I’m Rachel, originally from Shropshire in England, now living in Munich in beautiful Bavaria. I studied French and German at uni, and spent some time living in Paris, and then Tübingen in the southwest of Germany. Paris was wintery, vast, sprawling and taciturn and Tübingen was the complete opposite. I love Paris, but I moved there having lived in small town rural Britain, and it was a real challenge for me to settle into a city I couldn’t identify with and where I knew no one. Tübingen was smaller and friendlier, the weather was glorious and I was able to escape any hustle and bustle simply – and as often as I liked. I fell head over heels in love with Germany, all thanks to Tübingen, and as soon as I’d finished my degree, I decided to come back – and took the first job I found – in Munich.
It’s difficult to compare Munich to the rest of Germany, because it has such a unique identity. The grumpiness of bus drivers, the impatience of car drivers and the abruptness were all things that annoyed me in the beginning, now I try to ignore it. There were other, more positive things that struck me too – being able to drink beer in parks, an emphasis on culture and the arts and breathtaking architecture, for example.
My life has changed completely here. I watch much less TV than I did in the UK, where television is something of a national institution. I hike a lot more than I ever did in England – I grew to love the mountains so much that I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2011. My life is much more outdoor and nature focused here.
It took me a while to feel properly integrated here. I run a blog and research culture tips for my readers on a weekly basis. Forcing myself to find out about those insider tips was so valuable for me – I could meet likeminded people who love culture. I started writing for various local magazines – in German and English – and met more and more locals I wanted to spend time with. I can’t emphasise enough how important integration is. Hanging out with the locals is the only way to build a long-term life for yourself in a new city, and learning the language is key. Say yes to everything, don’t be afraid to visit places alone and fully immerse yourself into your new life.
Could you tell us about a cross-cultural blunder you have committed in Germany?
Oh, there have been hundreds. One of the most memorable ones was early on. In my first week of work in Munich, I was really puzzled as to why people said “schönen Feierabend” to one another. Despite studying German, I’d never heard the phrase before and translated it literally – “have a nice party evening”. After a few days, I mustered the courage to stand up and say: “Look guys, I think it’s cool you go out and party so often, but I’m new here – I’d love to tag along sometime”. They all stared at me, then burst out laughing. It just means “have a nice evening”. It broke the ice though…they did feel bad for me and invited me out afterwards!