'The city has something for everyone'

'The city has something for everyone'
The best part about being a diplomat is that one gets to travel to different countries, meet all kinds of people and get an insight into the culture and food habits of different geographical regions. This best sums up the experience of Margit Hellwig Boette, German Consul General in Bengaluru, who moved to the city a while ago.

Margit grew up in the small town of Immenhausen in Germany, completed her schooling in Kassel and later went to the University of Goettingen to pursue her interest in French language, literature and history. She worked in France, studied European administration in Belgium later and then joined the Foreign Service when she was 29 years old.

Margit says that it is her interest in meeting people that got her to join the Foreign Service. Bengaluru is the first city in India that she has been posted in. “Bengaluru was actually my husband Gerd Boette’s choice. He felt the weather here perfectly suited our taste,” says Margit. Gerd worked as a librarian at the Berlin State Library before he moved to Bengaluru.

Adapting to the ways of Bengaluru wasn’t very tough, says Margit, as she worked in Kenya before she came here. “There are a lot of Kenyans with Indian roots, and there’s a big Indian diaspora there. I got a great exposure to Indian culture there, so I decided to come here and see the place myself,” adds Margit.

She likes to describe Bengaluru as a combination of Mombasa, Nairobi and New York. “The traffic here is chaotic, there are many tree-lined streets and the ‘tuk-tuks’ are wonderful. I adjusted here faster than I thought I would. The city, though crowded, is colourful and the people are warm,” she observes.

Sharing her experience of getting around the city, Margit says, “When I came here, I noticed that if you are crossing the road, the cars don’t stop for you. I later learnt that you have to show your hand and not be scared but walk straight on to get across the road.” Her weekends are usually spent at home, but she likes to take time off to explore the city and its gourmet culture. “There’s a restaurant called ‘The Open Box’ which serves the best ‘Caesar Salad’ that I have ever had. It’s a blend of Caesar salad and ‘chicken tikka’ which comes in a wrap, something like fusion food. I also love the ‘dim sums’ at ‘The Lantern’ in Ritz Carlton. It’s my favourite Chinese restaurant,” she says.

Margit elaborates that she has also taken a liking to spicy food, after her stay in some of the African countries. She enjoys ‘chicken biryani’ as well as fish and vegetarian dishes with ‘appam’ at ‘Karavalli’. “I eat everything that swims in the ocean! I relish the ‘Kerala fish fry’ and ‘mango curry’ with ‘string hoppers’,” she adds.

There are a few stores in Germany that sell ready-to-cook Indian curries and Margit has tried them all.  “I cook ‘palak paneer’ here but I give it my own twist. My husband and I cook together. While we prepare our German food which largely comprises sausages, meat and potatoes, we also make space for some Indian dishes in our kitchen,” she adds.

The couple also make German bread at home. “I bring the ready-to-cook dough from Germany. I just have to mix it up and put it in the machine. I find it hard to get the kind of bread we like in Bengaluru,” she says. Margit’s work keeps her busy and she finds it hard to make time for shopping. “I shop for my clothes in Germany. I am fascinated by the Indian sari but find it hard to drape,” she adds.

Unlike in Germany, where people largely keep to themselves, she finds the people here to be warm and easy to converse with. Margit also points out that the joint family structure here is something that you don’t find in Germany. “Families in Germany are smaller and children become independent once they finish school,” she says. 

When it comes to the infrastructure, she says, “Germany is a small place which is sparsely populated. But here, it is a challenge for governments to develop the infrastructure in tune with the growing population. This is a challenge faced in every fast-developing city and Bengaluru is no exception.”

She is all praises for the young workforce here which she terms as ‘enterprising’ and ‘talented’. “No wonder, German companies here like to hire Indians because they are a hardworking lot with a liking for technology and research,” she says.

They also like to party hard and the city, she feels, is never short of entertainment. “The art, theatre and music scene is really lively here. There is something for everyone,” she says.

Also, since it is the season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Margit hopes to watch her first IPL match this week.
 “I don’t follow cricket but I would like to experience the atmosphere at a live IPL match. We have a similar craze for soccer back home,” she says with a smile.

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