Interview Series, Edition 6
This week, we interviewed Rachel from Arts in Munich. Previously, we have interviewed Allane Milliane of Packing my Suitcase, Clare Laming of Monarch Butterfly Voyager, tattoo artist and world-traveler Amber Harris, Adrian Ann of Adrian’s Travel Tales, and Jenn Turnbull-Houde of Two Weeks in Costa Rica. In the series, we ask a handful of questions to female travelers and expats who can offer unique perspectives on the transient or foreign lifestyle.
If you or someone you know falls into this category, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line. The interview questions will be tailored to your specific story, as you’ll see below.
About Rachel: Rachel is from a small town in Britain, but moved to Paris, France at 19 and now lives in Munich, Germany. She now runs the English-language cultural website Arts in Munich, where you can find a plethora of current cultural events throughout Munich. Read more about her in the interview below.
SGT: In the article you sent me, you say, “Hanging out with the locals is the only way to build a long-term life for yourself in a new city, and learning the language is key.” What would you say is the best way to meet locals? Did you find that the locals in Munich were receptive to you, or did it take a lot of work to feel accepted?
R: Oh, it was super hard in the beginning. Through work I met some lovely people, but a lot of them separated work and their private lives, so there wasn’t much chance of spending time with them outside the office. Meeting strangers in bars and cafes didn’t work at all, and so I turned to the internet.
I saw a post asking for writers for a culture magazine on a forum, and I hit gold – through the mag I met cool, open-minded and well-traveled people with similar interests, and many of them have grown to be very close friends.
I think in general, people from Munich have a very close-knit group of friends, and it’s difficult to penetrate that. They’ve known each other since kindergarten days, and have inside jokes, and it takes a lot of work to become accepted within such a group. There are plenty of liberal, open-minded people willing to get to know an outsider though!
SGT: You mentioned that your hometown in Britain is very small and rural. Did it take a while to get used to living in a bustling city like Munich? What is the biggest change to your lifestyle since you’ve moved to Germany?
R: I moved to Paris aged 19, and although I’d been living in Birmingham for a year for university, Paris was a huge shock. It was sprawling and chaotic, and it took ages to get to my university from Montmartre each morning. After experiencing Paris, moving to Munich was a piece of cake. It has the reputation of being a “big village”, and it’s true – everyone knows everyone else through a friend.
My life has changed a lot since moving here. I have become a fan of hiking, which I probably wouldn’t have bothered with in the UK. The mountains are just an hour away, and they are my favorite part about Bavaria. The serenity and beauty that lies just an hour south of the city is astounding.
SGT: I’ve heard there are a lot of changes being proposed to immigration laws within the EU. Do you get the same benefits in Germany as you would in Britain? Have you considered applying for citizenship or permanent residency? Do you know if that is a difficult process?
R: As a member of the EU, I’m free to work and travel here just as a German would. I’ve considered applying for citizenship here, but I think my identity is so strongly linked to being British, it’s hard to give that up. The thought of telling people “I’m German” is too weird, and that’s the reason I haven’t applied.
It would definitely help in some situations though – I went backpacking around Iran last year and as a Briton, I had to pay 200 € for a visa in advance. If I were German, I could have gotten a VOA for 30 € at the airport in Tehran.
SGT: What inspired you to start Arts in Munich? How do you find most of your insider tips about cultural events in Munich without being native to the area?
R: I wrote a similar column for the culture magazine I wrote for previously. When that came to an end, I just decided to carry on alone – and my blog grew from there. I was interested in finding out what was going on in the city anyway, and so noted down my research for my readers. Now, a lot of people send me press releases, letting me know about events. I also check out venues’ upcoming events and exhibitions, and of course, Facebook is great for finding out about stuff like that.
SGT: How did your friends and family in Britain react to your decision to move to Munich? Were they supportive or apprehensive? Has living abroad changed your relationships with them?
R: They were very supportive. My family have always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do, and I’m so thankful that they’ve always let me try things out, without voicing an opinion in advance. I hope that when I’m a mother, I’d have the same approach.
It’s difficult being so far away from my family. It’s sad not being able to see them as often as I’d like, but we Skype and email regularly.
SGT: How would you say living in Munich has changed you for the better? Is this a forever move, or do you see yourself eventually returning to Britain or perhaps moving somewhere new?
R: Moving to Munich forced me to be independent at a very young age. I had just turned twenty-one when I moved here, and knew nobody. Doing things like setting up a bank account, completing tax returns and seeking out a new dentist in a new country were challenging, especially with no one around to help me. It took a while to settle in, but I feel kind of proud that I managed it alone.
I don’t want to return to the UK to live, nor do I want to live in Munich forever. There’s so much of the world to see and explore, and I need the adventure and the unpredictability.
Follow Arts in Munich.
Read the interviews with Allane Milliane, Clare Laming, Amber Harris, Adrian Ann, and Jenn Turnbull-Houde
Are you a female expat/former expat or permanent traveler who would like to be interviewed for Savvy Girl Travel? Get in touch.