Sunday, February 20, 2011

Germany, a month in

Hard to believe, it’s coming up on my one month anniversary of being in Germany! As I reflect on my first month of getting used to life in a new country, some things are easier to get used to than others…

The good-

The cost of living

Coming from Vancouver, where rents are some of the highest in North America, I’m amazed at how reasonable rents are! Definitely depends on area, income etc… but for the most parts, rents are very reasonable. The same goes for groceries, car insurance, furniture and well, pretty much everything. Except electronics.

My job-

So far, I’m really enjoying my job. Or well, learning about my job. Haven’t actually started actual projects yet, but soon. I love that though I work for a massive company, they’re super open minded, eager to hear my opinion and are open to change. It’s really refreshing and the opportunities and benefits are great. After my 7th month, employees are eligible for commuting expenses. Essentially, you get paid to get to work.

Driving on the autobahn-

For a speed freak like me, driving without speed limits is heavenly. Not ALL autobahns are speed free, but happily, one of them on my way to work is. I love flooring the Kia rental.

The Ex-pat support system

One of the things I was most concerned about, was having to rebuild a social circle and make new friends. Every week, I’m in awe of the people that genuinely offer their help and friendship and will go out of their way to help you. Moving here alone wasn’t easy, but already knowing I know a couple of people I can count on is priceless.

The price you see is the price you pay-

I love that whatever I shop for, whether it’s groceries, a new stereo, furniture or a cell phone contract, the price you see is the price you pay. No hidden fees are taxes. I could get used to this.

Dog friendly-

Other than grocery stores and some restaurants, I can pretty much take Lucy any where. We’ve been shopping to Ikea, on the underground, department stores, you name it.

The bad-

German radio-

I thought Vancouver radio stations were bad for repeating music. I was wrong. I’m convinced that German radio rotates about 20 songs. One of them randomly includes Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version of “Somewhere over the rainbow” It’s not unusual to hear the song 10 times a day (on various radio stations) The good thing, is they don’t seem to play Justin Beiber, however, that’s negated by their apparent infatuation with all songs Nickelback.


I’m not sure I can ever get used to the fact that NOTHING is open on Sundays. Bavaria, the state that I live in, is apparently very religious. Therefore Sundays are considered “family days”. Grocery stores, shops, pharmacies, you name it. It’s all closed on Sundays. You can’t even wash your car on Sundays. Strongly going against the “everything’s closed so you can go to church and hang out with your family” point, casinos are open. And there are more casinos in Nurnberg than there are Starbucks in Vancouver!

Traffic lights.

There are an amazing amount of traffic lights in Nurnberg. Not only are they amazing in sheer volume (sometimes there’s a light where there’s no intersection) but they’re amazing in length. The other day I timed one of them (as I’d been waiting so long) and the red was almost a minute and a half. The green 15 seconds. It truly defies logic.

The language-

Though I feel like I have a slight upper hand in the fact that my grandmother was German and am at least familiar with the sound of the language. But jesus, every day that I learn a new word and have hope that I’ll one day be able to learn it, someone will say something or I’ll read something and I’m convinced there’s no hope I’ll ever learn it!

The strange…

When you rent a place, you almost always have to bring your own kitchen. Most places come stripped bare and the tenant has to provide things like light fixtures, bathroom cupboards, closets and even the kitchen sink.

As many modern furniture places as there are (and there are zillions) decent shower curtain hooks don’t exist. There are only clear plastic ones or white plastic ones.
I’m sure there will be a ton of new adventures and experiences in the coming months. I have to say, so far so good. But man, is life ever exhausting!

Monday, February 07, 2011

An almond infection

Each year, around my birthday, I get some sort of throat issue. It’s so predictable, that if I was stuck on an island, without any calendar, I’d know that it was February. I remember so many birthdays were I had a fever, was so sick I couldn’t eat dinner at my favourite restaurant or that time a few years ago when I got laryngitis as a birthday gift.
This year, seems to be no different. It started out as most sore throats do and last night, when eating solid foods wasn’t an option anymore (since the pain brought tears to my eyes) I decided it was time for medical intervention. And so began my first German doctor’s visit.

The receptionist and doctor spoke perfect English so I managed to get everything across. He quickly looked down my throat and concurred that it was a really bad case of tonsilits. However, I also learned that the German word for tonsils is “madeln” which happens to be the same word for almonds. In other words, my almonds are infected.

A few bouts of birthday tonsillitis ago, I developed an allergy to penicillin. I broke out in a rash all over my body and thought I had chicken pox. That was sexy. I even had to cancel a date with a cute guy because of my “rash”. So I made sure to mention my allergy to Dr. German. I’m “pretty sure” he was joking when he said “Well, we try this, this should be ok with your pencillin allergy”. He was, after all, laughing. So, here’s hoping I don’t

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Week 1 of German life

So this week was my 'real' week of German life.  Real as in starting work (or, rather attending meetings and training as I'm still waiting for my work permit), grocery shopping, banking etc...

Considering, things went not too badly. I survived my first drive on the autobahn (and enjoyed taking the rental 150km/h on the speed free autobahn) and first week on the job.  I have the rental car for only a month so one of the next things on the agenda is buying a car.  One of my least favorite tasks at the best of times.  Now I have to do it in German!

The biggest challenge though is going to be WHEN to buy a car.  Why?  Well, I'm not really sure when you're meant to get anything done in this country.  Normal work hours are 8 or 9 ish to 5 or 6 ish.  Most shops (including car dealerships) close at 6 on weekdays and are only open til noon on saturdays.  And forget Sundays.  The entire country (including grocery stores) is shut on Sundays.  So, that leaves me 3 hours a week to shop for cars. 

For the most part, I've been getting along ok.  Though I know only about 10 words of German, people are helpful and even if they don't speak English, we manage somehow with broken english, German and charades.  I took that for granted today when I went shopping.  I started getting stuff for my new apartment and started stocking up on cleaning supplies.  None of the brands were familiar to me and my 10 words of German doesn't extend to cleaning products.  So I stood in the aisle and stared.  In the end, I just picked out one of everything in the nicest packaging.  I have no idea what I ended up with.  Though I suspect the blue liquid is windex.  Everything else, will be a surprise!