As many people have asked, and continually do so, I have finally decided to sit down and answer a why German post. Coming from Hawaii to Munich always seems to baffle people in conversation, and when the initial shock is over questions about the expat experience come up.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in California, raised in Hawaii and then moved back to Cali for a couple years for college. I would say Im not from either 100% but a good solid west coast mix.
What made you decide to move away from the US?
Have you ever been to California or Hawaii? paradise. ok you got me. However, economically it is a disaster. At some point I found myself beginning to get trapped under mounds of debt and realized that having no health insurence was not a way I wanted to live my life. I was in dire need of some stability. So I packed my bags and searched for a new home with more opportunities and benefits.
How did you decide on settling in Munich?
I initially did some test runs in my search for a new home. I had some time in Geneva, Paris and London, but all the while I had a nack for visiting Munich and eventually fell in love with it.
Do you have family or live alone?
Most of my family is gone now ( one of the major reasons I left America) However, I did start out in Munich as an aupair but now I am a full fledged adult and live alone. On occasion I will visit my German family so I cannot say I am entirely out here alone and roughing it.
Was it easy making friends or adjusting to the culture?
HAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Oh boy is this the question. I could write a thesis on this bad boy, and have probably verbally done so many times. The German culture – in contrast to American- is a very hard nut to crack. In America it is easy to walk out and talk to any old Joe on the street and build an ever lasting friendship eventually. but no, not here. Germans are very reserved and very exclusive. You meet people basically only through other people and if you cant speak German at all it can be very difficult. I mean I must admit I have heard Munich is extra difficult regarding this and if I was in another city it may be easier..but I chose the hard route. All in all I cannot fully complain though, in a way I really appreciate it a bit more in comparison to the over friendly American style. I find here when you actually can get into a social circle, the friends you make tend to be far more loyal and valuable.
How do you cope with homesickness?
In all honesty I do not have so much homesickness as Munich feels to me more like a home than any other place I have previously lived. Sometimes though, when Ive had a hard day or want to cry from studying the language I will go get a Starbucks. It may be over price, under quality coffee but it does taste the same in every country.
How long did it take to learn German?
This is a pretty reletive question. First things first, German is extremely hard. Most expats I have met tend to avoid learning it. They find when everyone here speaks english it doesnt make so much sense but also I takes a loooootttttt of work and investment. I was lucky. I chose to start my Munich transition as an aupair so I had some good time in between working hours to hunker down and focus on studying. I did sacrfice a lot of my free time to catch up from a life of single language living and many a times cried because learning German grammar is a night mare. Now I am about a B2 ( just under native speaker) my comprehension is about perfect but since I work in english my speaking is not soooo ideal.
Do you feel at home yet?
For the most part I can answer this yes. In my first year it was really hard and I often felt very alone and reminded I did not belong. I did not know the city well and was very shocked by the culture. Going into my second year ( and once I learned German) I began to feel more at ease. Now that the second year is nearly over I can say I am very well settled. I have a perfect flat, job, my language skills are blooming, the social situation is..almost solved.. all in all I am just about as cozy and content as an expat could be. I’ve come to find that calling somewhere home is not about being happy because everything alway being perfect, its about feeling happy when nothing is going right. It is always a struggle in some way or other to make it here but at the end of the day I find it always works out well for me. Some way or another.