Life in Munich
Munich is a fabulous place to live.
A safe, clean, and cosmopolitan city, Munich was ranked #7 Most Livable City in the World 2010 (Mercer Human Resource Consulting). On Monocle's Most Livable Cities Index 2010, Munich is even placed at #1.
Here is why.
Quality of Life
With a population of just over 1.3 million (2009), Munich is the third-largest city in Germany but will seem tiny to visitors from the world's megacities. It is often referred to as "the village with a million inhabitants", due to its cosy atmosphere brought about by cobblestone alleys in the old town and the small owner-operated shops that still abound in town and many neighborhoods. Thanks to strict building codes, there are no high-rise buildings in the city center.
Munich has a vibrant café and restaurant scene with outdoor seating on sidewalks or private patios. Munich residents love to eat and drink al fresco and therefore flock to the countless beer gardens at every opportunity. A complete smoking ban in cafés and restaurants has been in place for some years.
Thanks to its many parks, among them the English Gardens or the Nymphenburg Palace grounds, the city is very green. Parks are popular for walking, running, bicycling, playing, or simply hanging out with friends and family.
Munich has an excellent public-transportation system so you can easily survive without a car. Subways, busses, and trams take passengers to any corner of the city, and beyond the city, too. The system is very reliable; vehicles and stations are clean and perfectly safe at all times of day.
There is an extensive network of bicycle paths throughout the city. The bike paths are in very good condition and safe to ride. We know of several students and professionals from places heavily reliant on cars (e.g., the USA or Canada) who had out of habit planned to buy a car, but decided to purchase a bicycle instead and cherished to opportunity to cycle practically everywhere. As a Canadian diplomat who has lived in various international capitals put it, "The bike paths are great! You can take your bike all the way into Austria!"
Munich is also excellent for walking, with extensive pedestrian zones in the major shopping areas and sidewalks along every street.
In terms of recreation, Munich has something for everyone, history buffs, culture vultures, nature lovers, gourmets, and sports enthusiasts included.
The Oktoberfest is an annual highlight, bringing together party animals and Bavarian traditionalists.
The Munich Tourist Office provides an excellent English-language online guide to the city and its attractions. You may find other useful information on the following sites: New in the City; Frommer's; Europe for Visitors; or Toytown Munich.
Downloads & Links
Language and Communications
"I don't speak any German, how will I get along?" is a question we are asked very often. The answer is simple: you will get along just fine.
Munich is a very international city with a large non-German population. It is also one of the top destinations in Germany for foreign tourists. As a consequence, you will be perfectly able to make your way around by communicating in English. Germans study English in high school (increasingly, also in elementary school and sometimes even kindergarten), so you will always find someone who can answer your questions.
All MIPLC staff speak English and are available to help you resolve those every-day mysteries one encounters when living in a foreign country. The Max Planck Institute also hosts a large number of international researchers - there is probably someone from your home country, too.
Germany enjoys an excellent level of health among its population. Tap water is safe to drink and hygiene standards in food storage and processing are high. The biggest health bugs might be colds (although less frequent than in countries subject to rigorous airconditioning), the flu, or hangovers from too much partying.
If illness does occur, Germany has an excellent health system. All MIPLC students must by law take out health insurance and consequently have access to comprehensive health care. Munich has a very high density of GPs and specialists, with numerous excellent hospitals. This high level is reflected by the fact that every summer a large number of visitors from the Arab peninsula travel to Munich for extended periods of time to escape the heat in their home countries, to shop, but also to get medical treatment.
Life in Munich is significantly cheaper than in other international centers of law, or cities such as Tokyo or Moscow. In Mercer's 2010 survey of expensive cities for expats, Munich was at #59.
Food prices in Germany are among the lowest in Europe. Restaurants are much cheaper than in Rio de Janeiro. Many cultural facilities, such as theaters and opera houses, are heavily subsidized and therefore offer cheap tickets. For instance, standing room tickets at the Munich Opera House start from about 6 EUR; and all public museums in Bavaria charge a reduced admission fee of just 1 EUR per person every Sunday. Students receive various discounts upon presenting their student ID, e.g. for movie theater tickets, public swimming pools, etc.
For most students, rent will be the most significant cost factor. Still, rents are considerably lower than in London or Geneva. Moreover, buildings and apartments are generally in excellent condition and of a very high standard. Central heating, hot and cold running water, double-glazed windows, etc. are standard; elevators are common.
Nevertheless, students from developing countries should be aware that their living expenses may be significantly higher than at home.
Sun & Rain & Snow
Germany has a temperate seasonal climate. This gives us four distinct seasons. The annual average temperature is about 7°C (45°F). While there are warm to hot periods with temperatures in the 25-35°C range (77-95°F), winters come with temperatures around or below freezing and sometimes dipping to -15°C (5°F). This is the perfect time to visit one of the many Christmas markets with friends and colleagues to enjoy a mug of hot chocolate or vin chaud and admire the traditional nutcrackers.