A city of 1.5 million people. Just how do you go about starting to make friends and contacts?
There seem to be a few online outlets to get to know people, but one of the most appealing to meet people in a group was the weekly IFM get together at some bar called Flex near Goetheplatz. I ad contacted the Facebook page administrator, who confirmed the Wednesday meet would start at 19:00 and that usually about 20 people turned up. Perfect.
I guess I was expecting a more traditional German Kneipe, so it was a surprise to be led into a graffiti-strewn basement from the entrance door on the street to a large open bar. With three people in it. I liked it immediately.
The waiter was friendly, and the Weissbier prices (3.40, going down to happy hour at 2.50) and I checked before ordering that I was in the right place. Indeed I was, and the table of three, who made me very welcome quickly became one of 15, then perhaps 30 in all. There were regular friends and long-lost ones, and I think I was the only fresh face, but it did not take long to feel more than welcome.
I particularly enjoyed meeting an interesting Serbian guy who had been to my adopted hometown on my Croatian island as a kid, and who came up with some great suggestions to help me discover some lesser known places in the neighbourhood. Did I know, for example, that the best pizza in the area is made by Moldovans, the best ice cream by Persians, and some of the best food in an Uyghur restaurant run by people from the Turkish-Chinese ethnic group? We will lunch there tomorrow.
One of the first impressions I had was how clever people were. An international scene where many have been attracted to the city by work opportunities. Programmers, researchers and engineers. A lovely Indian told me his story of swapping the sun of southern India for the cold of Munich. In addition to his excellent German, he speaks three more languages, using a different one to speak to his mother, father and sister.
I wa surprised also at how many Germans there were, and it was fun to hear the teasing between the locals and those coming in from other parts of Germany for the work.
"If you want to discover real ethnic minorities in Munich, come and meet this couple," ventured my new Serbian friend. I did as I was told, trying to figure out their nationality, for they looked German.
"Natives of Munich! They are an ethnic group under threat. I read somewhere that bout 35,000 local a year leave the city due to the high prices - they simply can't afford it any more."
The theme of how expensive Munich is was a recurring theme in many conversations, particularly with regard to accommodation. One guy living in Schwabing talked of the lack of students there these days, as more and more rich people move in, and the students are moving further out. The increasing prices are putting a strain issues such as hospital staff, for example, as nurses cannot afford to live in the vicinity of their places of work.
A really enjoyable evening with a good introcuction to a wide section of life in Munich, and it was nice as I left for a couple of people to check if I had enjoyed myself, and that they hoped to see me next week.
I did. And they will.