Ten months of being a Münchkin

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After I graduated a couple of years ago, I spent a great deal of time flitting about, freelancing, not sleeping very well, hating life etc. I had reached a point of despair in terms of job applications that I wanted to fight any family member who asked me what I was “doing these days", and I decided that I didn’t want to be a writer any more – I just wanted a full-time job, any job, so I didn’t continue to feel ashamed to be alive. But one day, I was approached through LinkedIn about a job that I’d already seen, considered and disregarded on the Business of Fashion careers site, because the location listed was Germany. At the time I’d have sold my soul to move to France . Obviously. They do fashion there! But Germany? A definitive nein. I had always seen myself as a baguettes-over-pretzels, coq-au-vin-over-roast-chicken-you-eat-with-your-fingers kind of gal.

However, everything went by in a whirlwind and, after some Skype interviews and writing tests, I went out to Munich to do it all “in real life.” It was an intense experience, and I didn’t feel particularly in interview-mode after suffering an early-morning Easyjet flight, so I was surprised when I got the job. Deciding to move abroad was a big (read: huge) leap for me because I am inherently nervy and neurotic. I culled all of my freelance work a month before I moved and spent 99% of my time in my parents’ house, which mightn’t have been the best choice of places to lodge myself;  I’m from the countryside, and anyone else under 65 is at least a 10-mile drive away. My last month in England was thus spent in a lonely anxiety spiral. For weeks I didn’t think I was going to have anywhere to live. I cried a lot. I considered cancelling everything. Most days were spent in bed; most evenings were spent nervously running or power walking, listening to Cardi B, hoping that I’d somehow turn into a confident, independent woman who wouldn’t get into a flap over minor things or crumble when presented with paperwork. However, everything fell into place. I got on my one-way flight from Manchester to Munich and, well, I’m still alive.

Being a yakker at heart, it’s embedded in my psyche to get twitchy when I’m deprived of clean air and greenery for too long, so Munich’s abundance of green spaces and proximity to large hills (er, fine, the Alps) make me feel ‘at home.’ I do feel truly spoilt here; it’s ever so beautiful, clean and safe. I have to go to work and do mundane stuff, obviously, but I’ve been here for ten months now and the novelty of the European lifestyle hasn’t worn off. I’m slowly becoming a convert to carby eating, sparkling water, taking road safety seriously, and giving few fucks about nudity. Everything closes on Sundays, but that’s when you can truly appreciate the parks, the street drinking, and the art of ending the week on a tranquil note. For those who want to step up their Sunday game, there are a handful of dreamy lakes dotted around the outskirts that are just a short train journey away. I’ve never loved Germany more than the times I spent lounging with a book at Starnberger See in the 35-degree heat, dipping into the lake every so often for a cool down.

It’s not all been rosy. There have been awful, embarrassing, disconcerting moments (I can’t write about them here as my grandparents use the internet), and I’ve had plenty of days  spent fantasising about running back to the village I grew up in in the Yorkshire Dales, throwing my phone into the River Swale, and channelling my creative angst into a smallholding. For every moment I’ve loved the freedom and independence of living on my own, there have been moments when I’ve dreaded going back to my apartment because I just wanted people. There have also been moments when I’ve hated living on my own during periods of uselessness – there have been plenty of jars I’ve been too weak to open; plenty of nights I’ve eaten crisps and peanut butter for dinner because I couldn’t be arsed to cook; plenty of time spent guiltily living in my own filth but then not having the energy to clean up. There was also the time when a hornet managed to get into my apartment, and I spent a few hours crying on the phone to my parents until I mustered up the courage to kill it (to my credit, though, they are awfully agressive). For every hilarious night out, there’s been a bad one that’s plunged me into an existential crisis for the entire week after. Learning German is a nightmare – naturally, there are so many rules – and my teacher still tells me off for not pronouncing Ich correctly, which is concerning. I currently get by with a confused mix of German, English and French, and nobody really understands me, but it’s so fine! I’m absolutely fine!

I feel homesick occasionally, and I’ve had serious FOMO seeing friends and family doing fun things without me, but getting out of dreary England has been the best decision I’ve ever made. There are British quirks I’ll never shake (sarcasm, self-deprecation, awkwardness, everyday low-level misery, strong urge to put gravy on everything), and I’m forever craving proper bacon and sausages. But the longer I’m away, the more I don’t really want to go home.

Grace Howard