Munich is growing and growing, also because many people from abroad come here for an attractive job. According to a study by the consulting firm Mercer published in spring, Munich is the city with the third-highest quality of life worldwide for expatriates. Of the almost 1.6 million inhabitants of Munich, more than one in four has a foreign passport. In addition to the quality of life, people from abroad especially appreciate the leisure activities, the environmental quality, the security and, last but not least, the career opportunities.
The vast majority of TSCNET Services employees also come from abroad – currently from almost 30 different countries. Jamilette Johnston, or Jamie for short, knows this situation well. Originally from NYC, she has lived in Miami, Madrid and moved to Munich almost ten years ago. She runs one of the most successful blogs for foreign employees and their families in Munich: “City Starlings”. The motto: “Inspiring Expats”! We met Jamie for a talk.
Hello, Jamie, let’s start right at the beginning: What is it like to move to Munich from abroad?
Moving to Munich, or any city for that matter, can turn out to be an amazing or a daunting experience. It depends on so many factors: If this is your first move abroad, it can certainly be overwhelming for anyone. If you are moving from a city with a warm climate, you might find the cold winter months in Munich challenging. If you move from a city with a lot of pollution or dirty streets, then Munich will seem utopian. It’s all relative, isn’t it?
But really, the only factor that will make this a successful expat experience is YOU. You and only you will take what life has to offer and turn it into the best adventure you can embark on.
Many do not come alone but have their partner with them. I read the following line from you: “A happy Spouse, makes a happy House!” What do you mean by that?
It is especially hard for the trailing spouse, who has left behind work, family, friends, an entire support system to start anew. I suggest using this opportunity to travel, to learn the local language, to meet new people and immerse yourself in new cultures. It is easier said than done, but maybe all your sacrifices lead you to finding your life’s purpose.
We also often experience that the partner is a very vital support when settling in. Who or what else can help one?
Luckily, the city offers countless opportunities for expats. Munich has become a very multi-culti city, welcoming people from all over the world. Due to this, there are several international groups you can join, such as Internations, Meetup, Munich International Women’s Club, etc. You can also volunteer for nonprofits, such as, ReDI School or SMILE – English Choir. Meet with like-minded people, but don’t forget to meet the locals as well. They possess a wealth of information.
That’s a good cue. We are convinced that we as an employer and especially the co-workers can be a great support, but we also always advise to build something up outside the office and the circle of co-workers and to take advantage of the many opportunities here.
You are spoilt for choice, just take the city’s cultural offer: I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but museums, opera, ballet, theatre, concerts, there is so much of a selection throughout the year, that you cannot get bored. There’s something for every taste.
Many times, your preferences will adapt to your new surroundings. Since coming to Munich, the outdoors has become my playground. I took up hiking and skiing, which was new and scary at first. But with the pre-Alps and Alps so close, I had to give them a chance and have fallen in love with nature. Walchensee, Benediktenwand and Tegernsee are great places for hiking. And there are so many great ski resorts like Wilder Kaiser, Ski Amade and Zillertal. For me, that had another positive side effect: This has made it easier for me to cope with the winter months
That must have been a pretty big change. In the past, on a beautiful winter weekend, half of Munich was somewhere on a ski slope in the Bavarian uplands or in Tyrol. What role do the neighbouring countries play for expats?
It has been amazing to discover the beauty of these neighbouring countries – Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic and so many more. Take advantage of their proximity. You can discover so many amazing places inside and outside Germany by car, but also by train. The “Bayern-Ticket” is one of the best kept travel tips – it can save families and large groups big bucks when traveling through Bavaria.
If you prefer to stay closer to home, Munich has much to offer: Oktoberfest, Tollwood and Auer Dult are only some of the many street festivals throughout the year. Get ready for the upcoming Christmas season! Christmas Markets usually start on the Friday before Sunday Advent and run through Christmas Eve. There are many throughout Germany offering spiced wine, food and local crafts. You can’t help being affected by the festive lights and cheerful mood of the locals.
What is your favourite among the Christmas markets?
In Munich, my favourite ones are the Medieval Market in Wittelsbacher Platz and the Christmas Village in the Munich Residenz.
Is there another tip for expats that we definitely shouldn’t forget?
Good that you ask, otherwise I would have almost forgotten the annual “Expat In The City” event – a very important event for expats. The next date is pending – so keep an eye out for updates on their website, which additionally has a lot of helpful resources for expats.
Also, venture out about town. Be a tourist in your new city. Munich is small, but there is much to see. Opt to travel by bike as much as you can. Bike paths throughout the city make it safe and practical to get around. But make sure you learn a few road rules before you do though.
And don’t give up when things get tough! I have had my ups and downs, it is not always easy. But I’ve slowly built up my support system consisting of both expats and locals alike. This balance has helped me in my own journey, and I have never regretted my move to Munich. I hope these tips help you settle into your new home.
Many thanks for the interview and all the tips, Jamie. And all the best with City Starlings!