But Jules’ usual forum for making friends and influencing people (well, if we call “influencing” enticing them out for another beer or on to the next bar, or even to join him for a weekend Ausflug to some nearby point of interest) is the everyday streets of Munich (which, of course, includes the beer garden). I’ve asked Jules to enlighten us all on how he reached this Man of Myth status, passing on a few little gems for how we too can meet people and develop our network of friends and acquaintances in Munich:
The first most important question: where are the best places to meet people in Munich? And why? I mean, I know part of your answer is going to be the beer garden, because I’ve seen you in action, but give us some of your thoughts on why you think you meet so many people in beer gardens, and specifically, why YOU seem to meet more people than anyone I know? What’s your magic trick?
Where are the best places to meet people in Munich? And why?
-Anywhere there's people. In fact, it's the most unlikely places which are often the best. I made one of my longest friendships in Munich with a guy I met in a grocery store line. But of course there are the usual spots. Beergardens provide an opportunity to turn to the person sitting next to you and say hello. But if you want to do something memorable then take the time to speak with people when and where they are least expecting it. I can't remember all the conversations I've had in bars, clubs or beergardens but I do remember the unexpected encounters.
Why do you think you meet so many people in beer gardens, and specifically, why YOU seem to meet more people than anyone I know? What’s your magic trick?
-You know this puts me on the spot right ;) Well it's not just meeting, but getting to know and seeing people again. So first there's the obvious. As a foreigner in Munich you're going to attract some bit of attention no matter what which leads to the inevitable question, 'So what are you doing here?'. My trick if you want to call it that is to take it as an opportunity to 1) rattle off a long list of the things I love about Munich 2) of those which I've planned to do thatcoming Saturday (true or not) then finally 3) ask if they can give me 2 good reasons why they can't come. I catch a lot of people by surprise with that but it works. You can get around to explaining what you do for work later.
So how long do you think it took for you to really get to know so many people in Munich?
-Years! But it came in phases. When I first got back to Munich I moved 13 times in 18 months within the same dorm cause I didn't have a permanent place to stay. Needless to say, I knew everyone in the building after that and they knew me. Then there was this 6-8 month stretch where I threw a party at my place every Friday night celebrating getting my first job after 2 years living check to check. Friends always bring friends who bring friends and I made sure to get to know them all. But the story I like to tell the most is of this French guy I worked with in the city who lived with his girlfriend an hour away near the Munich airport. Instead of taking the trip home after work I told him to come have a drink with me and I'd show him the beergardens of Munich. We ended up going every day including weekends for 3 consecutive months, rain days being the only exception. You wouldn't believe the looks on peoples faces when we told them that at the beergarden tables. Least to say, I along with my friend had never been spontaneously invited to so many birthday parties, house warmings and the like in our lives. Sounds crazy, but get a friend and try it... you may meet more people in a few weeks than you do in a year.
Do you agree with the sentiment that a lot of expats (and other Germans) have that Munich is a tough place to meet people? Personally, I haven’t really had that experience – though I have you partially to thank for that. I do think that Germans aren’t quite as outwardly friendly as some other cultures – but not in all contexts. I mean, Oktoberfest is one of the friendliest environments anyone could ever imagine. What’s your take on all this?
-I agree, Munich is a tough place to meet people. But if you're outgoing that's ironically a good thing. Seems to me there's a lot of people sitting around wanting to do something interesting and are just waiting for someone to name a time and place. Simply fill that gap and you'll know more people you have time to meet. As for the Oktoberfest phenomenon, it's a 2 week period where everyone agrees to put aside social norms and come together. You see the same thing during Carnival, Christopher St. Day etc. Too bad some of that can't spill over into the rest of the year.
Munich is often called a “village of a million people” – referring, I think, to the Bavarian culture and the phenomenon that you yourself so often experience of running into people you know everywhere you go. After a while, it’s a hard to maintain any sort of anonymity here. Do you think there are drawbacks to that, or should we just embrace the village feel (I know you’re with me on this Team Munich vs. Team Berlin thing? Right? Right?)?
-We all know anonymity has it's pluses... there's nothing like sitting next to someone you're dating or want to date, only to have someone else walk up and remind you of "that night out". As for Munich being a "village", I think it's more a testament to it's world class public transport and bike lanes... you can be anywhere in 15 minutes increasing everyone's visibility in the city. Remove that and you may never see someone living just 5km away.
How important was your knowledge of the German language in developing your social circle? Do you have any recommendations for expat newbies about how to learn German, or how important it is to know? Basically, is it worth the effort to learn (cuz it takes a hell of a lot of energy)?
How important was your knowledge of the German language in developing your social circle?
-Quite important. You have to be able to keep up with a conversation as it flows back and forth either between languages or levels of complexity. Any information you lose during a conversation you'll have to make up somewhere else. So sure, language plays a large role in developing a diverse social circle.
Do you have any recommendations for expat newbies about how to learn German?
-Personally I learned German in a bar, from my old French girlfriend and other foreigners. Starting with the bar, one can imagine the diversity of conversations that took place which was great for my vocabulary. My French girlfriend spoke German to me and I responded in English so I heard it in conversation every day. Lastly is most important, I learned from other foreigners. This meant that although the German wasn't actually correct it was simple and slow enough for me to understand and respond. It wasn't until years later that I actually began having conversations with native speakers but by then my German was good enough so I didn't have that, "So let's talk English" issue that many get.
Basically, is it worth the effort to learn (cuz it takes a hell of a lot of energy)?
-Very worth it. Not only do you get to speak with more people but it goes back to that element of surprise. No one expects an English native speaker to have learned the language and learned it well. If you can break that stereotype from the start people become interested in learning more about you and why you're different.
Those are my primary questions… but I’m sure these questions are colored by my own perspective and experiences in Munich. What would you have to add? Just give us all your secrets. Come on ;-)
-Nope... that's about it. Now that the weather is getting nice you can all expect to hear from me soon ;) Looking forward to picking up this conversation in the beergardens!