Tag Archives: Germany

How to ride a Streetcar in Germany

Rules to look like a local in Germany on a streetcar:

1) If you are between the ages of 12 and 18, you must have a cell phone that is playing music. You will speak loudly and laugh at everyone you see.

2) If you are homeless, extremely aggressive, or drunk, you will sit next to the most innocent looking person on the tram and start to harass them.

3) If it is earlier then 10:00 am, you assume a glazed zombie look in your eyes and a severe frown.

4) If you are over the age of 60, please follow rule #3. Also, mumbling about “degenerate youths” and “foreigners” is acceptable.

6) If you are a university student, you must be reading something serious and look annoyed.

7) There is no smiling unless you are drunk, or under the age of 18.

8 ) If you are a tourist, you look around suspiciously whilst trying to ride the streetcar illegally. Inevitably, you will be caught and resort to your native tongue pleading that you are a tourist. This does not work.

9) If you are a ticket checker, you have a sadistic pleasure in demanding fines from tourists because this of course promotes the tourist industry in your wonderful city.

10) If you are a tram driver, you look to stop and start at unexpected times to make people fall over. Also, you never wait for a person running to catch the streetcar. Instead you wait until are an arms length away, and you close the door. You will then smile and wave while the helpless victim misses their 100 euro train ride and flight.

11) If you are under the age of 6, you must scream for as long as you can.

12) If you are sick, you will sneeze and cough on everyone within a 10 foot radius.

These are some rules for riding a streetcar in Germany.

Know of any others?

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How to get a visa in Germany if you’re an American

Dealing with German bureaucracy may be one of the most daunting things a person can face. It may be worse than sitting through Gigli and Glitter back to back. Many people in the face of it, run away and give up. I honestly don’t blame them. After spending a few years in Germany, I’ve experienced the worst of it. So, here is some advice and tips on how to move to Germany temporarily and get a visa to stay on for a longer, and maybe even make a bit of money in the process.

  • The first thing you should know is that your Tourist visa (that stamp they put in your passport) will last you for up to 3 months from your arrival. You are not allowed to work, but it’s a good basis to get your feet on the ground and get settled.
  • An easy way to get a visa is a student Visa. You can apply to a University, see if your school has an exchange program, or apply for a scholarship. P.A.D. has some where you can work as an english teaching assistant in a school, Fulbright has many programs, and the DAAD in Germany has some scholarships. To obtain a visa you’ll need proof that you’ll be able to support yourself (a notarized letter from a parent or someone saying they can support you financially… I think the number is about 800 euros a month that is required), A bank statement showing you have the money, or proof of an income or scholarship. You will also need to register with the city (anmeldung) by the Rathaus in your Town or City. You’ll need to get an address to do this, and most likely a bank account. You will also need proof of insurance, and a passport picture where you aren’t smiling (I know.. it’s messed up).
  • All of these things will take about a day or half day to do since you’ll be waiting in line or talking to bureaucrats. The order which you probably want to do this is 1) proof of income, get passport pictures 2) proof of insurance 3) find residence 4) Open a bank account 5) Anmeldung (or registration with the city) 6) Go to the foreigners office in your city or district and apply for a visa
  • Tips for a student visa – Get a student ID asap. It’ll give you numerous benefits within Germany. Including a discount in a Bahncard 25, or 50, which gives you a huge price savings when traveling by train. You are allowed to work part time with the student visa. Ask them at the office how long you’re allowed to work. I think it’s something like 180 days in the year part time.
  • To get a work visa. The easiest way will be to get sponsored by any company. You’ll have to go through all of the same steps as the student visa except you won’t need a proof of income since you’ll be (presumably) making money to support yourself. The easiest way to get a work contract is to apply for a Sprachschule. This is a private language school. What to do is type “sprachschule city or town” into google. Then look at the company listings. Spam these listings with your resume and you should get a decent amount of responses. Most of these schools look for some kind of teaching experience or certification, but you can usually find something somewhere since English teaching is pretty sought after. Once you get a contract from a school. Bring it to the foreigners office and you’ll be set.
  • Tip for all visas: Bring all of your papers with you wherever you go and about 5 copies. It may seem excessive, but if you don’t have the right papers or documents and certain copies they’ll make you come back and start all over. This can take a lot of time.

Living and working in Germany is a cool experience once you’re beyond the bureaucratic stuff. I hope this helps.

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Just another one to add to my list

So I was in the supermarket (Rewe) today picking up some necessities like a package of ham, a bottle of soda and a 5 liter mini keg of Beer (of course) among other things.  That was all fine and good but this story took a turn for the worse with regards to my self esteem during the transaction with the cashier.

So I come to the point in time where I have to make one of the more difficult decisions that one has to make in a day and that of course is which checkout line to go through. On this particular occasion there were only 2 options. These 2 possibilities included a line with an older  cashier who was having some difficulties with the customer in her line and she had to call over a fellow employee (the guy probably forgot to weigh his fruit and as we all know German’s HATE when someone forgets to weigh their fruit). The other alternative was an attractive young lady of about 21 or 22 years old whose line seemed to be moving quite smoothly.

This decision was remarkably easy. I  began laying my groceries onto the belt and waited a short minute until it was my turn to check out. As the young lady was scanning my gorceries she came to the dreaded 5 liter keg of beer and gave me a quick glance.

Now before I go any further I thought I would clarify a few things.

1.) I’m living in Germany right now

2.) The drinking age for beer in Germany is 16 (though it’s not even very strongly enforced considering it’s part of the culture)

Back to the story…. What happened next caught me completely off guard. She said in a very polite way ‘Ausweis” which means ID. Feeling a bit discombobulated, I asked her to repeat. Again, she asked me if she could see my ID. (Now I have been living in Germany for a year and NOONE has ever asked me to present my ID). I quickly started searching through my wallet to find my New York State drivers license. I handed it to her and you could tell that she had probably never seen such an ID before and she looked at it for some time until the realization struck that I was 25 years old (9 years older than the drinking age). In a very embarassed voice she said in English, “oops sorry” and handed me back my ID. At this point my self – esteem was already lower than Bush’s approval rating in 2008. I just said “no problem” paid, took my groceries and left the supermarket as quick as possible with tears streaming down my face and a slight sniffle. Thats actually a bit exaggerated, the tears weren’t really streaming down but only trickling.

On the bright side, the next time I go in there I probably won’t have to go through such a traumatic experience considering my face is probably burned into her mind now.

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Cash or Credit?

I’m experiencing a problem here in Germany.

They hate anyone who pays with plastic. For an American this is like eating spaghetti with your hands. Using a credit or debit card (responsibly) just makes sense. It’s a lot easier and it saves a crap load of time.

If you attempt to pay for something with a credit card the most common response you’ll get is a scoff and then a scold saying, “we don’t take that here”. Although in German it’s a lot less polite.

To make matters worse, they also get extremely offended by very small change or large bills. So, if one doesn’t have anything between 1 euro or 20 euros, then one is up the figurative shit river without a paddle.

You’ll hand them your card and then they’ll get pissed and outright refuse. Then you hand them the 50 euros the ATM automatically gives you and they’ll at first refuse to break it. Saying, “I can’t break that”, or “Fuck you”.  As you plead your case they finally concede to taking your legal tender, and open their drawer which you notice is stuffed full of 5’s, 10’s, and 20’s since it is clearly the only thing they like using.

I really can’t explain their irrational hatred for large bills or credit cards, or why they get so upset about breaking larger bills. If anyone has any insights about this, I would love to hear about it.

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Revenge of Canada

I think I’ve figured out why American tourists have such a bad stereotype abroad. In case you didn’t know what foreigners think of Americans, they think we’re loud, get drunk often, are generally unhealthy, and stupid. Not exactly the qualities you want a person to associate with you immediately.

A few years ago I was studying abroad in Heidelberg, when one of my Canadian friends told me a peculiar story that got me thinking. He told me how he had visited Venice and went to the Venetian Opera. Within a matter of minutes he and his girlfriend had managed to pick a fight with some old people right in front of them. One thing led to another, and soon enough they were dragging my friend, kicking and screaming, out of the opera house.

What he was screaming though was, “get your hands off of me I’m American. I’m from Texas!” He also threw an “eh” on the end there. Unfortunately, no one there recognized this. Instead they all averted eye contact and in low voices acknowledged how another “dumb American tourist” had tainted their experience.

I don’t know why but this irked me, and also led me to start creating a conspiracy. You know how they always tell Americans to say that they’re Canadian when they’re abroad? I’m pretty sure this is some evil P.R. campaign started by the Canadians. Every time an American tourist wants to give a good impression they’re Canadian, but whenever something bad happens the Canadian becomes and American and the American just stays the same. This was all wrong to me. So, I decided to start a campaign of my own, to even things out a bit. Now I know all the Canadians out there are going to deny this, but when you ask them face to face, you’ll see that moment of guilt in their eyes. They’ll take a sip of their Molson and try to steer the conversation toward hockey, poutine, or maple syrup. But you’ll know I’m right.

I get bored very easily. This is bad because I then tend to do things I shouldn’t. I’ve also been wanting to practice my German recently. So, what better place to start my campaign than in at tourist information booths. This is the place that handles all the foriegners. The people who work at these places are paid to look happy, but deep down you know that they want to smack you upside the head if you ask them anything. They have very short nerves, but they also have an innate urge to help people, especially when it comes to directions. I guess it’s not very nice to mess with them, but the way I see it, it’s for the greater good.

So, I’ve been going to every information place I can find and asking for a map and directions to random locations. I also stress that I’m from Canada like they always tell us to do. They’ll then seem to cheer up immediatly and try to tell me the directions. I’ll act very confused and point at the map. They smile and tell me, “no, it’s over there.” I’ll still act confused. Their smile will turn to a frown. They’ll tell me to walk in that direction. I’ll start to walk and they’ll still be watching me from the window. I’ll stop at a random place look at the map and stare back at the window with a sad and perplexed look, and just when the come out to help me I’ll bolt down some random alley singing “O Canada”.

I’ve also tested a different method out at the library. In Germany, bringing a bag of any sort into a library is the equivalent of wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt to a church. They just don’t allow it, and they have an “information booth”, or as I say “armed sentry”, at the entrance to remind you of this. I decided to test them out. I didn’t want to use one of the lockers. I just wanted to go upstairs and read, and not worry about locking and unlocking my stuff.

So, I decided to walk straight through, ignoring this irrevelant step. I gave a friendly wave to the man behind the desk who hadn’t noticed my bag yet because I hadn’t turned the corner. I then quickly turned and started a brisk jog.

I heard some yelling in German behind me and pretend not to listen or care. About ten paces later, the info desk guy was grasping my arm and pointing at my bag panting and waving a Dewey decimal card at my eye. He I told him that I was a Canadian student here and I just wanted to use the library. He gave me a foul look pointed at my Obama button and handed me a key to the locker. FOILED! I scuffed guiltily to the locker and came back. He explained to me how he had studied abroad in Canada.

I think he was an undercover Mountie who’d been sent to stop my antics so their p.r. campaign could continue.

I’ll have to change my tactics; I will break these stereotypes and reveal this conspiracy.

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Apple Pie

Taking trips to England with a group of Germans is an interesting experience. For one, it made me realize that no one really has a desire to learn the others language. The entire trip all I heard and spoke was German, except for a few random times when I wandered off by myself. I suppose this is understandable. People are afraid to make mistakes and cause confusion. But one of the few times a person is forced to use another language, when in a foreign culture, is when you order food.

After a 20 hour bus ride from Germany to England, we pulled into a McDonalds to get the full British cuisine experience. The students acted like they had never seen one before and exclaimed,

“Oh, McDonalds, yum!”.

The students happily ran to the Mcdonalds because they spent the whole bus ride expressing their fear about how awful the British food was, while eating cold wursts out of plastic packaging.

We all scampered out of the bus and hobbled over to the McDonalds. It was about 6 am and they had two people working there; for some reason they were both very happy. I, for one, would not be happy if fifty sixteen-year-old germans stampeded me at my usually calm 6 am shift at McDonalds. I placed my order with my sweet American accent, which fortunately the Brits understood, and then stepped back to observe the sure-to-be-humor whilst sipping on my coffee and eating my bagel.

The first few students made it through with honors, but then two girls stepped up the counter. They whispered to each other and pointed at the menu. They then asked the overly-happy, and soon to be confused teller,

“Could we have some apple pee please?”

I snarfed up some coffee, while a look of horror slowly swept across the once happy face of the teller. The girls didn’t realize anything and congratulated one another on their perfect English. The teller gave a slow response,

“What?”

The girls then became flustered and repeated their question one more time, but louder and slower.

“Aaaaa-pple Peeeeeeeee” and pointed once again at the menu.

For those of you who don’t speak German, they pronounce “ie” as if it were a long “e”. After a few minutes the employee realized this the blunder and was saved from urinating into a cup.

I don’t want to think about the many times I’ve tried speaking German and have seen that same look of horror sweep across a random persons’ face. There will be many more times I’m sure.

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