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July 2004

My Kinda Town...

What expats love about the Bavarian capital

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour.” Mark Twain

Which of us expat residents have not yearned at some time for the safe harbor of home? The unbending official, the unsmiling sales assistant and the officious pedestrian appear to us like creatures from another planet and we yearn for home, for family, friends, a familiar environment. And yet so many of us end up staying in Bavaria, not just for months, but for years, decades even. This month MUNICH FOUND set out to discover why some of you have stayed so long and what others miss when they return home.

Anna Baumann
Jamaican, 30 years in Munich
“One thing that really makes Munich stand out in contrast to other European cities is the feeling of safety, which is a real advantage compared to my home, Jamaica. In few places could one feel so free to walk on the streets at night (in most areas) alone without worrying about one’s safety.”

Paul Butcher
British, 19 years in Munich
“Arriving in backwater, boring Moosach from London after a long train journey through Germany trying unsuccessfully to ignore a blue-rinsed old dame opposite eating a massive sausage, I longed for the ebb and flow of big-city living. Now back in the UK, the Bavarian capital’s benefits became painfully obvious within a few days of coming home. Unfortunately, written down now, they look like items on a pensioner’s lifestyle wish-list—relatively good public transport, quality of material goods, thoroughness in planning and organization, fewer fast-food bags and beer cans discarded in the street, absence of cowboy builders, low levels of petty city crime, far less binge-drinking, better quality and cheaper dining establishments, stronger emphasis on organic produce, endless cycle paths, investment in infrastructure and easy access to hoards of welcoming doctors and specialists down every street. A place where recycling is not regarded as an EU-imposed irritation. And, surprisingly perhaps, in general a place with a slightly less rigid approach to formality and regulation. Would I like to change a few things? Apart from the obvious Sunday closing of shops, cigarette smoke that can ruin many a great social evening. On reflection, perhaps the change would need to come from me—grow a much, much thicker skin and realize that the British approach to social interaction is not necessarily a universal truth about how one should behave, simply a collection of cultural habits that suit our society but are often expressed differently in other cultures. Well, except for our honed and refined queuing skills and constantly innovative humor—Britain’s two unchallenged contributions to world social development.”

Barrett Jones
American, 6 years in Munich
“One of the many reasons I stay in Munich is the cultural differences and the fact that living in Germany is still very foreign and challenging to me even after six years. It challenges me on a daily basis to have to deal with something new, something that I didn’t grow up with and have surrounding me for the first 26 years of my life.”

Philippe Lanier
Brazilian, 1 year in Munich
“I moved to Munich from New York, where I learned how to be strong because I had to fight to be heard and seen to be me. Munich is my reward. Here I can breathe, live, relax and not take things seriously. I can dress up or dress down, stay out or sleep in, work hard or take it easy. Munich lets me do what I want and reminds me what it means to enjoy, and that is why I am here.”

Matt Scholl
American, 2 months in Munich
“The very thing I miss about America is the thing that makes living in Europe so charming ... that is convenience, or the lack thereof! In the US everything is just so accessible and fast. You drive to the store or the mall and everything you need is at your fingertips. In Europe, or in Europe’s older city center, i.e. Munich, the ‘one-stop-shopping’ experience just doesn’t exist. I suppose the other thing I miss is the fact that stores are not open on Sundays. I have learned, however, what it means to truly relax on Sundays, as a result!”

Lynne Hassler
British, 9 years in Munich
“Coming from northwest England, the first thing I noticed about Munich is the tremendous climate: warm and sunny in the summer and cold and sunny in the winter. I moved to Germany following two years in the US and I have to say that customer service in Germany, or rather the lack of it, was the greatest shock for me. I came here believing that “the customer is always right,” but I was soon put in my place. Actually, things have improved recently. I no longer get looked at as though I have just landed from the mother ship when I ask for my money back on a faulty article. And when the Oktoberfest arrives, followed by the cold, crisp, sunny winter months, all is forgiven and a trip home, landing in Manchester or Heathrow on a gray rainy day to face the traffic on the M25, is sure to remind me why I chose to remain in Munich.”

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