Sitting on the Dubai airport floor, I hit jackpot and found something of immense value for free — Wifi. I logged in and the first thing I did was to change my ‘current city’ on Facebook from ‘New Delhi’ to ‘Munich’. It was only afterward that I messaged my husband to tell him I was at the gate for my connecting flight to him…
That was almost five years ago. I possibly can’t list all the ways the five years have changed me but here are five things I´ve learned, i.e. five ways in which #minga has changed me:
Exercise can be free
From going to paid yoga classes and a yearly subscription at the gym, I graduated to free exercise – walking. In this city, almost everyone walks. From home to the grocery store (there aren’t any free home delivery stores, not without a minimum order at least!), from there to the U-Bahn station, from the U-Bahn station to the tram stop, from the stop to the bus, from Sendlinger Tor to Marienplatz… one just walks. Those who have difficulty walking use adult walkers that allow them to rest when they are tired… but still, they walk!
The intensity of the walking-love dawned on me when in my early days here, I asked a German neighbor if she would like to go for a coffee. She refused. Point blank. She said, “No, but we can go for a walk instead.”
Waking is free + walking is exercise = free exercise. So now I save money every month! That’s how I #minga.
Honesty ≠ rudeness
After my encounter with my neighbor, I stopped asking people out on coffee dates. I asked them out on walks instead. It was cheaper and healthier… but that wasn’t the only thing I learned from her.
One day I baked an apple cinnamon cake and decided to share a slice with her. I sprinkled it with more cinnamon sugar and added a swirl of chocolate. I made it look like a Michelin star chef had baked it. I knocked on her door and smiled the brightest when I offered her the slice of pure heaven. She looked at the plate, then looked at me and said, “No.” Yet another no! She added later that she was on a diet (but that didn’t mean she should be rude, I thought). I turned around, embarrassed and angry and thought that truly Germans were the rudest race.
I was WRONG! In time I learned that they were honest – brutally honest – and that is so much better than sugar-coated sweetness. Would it have been better if she had taken the cake and dumped it in the dustbin because of her diet? Instead, she made sure that my friends and I enjoyed one more slice. That’s how she taught me that honesty does not equal to rudeness. That’s how they #minga.
When in Germany, go the German way
Another story of my early days in Munich. I wanted to bake my first cake and went shopping for the ingredients. I asked the guy at the store for vanilla several times. I used hands, gestures, talking slowly… everything that I could think of. I had Google-translated the vanilla to Vanille at home but somehow forgot to end it with an ‘e’ at the store. The man refused to understand. I came back empty-handed that day.
There isn’t much difference between the English and the German name for that bean. Without the sweetness of my cake, the bitter truth became clearer – I couldn’t survive in the country without the local language.
BOY, is it a difficult language to master! I still haven’t it but I have gone from the vanilla bean to Vanilleschote. I can’t remember the English word for Kinderwagon, I sometimes confuse the English brief and the German one and I have gone from, “Ein Bier” to, “Ich möchte gerne ein Bier haben”. That’s how I have #minga-ed.
Bier is holier-than-thou
Life was so difficult when I came to this country as a GNT/white wine girl. I didn’t have many choices of drinks that were affordable when I went out. Having a gin and tonic meant paying for two things separately. Buying water was more expensive than buying beer. What other choice did I have but to convert? Radler -beer with lemonade- became my savior. Not purely beer, yet acceptable and available everywhere.
I have learned so much since then. In Bavaria, beer is better than medicine. If I had been here when I was 16, I wouldn’t have had to hide while tasting beer the way I did back home. When I don’t know what to have for breakfast, I always have the choice of flüssiges Brot (liquid bread/beer). While I was still breastfeeding my little angel, someone told me that an alcohol-free Weissbier would make more milk flow through my glands. And the final blow as to how ‘German’ I had become over the years was when I asked the nurse in Maistrasse post-surgery, “Ich habe viel durst, darf ich bitte ein Radler haben?.’ –I am very thirsty, may I please have a Radler? Mind you, I was still partially under the effect of anaesthesia and immediately slipped into unconsciousness after uttering my desire. That’s how I continued to #minga.
A friend from each country
I forgot to mention – beer also makes it easier to make friends. And what does Munich do for you in this sense? It helps by making sure that we can make friends from every country. The diversity within this tiny-big-village is truly enriching. Tourists and expats are always in sufficient supply AND they are usually open to new friends since they are also trying to form their tribe here.
I always wanted to learn from different cultures, experience their festivals, taste their food, try on their clothes, work with them… Thanks to this city, I could. I could be foreign and yet I could be local. I could be different and yet I could be similar. I could be an Indian and yet in parts I could be German or American or Spanish or Arabic or wherever my friends came from. I have made friends at the train station, I have had interesting conversations in cafes, I have connected to people at expat events and I have some locals as friends as well. I am far from having one friend from every country but I know that in Munich I could if I wanted to. That’s how Munich #mingas.
By the way… my coffee-date-and-cake-refusing-ex-German-neighbour? She is one of my closest friends now and she has truly helped me on my life journey to experiencing #minga. So, there you go: if you´re in Munich, do embrace #minga. It may take you to new, unexpected, challenging BUT amazing places.
Mallika Bhatia is a life coach with a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a Diploma in Hypnotherapy with more than 13 years of experience in the field… yet her 3 year old seems to believe she is no more than a snack maker who is also good at telling bed time stories! Even tough she is a writer, a blogger and a published author, her daughter strongly believes Mamma’s work is sitting in cafes and starting into empty spaces. To find more about her and her services, check her website or Facebook page.
Photo credits: feature image by Dominik Martin on Unsplash, walking photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash, beer photo by ChristophMeinersmann on Pixabay, cake photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash, friends photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash