I’ve been to Munich four times in my life, and each time I mad a very similar experience. They say that the South is a friendly place, and I’m pretty sure if I ever got to stay longer that’s the experience I would make. Fact is, I never did stay long. I only ever stayed long enough to realize just how German Munich was. Anyone who’s read this blog before should know fully well what that means: order, efficiency, no surprises. The best part of the last two months I spent acclimatizing to this reality again after chaos, ridiculous inefficiency and nothing ever working out the way it was supposed to in Cairo. Two years of Egypt would make it pretty hard for anyone to accept living somewhere else again, and I chose to make that place Germany. As if it wasn’t underwhelming to me the first few times. It’s funny how each of my visits to Munich underlines exactly that: some sort of culture shock. But let me not tell you everything right away:
Visit #1: Oktoberfest 2006
The one and only time my hometown football club of Alemannia Aachen played the Bundesliga, me and my church friends couldn’t miss the chance to see them play Bayern Munich. Where does Bayern play? That’s right, Munich. So that’s where we went, to watch football, the most German thing anyone could ever do. I was 17 and hugely into Jesus, in fact staying the night at the priest’s residence for lack of any places in Munich to sleep all week because it was Oktoberfest time. What’s more German than football? That’s right, Oktoberfest. So right after the game which we obviously lost we headed to the tents. This was before ISIS in Europe, so it was crowded AF. Everyone was drunk. I hated beer. To set the precedent for my future life in Germany, it was this experience that I realized I had still not become the classic German. I had just returned from a year in the States, and my father had just passed away. And now this alcoholic hell was my life, and I didn’t drink. Oktoberfest looked fun to the person I would become, but back then it just showed me that maybe, Germany is not the right place for me to stay.
Visit # 2: Volleyball Club Trip 2010
Fast forward a few years and I had in fact left Germany again. I was living in the world’s best country in 2010, studying my absolute passion, being happier than I believe I ever was. My Volleyball Club traveled to Munich for a weekend of drinking, and I had become a drinker since my last visit. For the first time I was traveling as a Scottish university student but in my own country. I knew the language and the customs, and being in Munich there could not have been a bigger difference between the traits I had learned to love about the Scots and the complete opposite of that personified in the German people. We had the best time in all of Munich, and I mean it. No German had that much fun. Six years ago, as a completely different person from what I am now, I was ranting and ranting and ranting how boring those Germans are. Later on, I came to learn they’re not boring, they simply just don’t enjoy being like me, or the Scots, or the Americans for that matter. Silver lining: I was right where I was, in Scotland, and happy not to be in Munich.
Visit #3: Weird, weird job interview 2014
After uni and my PhD plans changing, I was applying Germany-wide. I didn’t want to stay in Germany but knew that the job market would probably only get worse if I left Germany. I was unemployed there, so I was going to be unemployed everywhere. What made matters worse was the incredible boredom of not having a job. Coupled with being in Germany, it was genuinely the worst time. I had a job interview at a PR firm in Munich so I thought “what the hell, why not?” and went for it. Within 10 minutes of being there I knew the job was history, however, I was still in Munich and thought my sister and I could have a good time. We couldn’t find decent döner which shouldn’t happen in any place in Germany. I also saw far less foreign people, which is never a good thing. When I then met up with my American friend Lindsey, and she told me how she was having trouble finding friends in Munich, I got an impression of where I was. I myself had met Lindsey one night in Slovenia, and we were friends the next day. How she could struggle was beyond me. But I knew of course what making friends in Germany entails, and so I just figured Munich, with all its rich, white people, probably wouldn’t be different than Aachen where I am from.
Visit #4: Working for Huff Post
This time I came as a completely new person. Nothing was left of those experiences before and my enthusiasm for Germany greatly changed after the four best words a German chancellor ever made: “We can do it”, speaking about the refugee crisis. Ever since, Germany has become a possibility for me to stay, which it never was. So when this opportunity arose it started sounding cool being close to the Alps and having a city job. It was redemption time. On day 1 I left the house at 7.30. A jogger past me as I left the hotel. At the corner I turned, a man with a dog past me. And at the traffic lights a couple was meeting up cheerily. The next day, I left the hotel at 7.30 again. At the exact same place as the day before, the jogger passed me. At the corner, there he was: the man with the dog. And finally the same couple met up at the same place as the day before. Three guesses what happened the day after. Same again! To the second! Nobody late! Everything predictable, after two days. This is the essence of Germany, and it’s hard to cherish after chaos and insanity sometimes worked out really well for me in Cairo. Now I wouldn’t prefer Egypt, but what happened to a healthy balance. Sometimes feeling like Germans aren’t robots would be nice…