Rachel: Arts in Munich
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Munich, etc.
I’m Rachel, originally from Shropshire, UK, now living in Munich. I’ve been here for six years now. I moved straight after university, wanting to spend a year living abroad, but somehow I’ve ended up stuck here!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When I first got here, I was trying to make new friends in the city. I started writing for a US-consulate magazine about arts and culture in Munich, which was a great way for me to find out more about events, too. Through the magazine, I met the loveliest group of people – many of them are still very close friends. Sadly, the magazine’s no longer up and running, but I decided to continue a streamlined version in my blog – Arts in Munich. I started it in 2012, and I was surprised at how quickly it grew – after implementing a new design this spring, I won the Isarnetz-Content for Munich award, and have visitors from across the world.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My most popular post is the one on the new Giesinger brewery, which opened in November 2014. It was a bit of an exclusive – before the new brewery opened, I got to have an unofficial look around.
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?
It’s difficult to say, because I was a student until I decided to come and live in Munich. I can’t really compare working life in the UK to working life here. I watch far less TV here than in the UK, and I spend my weekends hiking in the Alps, or visiting the lakes. I think things are more outdoorsy here – everyone’s very focused on their health and fitness.
There were a few cultural differences that I noticed when I moved here. People are more direct, some are definitely more tactless, and the inability to queue like a Brit still drives me up the wall. Supermarkets are smaller, but food is more seasonal, and there seem to be fewer chain restaurants. There’s no after work culture – colleagues don’t tend to head to the pub for a beer, and there’s often a real separation between working life and private life.
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 wasn’t quite expecting it to become my home for so long. I was fed up in the UK, and wanted something new – I had just graduated, applied for jobs across Germany, and took the very first one I was offered. Three weeks later, I packed a suitcase and moved, having found temporary, furnished accommodation. It was spontaneous, and I don’t think I’d react that fast nowadays. The fickleness of youth isn’t always a bad thing. And no, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wasn’t very well organized, but it added to the adventure.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
False friends. I studied German at university, but the focus was on medieval literature, the DDR, and Anselm Kiefer. Not once did we have a lecture on everyday sayings. In my first week of work, everyone would say “schönen Feierabend” to one another. I’ve since learned that this means “have a nice evening”, but back then, I translated it literally – “have a nice party evening”. At the end of the week, I had to say something – and stood up, and announced to my entire office: “Look, it’s cool that you guys go out and party every evening, but I’m new here, and it’d be nice if you took me along sometime”. There was silence, and then a huge burst of laughter from twenty puzzled Germans.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Munich?
I was really lucky to find my first apartment so fast – it takes most people months of searching. Start early, be prepared to pay a lot, and compromise. And making new friends in Munich isn’t easy – that can be one hell of a slog.
How is the expat community in Munich? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I have a few close friends who are American or British, but most of my friends are German. There’s definitely a thriving international community though – and lots of meet-ups and events organized by various different people. As I said, my first close group of friends came from writing for the US-consulate magazine, and it’s easy to find groups of likeminded people in that respect.
How would you summarize your expat life in Munich in a single, catchy sentence?
Culture, nature and beer.