Tuesday, September 24, 2013

We're Kind Of A Big Deal

The things that happen when you start a little blog about the city you live in are quite amazing. I now regularly receive little gifts in the mail like city, restaurant and biergärten guides as well as invitations and free passes to events.

I even got a request from HGTV a month or so again asking for help finding local expats who have recently purchased a house.

I have no idea how these people find me.

Other times, I do though, like this write up in the München Merkur. It's fun to get emails from friends telling me they were sitting in the Ubahn reading the paper and then - bam! There's my face.

Look out, world!

Monday, September 09, 2013

25 Things To Know When Moving To Munich

I was recently talking to someone who was about to move to Munich. I was helping her with a
specific issue, but then tried to think of everything I could possibly tell someone who is about to move to Minga.

So here's my random list of bits and bobs. Some apply to Germany, and I suppose some things any expat would find useful.

1. Spring and summer are when Munich really shines. Bikes, beer gardens, gelato and the living is easy. Unless, of course, it rains all summer, then get out of dodge. November - March/April can be trying, with the exception of the first few snows and the Christmas markets.

2.  Learn to love bike riding. It changed my life, it'll change yours. It also really helps that there are elevated bike paths all over the place.

3. Learn to ski. See #1, getting out into the Alps really takes the edge of in the heart of winter. The whole culture around skiing is amazing.

4. Get outdoorsy. Munich is smack dab in the middle of amazing nature; lakes, rivers mountains. It' a big reason Munich is always highly rated in quality of life surveys.Even a native Angeleno like myself learned to love the great outdoors.

5. It's not you, it's not the Germans, it's the Bavarians. Bavarians can be real grumps, and are often closed and hard to get to know (but if you persevere you will find gold!) Without any context you might extend this to all Germans. One trip to Köln or Berlin will clarify this.

6. Leopoldstr. and Marienplatz do not Munich make! If this is all you see of Munich, than you haven't seen Munich. Much of what is most interesting in Munich lies to the south and east of the city center (as well as other parts of the city). The thing about Munich is that it's not that easy to drop into the city and immediately get a feel for everything that's going on.

7. If you're looking for a co-working space, start with the HUB. I've checked out a few, so far this place seems the most promising. At the time of this writing, they're just getting off the ground though. Other places to check out are Sieben Machen and HUIJ.

8. To my mind these are the up and coming neighborhoods: Westend, Untergiesing, Sendling, Au/OberAu. Glockenbach/Gärtnerplatzviertel have been überlaufen for awhile now, but at first glance this would seem to be where it's at, but new luxury developments all over this neighborhood will put a quick stop to that. Not really up and coming, but Haidhausen is still one of my favorites.

9. There is counter culture in Munich, but it's very difficult to access if you don't speak German. My favorite starting point is Creative Nite, and other events put on by the Team From Hell.

10. Sign up for Creative Mornings. It's in English and a good place to start to get a feel for the design/creative scene in town if you don't sprech Deutsch.


10. Do the Bike Night.
It's fun and it will help deepen your civic love.

11.  Take the Uni Kurse Für Auslander. Don't dick around with Berlitz or any of those other scheiss language schools. This course is academic level, has excellent instructors and will leave you a weeping, wretched heap, but you vill speak zee German venn you feeneesh!

12. There's a huge expat scene.  But partake with caution! or you'll live in an expat bubble your whole time here, and that would be a shame.

13. Statt Auto is awesome. You don't really need a car, but when you do this is the way to go.

14. UAMO, Toca Me and the Stroke Urban Art Fair are definitely worth checking out.

15. The Location in Europe can't be beat. The whole thing about Munich being the 'northern most city in Italy' is true. By car you're in Italy in two hours, Austria in about one. You can drive to the Mediterranean in six hours. Everywhere is about a two hour plane flight away.

16. A good apartment is hard to find and very expensive. It's painfully competitive. Germany is the economic engine of Europe, Bavaria is the economic engine of Germany and Munich is the economic engine of Bavaria. Rents are commensurate to this circumstance. You should always be looking.

17. People here go ape-shit for Christmas and white asparagus. Christmas I get, not the white asparagus.

18. Beer Gardens! Why other cultures have not seized on this excellent way to use public space is beyond me. You can bring your own food (as long as you buy drinks), there are always playgrounds built in, so parents can hang out and let there kids run around and they're a perfect low-stress meeting place for groups, first dates or friends in the middle of a busy shopping day.

an evening in the biergarten

19. Monocle Magazine routinely rates Munich as one of the best cities to live in. This elicits howls of protest from the rest of the country.

20. You can easily put together a Thanksgiving dinner. We pioneer American expats have seen huge changes on this front in the last few years.

21. Shop at the Viktualienmarkt as often as you can. I'm lucky to live about a 12 minute walk away and I try to shop here at least a couple times a week. Every time I go, it reminds why I love living here; the combination of a reasonably urbane life with all the bounty of living in the middle of a rich agricultural region. On a sunny day I also love passing by all the geniessers (enjoyers? not sure how you'd translate this) sitting around in the middle of a work day drinking wine or beer and indulging in whatever tasty morsels are on offer.

22. Minga means 'Munich' in Bavarian. I just learned this a month ago (!) I think officially Bavarian is a German dialect, but I suggest abandoning any hope of ever trying to understand or learn it.

23. DM and Alnatura are great places to do drugstore and grocery shopping. I think they are owned by the same company (don't know this for sure though.) They are well organized and have great products and lots of affordable organic ('bio') stuff.

24. Two articles from New York Times to get you started: 36 Hours in Munich and Munich Redux. These are a bit old, and some things have changed (sadly, the Fraunhofer Schoppenstube recently closed) but the gist is still accurate.

25. Let go and give yourself to the 'Yodel-lay-hee-hoo'. It was hard for me at first, but over time I developed a fondness for local traditions and was much happier when I learned to love the kitsch.

I know there's a lot more that I'm forgetting, but it'll just have to go into another post!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Worst Political Ad I Have Ever Seen

My husband was filling out his absentee ballot the other day and it dawned on me just how radically different German and American elections are.

Sure, I noticed that there were a lot of political posters around over the last few weeks, but basically with the exception of one (!) debate, that was about all the hype that surrounds the election. Unlike the American 24 month long orgy of political ads, money spending, breathless horse-race prognostications and tribal blood sport activities which bring small children to tears the German elections are decidedly sane and low-key.

As a result my commentary is limited to the TV ads from the two main parties Mr.Wahlmünchner recently brought to my attention.

Let's start with the one for Angela Merkel of the CDU:

There's an upbeat loop of guitar music in the background, she's looking over an industrial, urban scene suggesting the current economic might of Deutschland, the result of decisions she's made despite all kinds of naysayers and outside pressure (you go girl!) She makes all the right noises about building something together, her vision for the country, etc. Sure she's a little jowl-y, but she's working hard and wearing a smart red suit. Sold! she's got my vote.

And then there's this from the opposing SPD Party, which inspired the title for this post:

Here, we're treated to a bunch of whiners in an ad that seems to glorify the German talent for jammern (sorry!) I may agree with what these these everyday people are saying (yes, there should be accessible, affordable child care, and enough money for future pensions, the banks suck etc.) but somehow they way it's presented brings out my American distaste for complaining. It is a total turn off. And then in the end some gray nobody in a suit shows up behind the podium and says 'I'm mister boring, please vote for me, blah blah blah'.  


I can't vote in Germany, but being a Democrat, by 1:1 extension I should feel an affinity for the SPD party. But alas, I grew up in Hollywood (well, very close to it) and until you get that part of it right...I just can't feel ya man.