Elena: My Adventures in Munich
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Munich, etc.
Hi! My name is Elena and I was born in Madrid but my last name comes from Barcelona, which sometimes gets me in trouble when I speak about football (soccer). I became an expat for the first time after the university in my first job in Belgium. After that I have had the chance to travel and work with many cultures around the world, including the last five years in international trade with Australia.
I moved to Munich in June 2011 following my husband, who after some time working abroad wanted to return to Germany.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging six months after moving, when one of my friends suggested that I should share all the questions I was having about living in Munich and how I was resolving them. Following this suggestion: the Blog My adventures and misfortunes in Munich was born in December 2011.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
There are four blog posts that I am personally proud of and therefore you could say that they are my favorites. These are the most read entries until today. I receive many emails from readers: saying that they have followed the suggestions and sharing their experience with me (which I love) or giving me new information and tips to include in the posts (which I am truly thankful for).
- Furniture shops in Munich
- The Grocery list - Die Einkaufsliste
- German TV explained for foreigners
- One-day trips and weekend breaks around Munich
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?
I did not experience a full culture shock when I moved to Munich, mainly because Germany was not new to me (my husband is German and I have spent every Christmas, many summer and Easter holidays in Berlin with my family in law since 2003). However my experience of my many visits to Germany and the reality of moving and living here differ enormously. If I have to name one thing that wondered me and that at the same time was a shock in the first three months, I would say: the culture of recycling.
After more than a year here I am happy and I would not change a thing, but at the beginning there were some dark moments because: yes, my life here differs a lot from my life back home mainly due to three reasons.
For a start, moving here meant that I was not independent anymore. I had to rely in a dictionary for almost everything… including simple tasks such as shopping for groceries, households, going to the dentist, following a fitness studio class or getting a haircut.
Besides, I am used to my local food, my cuisine… and although I enjoy eating out and all of the other worldwide’s specialties, one of my quests here in Munich was to search for places where to buy the Spanish local ingredients. My life today does not include many yummy goodies that my past life at home did and I miss them, but hey, this is also a good reason to fly home often.
And finally, I miss the sun. Although I must confess that we are having a very sunny summer this year…
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Munich? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Jein. (German slang for responding yes (ja) and no (nein) to a question).
I was prepared for the hard winters; the bikes making the driving very complicated in the city and also for the fun part of enjoying a nice cold beer in a Biergarten.
I was not prepared to find the German language so difficult to master (I reached the intermediate level but to jump one level up was a hell of an effort). I was not prepared to feel insecure or shy when shopping in a supermarket... I was not prepared to be honked by cars because I was riding my bike slowly… And I was not prepared to be told off because I made a mistake when recycling…
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Most of my funnier anecdotes (and embarrassing) have to do with confusing the meaning of a German word because of its resemblance to one in English, or simply, because of a false pronunciation.
For example: apparently the word “gift” in German is not something you give to someone as a present, but it means poison (!!!). With this information, then picture the situation when I was trying to gather contributions for a colleague´s birthday present! My pitch in German was mentioning the word “gift” so many times that at some point people start laughing and running away from me… I learnt later that day about the true meaning of “gift” in German…
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Munich?
Pack your sense of humor (you are going to need it when learning the language and adapting to the new culture); be patient (it takes time until you feel at home, but trust me, one day it happens) and remember that you are not alone (there are many like you and me, who have already gone through what you are facing right now and they have survived).
How is the expat community in Munich? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I was very lucky because friends of friends introduced me to amazing local people here in Munich who has taken care of me since day one. I have also met wonderful expats while attending different German courses and a few of them are now very good friends.
I am also a member of the InterNations community, which I strongly recommend to all expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Munich in a single, catchy sentence?
At the beginning it is like being three years old again: all is unfamiliar, people speak funny and life feels impossible sometimes…. After a year: I feel home, I speak the language and I everything is possible in Munich…