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Reportage

Home is where the heart is

The meaning of home is different for everyone: for some it is the place they were born, for others a feeling of security, of closeness to family and friends. Stefan Merkl and Hyeonsu Park, who went abroad for TÜV SÜD, talk about how important a sense of closeness—both physically and socially—is for their sense of home.

Text Julia Illmer  
Photos Ye Rin Mok (Merkl); Lara Freiburger (Park)

 

Stefan Merkl, Regional Director of TÜV SÜD Mobility USA:

 

“Germany is my home—nothing will change that, even if I’ve been living in the US since June 2019. I originally come from the area around Stuttgart and most recently worked there as the director of the Division for International Homologation/Vehicle Regulations for TÜV SÜD. I only lived abroad once before moving to the US. That was when I was at university, when I got to spend half a year in Shanghai. It was a very significant experience for me. Last year I was offered the position as regional director of Mobility USA, which was exciting, naturally. My girlfriend and I spoke about it a lot, what it would mean for us professionally and privately, and then did everything we could so that she could join me. Now we’re living together in California—an interesting location for TÜV SÜD, as it’s home to the tech giants working on new technologies like automated and autonomous driving. I spend about half the time working in my office at home in Long Beach. The other half of the time I’m in the office in Plymouth, Michigan. California and Michigan are very different, but both complement each other perfectly in the automotive industry. In the beginning, in addition to my new job, I had to take care of a lot of organizational matters, which cost a lot of time and energy. My new colleagues and my girlfriend supported me and we have settled in well. To stay active, I bought a mountain bike. In Germany, I went biking in the mountains a lot—here I ride along the beach.”

 

 


 

Hyeonsu Park, Technical Certifier at TÜV SÜD Product Service in Germany.

 

“I can still remember the day that I arrived at Munich Airport. It was ten in the evening. Hardly any businesses had their lights on and the city was blanketed in a great silence—it was absolutely remarkable for me. Because I was arriving from the South Korean megacity of Seoul. Life runs riot there day and night. I had been working there for TÜV SÜD as an auditor before I received the offer for a position as technical certifier in Munich—a wonderful opportunity for me, which I accepted even though my son was just a baby. I missed him and my wife very much at the beginning.

„WHEN I GET HOMESICK, A WARM KIMCHI SOUP DOES ME A WORLD OF GOOD.“

 

A few months later, she quit her job in Korea, joined me with our son and is now learning German. That was a great help for me to really feel at home here. I realized that my home is where my family is, even if Korea remains my homeland, where I was born and grew up and went to university. Everything is so different here. For example, when you rent an apartment in Korea, it’s usually normal that it has a kitchen, lights and some built-in furniture. Which meant I was very surprised when I entered a completely empty apartment and had to buy everything myself. The work culture is also different. In Korea, employees are very subservient. What the boss says has the highest priority. Here I’ve learned to be more proactive and make my own suggestions. In the meantime, I feel very comfortable in Munich, which is why I’ve extended my contract until 2021. I visit my parents and friends in Korea once a year—I’m originally from Busan, on the East Sea. When I get homesick, a warm kimchi soup does me a world of good. In the Korean restaurants here, the food naturally has a local touch—but it still tastes delicious!”