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Thursday, September 22, 2016

How We Met (His Side)

My German fiancé and I met five years ago in September of 2011 during my study abroad trip to Germany. Last week, I told my side of the story. As promised, this week is Marco's turn.

Without further ado, here is Marco's side of the story, written by the man himself:

The night I met Courtney started when I went to watch soccer at a sports bar with a few of my coworkers. VfB Stuttgart was playing SC Freiburg. I just looked it up online, and it looks like Stuttgart won (although I don’t actually remember the game).

After the game, we went back to my friend Jakob’s apartment for some drinks. Unmistakably loud party noises were coming from the parking lot behind my friend’s apartment building. We looked out the window and saw a crowd of American exchange students hanging out in the parking lot, playing beer pong and enjoying the freedom to drink in public. It looked like fun, so we decided to join their party.

When we went down to the parking lot, I was standing next to the beer pong table and of course I immediately noticed the pretty girl with the incredible beer pong skills. After a while, she asked me to be her teammate for the next round.

I don’t remember everything about the party, but I do remember Courtney getting the hiccups. Someone told her that you can get rid of them by doing a handstand, so I held her feet while she did a handstand against a wall.

Later, we went to an Irish pub. We had to walk through the city to get there, and Courtney offered to give me a piggyback ride. I was impressed that she was able to do it. I also carried her for a little while.

After leaving the bar, I walked her to her apartment, which was in the same building that Jakob lived in. When we got to the building, I asked for her number. She gave it to me, and I texted her the next morning – but I didn’t get an answer for a week!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Our 5th Anniversary | How We Met (Her Side)

I met my German fiancé five years ago, in September of 2011. In those five years, we survived a long distance relationship, moved in together, got engaged, and are now planning our wedding! The one thing that I have never talked about on this blog, though, is how we met.

Today, I will share my side of the story. Then, if you come back next week, you can read Marco's side. 

I came to Germany for a semester-long study abroad program on August 30, 2011. Although I was at a German university, all of the Americans took classes together. So, I spent all my free time with my fellow American study abroad students too.

As you can imagine, much of those first weeks in Germany revolved around partying. A few other American students and I lived in a residence hall near the city center, and there was a big parking lot in the back. So, on one particular Friday night, one of the students took his closet door off its hinges, set it up outside on some cases of beer, and we started playing beer pong. Below is a picture from early on that night. Yeah....

That's me on the left (i.e. the only girl in the picture)

The Germans are fascinated with red solo cups, as they don't really exist in Europe outside of Hollywood college movies. So, this party was basically a magnet for any German college students passing by. And Marco was one of those Germans that happened to pass by.

A new game of beer pong was starting, and I was standing at my side of the table alone. I turned around, saw Marco, pointed at him, and yelled, "You're on my team!"

So, we started playing beer pong. I don't remember much of the game. The only part of our conversation I can remember is when I said to him, "Guess where I am from!" To which he replied, "Chicago!" And I totally flipped out at the fact that he guessed right.

A little while later, we all decided to go to the local Irish pub that us study abroad students frequented. Marco came with, but I don't remember paying much attention to him at the bar. However, I do remember walking with him on the way back to the residence hall at the end of the night.

Our conversation mostly revolved around the word Einhörnchen, until I asked him what his last name was. "It's the German word meaning 'rich,'" he replied. My German was so bad at the time, I honestly did not know what the German word for "rich" was. So, he told me I'd just have to look it up later.

Once we were back at my dorm, he asked to exchange phone numbers. We did. I think he even texted me that night to let me know he got home safely. I had a prepay phone, and I didn't know how/where to buy more credit, so I didn't reply until over a week later... Oops!

Make sure to check back in next week to hear Marco's side of the story!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Getting Married in Germany: Costs and Fees for Foreigners

How much does it cost for a foreigner to get married in Germany?

I searched this exact question quite a lot after my German fiancé popped the question back in November. And although this question depends on your citizenship and the German city you are in, I still struggled to find any answers.

So, now that I have registered my marriage and payed all the fees, I will tell you how much it cost for me, a US-American, to marry a German in Germany.

Here is a breakdown of all the necessary costs and fees my fiancé and I had to pay in order to legally register our marriage at the German registry office (Standesamt):

1. Document Fees: 78€
As a US-American, I needed a new copy of my birth certificate with apostille. This cost about $25, and getting them mailed to Germany via certified mail was $30.

My German fiancé needed a new copy of his birth registration (Abschrift aus dem Geburtenregister), which cost 12€.

We also each had to get new copies of our registration certificates from the city (Meldebescheinigung), which cost 9€ each.

2. Translation of Documents: 50€
My birth certificate had to be translated by a certified translator in Germany. Although it was just a single sheet of paper with about 50 words on it, it still cost 50€. Note that translations cost exponentially more if there are more lines/words on your birth certificate or if you have to get additional documents translated.

3. Registration Fee: 80€
This is the normal marriage registration fee that the registry office charges every couple. In my city, the fee for two German citizens to marry is 40€, and a marriage with at least one foreign citizen is 80€. Don't ask why, it will just make you crazy.

Documents required to marry in Germany

4. Oath of No Impediment: 25€
The Germans have this thing called an Ehefähigkeitszeugnis (certificate of no impediment to marriage). If that doesn't exist in the country you are from, you need to take an oath that you are able to get married. Since the U.S. doesn't issue such documents, I had to take an oath at the registry office, which cost 25€.

If you are really unlucky, your Standesamt may require you to take this oath at your country's consulate. This costs more, and you will have to travel to the consulate (for Americans, this means Bremen, Frankfurt, or Berlin). Luckily, I didn't have to do this.

5. Court Fee: 95€
After all the documents are turned in and the forms are signed, everything gets sent to the higher regional court (Oberlandesgericht) for approval. The fee for this is calculated according to your salary, and (according to our registry office) can be up to 500€.

My fiancé turned in his most recent pay stub (he works full-time at a public university, so you can probably guess his salary by looking up wages online if you really want), and since I am a student (and had no job nor scholarship at the time of registration), I just turned in proof of my full-time university enrollment.

Luckily (hahahah), we don't make very much money collectively, so we didn't come close to the maximum possible fee. Rather, we were pleasantly surprised when it was only 91€. We also had to pay 4€ in postage fees.

Total: 328€

There you have it. In total, my German fiancé and I have paid 328€ in order to legally marry in Germany. If I were German, it would have only been about 60€, but it is what it is.

For more information on the marriage process in Germany, check out the following posts:
- Required documents for getting married in Germany
- Registering a marriage in Germany

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Favorites

Seeing as its the last day of August, I figured I would try something new as I reflect on the month: share all of my favorite things from August with you!

This month I spent a lot of time stressing over paperwork and applications, then attempting to de-stress every evening in front of the TV. So, I have a mix of things I discovered and rediscovered over the past few weeks that all basically belong to the genre of "sit on the couch and eat junk food." Enjoy!

Movie: Victoria

I watched this movie on a whim one evening while browsing Netflix without knowing what it was about. So, I was pretty confused when the actors were speaking both English and German, and I actually paused the movie to look up some information about it before continuing. But after seeing that it has amazing reviews, I kept watching. And I am glad I did!

Victoria was shot in one-take, which is quite impressive to begin with, but it also has really compelling plot and interesting characters that immerse you in the story. Victoria is especially interesting for bilingual German/English speakers because both languages are spoken throughout the film.

The story is about a Spanish woman, Victoria, who lives in Berlin and meets three German men while out partying one night. The next two hours are about how their night of partying turns into a bank robbery. For any foreigners that have spent a night partying in Germany, the beginning scenes where the German men are trying to talk to Victoria in English may give you flashbacks (but hopefully you have never experienced anything like what happens in the second half). I also watched this movie right before bed, but it left me feeling pretty shaken and it was hard to go to sleep. So, I wouldn't recommend doing that.

TV Show: Chef's Table

Chef's Table is a documentary series produced by Netflix, with each episode telling the story of a world-renowned chef. Marco and I like to watch this while eating (although it usually makes us feel kind of bad about the crap we are eating compared to the amazing dishes we are seeing), but the show is very interesting, and I think the stories of the chefs are incredibly inspiring. I highly suggest it as a dinner show if you have the horrible habit of watching TV while eating dinner like we do.

Song: Oft Gefragt by AnnenMayKantereit

This song was played pretty often by German radio stations a few months ago, but I still really like it and started listening to it again recently. It's a love song for the singer's father, which is enough to make anyone feel a little homesick.

Ich hab keine Heimat, ich hab nur dich
Du bist Zuhause für immer und mich

Food: K-Classic Cookie Dough Ice Cream

I ate mine before I thought to take a picture :/ 

You guys! I found a cookie dough ice cream that's not Ben & Jerry's (so expensive!) and is available year-round (not just during "American week")! Kaufland's house brand, K-Classic, has this cookie dough ice cream for just 2.50€, which is less than half of the price of Ben & Jerry's. I was also very surprised with the amount of cookie dough in the ice cream. I know most people reading this probably think I am crazy, so I will end this rant about cookie dough ice cream by just saying that I highly suggest it for my fellow cookie dough-loving Americans in Germany.

Recipes: Einfach Tasty

If you have Facebook, then you have definitely seen those short recipe videos from Tasty. Well, I just recently realized there is a German version: Einfach Tasty. If you live in Germany, these are nice because you will no longer see ridiculous recipe videos with ingredients that you would never be able to find in normal grocery stores.

Here is one that Marco and I recently tried out:

Dieses Hasselback Hühnchen kann wirklich jeder zubereiten!
Posted by Einfach Tasty on Monday, August 22, 2016

What are some of your favorite things from August?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Getting Married in Germany: Wedding Planning, Pt. 1

Neither my German fiancé nor I have ever really cared much for weddings. So, for the first six months of our engagement we never really talked about our wedding at all.

Planning a wedding in Germany

Now don't get me wrong. Both Marco and I have a great respect for marriage, which is why we are getting married. We also love seeing people that we love get married. But all the wedding hoopla? Eh. Not for us.

Since we registered our marriage at the beginning of August, however, we have had to dive right into wedding planning. And with both of our laid-back attitudes about the whole thing, I have been pleasantly surprised with how smoothly it's all going. Here is everything we have gotten done so far:

The local German registry office let us reserve a date for our civil ceremony already (even though our application is still sitting at the regional court and could be rejected). But assuming that doesn't happen, we are getting married on December 30th!

Ceremony Location
Our local registry office has five locations throughout the city for civil ceremonies. They are all located in beautiful and historic buildings, but one definitely stood out to us from the rest: the water tower. The Lüneburg Water Tower was built in 1905, but hasn't actually served as a water tower since the 1980s. Now it is a museum and viewing platform of the city.

Here are some images of wedding ceremonies held inside the water tower:

After the ceremony, we can roam the water tower and take pictures. Here some pictures from inside the water tower and on the platform:


Wedding Dress
My dress is actually the very first wedding-related thing we got. I knew I wanted to go wedding dress shopping with my mom, and the last time I would see my mom before the wedding was when I was in New York in July. So, my mother and I went to a wedding dress shop one day and walked out 30 minutes later with my dress. Best of all, the dress fits perfectly, and I only need the bottom hemmed.

Over the past couple weeks, I have also purchased shoes and a stole. So, my outfit is almost complete!

We need to send out about 40 invitations. Exactly half of the recipients speak English and the other half speak German. So, the standard wedding invitation templates were not going to work for us. We were also horrified with the prices at most wedding invitation websites. So, I decided I would design our invitations myself and order them through Vistaprint.

I am no graphic designer, but I am still happy with the result. I added the Lüneburg skyline at the bottom, with a heart marking where our wedding ceremony will take place. Our invitations are personal to us, and nobody else has one like it!

(the details are written on the back in English & German)

Reception Location
After setting our date and choosing our ceremony location, the next step was to pick a location for the reception. Knowing our wedding would be small (>30 guests) and knowing we didn't want to waste spend a lot of money, we kind of figured that we would just end up booking a private room in the back of a restaurant somewhere. So, we started doing some internet research to figure out what restaurants in our city offered appropriately-sized rooms.

What we didn't expect is that the famous hotel in our city (famous among German women over 60 for its prominence on a German soap opera) would have several awesome venues for us to choose from, and that their wedding packages are very reasonably priced!

Ultimately, we chose the Mühlensaal (mill hall), which is in the city's old mill. Today, the building is known as the Lüner Mühle (Lüne mill), but a document from 1391 refers to the building as the Klostermühle (monastery mill), as it was originally owned by the monastery.

How many Americans can say they had their wedding reception in a building built in the 14th century?!

In the picture below, you can see me standing in front of the building. The entire second floor of the building is the reception hall - below is a restaurant and above are hotel rooms.

And here is a view of the building from the other side. As you can see, the building hangs quite precariously over the water, which means there are some great views from inside the reception hall.

That's the status of our wedding planning for now! Up next on our list of things to do: hire a photographer, pick out Marco's suit, get wedding rings, and get my dress altered. I'll check in again next month!
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