Moving from India to Munich changed my life
Expat blogger Shaira Mohan writes for The Local about the experience of moving from New Delhi to Munich and encountering the familiar, the strange and the marvelous.
When you move abroad to live in another country, you find yourself constantly drawing comparisons with your home country or city at every step - from driving a car to buying groceries , from politics to the school system.
My move from New Delhi to Munich was no exception – and I could never have expected the difference I found.
Water, water everywhere
Over the past two years, one of the things I've often noticed has been the presence, availability and use of water.
'Wasser, bitte' you ask in any restaurant, cafe or club in Munich and you will always end up buying a bottle of either still or sparkling water at sometimes triple the price of a pint of beer.
That naturally strikes us Indians as odd, considering in most places in India a glass of water will be given to you free of charge.
Personally, I am in the habit of drinking a lot of still water in a day and to avoid having to struggle with the availability of it, I now carry a bottle from home on my days out.
Having said that, and I suppose with an element of irony, one of the things I most admire and enjoy about Munich is its open water.
People sun themselves on a beach by the Isar river in central Munich. Photo: DPA
The city's lakes, swimming pools (both indoor and outdoor), and easy access to the river Isar and its many tributaries, ease your suffering in scorching summer heat as places to indulge in floating, swimming and just relaxing in the water anytime, anywhere.
The enjoyment of such a luxury, of course, eludes us in cities like Delhi owing to factors like extreme temperatures and the cleanliness of open water, (though there is certainly no dearth of swimming pools).
Near the river Isar, in the heart of the city, lies one such public water body that has become a favorite haunt for my husband and I.
People enjoy an evening beer in Munich's Englischer Garten. Photo: DPA
With incandescent lighting installed for those cool summer nights and those bean bag style chairs – chiming perfectly with the relaxed and chilled vibe of the city - people from all walks of life come with their children, pets and a beer in their hand to spend a leisurely Saturday or Sunday, leaving the week's troubles at home.
Walk, run, cycle or tram
Munich has no dearth of public transportation and the easy accessibility to a tram, a bus or tube station is notable.
I live in the Schwabing area and this is one of the things I love about my neighborhood - quite apart from the brightly colored buildings, friendly neighbors and close proximity to the city center.
A tram ploughs through winter snow in Munich. Photo: MVV
But it is the ability to be able to walk and cycle all over the city on the wide pedestrian and cycle paths that has appealed to me the most about living here.
In most of the bigger cities in India this is simply not possible.
A taste of home – and abroad
Writing about any place cannot be complete without a mention of its culinary offerings. And this is certainly one of the things that both Delhi and Munich can proudly boast about.
It is no secret that Munich is home to some of the best beers and meat dishes in the world. But, what one can only know if one visits this diversely-populated city is that just like Delhi today, there is hardly a country on the map that Munich has forgotten when it comes to food.
My husband and I are die-hard oriental food fanatics - be it Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese. In Munich we have always been faced with a wide selection of eateries for every kind of global cuisine that seldom disappoint.
We have our favorites, of course. If you can't do without a good curry at least once a week, try Bombay Tandoori on Rosenheimerstrasse, the quaint but authentic Indian restaurant that is guaranteed to have you licking your fingers - and the staff will make you feel right at home.
To get your fix of some good Thai food, Plaa Uwan over on Theresienstrasse is a neighborhood regular of ours. Their delicious Massaman Curry is sure to keep you coming back for more. I must also mention another very charming discovery - The Victorian House at Viktualienmarkt.
Inside the Victorian House at Munich's Viktualienmarkt. Photo: Victorian House
Typically English, with flowery tea sets and a menu offering over 50 types of international teas, English scones, cakes and a large, impressive food menu, the Victorian House, exuding an old world English charm, is a delightful experience for a weekend brunch or an evening tea session.
The myriad roadside cafes that one can enjoy even by themselves with a coffee and a book is another experience that I miss when back in India, although nothing beats our Indian Masala Chai!
While sitting at one of these quaint little cafes not far from home, I noticed another remarkable contraption – a vending machine for used books and newspapers! There truly is something for everyone.
A circle of friends
The streets of Munich are often alive with the buzz of street festivals, charming Christmas Markets and the beer gardens that make the city so unique.
Entranced by the marriage of nature with culture and gripped with a resolve to meet new people and have new adventures, I joined the Munich International Women's Club (MIWC) - a non-profit organization that, as its slogan suggests, is a true blend of 'Camaraderie, Culture and Charity'.
Offering support to newcomers in the city and a platform for social interaction with English speaking women from across the globe, this club has been instrumental in enriching my Munich experience.
A group of women cycling through central Munich. Photo: DPA
My new friends have acquainted me with exceptionally talented and spirited women and indulging in charity ventures, social gatherings, celebrations, language, history and even sporting activities.
Settling down and getting to know a new city is always daunting but the support and guidance I constantly receive from these wonderful women is invaluable. These friendly, energetic and helpful women will make sure you are never alone!
While I certainly miss India, Munich has found its corner in my heart and I will always proudly call it home as long as I live here.
A city that once witnessed a dark phase in history but today stands with open arms welcoming the thousands of refugees, bursting at its seams, seeking shelter, it is a city that needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. It will change your life in unimaginable ways.