Germany: Three Month Impressions + August Joy Report

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Munich for three months. Even harder to believe that Shane still isn’t working, but that’s a post for another day (I don’t have nice things to say, and we need the good karma). A month into our German expat adventure, I wrote about my (our) first impressions. Now that we’ve been here for three months, I thought I’d do it again with an added bonus – the joy report! I’m certainly a ‘glass-half-full’ kinda gal, and I really enjoyed writing my July Joy Report, so I think this will be a thing now.

Anyhow, let’s begin.

3 Month Impressions:

Let’s begin with a follow-up.

I actually enjoy the recycling.

I saw someone on Reddit the other day asking the Munich sub if everyone really had 7 bins (yes, I say ‘bin’ now).

“7 bins?! No way. Oh wait…. I just counted. Yes, 7 is correct.” – said everyone.

We don’t have 7, but we do have 5 (regular trash, compost, paper, glass/aluminum/plastic, & returnable bottles). It was annoying at first, but now I’m all for it. We take the regular trash out once every two weeks, we get to compost even though we’re in the city, and just about all plastic in Germany is recyclable.

*pats self on back*

A ‘recycling island’.

Groceries and toiletries are cheaper.

We’ve been consistently €20 under our grocery budget each week. 🙌 Works out well when you’re still waiting on a salary.

We are buying comparable things, organic if it’s available, but probably the main difference is in the price of meat. We were shopping at an organic butcher in the Netherlands, but we’ve not found one near us. I’m speculating, but a lot of the produce (and meat for that matter) are relatively local, which may also contribute to the lower prices. The EU mandates ‘country of origin’ labeling and a lot of the products available to us are from Bavaria or neighboring states.

The weirdest thing we’ve tried so far? Handkäse (hand cheese). I love a block of good cheese, but “sour milk cheese” just didn’t cut it.

One thing we can’t find? Peanut butter. It’s a true tragedy.

Toiletries are also 50% cheaper than in the Netherlands, except ibuprofen. Here, you have to buy it in an Apotheke (pharmacy). It’s over the counter, but has to be distributed by a pharmacist and was €4 for a box of 20 400mg tabs. For comparison… the same box was €1.79 at the grocery store in the Netherlands. For a country that loves beer, their painkillers are hard to find…

Relatedly…

Grocery store cashiers are LIGHTNING FAST.

You know in America how sometimes it feels like the cashiers were trained to go as slow as humanly possible, or where you have a particularly chatty cashier – both of which slow down your whole transaction? Oh, and remember how in America someone else bags your items for you?

Sorry Americans, you won’t survive a German grocery store cashier.

THEY THROW THINGS OFF AT THE SPEED OF LIGHTNING PLEASE JUST GIVE ME TWO MORE SECONDS SO YOU DON’T SMUSH MY CHIPS AND…. nevermind. Smushed.

You literally need a strategy. Produce takes a little longer to scan since they have to weigh it first so…

Pro-tip: bottles and heavy things on the belt first, followed by produce (which gives you time to get the heavy things in your bag), cold items, and finally the ‘breakables’. And just go ahead and have a separate tote bag ready for those chips – then you can snatch them up before it’s too late.

Biking isn’t a social activity.

There are plenty of bike lanes (at least in Munich) and everything feels very safe, but it’s certainly not a social activity. In the Netherlands, it was strange to bike single-file. Part of the biking culture was the chit-chat on the way to your destination, and the rules dictated that you could ride side-by-side. Here, you can only ride side-by-side in a park, otherwise, you should be single-file. Going for a leisurely bike ride (instead of a walk, for instance) isn’t as fun because you can’t really talk.

The plus side, as I said before, the city is very bike-able which is nice because we don’t HAVE to rely on public transportation. It makes the city feel much more available.

The downside, everyone uses these Dyno bike lights which use the power of peddling to turn on the lights. Naturally, the bike I bought was wired incorrectly (the best we can guess) because I peddle and nothing happens, but as soon as I brake the light comes on. 🤦‍♀️ We didn’t want to take it to a bike shop just yet and went searching for some battery-powered lights. They are so expensive! €15 for a front and backlight, which as I type this does not sound like a lot, but in the Netherlands, you could get a similar set for €5, so it hurt my heart a little. Oh well.

A bike adventure through the English Gardens to the Isar River.

Still working on German…

But we’re getting better! I’d say we’re at the phase where we are learning as much vocabulary as possible. We’re starting to be able to understand and reply in basic scenarios (at the grocery store, at the beer garden, etc.) and our (very) basic reading comprehension has improved. We randomly get a newspaper twice a week, and while I’m not reading full articles, I can at least distinguish the headlines now, and I call that a win!

My take-away impression?

We still don’t have a true impression.

Since Shane hasn’t been able to work yet, it really feels like we’ve just spent a very lovely summer as tourists in Munich. Sure, we’ve had to figure out the grocery stores and changed phone numbers (phone plans are also cheap, btw), but ultimately we aren’t truly ‘living’ here yet. We haven’t had to navigate the work/life balance, we can’t open a bank account until we have a steady salary, and we can’t partake in any social benefits (aka insurance) until we have residency. So, we haven’t done things like figure out the doctor or the dentist. As of now, we have a wonderful impression of Munich, but can’t really speak to what it’s like to actually “live” in Germany.

Fingers crossed that this changes soon! I would love to report otherwise.

Now, on to the…

August Joy Report!

(I make no apologies for my use of exclamation points in a joy report.)

I finished my first web development course!

After starting the blog, I became more and more interested in web development. The blog inspired me to want to know the ins and outs of how I am actually presenting you this information. While I am by no means ready for professional employment, I completed my first 54-hour course and would confidently say I have a good foundation. Who knows, maybe in a few years I’m building science-based websites instead of working in a lab.

We finally swam in the Isar River!

Two weeks ago we accidentally stumbled upon an excellent Isar River swimming spot, right in the heart of Munich. Friday of last week was more than likely our last truly HOT summer day, so we packed a cooler and biked 35 min back to that spot, and boy oh boy was it a great time! The river & the sangria were cold, the sun was hot, the people watching was great, and I feel like I’ve taken a big step towards becoming a true Münchner.

We went to the Mini-Hofbräuhaus!

Yes, a mini version of the big Hofbräuhaus exists – in the English Gardens!

I highly recommend a bike for this adventure, depending on where you live, because the Mini-Hofbräuhaus is located in the “wild” part of the English Gardens – aka the ‘not easily accessible by foot’ area. Do you like dogs? Well then you’ll love this place as it’s super dog friendly. Added bonus – the beer prices are lower than the main HB in the city center (€7.40 vs €9.20 for a liter).

Speaking of beer…

We can buy Oktoberfest beer in the grocery store!

I’ve yet to figure out if this is an annual thing, or if this is special for Covid times. Regardless, if we can’t participate in Oktoberfest this year then at least we can try the beer.

If the 0.5L bottles aren’t enough, you can grab a 2L bottle instead.

And finally,

We’ve been to the Alps twice!

We’ve had two hiking opportunities, one was a little harder than the other, but both were fantastic, and it’s nice that the Alps are only an hour (to hour and a half) drive from Munich. First up was Ehrwald, Austria – which I blogged about here – and our 2nd trip was to the Kranzhorn mountain (blog post to come).

The Seebensee in Ehrwald, Austria.
Overlooking the Hut on the Kranzhorn mountain, Austria & Germany (it splits the border!).

Honorable Mention:

My favorite German-words-of-the-month: Mietwagen (pronounced “meat wagon”, lol) which means ‘rental car’ & Sehenswürdigkeit (pronounced “seyens-wor-dig-kite”) which means ‘attraction’, or literally ‘something worthy to see’.


Until our next Sehenswürdigkeit (yes, I realize I used this incorrectly)…

Tchüss,

Whitney

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Shane + Whitney = The Shwits. Cheesy? Yes. Is our cat ashamed of us? Probably. We're an American couple that has lived abroad for 6+ years. The Shwits is our diary of expat life, travel, and occasionally science. Enjoy!

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