Egyptian expat Khalil has called the city in Lower Saxony home since March 2012 after arriving to pursue a master's degree in political science at the University of Osnabrück. He talks to us about what to do, where to eat and the one time of the year every local comes home.
What do you love about Osnabrück?
Although I originally come from Cairo in Egypt, Osnabrück represents home for me. I like the simple, relaxed life here – it is a great place to work, relax, rest, take a short walk, do some sport or just for a simple dinner out in the evening. I love that the city has a historically rich culture. There are many cultural places like museums and art events, which cater not only to a German audience but also to an international one.
There are open-air theatres, or lectures at one of the educational institutes – the Hochschule or the University of Osnabrück. There's always something new happening. You don't feel cold here the way you might in other German places because the people and the city itself is so warm. You constantly see familiar faces and greet them as you pass them by on the street. Life here is simple and family oriented. Osnabrück is an old city in terms of its culture, but young in terms of the people, especially the students.
What do you do on a typical weekend?
On the weekends, I go out for movies, attend student parties, read a lot, attend lectures at the university or go to an open air event. I also like sports and play indoor sports like squash and basketball in the winter. In the summer, I go hiking in the countryside, take a long walk or go fishing.
What aspects of Osnabrück do you wish you could change?
Sometimes, people here can be very shy and reserved when they first get to know you. I wish I could change that. I think that's just small town culture. But once people open up to you, they become your best friends – they help you out and you can completely rely on them. In fact, this is something I'd like to tell people who are new here and who might feel like people aren't friendly - it's not the case.
Is Osnabrück a friendly city for foreigners?
Yes, absolutely. Speaking English here is not a problem at all. The locals will not insist on you speaking German. When I first came here, I didn't know German and it wasn't a problem for me at all. Even when the people here don't speak English, they understand it and if you ask them something, they reply to you in German.
What do you miss about Egypt?
The sun and the warm weather are the only things I miss. I can even read the newspaper I used to read in Egypt here. Earlier I used to read the online version, but sometimes, on a Sunday morning, for example, you just want the printed paper along with a cup of coffee. All I need to do is order it from the press shop. So everything I need is easily accessible.
What about the food?
You can get Middle Eastern food here. There are a lot of family owned supermarkets which cater for foreigners – for Turkish, Lebanese, Arabic – and I usually find certain Egyptian foods there. As for restaurants, I like this place called "Arabesque". It is a simple restaurant with the best Lebanese food, which is similar to Egyptian food. If you want something specific, you can ask the cook for it in advance and he can make it for you the next day.
What would you say is the one thing a tourist should not miss in Osnabrück?
The Stadthalle (city hall) shouldn't be missed because is a historically and culturally important place. It represents not only the city itself, but Western Europe and Germany as well, because the Treaty of Westphalia was signed here.
I would also recommend the restaurant "Rampendahl" – it is the best place for students. On the weekends they have an open buffet and their beer is excellent. I also love "Weinkrüger", which is my favourite restaurant serving traditional German food.
Can you tell us something that only the locals know about Osnabrück?
I can tell you something typical about people from here. If a local is studying somewhere else or out of the city for work, they always make it a point to come to Osnabrück in May for Maiwoche (May week), which is a traditional festival held every year with parties and concerts, where you can hear some of the best singers and bands of the country in great weather. So every Osnabrücker marks it in their calendar.
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Interview conducted by Mithila Borker