XPAT Spotlight – Interview with Desiree Perez, my BFF and CEO of Aviation Leadership Academy
Growing up together in Germany, Desiree and I both immigrated to the United States in 2011. For the first four years, she resided in Texas before her career brought her to Los Angeles in 2015. During her time in California, Desiree faced some crucial challenges that made her rethink her move as well as her career choice.
In this interview, Desiree shares her raw and honest perspective about living in California, why it is not her dream come true, and how her experience resulted in a career change.
Where in Germany are you from?
I am originally not from Germany. I was born in Argentina, but I lived in Germany, Düsseldorf to be exact, for over 20 years.
Where in California are you residing?
I currently live in Los Angeles, but I am about to relocate back to Dallas, TX.
How did you end up in Los Angeles?
I started my career in Aviation in Germany and worked my way up through the ranks. I relocated to the United States in 2011 out of personal reasons, and I lived in Texas for the first 4.5 years before I received a job offer to transfer over to Los Angeles.
Is California your dream come true?
California is not a dream come true for me for various reasons. I feel that California is very stressful and it doesn’t give a lot of opportunity for family oriented living. It does not align with my values of family and quality time with friends.
What do you particularly like about living in California?
I like the weather, the beaches, and I like that there is a lot of stuff to do. I love the nature and being able to wear shorts and T-shirts all year long.
Did you and your husband have a hard time adjusting to California? What are the biggest challenges you faced?
I have to be honest; it has been a very, very tough adjustment for us. We feel that we are under a lot of pressure here to make a living. Life is extremely fast paced here, which I usually don’t have a problem with because I worked in an extremely fast paced industry. But we just feel that life here is not in alignment with who we want to be as a family.
We feel that everybody here is very busy. It kind of makes us feel a little bit isolated as a family. We miss being with family and friends back in Texas.
What was the biggest challenge for you when you moved from Germany to the United States?
The biggest challenge for me was not so much the language, but adjusting to size – everything is so much bigger and larger! Also, adjusting to culture in terms of personalities – friendships are valued differently here than they are valued in Germany.
In all honesty, the biggest adjustment for me was really the corporate culture; going from a very straight forward environment to a rather delicate work environment, where being straight forward is considered being rather harsh. Also, the effectiveness and the importance of deadlines that we are used to in Germany are completely different here in the States.
So that was definitely the biggest adjustment for me, which is actually the reason for my work today. I focus on leadership and cultural adjustments because I know how painful it can be if there is no awareness.
Do you have any ‘Heimweh’?
To Germany, no, I don’t really have Heimweh. The only thing I miss sometimes is the ability to be straight forward and to have candid conversations without it being taken to a personal level.
How do you cope with that?
I honestly just had to adapt my communication style to the culture here. I think that’s really a crucial tip for anyone that relocates and goes into a corporate environment to conduct some sort of business here in the United States.
In regards to your work, did you change the direction of your career while you were living in Los Angeles?
I came to Los Angeles because I was relocated by my last corporate job where I ran an airline out of LAX. At the same time, I received my Master’s Degree in Leadership and Strategic Management, but I continued to bump into cultural differences in the workforce.
After receiving my Master’s, I continued my education by attaining my Coaching Certificate, which really was a life changing event. It allowed me to learn so much about myself, but also empowered and encouraged me to rekindle my career and purpose, which is to help others.
I started a completely different business in leadership development, as well as cultural adjustment coaching, which I feel is really important in our corporate environment. It allows me to help others succeed, which I absolutely love.
Lastly, what is your special Expat Insider tip for life in California?
Enjoy it as much as you can; make sure you don’t forget about the things that are important to you- your values, family, and friends. That’s my special tip for life in California because it’s very, very different from our German lifestyle.
*Edit: The interview was recorded back in February. Desiree is currently living in Dallas, TX with her husband and recently founded Aviation Leadership Academy.
Image Credits: ©Desiree Perez