A Day in the Life of an Expat in Munich
7:45 — I wake up, check the weather, which I find to be notoriously unpredictable. Two weeks ago, we were suffering from a massive heatwave (AC basically doesn’t exist in Germany) and today it is a high of about 68°F (20°C). I look around for my jacket which I haven’t touched in a few weeks. I guess there won’t be any trips to the river or a public pool this weekend. I live only a 5-minute walk from the Isar (the river that runs through Munich), so I love spending an afternoon or evening having a picnic by the water and jumping in when it’s hot. The water is so clean, though it is also freezing cold (by my standards) since it comes down from the alps.
8:30 — I grab leftovers from the fridge and head off to catch the subway. I only live five subway stations from my work, but after I get off the subway I have a 1k walk, otherwise, I have to switch at a very crowded station in order to get closer to work. I prefer the chance to get some fresh air and stretch my legs before sitting at a desk for eight hours. Although the subway is fairly crowded, with a book on my phone it’s not a bad commute, and so much cheaper than having a car. I actually haven’t even had my license transferred from the US, as there is so rarely a situation where I would want to drive.
9:00 — I arrive at work, grab a coffee, and have my breakfast at my desk. I am not sure how common this is at other offices, but a lot of people have yogurt or a pastry once they get to work at InterNations. In fact, on Monday’s we have a bunch of free pastries and bread provided in our common room.
13:00 — Lunchtime is somewhat flexible, but most of the team eats between 13:00–14:00. If the weather was nicer, I would ask a colleague to go on a walk but today I eat leftovers at my desk. In many larger companies, there is a cantine, or cafeteria where you can eat, but our company is too small for that kind of perk. Thankfully our office is located very centrally, so it’s easy to get almost any type of food you want nearby. Prices vary a lot from a 3 EUR sandwich at Subway to a nice business lunch for around 20 EUR. One thing that I really miss from the US though is going to a grocery store and having lots of fair-priced items that are freshly prepared there. In the past six months a few grocery stores have started offering more options, but it is nothing like it is in the USA or even the UK. Because of this, I try to be healthier and save money by either eating dinner leftovers or making a salad at work. Groceries are very affordable here compared to back home, especially if you go to one of the discount stores (Lidl, Aldi, Penny etc…). Oftentimes I can get ingredients for two to three big salads for under 7 EUR.
14:00 — Back to work! I only worked in the US as a full-time employee for a year, and that was quite a while ago, but I can say that I certainly prefer the work-life balance here in Germany. I work full-time (40 hours/week), but with 28 days of vacation, and many public holidays, I still feel as though I have a life outside of my career.
15:30 — Coffee break. I’m all about that afternoon pick-me-up, and Germans, like many nationalities, love their coffee! Back in the US I drank mostly just filter coffee (often from a Kcup machine), but filter coffee is not very common here, so I drink mostly lattes or cappuccinos. Shortly after, a colleague and I do a few yoga stretches in the middle of our office as it’s quiet today and we’re both feeling a bit tense.
18:20 — I gather my stuff and head out to meet a group of friends. On the way there, I stop at a Biomarkt (aka organic store), which is much pricier than my normal grocery trips, but I want to get some nice wine and dessert to bring. Finding affordable and tasty wine is easy in Germany, but the bakery is out of any whole cakes as stores close at 20:00 — so some nice chocolate bars will have to suffice (oh how I miss the dessert section of Whole Foods). Shopping complete, I head off to see my group of old and new friends. There is six of us who try to meet somewhat regularly for a Mädelsabend (girls’ night). One of them is one of my German besties, who is usually kind enough to host us at her beautiful apartment (finding an apartment like hers is like winning the real estate lottery, it is so difficult to find good rentals here, especially if you aren’t searching as a DINK— dual income no kids). Another is one of my American best friends. And the rest of the group is German. I love this group because it forces me to practice my German listening skills as we switch between English and Deutsch, and they’re all just a blast! My American friend and I are both struggling with German, and I’m always amazed at how my German friends switch effortlessly between the two languages.
19:00 — I arrive at my friend’s place, hugs all around, and we immediately open up the wine and pour ourselves an Aperol Spritz to start. Back home, I would have limited myself to maybe a glass and a half over several hours, but one great thing about living in a European city is that public transportation a) exists, b) is affordable, and c) is safe. So, I never have to worry about driving after drinking. We haven’t gotten together in a while, so there is lots to catch up on.
23:30 — We say our goodbyes and I walk five minutes to the nearest subway to catch my train home. I live about 25 minutes to the south, but on the same subway line, so it’s super easy! Ending at 23:30 is actually early for us, which is another thing I love about my social life here. In the US, I can’t imagine staying out until midnight on a weekday unless it was a special occasion, it just wasn’t done — granted, I lived in Raleigh, and not in a city like New York or San Francisco, where I am sure people do. When I worked in Raleigh, 22:30 would be the latest I would stay out, as all of my friends would want to head home by then. I’m someone who loves sleep, but I also really appreciate socializing, and if we all make the effort to get together, it’s nice that we all have 5+ hours to catch up instead of just eating and leaving.
Midnight — Back home, I open the windows to let some fresh air in (how German of me) and water the one plant I am trying to keep alive (so far it is like a cat with nine lives). I put away laundry that was drying — dryers aren’t very common here when you’re renting an older apartment — and hop into bed!
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