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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!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Intimate Dancing | Mistranslation Monday

Mistranslation Monday has been missing from the blog lately. Unfortunately, this is not because my German is getting better. It's more likely due to the fact that I took a vacation to the U.S. and have been speaking a lot of English lately.

So, today's Mistranslation Monday doesn't come from myself, but my lovely friend Adele from Lithuania.

As you may know, the German fiancé and I are currently planning our wedding. Since we will only have about 30 guests, we have been discussing whether or not there should be dancing at the reception. When Adele came over last week for coffee, I asked her what she thought.

[Note: we speak German with each other, so this is a translated version of our conversation]

"I would dance!" she told me.

"Really? You would feel comfortable dancing in front of our families, even if nobody else was dancing?" I asked.

"Sure, but of course I would bring my boyfriend on the dance floor with me, then we could dance as a team." She replied.

Or, at least that is what I heard. Marco, on the other hand, heard something else:

"Sure, but of course I would bring my boyfriend on the dance floor with me, then we could dance intimately."

"You're going to dance intimately in front of our families?" Marco yelled from the other room, trying to hold back his laughter.

For my German-speaking readers, here is what Adele really said: "...dann können wir in Team tanzen."

But due to her small grammatical error (in Team instead of im Team), what she said sounded the same as the German word for "intimate" (intim).

So, I apologize to all of our wedding guests in advance if Adele and her boyfriend make you feel uncomfortable with their intimate dancing at our wedding reception. :D

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Torschlusspanik & Permit Problems

I am graduating. Soon. So, I am panicking. Now.

In German, the panic as something is coming to an end is known as Torschlusspanik, which translates literally to gate-closing panic. The castle's gates are closing, the enemies are encroaching, and you need to get through those gates ASAP. But you still have to herd your sheep, pack up your belongings, gather your wife and children. There's not enough time. AHHH!!!

I have been writing my thesis since about mid-May, and it is just about done. Still, I am terrified to turn it in. Even more terrified to get feedback on it. And most terrified to defend it.

Then there is also the bureaucratic side of graduating as a foreign student. Luckily, Germany allows foreigners that graduate from German universities to get a job-search permit for up to 18 months. This is what I was hoping to get when my student visa becomes invalid on September 30th.

Just one problem: I won't be turning in my thesis and other term papers until the end of September.

For "normal" students, you can already move on to the next stage of your life (job search, phD, whatever) as you wait for your official diploma. I distinctly remember going through the official graduation ceremony for my bachelor's degree in the U.S. and not getting my official diploma until over a month later. Unfortunately, foreign students don't receive this luxury. Through recent correspondence with my local foreigners' office, they told me that I will not be able to get my job-search permit until I have my official diploma in my hand.

Until then, I need to enroll in the next semester (that's 350€ in fees) and extend my student visa (~80€). A waste of my money and my time.

So, that's where I'm at. Wrapping up my studies yet extending my student visa as I long for the day that I can move on with my life.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cashing Checks in Germany vs. USA

No matter how long you live abroad, you still come across little everyday things that will surprise you. Things that you know would be so simple in your home country, but are confusing, over-complicated, or even archaic in our host country.

Today, I am talking about cashing and depositing checks in Germany versus the USA.

Checks in Germany vs. USA

As I already bragged about multiple times on my blog, I won an academic prize from the DAAD in July, and this prize included a check for 1,000€. Desperately needing the money to pay for my upcoming semester, I took it to the bank the next day to deposit it in my bank account.

To deposit checks in Germany, you (at least at my bank, Postbank) have to bring it to a teller, who will write down the check number and your account number on a little slip of paper, which you will receive a carbon copy of. Then, you wait for the money to appear in your account 3-5 business days later.

Although you can still deposit checks like this in the U.S., it feels quite archaic for me. In fact, just one week after depositing my prize money, I flew to the U.S., where my wonderful grandmother gave me a check for my birthday. 

To deposit the check, I simply drove to the ATM, feed my check into the machine, and made sure that it read the amount correctly. I could see the pending amount in my account almost immediately.

But who cares? If you have been to Germany, then you know that it's not the most technologically-advanced country in the world. But as long as the system works, it's fine. Right?

Well, after spending 2 weeks in the U.S., I came back to Germany and checked my bank account to see if my 1,000€ check was ever deposited. It wasn't. Cue panic.

I searched for my little carbon copy stub that the bank teller gave me, but I couldn't find it. I stashed it away god-knows-where when I was cleaning out my wallet before traveling to the U.S. Luckily, my proud fiancé had taken pictures of my check on the day of the award ceremony. [Note: I later found the receipt, and all the numbers on it are correctly written.]

So, I called Postbank.

"It's been over 2 weeks and my check still hasn't been deposited."

"Yeah...That's not normal."

I gave the customer service woman the check number and date of deposit. It wasn't in the system. "Just wait for a letter in the mail with more information."

Yeah. I couldn't wait. So, I complained via Twitter.

The next day, Postbank calls me to tell me that if the money still isn't on my account. The check disappeared. Of course they don't outright say that they lost it.

Now I have to ask my university if the check was cashed (Postbank did mention that it was possible that the check was stolen or deposited into the wrong account). If it wasn't cashed, then I have to ask them to cancel the original check and issue another one. Too bad I already tried contacting my university, and  they said it would be too difficult for them to do that. It's Postbank's fault, so they have to fix it.

So, here I am stuck in the middle with no money and no idea who to contact at this point.

Moral of the story? Avoiding using checks in Germany. And maybe bank somewhere else than with Postbank.

Germany, this is an area where you can learn a thing or two from the U.S.

Have you experienced any differences when banking in different countries?
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