I moved to Munich in January 2017, fresh out of university. Actually, I was still in university when I moved - I did my final semester abroad, a 6-month internship at eGym GmbH, where I made software running on smart fitness equipment. It’s been a year and nine months since, and as I write this, this chapter of my life will come to a close in another fifteen days.
I’m leaving Munich, and I can’t wait.
It was a cold, snowy night in January - I actually remember the exact date and time; 23:27 on the 14th of January, 2017 - when I stepped off the TGV from Paris at München Hbf, and immediately felt a chill wrap around my heart. A very different chill from the negative temperatures. A chill that I now know is of a city that doesn’t care. Extremely prosperous, terrifyingly efficient, but the furthest away from a warm, caring place I could call home.
I tried really hard though. I ignored this feeling for the better part of a year, chalking it down to loneliness, culture shock, and telling myself I’ll be able to survive here once I’ve adjusted to this, and as the days went by, my ability to shut it out and deal with it did get better. But did I want this? I’m 23, young, free and armed with a degree and specialised knowledge that I can (I hope) make world-changing developments with. I really didn’t want to waste my 20s changing myself into the cynical, uncaring monster I’d need to become to be able to live in this city. I came here an optimist, an aggressive dreamer who could do anything he set his sights on, and above all, a passionate carer who put people above all else, and I was well on my way to changing and becoming the complete opposite. Once I’d come to that realisation, however, I decided this was enough. I’d be damned if I was going to let where I live change the very person I am.
Munich doesn’t deserve me. There are better places in this world where I can put myself to good use.
So once I could look past the false attraction of city that only worsened my own identity crisis, and muster the courage to write off the sunk investment, I started looking for a new job outside this city. And I found one, in the best place I could hope for: Heidelberg.
When I visited Heidelberg for my interview, the city spoke to me. It’s about as big as the town in India where my university is located, and is home to just 150,000 people, just enough to feel like I’m part of a close-knit community. A quarter of the city’s populace are students; indeed the city houses Germany’s oldest and one of its best universities, one that has produced no less than 56 Nobel laureates since its founding during the Roman Empire. And just under half of the populace have an immigration background.
The city is also drop-dead gorgeous. Heidelberg is a long town, situated on both banks of the Neckar, which in turn is surrounded by hills. The Baroque architecture in the old town gives the city a distinct character, and oh, there’s a giant castle, right in the city center.
But what really makes this city stand out is the people. It too was a cold, snowy day when I came to the city to interview for my job. But the smile and the curiosity of the shopkeeper at the bakery where I bought my breakfast wasn’t the standard fake hospitality industry expression. The friend who took it upon himself to give me a car ride from the station and make sure I was calm and in the best state of mind for the upcoming interview, and for that matter the prospective landlord who actually picked me up from Mannhiem and drove me to Heidelberg to show me the apartment, and then drove me around the city to show me around afterwards, simply taking pleasure in helping someone out - this is the kind of person I strive to be, and these are the kinds of people I want to be surrounded by. And in Munich, neither could I be this person, nor could I find someone like this to hang out with - in fact, I was actively discouraged from being this person.
A big reason for the move to Germany was because of specific experiences with German people that I personally had. People in KDE who first helped me hone my technical skills and then my social skills. People who came up to me in San Francisco - where I was at a developer conference - and said “Hey, you’re Indian right? Happy Diwali!” People who knew nothing about me whatsoever, heard that I was moving to Germany, took me aside for two whole hours and told me about life in their country, things I should be careful about, things I should do and things I should not. After all of that, the experience I had in Munich was nothing short of shocking. I often wondered, where the people who made me want to move here were. Because they definitely weren’t where I was.
I’ve finally found out.
And in fifteen days, I’m finally going to be in the Germany that I came here for.