Brooke: Out and About in Europe
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Munich, etc.
My name is Brooke Neal, I am an American and a mother of two daughters. I am not “from” anywhere in particular—I went to high school in Sin City, Las Vegas, NV, but since then have lived all over the USA, most recently Lexington, KY. We moved to Munich in 2010.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in 2008 when my interest in scrapbooking began to wane. I still wanted to keep a family journal and blogging allowed me to share my experiences with our family members living away. When we moved to Germany, it became an outlet for venting and now it’s become a place where I journal all our travel adventures.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Munich differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock? .
When my husband announced he was interviewing for a job in Germany I really thought nothing would come of it, we were incredibly happy in Lexington - loved our house, friends, school, church and routine. So, it was with a really bad attitude that I agreed to move to Germany. Shortly after we arrived, I was standing in the grocery store staring at the daily isle. There must have been 100 types of cheese and not one of them was one I recognized—my eyes began to fill with tears. Then I made my way over to the deli counter. Forget that I didn’t speak German, I had no idea what a 100 grams, half kilo or a kilo was. Moving was a shock on all levels. I didn’t have a car, our refrigerator could hold about 1/3 the amount of food I was used to having on hand and despite what people say, not everyone speaks English, especially the service people you deal with when you first arrive. It took 6 solid months for my family to adjust, but from there our lives headed in a positive direction. Collectively our attitudes improved, we adjusted to our new routines and let’s face it, living abroad allows you to see places you’ve only dreamed about.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Munich? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think you can completely prepare yourself for your first x pat assignment, but a good attitude goes along way to easing the transition. I would take some language lessons if possible. In our case we didn’t have time, we had 8 weeks from the signing of the contract to touch down in Munich.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Not long after moving to Germany and before I had figured out public transportation, I decided it was a good idea to walk to a nearby castle. It should have only been a mile and a half walk from our hotel. Unfortunately, we got lost and it took almost 2 hours. When my daughter began to complain I said, “this is our new reality!” to which she responded, “I like our old reality better!” I laughed out. Being carless was and still is a challenge.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Munich?
- Come with a positive attitude, it will help when you are sorting your trash into 4 different bins.
- The stereotypes exist, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
- Bring comfort food from your home country. The morning we left the United States I bought 8 boxes of our favorite cereal and carried it on the plane. That little bit of familiar was more comforting than you can know.
How is the expat community in Munich? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Munich has a large and active x pat community. I’ve made the best connection through our international school. The community is inviting, helpful and diverse. It has been easy to get involved and through that involvement I’ve met women with whom I can connect. It takes some effort and perhaps stepping outside your comfort zone, but you can find a social outlet.
How would you summarize your expat life in Munich in a single, catchy sentence?
Dragging my daughters through Europe, one city at a time.