Europe, Expat Living, Germany, Munich

Expat Living: Christopher Allen in Munich, Germany.

August 24, 2014
Munich, Germany.

Let’s warmly welcome Christopher Allen, the latest person to be featured in my Expat Living Interview Series. Originally from the United States, Christopher moved to Munich, Germany where he’s now been for almost 20 years.

He talks about expat living and joins the ranks of others here on cherylhoward.com like Samantha in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica and Laura Martin in London, England.

All About Christopher

Christopher Allen

Christopher Allen is the curator of the expat, gluten-free photo-literary travel blog I Must Be Off!

He’s also the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O’Type. His fiction, creative non-fiction and book reviews have appeared at Indiana Review, Quiddity, [PANK], The Lit Pub, Connotation Press, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many others.

Originally from Tennessee, Allen lives in Germany.

Where are you from?

I’m from Nashville, Tennessee. Music City USA. In Nashville, we don’t ask if you can sing; we ask what you sing. Oh, and we have a Parthenon—a new one—which is one of the reasons we’re also called The Athens of the South. The other reason is that Nashville has 17 colleges and universities.

Where are you living now and how long have you been there?

I’ve lived in Munich, Germany for almost 20 years.

Munich, Germany.

Have you lived anywhere else around the world?

Yes. My family moved a lot when I was a child because my father was in the army.

In 1991 I lived in LA for eight months. I think everyone should live in LA for eight months just to see what a screwed-up, superficial place it really is.

I’ve also lived in London.

From 1997 to 2002, I commuted between London and Munich every other weekend. It’s a second home to me, and I think it’s the opposite of LA: you have to live there for a while to see what a wonderful place it really is. To love London, you have to learn to ignore its warts—just like a partner.

London, England.

Do you plan to stay in your current location or move somewhere else in the future?

I’m what they call a Wahlmünchener (a person who has chosen to live in München because he loves it there). I’ve decided to live here and have decided to love the place. It’s my home. Although stay tuned. Another adventure might be right around the corner.

What’s your personal story? What made you decide to take the big leap and leave home?

I followed my heart—stupid, stupid heart—on an adventure of love. The relationship lasted about six months, but I stayed in Germany. I have always needed adventure, and have never wanted to stop having one.

Do you ever miss home? What do you do to cope?

Home is Munich now, but I miss some things about Nashville, some about London. I miss not being able to see friends and family. I miss American brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. I miss Eggs Benedict. That’s a silly thing to miss, but I do. I miss authentic Mexican food. Other than these things, I don’t have a problem coping. I can feel at home wherever I am. And if I really need hollandaise or a real salsa, I can make them.

One place I miss very much is Radnor Lake, a nature reserve in the heart of Nashville. When I’m there, once or twice a year, I make a point of walking at Radnor Lake every morning. It’s a special place.

Radnor Lake

How do you blend in and be accepted by locals?

Well, I understand Bavarian, which helps me blend in. That said, it’s really hard to blend in here. It’s more important to appreciate everyone’s differences.

I appreciate German honesty and the German sense of Ordnung (order). I like rules, and like it when people follow them, especially in traffic and kitchens, but not so much in literature.

I think mutual respect is important no matter where you live. Munich is quite multicultural. I work with people from all over Europe, and they’re all open to, and accepting of, one another’s differences.

Did you have to learn a new language? If yes, what? How did you go about learning the language and how long did it take you to become fluent?

I spoke a little German before I moved here, but I basically had to learn the language from a beginners speaking level.When I first moved to Munich, I worked at a language institute where I could learn German free. Problem was, I was teaching 10 hours a day, so I never had time to attend my course. I ended up learning German from a now-close friend. It took me several years to become fluent—which doesn’t mean I’m stupid.

What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?

Hard question. It’s almost impossible to shock me. I could think about this question for days and not come up with anything. Germans are generally not very shocking.

Wait. German “directness” can be like a slap in the face to non-Germans. Once, a student stopped me at the door as I was leaving a class to tell me he hated my tie. “It’s old-fashioned, has elephants on it. Tacky. I thought you would want to know,” he said. “Oh, um, thank you, I guess. For the heads-up,” I said.

Then once, after I’d returned from a weekend trip to Paris where I’d stupidly let a woman cut my very very long hair off, one of my students cornered me after class and said, “Chris, just to let you know, before [when you had gorgeous Julia-Roberts-length hair] you had a look; now I’m afraid you look really normal. Average Joe. Big mistake. Thought you’d want to know.” “Oh, um . . . thank you?” I said.

The Germans have no problem telling you their opinion, and you’re not expected to be offended.

Munich, Germany.

What is your number one tip about how to live life as an ex-pat?

Don’t come to a place with the attitude that your way of life back home is better than anyone else’s. The expat life is a time of intense learning. If you come to a place with open ears and mind and a closed mouth, you’ll be happier.

What do you love most about living abroad?

I’m so exotic! A rare bird.

I was the sole representative of the United States of America at the US vs. Germany game (public viewing) during the World Cup at the Greek restaurant down the street. I stood up anyway and sang the national anthem by myself and got a nice round of applause—I am after all from Nashville!

But a few years ago on July 4 at an Irish pub’s karaoke night, I sang “America the Beautiful” while a Scottish guy gave me the double bird the entire time.

What do I love most about living abroad? That I’m a US-AMERICAN wherever I go. Whatever else I am, I have to be a US-AMERICAN 24/7.

Oh, wait, this isn’t the What do I hate most about living abroad? question. Where is that question?

Did you make the move solo? Or are you with a spouse or significant other, other members of your family, or friend(s)?

I wish I had a picture of my best friend who moved with me. He died 17 years ago.

The first thing he did when we got off the plane in Munich was to trot out to the airport’s lawn and take a big dump.

My Cocker Spaniel Bodie. I miss him very much. He loved Munich. He got to come to work with me and eat in restaurants.

What do you do work wise? Did you have a job before you arrived or did you look for work when you got there? If you didn’t have a job, how did (or do) you land work?

During the day, I’m a business English coach. I teach in companies.

The day I arrived in Munich, I had three interviews, and I started working the next day. If you are an experienced teacher with a university degree, it’s relatively easy to find a job in Germany.

Apart from teaching, I’m also a writer. You can find a list of my publications here.

Find Christopher

Blog: http://www.imustbeoff.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Christopher_All
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Allen/104635019617638

Expat Living Information

If you liked this interview with Christopher Allen in Munich, Germany, read stories from some of our other favourite expats including Jasilyn Albert in Ufa Russia and Kathrin Jaensch in Vancouver, Canada.

If you like these interviews and my personal take on living abroad, check out my Expat Living section. Also, learn about what it like to come home after living abroad or how to find a job in Berlin.

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26 Comments

  • Reply Rachel August 24, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    Aw, this is a really nice interview! It was lovely to read so many positive comments about Munich.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard August 24, 2014 at 9:05 AM

      Hey Rachel!

      Totally agree. It’s such a nice city and reminds me that I need to visit Munich again soon. 🙂

      Cheryl

    • Reply Christopher August 24, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      Hey, Rachel! Thanks for reading. We really need to cross paths sometime in Munich.

  • Reply Susan Tepper August 24, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    Enjoyed hearing more about the ex-otic, ex-pat life of Christopher Allen.. thank you both for a great Q&A

    • Reply Cheryl Howard August 24, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      Hi Susan –

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and reading the interview. Munich life seems pretty good. 🙂

      Cheryl

  • Reply Christopher Allen August 24, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Thanks for reading, Susan!

  • Reply James Trolinger August 24, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    Stunning photography and good advice.

  • Reply Josiane August 24, 2014 at 7:41 PM

    Really a great interview!!! I love Munich too! 20years!! More than me!! (18). See you

    • Reply Cheryl Howard August 25, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      Josiane – very cool! Munich is a great city, although I prefer Berlin. 🙂

    • Reply Christopher August 25, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      Hi, Josiane! 18 years in Munich. Wow. We’re almost German, aren’t we?

  • Reply Gay Degani August 25, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    So fun to read this. Christopher Allen!!! Any little insights into the very cool you is always an education. Insight into something I've never had the courage to do. Makes me feel like I'm kind of doing it through you. Thanks Cheryl for posting this.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard August 25, 2014 at 3:44 PM

      Gay – no problem! I love sharing expat stories. Each person is so inspiring.

    • Reply Christopher August 25, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Hi, Gay! Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Dana Newman August 28, 2014 at 4:02 AM

    Nice to meet you, Christopher! Also an expat in Munich, I could definitely relate to a lot of what you said–cracked up about the directness stuff. Decided right then and there I’ll have to make a video about that 😀 And I totally feel ya about missing food. For me it’s American-style Chinese food!!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard August 30, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Hey Dana – nice to meet another German expat!

      The directness of Germans always amazed me too – I once had a friend tell me that she had browsed my Facebook pictures and she told me she liked me better blonde. At the time, my hair was red. I thought “errm, thanks.” and was not sure how to take it.

      It’s a bit hard at first, but I came to find it refreshing. 🙂

      I missed good Mexican food.

    • Reply Christopher August 30, 2014 at 5:44 PM

      Hi, Dana!
      Nice to meet you too! Another expat in Munich. Go, us!

  • Reply Mary @ Green Global Travel August 31, 2014 at 11:41 PM

    Wow, 20 years is a long time! Always very interesting to read interviews about people moving abroad. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 1, 2014 at 7:28 AM

      Hey Mary! Yes, that is a long time. I personally seem to move every 1-2 years. 🙂

  • Reply Christopher September 1, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    Hey, Mary!
    Thanks as always for keeping up with my capers.

  • Reply Nancy T, brand new expat in Munich January 28, 2015 at 8:30 AM

    Christopher what a wonderful column, makes me happier that I just moved to Munich. Should you, or any other U.S.-Americans wish some fresh American chocolate chip cookies send me a note. I brought a huge stash of chips with me. Looking to meet friends here, my new husband is German and I do not know the language.

    Could also use some advice on the best language schools in Munich, have signed up with one as a trial.

    Hi Dana too!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard January 28, 2015 at 8:35 AM

      Hey Nancy!

      Thanks for reading. Both Dana, Christopher and Laurel are all in Munich. If you want to contact them directly, you can find all of their social media information in their interviews.

      Hope you enjoy Germany and let me know if you ever come for a visit to the ever wonderful Berlin. <3

      Cheryl

  • Reply Melissa April 20, 2015 at 2:22 AM

    Hi Cheryl! This a very inspiring article! My name is Melissa from Philippines and I am planning to move in Munich late this year. I would like to ask, can you recommend some schools that I should enroll for me to just the learn the language? I heard that fluency of German Language is one of the basic requirements in working there.

    And also how does it really feels like living there?

    Thanks,
    Melissa

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 20, 2015 at 6:20 AM

      Hi Melissa,

      Thanks so much for stopping by my site! Good luck on your move to Munich.

      There are lots of language schools to choose from and the one I’ve liked best is Goethe Institute (they have locations all around the world). The only issue is that they’re very expensive!

      As I don’t live in Munich, I’m not familiar with the other schools there. I’d recommend checking out the blog Monkey and Mountains – it’s run by my friend Laurel (also Canadian) and she lives in Munich. She has lots of expat content on her blog.

      My number one tip for anyone coming to Germany is to learn German. Your life will be incredibly difficult otherwise. Perhaps you can start your studies before you get here?

      I live in Berlin, not Munich and it’s entirely different world here. But I love it and I plan to stay forever. 😉

      Hope this helps!

      Cheryl

      • Reply Melissa April 20, 2015 at 9:02 PM

        Hi Cheryl!

        Thank you for your reply. Oh I see. I’ll try to enroll myself then in that school here in the Philippines.

        Munich and Berlin are two different world? Hmm That sounds interesting! In what aspects? 🙂

        Thanks,

        Melissa

        • Reply Cheryl Howard April 21, 2015 at 8:16 AM

          Hiya Melissa – Glad to hear! Best of luck with your studies and plans to move to Munich.

          To describe the differences between Munich and Berlin would take a very long time. Just browse through my archives and you’ll quickly see why. 😉

          And it all depends on your personal preference. For me, the idea of living in Munich seems like torture but perhaps some crazy people in Munich feel the same way about Berlin. 🙂

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