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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Finding an Apartment in Germany

Marco and I will get the keys to our new apartment tomorrow, October 31st! So before the craziness of moving and unpacking and organizing and decorating begins, I will take this moment to describe what it was like finding an apartment in Germany. Here are some aspects of the apartment hunt I experienced in Germany, how they compare to finding an apartment in the U.S., and which country makes it easier.

Searching for an Apartment Online

✓ Germany

Marco and I mostly searched for apartments in the Internet. By far the largest database of apartments is on Immobilien Scout 24. The apartments on the website are a mix of one submitted by real estate companies and private apartments listed by the owners themselves. We did also look in the local paper, but we didn't have much success there. In the end, the apartment we got was found on Immobilien Scout 24.

Searching for Apartments in Germany Online with Immobilien Scout 24

✗ U.S.
I would say this experience was definitely similar to searching on Craigslist for my apartments in Chicago. Of course Craigslist is terribly organized and makes you feel slightly uncomfortable when you have to call someone off of it. As far as I know, however, there is no other Internet database in the U.S. where a lot of landlords are listing their available apartments.

Searching for an apartment in Chicago on Craigslist

Rent Prices

✓ Germany & U.S.
The cost of living in Germany is very comparable to the U.S. In fact, rent prices are an average of 10% lower than in the U.S., but consumer prices are an average of 15% higher. So the Germans get to pay a little less in rent, but they need more money to spend on their utilities, groceries, and other necessities. Of course, these are just averages. Both Germany and the U.S. have cities where rent is ridiculously high (New York and Munich, for example), and cities where the rent is relatively low (Texas and Eastern Germany). For me and Marco's one bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Hamburg, however, I think we are paying a very similar amount to what we would pay if we were living in a one bedroom apartment in the Chicago suburbs.

Realty Agency Fees

✗ Germany
I was shocked the first time Marco told me about "provision." Here is how I understand it: Landlord has an empty apartment. He tells a realty agency to find him a tenant. The realty agency finds a tenant, gets them to sign the lease, and then charges them a "provision" -- this is basically the fee for the realty agency to do what they did. Okay, what is it a couple hundred bucks? No. The provision is typically 2.38 times the monthly rent! What?! Thank goodness me and Marco were able to snatch up one of the few apartments that didn't charge this ridiculous fee.

✓ U.S.
Although I have never used an agency to find an apartment in the U.S., many friends of mine have. They did not pay the realty company. Rather, the landlord pays the realty company. After all, the realty company is doing a service for the landlord, not the tenants. Yeah, the U.S. is definitely better here.

So those are some of the things I have noticed while looking for an apartment in Germany. Moving to Germany has been quite a long process for me, and finally moving into my own apartment tomorrow will be a big step.

Should I make an apartment tour video next? Or is there anything else you would like to know about moving to Germany or finding an apartment in Germany? Let me know!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to Make Wurstsalat #2

Marco and I decided to try making Wurstsalat again. This time, however, we had to do it without the pre-sliced Lyoner that we picked up last time in Southern Germany. Instead, we got Fleischwurst. I did some research to figure out the difference between Fleischwurst and Lyoner, and here is what I found:
Fleischwurst, known as German Bologna outside of Germany, differs from traditional bologna due to various seasonings, most typically from garlic being added to the recipe. Other varieties, such as the French variation "Saucisse de Lyon," which is known as Lyoner in Germany and Switzerland, usually do not contain a noticeable amount of garlic like Fleischwurst does, and they are also typically an off-white color, as they do not contain nitrates (which give cooked pork its pink color).
So basically this one has a garlic flavor and is packed with nitrates. Delicious. The Fleischwurst came packaged in a plastic casing and was about two inches in diameter. So I had to cut it into thin strips for the Wurstsalat.

Slicing Fleischwurst for Wurstsalat

Then I also sliced a small onion, some Emmentaler cheese, and pickles. If you compare this with our Wurstsalat last time, you can see that the new ingredient is tomatoes. This was a special request by Marco.

Ingredients for Wurstsalat: onions, cheese, pickles, and tomatoes

Like last time, Marco was also in charge of seasonings. He added some olive oil, salad seasoning, salt, pepper, pickle juice, and paprika. He may have been a little too heavy-handed with the paprika, because all of the ingredients turned slightly orange. However, it was delicous. Marco said he though it was a lot better than last time, which makes me happy! 

The finished second attempt at making traditional German wurstsalt.

So my second attempt at mastering the German kitchen and making one of my German boyfriend's favorite dishes was a success! I guess I should probably start to branch off into other tradtional German dishes, however.

What do you think I should try next? Maybe some home-made sauerkraut? (yuck!)

This post is featured on the Young Germany Expat Bloggers Blog Hop.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Moldy Salami

There is nothing that makes me happier to be living in Germany than the moldy salami (sorry, Marco). This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but when I was back in the U.S., people would often ask me, "Courtney, what do you miss most about Germany?"

After contemplating this question for a few days, I came to always respond, "The moldy salami."

While I am sure this kind of meat does exist in some kind of specialty meat shop somewhere in the U.S., it certainly isn't readily available at the local grocery store.

During the few trips to the grocery store where I decided to try to look for this delicious hunk of sausage, my parents could never quite understand what it was I wanted. So I give you moldy salami:

German pork sausage

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Birthday, Marco!

I love you so much, and I am looking forward to all of the happy birthdays to come.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Addiction: Nutella and Peanut Butter

It's been rainy in L√ľneburg lately, and as I have sat inside working on my computer, I have developed a new addition: peanut butter and Nutella.

Well, as you can see from the picture I don't actually have Nutella, but rather the store brand "schoko-creme". This is basically Nutella and a milk creme swirled together (really delicious).

Also, you can see that Germany doesn't really do peanut butter. It is typically marketed as "American food", which you can see by the American flag on the jar and the fact that it is in English.

So basically, I just dip my spoon into each of the jars, and it comes out like this.

Looks amazing, right? 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My German Language Course Visa

About 3 weeks after I applied for my language course visa (Sprachkursvisum), I got a letter in the mail that I can pick it up at the registration office. I think it looks really cool. Notice how they even put a hologram of my face on it?

Since my visa is valid for over 6 months, I have to carry the plastic ID card, the paper stating what my visa allows me to do (Zusatzblatt), and my passport. I understand why most people opt to get the sticker in their passport instead, but since my visa is for 6 months+, I had to get the eAT (electronic residence permit).

My Zusatzblatt states the following information about my language course visa:

  • This visa is only valid as long as I am enrolled in the language course I specified upon application
  • I can work up to 120 days/240 half-days per calendar year

Finally all my worrying about visa stuff is over with. Well, at least for 6 months...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My First Time Making Wurstsalat

One of Marco's favorite meals and a common dish in Southern Germany is Wurstsalat. This translates to sausage salad. Sounds great, right? Well, if you aren't a meat-lover, you will probably not find this recipe or these pictures very appetizing. I have grown to love this dish, though. So while we were visiting Marco's family, we picked up some pre-sliced meat to make Wurstsalat when we got back home.

Turkey Lyoner for Wurstsalat

Wurstsalat is usually made with a type of bologna known as Lyoner. We purchased turkey Lyoner.

I then began thinly slicing a block of Emmentaler (Swiss cheese). When Wurstsalat is made with cheese, it is called Schweizer Wurstsalat (Swiss sausage salad -- yumm!).

The other ingredients for a traditional Wurstsalat are onion and pickles. So I also thinly sliced one medium-sized onion and about six little pickles. You can see all the ingredients that were added to the meat here.

We then mixed this altogether in a large bowl with a little olive oil, salad seasoning, pickle juice, and water. Usually people use vinegar, but we didn't have any, so we improvised. I know this may not look that appealing to the masses, but it was very delicious. I will be posting updates when I try to recreate this dish with meat I find at grocery stores up here in the north.


Have you ever had Wurstsalat? Is there something similar to this food in other cultures?

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