Going to the Cinema in Cologne for English-Speaking Expats

us_791_0_bigEven if you’ve been living in German for 30 years and haven’t spoken a word of English in 20, it still feels good to catch a non-dubbed version of a recent release in the theater. Last summer, during a 3 week holiday to Berlin, I spent about half of my time in the Cinestar Original theater on Potsdammer Platz, a cinema that only features original versions of new releases. Back home in Cologne, I’m also a bit spoiled by the options available, which means that I’m able to see almost every movie that comes out Stateside.

Continue reading

Who am I, really? Talking Identity with German Freshmen

IMG_0317I’ve been living in Germany for 4 years now, three of which I’m spent teaching first year students at a private university in Cologne. More than anything else, this experience has taught me humility; I realize now just how thankful I should be that I’m not 19 anymore. Teaching at the university has given me the opportunity to speak to thousands of kids, most of whom exhibit a curiosity bordering on incredulity when I tell them I’m from Chicago, a reaction that I still can’t really understand. More often than not, their general interest in my background sparks a conversation about our two countries, the most interesting parts of which relate to how my students see themselves and their country.

Continue reading

Schäl Sick: Life on the Wrong Side of the Rhine

kalk postHere in Cologne, people tend to scrunch up their faces a bit when I tell them I live on the “other” side of the Rhine. And not in Deutz, close to the river and the city, but Kalk, deep into the hinterlands of the Falsche Seite. Kalk is a neighborhood with a reputation for criminality and limited opportunities, some of which is deserved. But when you look deeper, it’s not hard to see why more and more people are abandoning the Old City, Belgian Quarter, and Ehrenfeld for the bright shores of the right bank.

Continue reading

12 Cities, 12 Fates: Germany Looks Back on the Eve of the 70th Anniversary of World War Two

Cologne WWII

Source: Cologne Museum

Horror on an unprecedented scale engulfed Europe in the 1940s, but it was only after the smoke had cleared that the true scope of the brutality came into focus. Millions across the continent were dead, tens of millions displaced, and whole nations found themselves on the brink of annihilation. In the decades since the end of the war, much attention has been justifiably been paid to the victims of the Nazi ambitions that ravaged Europe, but oftentimes the German civilian suffering has been ignored or forgotten.

A new documentary from Vox seeks to address this oversight on the eve of the 70 anniversary of V-E Day. 1945 – 12 Städte, 12 Schicksale features the experiences of 12 different cities in the immediate aftermath of the war through the lens of archival footage and interviews with survivors and historians. In order to learn more the experiences of the German civilians featured in the series, I sat down with Sabine Wilmes, an editor at Vox, who was in charge of the development of the documentary.

Continue reading

Karneval and Fasching: There’s an App for That!

Karneval, Fasching, Fastnacht – Mardi Gras or Carnival, German style, is coming up soon (Feb. 10-12). And, as for most things, there’s an app for that!

Here’s a look at some interesting German carnival and Fasching apps for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and Android devices, most of them free. To find the Apple apps, just go to the App Store on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, or go to the iTunes Store and select iPhone or iPad apps. For Android, go to Google Play. Unless stated otherwise, all the apps below are available for both Android and iOS, and are in German. This means they are great for people with at least intermediate German skills trying to improve their German, as well as those who actually are planning to attend carnival in German-speaking Europe. A word of caution! I have not personally used or tested any of these apps. If you have, please leave a comment!

The Kölner Karneval (Cologne Carnival) is one of the biggest carnival events in Germany, if not the biggest. Most (but not all) of the apps listed here are related to Karneval in Cologne. The first one is in both German and English: Continue reading

Expatriates and the cost of living in A, D, CH

Expatriates don’t always have a choice of where they’re assigned to work, but they definitely need to know the cost of living in their assignment location. If your salary is paid by a US company, for example, that salary might put you at a huge disadvantage if you are working and living in Tokyo, Japan, which happens to be the most expensive city in the world for expats. (The news for Germany is much better.)

Companies with employees assigned to overseas locations usually offer some sort of cost-of-living allowance to supplement the increased costs. So even if you are going to an overseas location by your own choice, without company support, you need to know how the cost of living there compares to your current or home location. But how do you get that information? One excellent source is the xpatulator.com website, from which we derived the rankings discussed here.

It may surprise you to learn that, except for New York City, Honolulu, Anchorage, San Jose and San Francisco, most cities in the United States of America have a far lower cost of living than places in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America – and even Canada! My own hometown of Reno, Nevada ranks 455th out of 780. Most places in the southern states of the US rank much lower than that. Continue reading

A Blog on Booze

I would say I learned the hard way, that attitudes regarding alcohol are quite different in Germany than in Canada.  As a twenty-something living in Düsseldorf, (home to the world’s longest bar top if all were placed one after the other, as the legend goes) I very much enjoyed the nightlife.  It wasn’t the easiest adjustment however, from Canadian clubs and bars to European-style discos and pubs. Where I am from all local watering holes, nightclubs, restaurants etc., must close by 2:00 am, by law. So my first night out on the town in Düsseldorf’s pub-filled Altstadt, I was not prepared for the long night ahead of me. I was caught up in the dancing and cheering, the Ballerman-style music, and in the sea of decadent dark Altbier. Every now and again I would stop and ponder though, how amazing it was that it wasn’t yet 2:00 am. Really though, 2:00 am had come and gone, and by the time the chairs were being put up on the tables, the sun was out. Lesson learned.

Continue reading