Dzhangar Sanzhiev is originally from the south of Russia. He moved to Düsseldorf with his wife and two daughters in 2016.
In 2020 he decided to leave the company that brought him to Germany and start a new adventure as the founder of MatchFamilies.com, an app that helps expat families to find friends.
You can find out more about his impressions of Germany, and his decision to become an entrepreneur in this summary of our conversation with him.
After living in Moscow for 14 years, which were your first impressions when you arrived in Germany?
One of the first impressions was that everything is so slow, e.g. getting our Internet connection took four weeks. A bad surprise was that you have to pay for the radio and television even if you don’t use it. I felt it was unfair.
On the other hand, the very positive thing was that people here are very open, friendly and honest in their friendliness.
Looking back on these five years, which have been your biggest challenges as an expatriate in Germany?
I can easily identify two key challenges:
First of all, meeting new people and making friends. Establishing your social circle from scratch in a new country can be a challenge, but doing it as a family is even more tricky. You need to consider not only yourself but the whole family.
My wife used to miss having a close friend to talk to. All my close friends were in Russia as well. It took us a bit of time until we met some friendly, matching people that had children of similar ages and/or similar interests and mindset.
The second challenge has been mastering the language. I personally love it, though it takes time and a lot of efforts. My wife struggles at times but also progresses nicely. It’s still a journey, and we aim to bring it to the level of full proficiency. Kids are already fluent, and that helps us a lot!
What is the most important thing you have learnt in Germany?
Whereas in Moscow, I lived in constant stress and rush, here I have learned to live a more balanced life, spend more time with my family and take time for myself.
I have definitely developed my social and communication skills. Interacting with a diversity of people helps you learn how to find ways to communicate more efficiently, and it, therefore, enriches you as a person.
In 2020 you decided to leave your corporate job and become an entrepreneur, what made you take the leap?
Being an entrepreneur had been my dream for a long time, but you need the courage to leave behind a well paid, attractive and stable job. Stability is essential when you have a family to take care of and a mortgage to pay.
In March 2020, my wife started working as a doctor, so our financial situation became more stable. I also learned about the “Gründungszuschuss”. A program that helps maintain financial stability for at least six months.
Also, in 2020, Coronavirus made things go crazy anyhow, so I decided to do something crazy too – if not in such a crazy year, then when? 🙂
How did you develop your business idea?
It is based on my experience as an expat. I have experienced the challenges of establishing a social circle from scratch in a new country and how much effort and time it takes. I learned from it and wanted to help others. Because your social circle to a great extent, determines your quality of life and happiness in a new place.
This made me create MatchFamilies – a tool that helps families/couples to settle quickly and find new friends. I want to help people feel happy and integrated into their new society. I believe that home is not a place =it’s mainly the people surrounding you. I hope expat families will find these people through my app.
And which skills, developed in your journey as an expat, have helped you on this entrepreneurial path?
Being in such an international and diverse place as Western Europe helps you learn and experience different areas. This experience develops your thinking and broadens your views about the opportunities existing in this world.
Suppose you worked for a governmental office in charge of expatriates. Which measures would you implement?
I would actively recommend my app to expat families! (just kidding ).
Now seriously, I think many expats don’t even know about such offices. Increasing people’s awareness about these offices and their services would be one of the measures.
Another one would be creating expat communities and actively engaging people to meet so they make connections, either on a professional or personal level.
In your opinion, what actions could companies apply to improve expats’ experience in Germany?
If German companies are keen to attract the best talents from all over the world, they need to shift from technical to people-oriented support. E.g. instead of giving you some technical guides, switch to the active support of all aspects of life and integration, including social life (at least on the level of tips and relevant information).
Imagine if they put it this way: “we will make sure that you are not only quickly settled but also feel home”. Wouldn’t that be attractive?
In general, how would you assess your life as an expat in Germany?
I like the convenience of living here, the opportunity of having a right work-life balance and the richness of being surrounded by a diversity of people, cultures, languages.
The only aspect that is a bit strange is to see my kids growing up in a different culture. It is a strange feeling when they sing German songs for kids and they don’t know those songs that I used to sing when I was a kid. Sometimes they even speak to me in German, forgetting that we speak Russian at home.
As a whole, I think Germany is the right place for my family right now and that’s the most important. I’m looking forward to seeing how our journey here evolves!
Thank you very much Dzhangar. We wish you and family all the best in this journey!