Don Verity '68-69: Retired in Bavaria
Don Verity (JYM 1968-69) is an active member of his class who has reunions quite regularly. He and his German wife just recently moved back to spend their retirement years in Munich. He writes here of his very long relationship to the German language and Germany and the challenges in returning for good.
When you consider my life journey starting 60 years ago it almost seems inevitable that I would wind up in Munich for my retirement years.
Flashback to eighth grade, 1962, Freeport, Long Island: The guidance counselor comes into our morning homeroom and announces that next year we can take a foreign language: French, Spanish, Latin, or German. This was news to me so when the student next to me said "German," I said the same. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I took German all through high school and not only loved it but it inspired a strong desire to explore the world. I even insisted that my first typewriter be a German brand, Olympia. I continued with German in college. One day in my sophomore year as I passed the bulletin board outside the guidance counselor's office, I saw an announcement about a Junior Year in Munich program sponsored by Wayne State University and open to students at other schools.
In August 1968, I boarded the SS Statendam with about 90 other students from all around the U.S. and we headed to Munich for the JYM program. And I just fell in love with the city, Bavaria and Germany. After college, I taught German for four years and then decided to find a job that would allow me to travel, especially back to Munich. An electronics manufacturer in Maryland was looking for a Factory Representative who spoke German. The job description: Go to Germany to gather detailed client data via face-to-face meetings with customers.
Two years into the job, while attending the Electronica Messe in Munich, I looked around the exhibit hall and spied a very pretty German gal who was working as an interpreter at another U.S. booth and she accepted my dinner invitation.
Nine months later, my soon-to-be wife, Beate, and her 10-year-old son flew back to Maryland with me. Most of her family was living in Munich so return visits were inevitable and frequent.
30+ years, two more sons and three grandsons later we started pondering how we could include frequent and lengthy visits to Munich as part of my retirement. The biggest challenge: Where to stay during our extended stays. Staying with Beate's sister seemed impractical so we started exploring a possible rental apartment. This however proved very difficult:
- Rental units are privately owned and finding them is very challenging.
- Germans are somewhat skeptical about renting to a foreigner, Americans included.
So we came up with a new plan. We decided to buy a condo just outside central Munich in a community called Altperlach. Being an American once again posed a challenge. Most banks are unwilling or unable to finance a mortgage involving an American citizen even with a German spouse.
So we came up with another new plan. We refinanced our U.S. home and pulled money out of retirement accounts and paid cash for our 800 sq. foot, a brand spanking new condo in Munich and we love it.
- Being on the top floor, we can see the Austrian Alps and the Frauenkirche from our balcony.
- A bus stops right outside our door so we can get anywhere quickly without a car.
- The nearby village-like Pfantzeltplatz is a 10-minute walk and offers five restaurants/Gastsätten and we're surrounded by large grocery stores and smaller specialty shops.
The challenges were:
- Housing costs are in the Manhattan price range. But once over that hurdle, day-to-day living costs are very reasonable.
- To get a permanent resident card (Aufenthaltstitel) you need written documentation that you speak German. I had to request a copy of my college transcript.
- Health insurance is mandatory but difficult to get for a non-German. Being married to a German citizen proved critical to overcoming many barriers.
- Bringing our dog with us presented a whole new set of regulations that had to be met.
So now our U.S. home has been sold and we love being in Munich. I wish I could remember the name of the student next to me in Junior High School who opted for German. His choice changed my life.