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Life in the UN city of Bonn

The former German capital Bonn has its own charm. Three UN employees tell what they like about Bonn.

© travelview/shutterstock

People from 180 nations work in the UN city of Bonn. We asked three of them how life is there.

Melanie Virtue
Melanie Virtue © privat

My Name is Melanie Virtue, I work for as Head of the Aquatic Species Team for the convention on Migratory Species, (CMS),  also known as the Bonn Convention, as it was signed 1979 in Bonn. I came to Bonn from Nairobi, Kenya. While I liked it there too, what I loved about Bonn was its clean air, its green environment, the forests and hiking trails all around, the safe bike lanes, and the general safety of being able to move about the city alone at any time of day. I was surprised how international the city is, with so much English (and other languages) being spoken.

I was surprised how international the city is
Melanie Virtue, CMS

And that banking system surprised me. It was rather outdated, or conservative maybe. In Kenya, we were making payments by phone but came here to find I couldn’t even get a contactless debit card. And how long it takes to get some things done, like getting a new sofa delivered. In other countries, that would be done within 1-3 days. In Bonn, it can take 3 months. I like places to get out and hike in nice surroundings. Lately, because of Covid, I’ve mostly done day trips from Bonn to the Eifel, the Ahr and Mosel valleys.

Sebastiano Sali
Sebastiano Sali © privat

My Name is Sebastiano Sali, I’m working for the UN SDG Action Campaign, which brings people from every part together to work on the Sustainable Development Goals by all UN Member States in 2015. We try to build Networks that reach millions, urge decision-makers to act and keep our mission alive to achieve these goals by 2030. Being surrounded by so much green is what i like most about living in Bonn.

I like it being surrounded by so much green.
Sebastiano Sali, UN SDG

If you ask me, what surprises me most when arriving in Bonn, I’ll say: The weather - whether this was a bad or good surprise I let you decide ;-). It wasn’t too easy to get used to the weather. It can be quite challenging to adapt to the sometimes humid climate in the Rhine Area. I like this fresh air at the North Sea. I love sailing in the Ostfriesische Inseln.

James Creswick
James Creswick © privat

My name is James Creswick, I have worked for the WHO for 12 years, and for the last 11 years have been based at the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health based at the UN Bonn Campus. I like Bonn, I think Bonn is a perfect size. On one hand it feels like a bigger cosmopolitan city, whilst at the same time maintaining the friendly charm one would normally expect of a smaller town. I also love how green it is. And it is well connected to the rest of Germany, Europe and beyond, both for my travels and for friends and family to visit.

I often feel more Rheinländer than Engländer.
James Creswick, WHO

I’ve found Bonn a friendly place to live, and it’s more international with a lot more going on than you’d expect. Karneval was also kind of surprising and unnerving the first time, but I quickly discovered that I love it! I’ve lived in a lot of places so I am used to having to adjust to the little quirks of a place. Here like not being allowed to use the Altglascontainer on a Sunday, or how everybody really does wait for the Ampelmännchen. And if you invite people to dinner at 19:00, they really do turn up at 19:00! But I think I’ve become quite Germanized now, haha. I have also become quite attached to the Rhineland, and nowadays I often feel more Rheinländer than Engländer.


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