My American counterparts are in awe that people in Germany can take so much time off for simply having a child. Elternzeit can be taken by both parents for a total of 3 years up until the child’s 8th birthday for 64% of your regular pay (for the 1st year). It is a luxury and I am taking full advantage by spending time in my hometown, admiring the fabulous Americana. From the many, many old-school burger joints to the cheerfully advertised conceal and carry fanny packs I saw at the county fair tonight (Oh, America), I am enjoying.
But it is not just squeezing every precious ounce of time we have in America I needed to worry about. I also had a lot of prep on the Berlin home front to ensure we were able to enjoy our time away. Here are a few of the steps you should take to prep your German home for long-term vacation.
Check the Dates on your Visa and Passport
That’s right – before you board that plane you might need to plan a visit to the friendly Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office). Or even renew your passport as it should be valid for at least 6 months after your planned return.
We were on the paperwork trail in the lead-up to our trip and got my husband’s passport renewed just in time, but we were not able to schedule a visa visit by the time we left (booked up for AGES). Like the current Anmeldung (registration) debacle, it can be ridiculously hard to snag an appointment and our visas expired while we were away.
We have explained the issue at length with our caseworker and made an appointment after our return but this means we will be re-entering the country on expired visas. This has us sweating. I have faith that proof of our upcoming appointment and general law abiding-ness we will be able to re-enter, but don’t be like us. Start the process at least six months in advance.
Rent Your Place…or Not
One of the things that has been common for us in Europe that we would never do in USA is that we have rented our place out for even short trips away. For long trips like this, we have successfully sublet the place for enough money to cover the rent and give us a little spending money.
This time went a little different. In the city of Berlin there is a hard-core crackdown on short-term rentals that has explicitly outlawed this type of subletting. The issue is complicated and the goal is admirable – maintain affordable housing for residents – but this was a bummer for us.
- Call in our favors and have friends stop in periodically to feed
- Bring our pet to a friend’s place
- Hire a boarding facility
- Bring our pets with us
We went with a combo. The bunny and his hutch made its way to a friend’s (using our favored moving method of public transport) while the cat stayed in our home with friends staying at our place and looking after her. In my research I found some other possible options like our favorite nearby petting zoo also offers boarding services. Get creative and do your research to find the best option for you.
Set-up Automatic Bill Pay – It is Finally a Thing in Germany!
Once frowned upon by cash-is-king Germans, you can now easily set-up automatic bill pay for most of your bills. Payments for rent, utilities and even KiTa are all automatically deducted so we don’t need to worry about them while we’re away.
Empty the Fridge
This is just a natural. No one wants to come back to moldy Leberwurst or green Gouda. Toss everything but the sauce.
Unplug Appliances and Electronic Devices
…unless you are like our friends. We were surprised when we stayed at their house that they insisted on unplugging all of their electronics, including their fridge, TV, etc. for just a week away. Germans are serious about their energy conservation.
Try to save your Plants
Even the best of friends can’t be expected to take perfect care of plants so prepare yourself for losses. We knew leaving things throughout the summer was a recipe for disaster so we simply left our balcony bare bones this summer. Next year, balcony garden.
Clean your Sheets
Before you leave, spend some time doing laundry. In Germany (aka without a dryer) this often means planning things out a few days in advance to ensure all your dirty laundry is air-dried. While you are at it, tidy the house as their is nothing worse than returning to a home that has been left mid-pack.
Be Prepared for your online Accounts to Freak Out
Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc. were all mighty concerned that I was signing in from a new location and I had to confirm my identity on all of them.It is a good idea to have a record of your passwords – just in case.
The price of modern, jet-setting society. I know I’ll take it.