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LIVING IN GERMANY

Why Munich is the only city I’ve ever really felt at home

Seven-year resident in Germany and former reporter at The Local, Shelley Pascual, reflects on how her life got a huge upgrade after moving to the Bavarian capital from Berlin last year.

Why Munich is the only city I've ever really felt at home
Climb up the tower at St. Peter’s Church for a great view of Munich. On clear days you can see the Alps. Photo: Shelley Pascual

I was told by an acquaintance recently that I seem more suited for Munich rather than Berlin, and having lived in Munich for just over a year now, I took it as a compliment. 

The best way I can explain it is that when I moved here in late summer 2019, I could finally (and literally) take a breath of fresh air and exhale deeply. For the first time in ten years, I actually felt at home.

Having grown up in Canada and lived in Australia and the UK, I can confidently say Munich tops the list of cities I’ve lived in thus far. In fact, my partner and I often joke that we should have settled in Munich back in 2012 when I first arrived in Germany, leaving out Berlin and Braunschweig altogether. 

READ ALSO: Braunschweig: The German city that deserves to be put on the map

From its endless options for nature lovers to its cleanliness and unique culture where tradition meets modernity, Munich offers a quality of life that’s hard to match anywhere else in the world. 

Nature galore and proximity to various countries

The biggest advantage that’s come with moving to Munich has got to be the Alps, which are less than an hour’s drive away. As an outdoor enthusiast who’s into hiking and mountain biking, I now get my fill of these activities almost every weekend.

By contrast, the nearest mountains to Berlin are the Harz mountains which are over 200km away. When I lived in Braunschweig, I visited the Harz often. But now that the Alps are practically in my backyard, leaving Munich would be difficult as it’d mean giving up this luxury. 

Flaucher: A summer paradise for kids and parents alike. Photo: Shelley Pascal

Berlin has its fair share of beautiful lakes, especially in regions north of the city, but few nice (and clean!) ones in the city itself. Meanwhile the options for outdoor swimming in clear, turquoise waters directly in Munich and in the surrounding region abound.

This past summer, I discovered that certain spots along the Isar river turn into natural water parks. I was blown away by all the Münchners making a splash right in the city centre in the Englischer Garten’s streams and at Flaucher, a popular park and recreational area.

One of Munich’s biggest draws is that it’s an ideal base from which to travel to several European countries and encounter different landscapes and cultures. Over the past year I’ve been spoiled for choice, having visited Italy (the South Tyrol region in particular) and the Austrian Alps a few times. 

I’ll also never forget how fascinating it was to see the Mediterranean environment change from palm trees to snow and slush as we drove through a section of the Swiss Alps while heading home from Milan last winter.

On a local level, there’s no shortage of quaint Bavarian towns to explore within a 100km radius of Munich – something I’ve just found out in recent weeks and months! Day trips to Landshut and Landsberg am Lech especially stand out in my mind.

Landhut is about 70km away from Munich. Hofgarten park offers great views of the city. Photo: Shelley Pascual

Calm, clean and accessible

Similar to when I lived in Braunschweig, nowadays it takes me less than 20 minutes by bike to get where I need to go. Essentially I get the benefits of a big city (e.g. cosmopolitanism) but have the accessibility of a smaller one; Munich is just the right size.

When I lived in Berlin, however, it took on average 40 minutes (no matter by bike, moped,  car or U-bahn) to get to my former workplace or meet friends, as I’d always have to make my way down from Pankow to Kreuzberg or Neukölln (the popular ‘hoods).

I know my Berlin experience would’ve been much different had I lived in another Kiez. But now that I live in a metropolis yet have a more relaxed lifestyle, I’ve realized Berlin was too big and bustling for me. In that sense, it also reminded me too much of Toronto, my hometown.

This is one of my favourite spots in the Englischer Garten to go for a run. And it’s only five minutes from my flat! Photo: Shelley Pascual

Here, things are just calmer. And while Munich in no way compares to the German capital in terms of nightlife or hipness, at least here public spaces are kept impeccably clean. Munich U-bahn stations, moreover, don’t constantly reek of urine. 

In all honesty, by the time my two years in Berlin were up, its dirtiness had gotten on my last nerve. So now I truly appreciate going for runs in lush green spaces at my doorstep like Englischer Garten, given that I used to go for runs in Berlin’s Mauerpark. #justsaying

International and ideal for startups

While Munich is very international and progressive, I appreciate that it still retains its traditional Bavarian culture. For instance, now and then you’ll see locals dressed up in Dirndl and Lederhosen for private functions – even when Oktoberfest isn’t going on.

READ ALSO: 'City of the future' tech hub to be constructed at Munich airport

I also get the feeling that there are more career opportunities here. Perhaps it’s just in my specific field, but the job market in Berlin seemed rather saturated to me, what with all the other foreigners competing for the same (largely English-speaking) roles.

And while Berlin is still the first German city that comes to mind for many with regards to entrepreneurship, perhaps it should be Munich instead. There’s ample venture capital here, notable corporates and prominent universities that offer support for founders. So if ever I launch my own startup some day, I know I’m in the right city.

…but Munich isn’t without its downsides

Along with a slew of advantages, the Bavarian capital also has its disadvantages, depending on how you look at it.

In March this year, Bavaria was the first German state to announce drastic restrictions on public life in light of the pandemic – a few days before a nationwide lockdown was imposed. This is a prime example of how things are somewhat stricter here.

Going out for a paddle last summer in Lake Ammer, some 45km west of Munich. Photo: Shelley Pascual

After the first lockdown, I expected my beloved BEAT81 outdoor workout sessions to continue in Munich, as they did in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. After inquiring with BEAT81, I found out they had difficulties with the public order office and to this day, their in-person sessions remain unavailable to Münchners. 

In terms of cuisine, I’ll admit the options aren’t as vast as Berlin. For instance there’s not one Filipino restaurant in Munich. But I’m not complaining as I’ve had top notch Ethiopian food, sushi and ramen here as well as plenty of other dishes I often crave.

It’s no secret that as one of the wealthiest cities in Germany, Munich isn’t cheap when it comes to cost of living. But to be honest, this isn’t something I’ve noticed very much, as salaries are accordingly higher.

Ultimately, the pros far outweigh the cons for me. Munich offers a lifestyle I never imagined I’d ever have: one that is active, varied, balanced and full of beauty. Now that each day is an adventure (or can easily be turned into one), there’s not much more I could ask for.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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