You’re the only one who has no work to go to, said my younger son this morning as I went to wake him up. Harsh but true. Today my children begin their third week at a new school. My husband starts work in a new office. And me, I will have to find something to keep myself busy with until they return home (or in this instance, hotel).
My family and I have recently relocated to Munich following an unturndownable job offer for my husband. It came with plenty of promising prospects for all of us and presented me with an additional selection of challenges.
At present I have barely any network here and I have to build one up from scratch. And there are some large and some small obstacles to overcome in order for me to achieve that. Obstacles such as becoming confident driving on the other side of the road (tricky but needs practice), such as learning German (a lot more tricky and also needs plenty of practice), such as learning how things are done here – the cultural subtleties and suchlike – (not insurmountable but takes time), such as the legalities of registering myself as self-employed, such as finding a house to live in so that the last mentioned can have something to fill in in the address box.
I guess in that sense I have my work cut out for the next few months. Here’s what you can expect from this blog over the foreseeable future. I will chart the ups and downs of setting up and trading a sole trader business (or an einziger Händler) in Germany. Complacency is not an option and the comfort zone has long been consigned to the cobwebs. This is well and truly an opportunity to learn and I will be charting the growth on these pages.
To begin with, here are some cursory observations from the last fortnight of living in Munich.
1. This is cash country. For Brits used to swiping left, right and centre, put your credit and debit cards away. Most places still only take cash and contactless might make an appearance some time this decade but I am not holding my breath.
2. Cigarettes are still advertised here. Large posters can be found on main roads and thoroughfare. There are also public vending machines which can be found near bus stops. Both of the above surprised me as I had assumed cigarettes advertising was banned in much of Europe and there were age restrictions on who could buy them (I guess it still applies here but how you monitor who buys them from a public vending machine?).
3. There are invisible, unspoken social rules which you will only find out when you transgress them.
4. Most people speak English and those that don’t have been very patient at my valiant (and frankly, pitiful) attempts at speaking Deutsch.
5. Munich is blessed with country parks and woodland trails which the locals seem to take full advantage of.
6. Children do not appear to be wrapped in cottonwool. I have noticed several small groups of unaccompanied children walking around and playing in public. No one seems to fear the bogey man.
7. In the afternoons, I have noticed several elderly people dining alone in cafes and often eating large slices of cakes and desserts.
8. There is a huge culture of cycling and there are dedicated cycling lanes.
9. One thing to bear in mind while driving in Germany is to be mindful of pedestrians and cyclists who also have their green signal when you have yours to turn. And they have right of way.
10. If you happen to be driving through countryside and you notice a field with a board that reads ‘Blumen’, do pull up to take home fresh flowers from the fields. You will find an unmanned till with an honesty box. You’ll also find a set of small knives hanging from a board which you can use to cut the flowers. You can pay per stem or for a bunch.
The learnings continue…