid cultural and social life, get to know it. Do what the locals do, and whenever you can, take a trip to the mountains. The Alps have so much to offer: skiing in winter, hiking, biking or horse riding in summer or simply having a nice walk and admire its beauty.
Thank you for your time, Carmen!
"Expats and Experts in the City" is a new interview series by Expat in the City. Check it out and see what Munich Expats and Experts would like to share with you!