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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Day of German Bureaucracy

After finally receiving confirmation that I can pick up my student visa this past Saturday, I knew I would have a full day of dealing with German bureaucracy on Monday. So, I decided to document my morning in photos to give you all a peek behind the curtain of expat life in Germany.

7:30 a.m.



My alarm goes off, and I start getting ready. Okay, I may have actually laid in bed until 7:38 and then started getting ready.


9:00 a.m.




I leave the apartment to head to the Bürgeramt, where my visa should be waiting for me. Marco kindly offers to drive me (otherwise I would have walked, which takes about 30 minutes).



9:15 a.m.



I take a ticket and notice that my number is next to be called, which makes sense since there was only one person in the waiting room. So, after waiting about three minutes, my number comes up, and the woman stamps my student application visa ungültig (invalid) and gives me my new student visa.


9:30 a.m.


Excuse my chipped nail polish.

I go back to the car where Marco is waiting for me, and we drive back home with my new visa in hand.


10:00 a.m.



Now I walk to the university to show student services my new visa. Right now, I only have a temporary student ID that expires on October 14th. They said I should receive my new ID in the mail.

Trying to kill two birds with one stone, I also asked if they could sign my paperwork for deferring my student loans. They said I have to come back on a Thursday between 10 and 12 to be able to speak to the correct person (you see what I am dealing with?!).


10:20 a.m.



After receiving a job offer from the university last week, I am also in the middle of trying to sort out all of the paperwork so that my work contract can start on October 1st. So, I have to head to the personnel service next to talk to the people there.

I hand over five different signed documents, but of course I was still missing a few. Don't worry, though, they say that they will start writing the contract with what they already have. I also give them a copy of my college transcripts, student visa, student ID (remember I only have the temporary one, so I have to come back with my new one as soon as I get it), and proof of health insurance. Whew! They also said I need a Sozialversicherungsausweis, which is kind of like a social security card. We will see how many hoops I have to jump through to get that...


10:45 a.m.



I head to my place of (future) employment to tell them that everything is looking good with my new contract. Germans are sometimes weary about hiring foreigners due to all the headaches associated with it, but I am lucky to have found a great new place to work as I get my Master's degree.


11:00 a.m.



I finally get home after a very long two hours. Here is my bag (from my awesome cousin Jannette) that I carried around all day filled with my paperwork and some snacks.

So, here is a run down of what happened today and what is still left to do.

What I accomplished:
  • Got my student visa
  • Requested my non-temporary student ID
  • Got the ball rolling for my new work contract

What I still have to do:
  • Get non-temporary student ID
  • Sign work contract
  • Defer student loans
  • Get a Sozialversicherungsausweis

Anyone else dealing with crazy bureaucracy like me, I wish you the best of luck!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wet Dreams | Mistranslation Monday

Ever since moving to Germany, I love flipping through the weekly ads that come in the mail. Recently, we received a large advertisement from Hornbach, which is a large home improvement store. On the second page of the pamphlet, I saw this:


Not thinking before speaking, I said to the German boyfriend, "Feuchttraum?!" Is that the name of this light? That sounds awfully inappropriate!"

Confused, Marco came over to look at the ad and replied, "It says Feuchtraum, not Feuchttraum."

"Oh..."

The advertisement is for a moisture-proof light that is meant for use in a room with high humidity. Feuchtraum is a compound word made up of:

Feucht = damp
Raum = room

Instead of seeing the words feucht and raum, however, I saw:

Feucht = damp
Traum = dream

You can probably piece together why I was so shocked to see that word in a home improvement store's advertisements...

Before anyone says it, I have since learned that the proper word for a wet dream is feuchter Traum, but it is not unreasonable to assume that the Germans would make a compound word for such a thing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Celebrating Oktoberfest in Germany

Since I already visited Munich in July this year, I knew I would not be making it down for Oktoberfest. Luckily, Lüneburg hosts an Oktoberfest of their own each year.

Löwenbrau Beer Tent

After receiving a Dirndl last year from Marco's father and his girlfriend for Christmas, I was excited to finally have a chance to wear it out for the first time. Unfortunately, Marco does not own any Lederhosen. However, he did wear a checkered collared shirt, which is what men traditionally wear with their Lederhosen.

Wearing a Dirndl at the Lüneburg Oktoberfest

For one weekend each September, Lüneburg holds a proper Bavarian Oktoberfest on the city's main fair grounds, known as the Sülzwiesen. The fest includes a beer tent with enough seating for 2,000 people.

Second stage at the Lüneburg Oktoberfest

To be completely honest, I did not see much of the fairgrounds at all, with the exception of a few rides and food stalls that I walked by as I headed to the beer tent. My friends and I went around 9 p.m. on Saturday evening, so the tent was already at capacity when we arrived. Luckily, we only had to wait about five minutes until we were let in.

Inside the tent, there were two stages. The main stage (pictured below) had a traditional German band from Franconia (Franken), which is a region within Bavaria. The other stage (pictured above) had a cover band that played a mixture of classic rock and modern pop songs.

Band from Franken at the Lüneburg Oktoberfest

Only in Germany do bands have cup holders that can hold a Maß of beer attached to their microphone stands.

Main stage at the Lüneburg Oktoberfest

Overall, I had a really great time at the Lüneburg Oktoberfest and cannot remember why Marco and I took this picture towards the end of the night...

Fun at Lüneburg Oktoberfest

With hundreds of Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the U.S. and Germany, you definitely do not have to be in Munich to have a great time at Oktoberfest. So, why question for you is:

Have you ever been to an Oktoberfest? Where was it?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Netflix is Coming to Germany!

As an American expat living in Germany, I love streaming my favorite American TV shows and movies online. Unlike everyone in US, however, I do not do this via Netflix. That is, until now.

Netflix is coming to Germany!

Netflix has been talking about entering the German market for quite some time, with news sources discussing how difficult it will be for a new streaming platform to be accepted here. That isn't going to stop the American company from giving it the old college try, however, as they are set to launch on September 16.

As of today, if you go to netflix.de, you simply see a screen that says the service will be available soon, allowing you to enter your email address so that you will be notified when it is released. Although, it has been reported that those subscribed to Netflix in the U.S. can already access Netflix-Deutschland.

Signing up for Netflix Germany

The biggest issue I have with other steaming platforms in Germany such as Amazon Prime Instant Video is that they only make the German-dubbed versions of English-language movies and TV series available to customers based in Germany.

According to those that were already able to access Netflix-Deutschland, customers are able to chose between original or German language. Hearing that alone makes me excited to sign up as soon as September 16th rolls around.

What online streaming platform do you use?


Monday, September 8, 2014

Top 5 European Cities to Visit Next

During my time abroad, I have been very fortunate to see some truly beautiful cities. But at the same time, there are still so many places left to go. For instance, I have only visited 5 of what the Huffington Post listed as the top 50 cities to see in your lifetime.

Red=Visited     Blue=Lived     Yellow=Want to Visit

By scrolling around this map, you can see all of the places that I have already been are marked in red. Click on any of the pins to see the city name.

I was very lucky to have traveled around the U.S. a lot as a child, and the only major region that I still have yet to visit in the U.S. is the West Coast. Since I am currently living in Germany, however, I am focusing all of my current attention (and money) European destinations.

You will find the top five destinations I want to see in yellow. Germany itself is already covered in red pins, but all of the neighboring countries are quite bare. So, here are the top 5 European destinations I would love to visit next:


1. Copenhagen


Copenhagen is about 5 hours away from Lüneburg, and the trip can be made by train for less than 100 Euro. So, this city tops my list of places to go.

Copenhagen by JamesZ_Flickr
With a rich history as a Viking fishing village, Copenhagen is quite unique among European cities. Yet, as Denmark's capital with over one million residents, it is also a major cultural and economic hub. This makes it it a great city to both awe at fairy tale-esque architecture as well as enjoy great shopping and nightlife.


2. Nice


Whenever Marco and I talk about taking a beach vacation, the first words out of his mouth are always "Côte d'Azur." So, it is only natural that Nice is also on my list of the top 5 cities I want to visit next.
Located on the French Riviera, Nice is an incredibly popular vacation destination that is known for its beautiful waterfront. I would love to visit Castle Hill (Colline du Chateau), hike up to the top of Mont Boron, and swim in the picturesque blue sea. If you are wanting to go to Nice like me, the online hotel booking website Venere has a large number of hotels, B&B's, and apartments in the city.


3. London


Thanks to budget airlines like Ryanair, flying from Germany to London only costs around 50 Euro round-trip. Unfortunately, we would still have to budget quite a bit for a place to sleep in the city, which is why this is a trip that has not been made yet.

London, England by Tim Morris
As someone that has never been, there is probably not much that I could say about London that you do not already know. I must say, however, that the idea of walking around a foreign country where the native language is English and the streets resemble those of Germany much more than the U.S. will be quite strange. To keep costs down on this trip, Marco and I will probably end up taking this trip in the off-season, which is generally between November and April.


4. Amsterdam


Much like Copenhagen, Amsterdam is also just a 5-hour train ride away from where I live. So, what excuse do I have for not taking what would probably be one of the most amazing weekend trips of my life? None.

Amsterdam by Joao Maximo

With beautiful canals cutting through the city, Amsterdam is often known as the Venice of the North. However, I have a feeling that I will like Amsterdam much more than I would like Venice. Despite its party reputation, I would be most excited to simply meander around the city on foot or by bike and take in the city's unique atmosphere. Of course a stop into the city's world-famous museums such as the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum would be obligatory.


5. Cologne


If you look back at the map, then you will notice that there is a pretty big gap in Western Central Germany that I have not visited. I would like to fix this by visiting Cologne.

Groß St. Martin und Dom by Sebastien Bertrand
Best of all, Cologne is only 4 hours away by car or train, meaning that it could be another simple weekend trip (isn't living in Europe great?). Cologne is most famous for its cathedral, the Kölner Dom, which was actually the tallest building in the world in the late 1800s. If we are really feeling up to party, we could even visit during Karneval, which takes place in February and is the biggest celebration in Cologne.


So, those are my top 5 European cities I hope to visit next. 


What cities in Europe do you want to visit?



This post is included in the Travel Tuesday link-up.

Stupid Cow | Mistranslation Monday

This particular mistranslation may be one of the very first that occurred between Marco and me. In fact, this it was probably the spark for one of our first arguments as well.

Original photo: Heeland Coo by Arran Moffat

It occurred early on in our relationship, when my German was quite poor, and Marco was not always able to express himself coherently in English.

Although I do not remember exactly what happened, I am positive that I did something stupid like miss a class or drop a sandwich on the ground. Whatever it was, it led to Marco calling me a blöde Kuh.

Since I only knew how to translate this expression literally at the time, I understood it as him calling me a "stupid cow."

Calling anyone a cow in English is quite harsh, especially when that person is your girlfriend. I am sure anyone would agree that calling someone stupid is also quite mean. So, when I head Marco calling me a blöde Kuh, I immediately become very upset.

This was a reaction, of course, that my boyfriend was not expecting. You see, blöde Kuh can also be used in a light-hearted way much like Americans use the term "dork" with close friends and family members. But at that point, it really didn't matter.

Let's just say that he has since learned better than to call his American girlfriend a blöde Kuh.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Student Visa Update

It has been two weeks since I wrote about the confusing process of getting a student visa in Germany. So, I figured I would post a little update about what has happened during this time.

German student visa update

My last post left off with me waiting for proof of enrollment in a public health insurance. Luckily, I received this just a few days later, meaning that I was able to head over to the dreaded Foreigner's Office and apply for my student visa.

Unfortunately, he would only give me a visa for one year, which means I will have to come back to get another one for the second year of my studies. But, one year is better than nothing. Now I just have to wait about 3 weeks for paperwork to go through Berlin.

So, here is where I now stand with all of my documents:

Official Student Enrollment

Open box Visa
 Health insurance

Student Visa

 Official student enrollment
 Health insurance

Health Insurance

Open box Non-temporary student enrollment

As soon as I get my student visa, I just have to head to the university to show it to them. Then, they will give me a non-temporary student ID, which I then have to show to the health insurance. After that, I should be all set for school to start in October!

Monday, September 1, 2014

3 Years Ago Today...

It was exactly 3 years ago today that I arrived in Germany for my semester abroad. This trip encompassed many "firsts" for me: first time traveling alone, first transatlantic flight, first time outside of the U.S.

So, I was quite nervous to say the least, and I definitely would have never guessed that this semester abroad would have such a huge impact on the rest of my life.

American Expat Journal

This is my journal entry from that fateful day. I wrote it during a 4-hour layover in the Zurich Airport. If you choose to read it, please do not laugh at my silly reactions to the transatlantic flight (keep in mind it was my first one).

I started this journal on the day I left Chicago, which was August 31, 2011. The first entry was written in O'Hare Airport. Unfortunately, I only ended up writing in this journal about 15 times during that semester. But still, it is nice to read these snapshots of where I was, what I was doing, and how I was feeling on a certain day.

I actually wrote on October 31, 2011, for example, that it would be so cool to be able to come back and do a Master's program in Germany. Who knew I would end up getting accepted to grad school in Germany a few years later.

Crazy what can happen in 3 years.

Have you ever kept a journal? Do you still have it?
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