Learning to Hate Deutsche Telekom

Door to Berlin

Door to an unconnected home

I had no strong feelings about German internet providers. Sure, I love TV and the internet, but how it got to me was of no concern. That is, til Deutsche Telekom screwed us over.

First, the good news. We have a new apartment! After months (and months) of searching for a bigger place to accommodate our little Berliner we found a classic Berlin altbau – all tall ceilings, double windows and hardwood floors. We love it.

But we knew we needed to do one thing as soon as possible – get our internet connected. We’ve heard it can take some time to get an appointment (even if it is as simple as flipping a switch) and we didn’t want to miss a day. Ha! Such naiveté. Turns out we still had some faith in German customer service which has now been thoroughly quashed.

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Amis and Abis: Roadblocks to Getting your Bachelor’s Degree in Germany

Source: Felix Kästle/dpa (c)

Source: Felix Kästle/dpa (c)

My student advising service, Eight Hours and Change, was recently featured in a story on National Public Radio’s Marketplace in a story that discussed the German university system. The main takeaway from this piece for most readers and listeners in America was the astonishing revelation that German universities are (mostly) tuition-free, and, as a result, I’ve been inundated with inquiries from every state and several territories.

For bachelor-seeking students, this can be an awkward conversation. After confirming that the vast majority of subjects can be studied at minimal cost, I have to move on to the caveat. Yes, its possible for Americans to study here for free, but that doesn’t mean everyone can do it.

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Applying for a Wohnung in Berlin

When we found out we were pregnant, we knew a two-room (one-bedroom in American) apartment was no longer going to cut it. So we went on the hunt for a three-room, ideally with a balcony, high floor, a little class and great transportation links. Slowly at first, and then with increasing sincerity as the baby finally made her arrival.

PHOTO: Erin Porter

My little Berliner on the Wohnung search

As always, I was horrified at the lack of light fixtures, kitchen and even floors in some Wohnungen (apartments). I checked out the toilets. My wandering eye searched further afield from my preferred neighborhoods (known as Kiez in Berlin) of Friedrichshain to nearby Lichtenberg, Wedding from Prenzlauer Berg. Surely Marzahn couldn’t be that bad…could it? Despite my lowering standards, we are still without an apartment to accommodate our growing family.

Why is renting in Berlin so hard?

The hard truth is that looking for a house in the Hauptstadt is hard. Competition is fierce, rental companies aren’t particularly motivated to make things work for the renter (evidenced by the insane viewing hours – 10:30 on a Tuesday anyone?), and applications take organization, great credit and earnings and a lot of luck. Continue reading

Moving to Germany: The Top 10 Things to Consider

Moving anywhere is a challenge. Even a short move across town can be problematic. An international move presents additional complications, but a little preparation will mean fewer hitches. Even if you are fortunate enough to be using the services of a relocation agent, you should be aware of the following ten factors to consider when moving to Germany.

Berlin apartment parking

Having a car in Germany can be a mixed blessing. Here: apartment parking in Berlin-Friedrichshain. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

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1. Get Oriented
By “get oriented” I mean get to know the culture, the language, and the place where you’ll be living. This may seem obvious, but I am constantly amazed by how many new expats fail to do this. You’re moving to a new country with a culture and a language very different from what you’re used to. Don’t arrive in German-speaking Europe without at least some basic preparation. This is what our German Way site is all about! You’ll find all sorts of help here, and here are a few tips on what you need to learn: Continue reading

January 2015 in Germany: New Year, New Laws, New Rules

2015 ushered in new laws and regulations in Germany. Our overview of new things that expats and travelers need to know also reveals a lot about daily life and customs in Germany.

If you drive a car, use public transportation, rent a place, watch TV, take out the trash, get paid in euros, or use the post office in Germany, there are changes that can affect all expats and travelers. We’ll start with one of the more bizarre things that the new year introduced to German law and life (and it’s not the precipitous fall of the euro). Continue reading

Free College Degrees in Germany

Get ’em while they’re hot. If you are a German-related news junkie like we all are at the German Way, you might have seen your Facebook or Twitter feeds filled with headlines like these, “Free Tuition in Germany for All American Students” earlier this month.

While it is true, Americans along with all other non-Germans, can study in Germany tuition free, this isn’t actually new news. A sudden lifting of tuition for American students has not just occurred; it’s just that Lower Saxony, the last German federal state to have charged tuition, dropped their fees to create this attention-grabbing headline.

So if you are now wondering what the catch is, since there’s no free lunch, especially in a land that isn’t known for giving out smiles for free, you might be disappointed. There isn’t any real catch or hidden deal of indentured servitude, but an American considering taking up Germany on its offer for a free Bachelor’s should weigh the differences in outcome and expectations before making a decision.

Heidelberg University

The library at Heidelberg University was built in 1905. The Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg was founded in 1386, making it Germany’s oldest and one of the oldest universities in Europe. PHOTO: TBE/iStock/Thinkstock

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Dealing with Damage

Despite not being military or part of any diplomatic corps, my family and I move frequently. We moved in 2010, and then in 2012 – not counting the two additional moves within the same town from one temporary flat to another and then into the house we bought, and now we are moving again later this year. We’ve been trying to declutter to avoid moving unpacked boxes from one house to the next, but we realized that we had to finally close out and submit our damage claim from our big move in 2012 before we moved again in 2014.

We had delayed submitting the claim because as mentioned before, we had moved several times in 2012 and decided to wait till we had received all of our things from the move from America to Germany to submit one big claim. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the best idea. In fact, what I took away from the experience is that it is best to submit the claim as soon as possible while you are still feeling incensed that your beloved leather dining sofa has never-before-seen cuts in parts of the leather or a favorite side table now has three legs less.

Broken Nightstand
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From freelance to Angestellte to Arbeitslos

Remember my last post where I talked about my wonderful new job? The one I was excited about after the eight months of freelancing and running around in many directions trying to make a living? Well, one of the perils of working for a start up company is the very flimsiness of it all. They depend on investors and the investors want results. What appeared to be a safe bet for me and the perfect place turned out not to be.

I went in to work at the end of January only to receive a mysterious meeting request from the CEO. I turned to  my direct manager and saw from the look on his face that I could expect bad news. And bad news I got. The company had grown to0 quickly, and documentation people are not the ones who bring in the cash. I was unfortunate enough to still be in the first few months of my probationary period (Probezeit), so I was chosen to be one of the victims. They assured me that they weren’t letting me go for performance reasons, but that doesn’t really make me feel any better, to be honest.

Needless to say, I was absolutely floored and devastated. I managed to get home, called my husband at the airport (he was on his way to Graz) and conveyed the horrible news. Then I went home to start looking for a new job. The company had assured me they would support me in any way they could, with a Zeugnis or by calling people they knew at the software behemoth nearby – my former employer, SAP. However, I have a very specific skill set. I am a technical editor, which is common enough in Germany, but I am not especially keen on writing in German. My German is fluent (written and spoken), but as a word person, I don’t feel comfortable writing less than perfectly in any language, especially when it is for publication. I love the actual writing and editing process and am very picky about language. But most jobs for technical editors are looking for native German speakers. Continue reading