I’m what you could call a serial ex-pat. My expat journey has taken me to South Korea, Thailand – twice in two different cities, Maryland, U.S. and now to Germany, where I’ve lived since!
I’ve moved for different reasons – adventure, job opportunities and most recently love. I met my then German husband while shark diving in Costa Rica. My journey as an expat in Germany started in Stuttgart, where I lived for a year. When a job presented itself to him in Munich, I jumped at the chance. He would have happily stayed in Stuttgart but knew that I’d be happier in Munich. It was a great decision! I’ve found expat life in Munich to be much easier than in Stuttgart. In part because there’s a much larger international community. And there are more activities taking place in English – which is a biggie when you’re just learning the language.
In fact, right from my very first day in Munich, I thrived, even meeting a friend on my very first day in the city!
Here are my tips for thriving as an expat in Munich:
Find Your Peeps
For me having friends and a strong network is crucial to my happiness. Although at the time I had my then-husband it isn’t enough to just rely on one person. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to meet like-minded people in Munich with so many international groups: Meetup, Internations, Professional Women’s Network (PWN), Toytown and Expat in the City, Munich’s first expat fair taking place on March 22nd – more on that below!
These groups offer something for everyone from book clubs to badminton to weekly bike rides to the chance to meet other professionals! I’ve found it more effective and enjoyable to join the smaller special interest groups where you are more likely to meet people you connect with as you have a common interest versus the larger general events, but that’s just my personal preference. And how did I meet a friend on my first day in Munich? She’s a German journalist that I met at a book club! We bonded over our hatred of the book, and 3 1/2 years later we’re still friends!
Have A Reason To Wake Up every day
I cannot stress how important this is. I’ve seen a lot of miserable expats over the years, and often it’s because they don’t have a purpose. It’s easier if you came to Munich for a job or to study – at least that gives you something to do five days a week. But it’s not so easy if you moved here because of a spouse or significant other. As much as you might love them, they can’t be your sole purpose for existing.
I understand that finding a job is not easy, especially if you’re not fluent in German or are only going to be here for a couple of years, but there are so many options! The one that worked for me was becoming an entrepreneur. Something I had always wanted to do, but back in Calgary, Canada, I didn’t have the courage to give up my well paying job and risk the lifestyle I had to become self-employed.
But upon doing some research and finding that it would be extremely difficult to find a similar level management position at a university in Munich when I was in my mid-30s and married, meaning I might have children in the near future, I decided to not apply for a single job!
Instead of searching for a new job, I started my own company – that would be Monkeys and Mountains Travel Blog, which you’re reading now!
Given that I was new at the whole entrepreneurship thing, I really had to think about what kind of business I wanted to start. I had always loved to travel, so figured out a way to turn it into a business. While I was initially frustrated about my career prospects, that quickly turned to elation when I realized I could get paid to work for myself doing something I loved. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, in fact, I’ve never worked harder in my life! But what seemed like an obstacle turned out to be the best thing that ever could have happened to me! I love getting paid to travel and working with dream clients like BBC Travel and BBC Earth!
Chances are you have applicable skills that you could use to start your own business as well! I used to work in the education sector, not the travel industry, but had a lot of applicable business skills. And given technology, your clients could be located in your home country, so that you don’t need to worry if your German isn’t quite up to par yet! That’s not to say that you shouldn’t learn German, you totally should!
Or perhaps you don’t need to work. It doesn’t matter, you still need to have a reason to get up every morning.
You could even do a bit of volunteering, I love walking dogs at the Animal Shelter in Munich, and they really need volunteers during the week. It could be training for a half marathon, or learning German in fun ways, or learning how to cook Bavarian food, writing that book you’ve always wanted to write, learning how to paint, or finding the very best Weisswurst in the entire city – seriously how fun would that be and what a conversation starter! There are so many online classes you can take in English if German is an issue.
Udemy, which has thousands of classes on almost every topic imaginable, or you could take an open-sourced class from a prestigious university – for free! There are also classes you can take in Munich that don’t require you to speak more than a little German. I learned the words inhale and exhale from taking a yoga class in German and have done Zumba classes in German as well! My point is, if you want to thrive, you need to have a purpose, something that gets you excited about your life! For me, besides, my work, I love to hike and can be found in the mountains almost every weekend!
Figure Out Life in Munich
I was lucky in that my husband is German, so I’ve let him figure out a lot of the not so fun stuff – like how to set up a bank account, or which insurance I need, and so on. But a lot of expats don’t have that resource. That’s why I highly recommend attending Expat in the City, Munich’s first expat fair taking place on March 22nd. Besides learning how to set up a bank account, you can talk with different language schools to figure out which one is best for you, there’s advice for parents, information on international schools and different clubs you can join.
There are also informative presentations, I’ll be speaking on How To Thrive, Not Just Survive As an Expat in Munich. There’s a talk on the mortgage process and how to find a job. And there are also interactive workshops like the Salsa and Zumba workshops! It’s basically everything you need to know about being an expat in Munich! And get this, it’s absolutely free! I really hope to see you there, I think it’s going to be a really fun and informative event.
Drop me a line and let me know if you’re coming, I’d love to meet up with you! And don’t forget to register today!
Note: This post was made possible by Expat in the City. As always, all opinions expressed are my own and I’m really looking forward to the event!