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The Munich Culture Clash

The Munich Culture Clash

Roxana moved from Bucharest to Munich. She tells us two short stories of her first experiences as an expat in Munich and the difficulties and differences she had to face in the first months.

Oops, here comes the police

I was at the end of my first half of a year of living in Munich. I had bought myself a Smart, the perfect car for this city. So, one night, I went to a movie and watched a film that starred Tom Cruise. Then, I was on my way home, with loud music blazing from the car’s stereo and the ceiling left open for fresh air. It was the stars and moon above me! Just before I turned into my street, I saw the police in the mirror.

I told myself: Hey, they don’t care about me, and I don’t care about them. But even so, better keep an eye on them.

And suddenly, more lights appeared on the top of their cars and some words started to flow in red lights. From all that multitude of words, I understood just one: STOP!

So, I stopped. Two officers came to me and started talking in a language alien to me. My mind could just register a few words: ‘Auf Wiedersehen’, ‘Guten Morgen’, and ‘Ich spreche kein Deutsch’.

Not good and not enough, especially in an encounter with the police. I opened the door of my car. I still had a cigarette dangling between my lips. At that moment, their voices started to yell. So, we do this, ha? You pull your weapons, and I raise my hands. I saw that in the movie.

My hands went up. They were still yelling. With one hand up, I put the other one to my ear and said: I DON’T SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE. One of them came closer, still blabbering and with one hand on the gun. I mumbled to myself – ‘Well done, Roxana!’

And then, I started screaming in my perfect English:

“I don’t speak German. Do you speak English?”

He did. They both did. And it was just a routine check-up. They were young guys, and funny too.

“We told you to stay in the car and kill the engine.”

“I didn’t understand.”

“Now we know.” “Go kill the engine!”

“OK!”

“What are you doing?”

“I am going home!”

“Where are you coming from?”

“From a movie.”

“Was it a good movie?”

“’Edge of Tomorrow’ with Tom Cruise. And it’s ok. Not good, but ok.”

“Have you been drinking?”

“Nooo!” (I had an Aperol Spritz before the movie)

“You wanna blow?” (Of course, the old blowing joke! Ha ha ha ha! Such a good joke!)

“Yes.” (I did it wrong two times.)

“Take your tongue in and let the air out.”

“OK.”

The third time was the charm. I didn’t see what the thing said, but I saw their smiles:

“You had been drinking a bit.”

I smiled too: “Yes, I did.”

“Since when are you in Germany?”

“For almost 6 months.”

“And do you like it here?”

“Not bad. It’s an amazing city.”

“OK, go home. Have a nice evening.”

“You two too. Auf Wiedersehen!”

So, this was the first lesson I learned: When the police in Germany stop you, keep calm, kill the engine, stay in the car, and ask them to talk in English.

The second lesson that I learned: Germany is well developed in a lot of fields, but getting an internet connection can turn out to be an interesting trip.

 

What you should know about German internet

I am an addict. I am addicted to the internet. I can’t deal with my life without the internet. It started back when I was a journalist, when the internet was taking me places that I had never dreamt of. Fast and beautiful and full of information!

I haven’t owned a TV for almost 20 years now. And I am very proud of it. The bigger bugger is the fact that this “no TV life” is feeding my internet addiction. Back in Bucharest, this was never a problem. You could never finish the internet, be it the Wi-Fi at home, coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques, or even your mobile data. No, sir! It was never-ending. And the price? Well, for what you pay here for 3GB, you get the never-ending story in Romania for the same amount.

After moving here, to a country where civilisation has greater and bigger standards, imagine my surprise! And how easily I have become a financial slave to the communication companies. The internet is not only expensive here, but hard to find and hard to keep as well. It’s like running on an open field after rabbits. You see them, you have the feeling you can catch them, but that never happens. I am not ordering Beluga Caviar; I just want the internet. I felt robbed!

But the internet is not just expensive. The connection is another problem. Even if you have good connections, you may still have “wall problems.” For example: in front of the door of my building, my mobile data was running perfectly. But the second I crossed the door, it was gone. Like a ghost. Those 5 centimetres made a big difference. Or if you go into a tunnel, don’t expect Google Maps to give any more details on where to go because the juice is out. And if you live here, you know how fast you can take a bad turn in a tunnel and end up nowhere, well somewhere for sure, but not on the right track.

I have tested and talked to other people about this. For the locals, it is normal, because this is how it has always been. But for us, the outsiders, it’s mud on the dance floor. My advice to you? Well, don’t get frustrated. We are all in the same mud hole! Stop eating caviar and truffles!

 

Finding help and friends with Project Expat

It’s been quite a while since I moved to Germany, and I wish there would have been something like Project Expat before. But thanks to Project Expat, there is a community I can tell my story to and give advice. And there are certainly a lot of good English-speaking partners to help me and all of you out there to make living for expats in Germany much easier.

Popular Cities in Germany

It is difficult to compile a ranking of the most beautiful German cities, especially when moving to Germany. That’s because every tourist, immigrant, and even every German prefers a different German city. All big cities in Germany provide a wide variety of restaurants, architecture and culture. It’s the nuances that make the difference. Primarily, the local habits, traditions, and customs make the different cities unique. In addition to that, a Bavarian, for example, especially the older ones, could hardly imagine moving to Hamburg or Berlin. Similarly, a north German would probably not move to the south if he didn’t have to. So the best advice is to take a close look at the cities and then make your choice.

The Bavarians will, of course, call Munich the most beautiful city, while a Hanseatic city probably won’t let go of its beloved Hamburg. For many, not just young people, Berlin is surely the place to be. Perhaps that’s why many expats in Germany prefer moving to Berlin when starting their stay in the nation. In the past decade, cities in the east of Germany have grown into lovely places like Leipzig, and of course, Dresden. The difficulty in this ranking is with each one’s personal preference, which means considering what kind of city I prefer. In all the bigger cities in Germany like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, and Dresden, you can enjoy a well-developed nightlife. Each of these cities has numerous sights, which makes each city interesting for different persons. For instance, if moving to Munich is on the cards, you would do well to know a few things about the city. To begin with, Munich is well-known for the Oktoberfest and its numerous beer gardens, which are the places to be during spring and summer. Then, you do have the English Garden where people like to meet all year long. But people in Munich are sometimes unfriendly in the beginning, though that’s sort of a Bavarian tradition. But if they get to know you, they’ll soon become very warm-hearted. If you like winter sports, Munich is the ideal city because the Alps are pretty close, which let many go there just for one day. Another fun fact about this town is the “Schicki-Micki” or “Bussi, Bussi” society. You are called this way if you like to dress well, spend money in fancy restaurants, and simply try to look as good as possible.

Munich: Heart of Bavaria

The completely opposite of Munich is supposed to be Hamburg. Though it’s as beautiful as Munich, the city is different than other big German cities. Its inhabitants are often regarded as a bit stuffy and conservative by the rest of Germany. It means they are not as open-minded as others. But this is a typical prejudice. It is right that they are not very friendly in the beginning, but that can change within minutes. The complete opposite of Munich and a must-do activity in the city is visiting the Hamburger fish market. It opens every Sunday at 5 o’clock and all fishmongers of Hamburg are there to get the freshest fish. But basically, everyone can visit it. There, you can get to meet the “normal” people of the city. Another place everybody should visit at least once is the world-famous Reeperbahn. Known for its extensive nightlife, it has to offer something for everybody. In addition, Hamburg has a fantastic harbour, and outstanding architecture when you visit the Speicherstadt or the Elbphilharmonie. So, if you are not annoyed by the fact that it might take a little bit longer to get to know the people, Hamburg is a good place to start in Germany.

Berlin the Geman Capital

Speaking about important German cities, we have to take a closer look at the capital Berlin. No other German city has changed so dramatically over the past few decades than Berlin. Today, it is known for its cultural diversity and somehow for being different than other cities. If you’re moving to Berlin, you’ll soon get to know the “Berliner Schnauze”, which is the slang of the locals that’s really hard to understand, even for Germans who move there. “Dit find ick knorke” for example means I find it really great. So, moving there involves the challenge of understanding the locals. But generally, the people of Berlin are easy to come along with and very helpful to foreigners. Berlin is the most international city in Germany and many foreign tourists visit the city every year. Every “Kiez” or neighbourhood in the city and district is different and so are the people living there. You can find both wealthier districts and poorer districts in Berlin. But what they have in common is that they give the impression of being a little village within the city. The city has also many interesting sights like the Museumsinsel (museum island), the Reichstag, the Pergamon museum, and the television tower.

Carnival and cathedral metropole Cologne

If you are interested in the so-called fifth season, the carnival, you must move to Cologne or Düsseldorf. Both cities are famous for exuberant partying between November and February. But both cities have more to offer than the celebrations. Both are located at the Rhein, a wonderful river. Both cities have many small galleries and extraordinary art museums. Both cities are linked by a rivalry because Cologne is bigger than Düsseldorf but Düsseldorf is the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. And another “dispute” between them is the question of which town has the better and more famous beer. The inhabitants of Düsseldorf would say their Alt is the best beer in the world whereas the inhabitants of Cologne would insist that their Kölsch is the best one. If you want to decide which one it is, you’ll need to move or travel there.

Frankfurt the financial centre

The financial centre of Germany is definitely Frankfurt am Main. Its skyline is shaped by skyscrapers and it has the biggest airport in Germany, which is helpful if one has to travel a lot. In the old town, you can enjoy Äppelwoi and grüneSoße. Äppelwoi is a bit like cider and the sauce comes along with all sorts of dishes. Frankfurt has many interesting sights like the Paulskirche. On May 18, 1848, in the course of the German Revolution, the first freely-elected National Assembly met in the Paulskirche, which is regarded as a cornerstone for democracy in Germany. Nowadays, a permanent exhibition provides interesting background information on the beginning of democracy through to the development of German unity.

Dresden & Leipzig: Eastern Germany

If you think about moving to East Germany, I would recommend Leipzig or Dresden. Both towns are very modern with interesting old towns. Dresden has a bit more historical sights to offer though. The Frauenkirche, which was completely destroyed during World War II, offers an outstanding view over the old town. The Zwinger provides space for several museums and the Semperoper speaks for itself.

Leipzig also has quite a lot to offer for its inhabitants. For example, the old trading exchange, the Bavarian railway station, the central station, and of course, the Augustusplatz with several buildings from different decades of the last century are worth a visit. At the Nikolaikirche, the Monday demonstrations against the DDR and the Stasi started in 1989. This was the beginning of the German reunion. But just as in Berlin, you have to get used to the Saxon dialect. For example “Eiverbibbsch” is a typical expression you will hear in both cities. Its meaning is you shouldn’t curse.

Lovely small cities

But besides all these major cities, you shouldn’t forget that Germany has also interesting towns, which are smaller than the major cities. When moving to Germany, you should also consider these towns. Nürnberg with half a million inhabitants, for example, is famous for its Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in December. Freiburg is famous for its alternative way of life due to the many students who live there. Weimar and Erfurt are well-known for Goethe and the Bauhaus. Thus, as you can see, German cities have a huge variety to offer and there’s a place for everybody moving to Germany to feel comfortable and cosy.

Munich the heart of Bavaria

The city of Munich is not only Bavaria’s capital but also an extremely liveable metropolis. That’s why moving to Munich is on the top of the cards for many expats coming to Germany. The approximately 1.43 million inhabitants of this city can fall back on a lively cultural scene and the most diverse restaurants offering a wide range of international dishes. In addition, there is, of course, the English Garden, where you can relax in the summer and the annual Oktoberfest, which attracts several million tourists to the city.

The cityscape is characterized by numerous centuries-old buildings such as the neo-Gothic Town Hall with its carillon. According to the London lifestyle magazine Monocle, Munich is one of the most liveable cities in the world. It is growing fast and has a strong economy. Unfortunately, this circumstance ensures that the cost of living, such as rent or a visit to a restaurant, is more expensive than the German average. Still, in return, one usually earns well. Munich’s universities are considered to be among the best in Germany, which is important for the local industry like BMW or Siemens. Of course, Munich is very well-connected to the road network and has the Franz-Josef Strauß Airport, the second-largest in Germany, making the city interesting for investors.

Reasons why

Another aspect that makes living in Munich so attractive for Germans and foreigners is authenticity. The people of Munich live and love their traditions and are very open to modern lifestyles and things. The ability to combine these aspects is one reason that makes Munich special. Many Munich residents refer to their city as the largest village globally because, unlike in other metropolises, you meet people more often.

In addition, the proximity to nature is a reason that attracts so many people to Munich. The city is surrounded by numerous lakes, for example, Lake Starnberg, Lake Chiemsee, and Lake Tegernsee. They can be reached within an hour, at the most, and are therefore a welcome destination for weekend excursions. Another advantage is the city’s proximity to the Alps and Italy. Lake Garda is also popular and frequently visited by the inhabitants. Munich is also called the northernmost city in Italy because of its climate and the love they have for Italy.

Munich is also dotted with many sights and attractions. The Marienplatz, the Hofgarten, and the English Garden are probably the most famous places in Munich that attract tourists from far and wide. But there’s much more on offer beyond these. If you make an effort and explore the various districts of the city centre, you will find small hidden gems that will inspire you, like in the Glockenbachviertel. Here, you will find small but fine manufacturers that offer individual products. These stores are why the residents of Munich speak of a village, where each district has its own charm and stands out from the crowd. But what unites them all are the inns. They are spread all over Munich and offer their customers typical Bavarian dishes such as roast pork or white sausages with mustard.

Beer gardens can also be found in almost every neighbourhood though sometimes, they are larger, while at other times, they are smaller, because during spring and summer in Munich, life shifts to the outdoors. However, one must not forget that self-service is the rule in most of them. Many people are drawn to the English Garden to picnic, swim, or surf. And in the English Garden, you can even surf on the Eisbach!

If you consider moving to Germany and maybe living in Munich, you need a little list telling you where to go and where to eat. To help you, we will start with the most impressive sights in town. We suggest checking out other guides and local expat communities, too, because such a list is never complete and it’s also more fun to explore together with other people!

Must visits
The Marienplatz

The Marienplatz is Munich’s central square with its two city halls- the old and the new one. From there, it is a short walk to the traditional Viktualienmarkt, another interesting place to visit. The mighty New Town Hall on the north side dominates the quadrangular square.

In the tower of the Town Hall, you will find a viewing platform. Below it is the historic carillon that sounds twice a day. At the fish fountain, the people of Munich meet to socialize.

The Old Peter, Munich’s oldest parish church, is just a stone’s throw away and offers a great view over the Old Town. There are stores and restaurants around Marienplatz, and the pedestrian zone begins here.

The Nymphenburg Palace

Nymphenburg Palace is, of course, located in the district of Nyphenburg. For a long time, it was not only the summer residence of the Wittelsbach family but also their favourite castle. You should definitely stopover at the museum and take a walk in the huge park to get an impression of the impressive complex.

The Frauenkirche

The Frauenkirche is the landmark of Munich. It is located near Marienplatz and is the burial place of several monarchs who have ruled Bavaria. If history and architecture interest you, you should definitely visit it!

Deutsches Museum

If you are interested in technology and natural sciences, the Deutsches Museum (or the German Museum) is the right place for you. It is one of the globe’s largest museums of its kind. It is an ideal destination for families because children are allowed to touch many exhibits and thus, make their very own experiences. Besides, you should know that it is impossible to see everything in one day. So, the Deutsches Museum is the ideal place for rainy days!

The three Pinakothek museums

For art lovers, of course, a visit to the three Pinakothek museums is a must. The old Pinakothek has over 700 paintings in its permanent exhibition. The illustrious names of the artists range from Dürer to Da Vinci and Rembrandt. Another highlight is the Rubenssaal with its more than six-meter high walls!

Unfortunately, the new Pinakothek is closed until the end of 2025 due to a general renovation and cannot be visited during this time. The Pinakothek der Moderne offers its visitors art from the 20th century onwards, which means you can see both paintings and selected design pieces that have become classics over the years.

 

Though we cannot mention all the amazing sights Munich has to offer, I am sure everybody would find the thing for him/her with some research on the internet. We have the same problem with dining too as everybody prefers a different kind of food. Therefore, we can only offer a shortlist of restaurants that we can recommend in Munich, which would help if you plan on living in Munich for long.

 

Typical Bavarian food

If you move to Munich, whether for a longer or a limited time, you should definitely try the typical Bavarian cuisine. In addition to the international restaurants, there are numerous traditional pubs and especially beer gardens in Munich that offer these delicacies. But it is important to know, it is a very meaty kitchen, so vegeterians have to pay attention.

Of course, you have to eat the famous white sausage with sweet mustard. however, following the Bavarian tradition, this is only offered until 12. o’clock. the typical munich drinks a white beer with it, maybe two…

What one must know as a Zugroasta ( person who moves to Munich), the skin is not eaten along, but it is removed before one eats the sausage.

Likewise, the Leberkäse is eaten with sweet mustard. Actually every butcher’s shop in the city has its own Leberkäse, because this specialty has nothing to do with cheese. Of course, a Helles, a special Bavarian beer, is drunk with the Leberkäse. Roast pork with dumplings a hearty classic of Bavarian cuisine. Juicy pork with crust and potato dumplings. Every good Bavarian inn serves this meal fresh every day. The pork knuckle is also from the pig and outside Bavaria this specialty is also known as Stelze or Eisbein. The side dishes are similar to roast pork potato dumplings, bread dumplings, sour cabbage or red cabbage.

Hendl (chicken) is another traditional dish of Bavarian cuisine. It is served either grilled or deep-fried. Side dishes are usually potato salad and lamb’s lettuce. It is an alternative to the otherwise very meat-heavy Bavarian cuisine.

An alternative for vegetarians is the Obatzda. This small dish consists of Camembert with onions and peppers and is served with brown bread.

Steam noodles are just the thing for those with a sweet tooth. These are made from yeast dough.

Reibedatschi are also known as potato pancakes or Reibekuchen. The sweet version is usually served with apple sauce.

Modern, traditional Bavarian cuisine now often varies the old familiar side dishes, but as a rule the tradition and history of the above-mentioned dishes remain. There are so man more  delicious dishes like  meat salad, Presssack a sausage in a pressed stomach sack and so many more. Everyone who moves to Munich should try one of the traditional dishes!

Restaurants

For lovers of traditional food with a modern touch, we recommend the Xavers. This restaurant mainly uses organic ingredients and offers both typical Bavarian dishes, i.e. roast pork etc., as well as dishes for vegetarians and vegans.

The Menage Bar convinces with a modern and innovative cuisine combined with creative drinks. So, this location is something for open-minded and spontaneous people who would like to embark on a culinary journey.

Neni, on the other hand, combines Israeli cuisine with influences from Romanian and Spanish cuisine. Those who are open to experimentation must pay a visit to the restaurant.

Last but not least, if you like to stay longer in one place, and prefer to try many small dishes instead of a traditional main course, you have to visit Usagi. Here, many small dishes are offered, which allows you to virtually eat your way through the Japanese menu together!

Public Transportation

Public transportation in Munich is very well developed. There are, of course, enough suburban and subway trains, which make daily progress very easy. Ten so-called streetcar lines provide fast connections on the surface. In addition, various regional buses and the inner-city bus service transport citizens from A to B.

The “Franz Josef Strauß” airport is the second largest in Germany. With approximately 44.6 million passengers annually, it is among the top ten in Europe. The international hub, which is one of the best in the world, so that business travelers can be connected to their destinations. so you see in terms of transport Munich is very well positioned.

Dialect

Munich residents are basically proud of their language, or rather their dialect. It is part of daily life and therefore one should be open to it if one wants to feel at home in Munich. The dialect is quite peculiar and difficult to understand, but if you try to understand it, you will be rewarded with the respect of the people of Munich. By the way, this rule applies to all major cities in Germany. Of course, it is difficult for an immigrant to understand these local dialects. Bavariansare proud of their tradition and language. They are generally very international, but there are always occasions when Bavarian is spoken, which makes it difficult, especially for foreigners, to grasp the meaning of what is being said. It is best to ask for the translation as a new citizen of Munich, this will make it easier to understand the mood and the conversation. Because the Bavarian dialect (like the German language in general), sounds harsh rough and unfriendly. However, you should not be deterred by this, because it is just “Typical Bavarian”, hard shell, soft core! With time, you get used to the language or work colleagues and friends adapt and speak High German for better communication. So the motto should be “stay tuned and do not lose heart! Good luck and patience!

But if you want to impress, here are some typcial bavarian terms:

  • Servus = Hello/ Goodbye
  • Pfiad di = Goodbye
  • An Guadn = Enjoy your meal
  • Prost = Salut
  • Bua = Boy
  • Madl = Girl

 

We hope this informational guide would help a lot when you execute your plan of moving to Munich and settling in this beautiful city.