Unhaunted Graves: Halloween, Reformation Day, “Luther Year” and Totensonntag

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”
– Marcus Tulius Cicero (106-43 BC), Roman writer, politician and orator

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”
– George Eliot

Wittenberg city hall

Martin Luther’s statue stands in front of the city hall in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany. The banner below the window proclaims the “Luther Year 2017.” PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Although celebrating Halloween has become increasingly popular in Germany and Austria over the last decade or so, it can still elicit a mixed reaction from many Germans. The fact that All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) falls on October 31, the exact same date connected with Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, leads to a conflict between the religious holiday and the “pagan” Halloween celebration. Although it is not a German nationwide holiday, as some have proposed, the 31st day of October is Reformation Day (Reformationstag). It is a holiday only in some majority Protestant (Lutheran, evangelisch) states. But I propose a solution that accommodates both factions in October and November: cemetery tours and/or a visit to some historical Luther sites.

Although many people consider Halloween a pagan observance, it is actually a Western Christian holiday, the first day of Allhallowtide, encompassing three Western Church observances: All Saints’ Eve (All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’, Allerheiligen) and All Souls’ Day (Allerseelen). Originally, around the 15th century, Allhallowtide was a time to remember the dead, but particularly the martyrs, saints, and faithful departed Christians. There is some doubt if Halloween arose out of pagan Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, as some historians claim.
Continue reading

Airbnb in Germany: The Debate Continues

Souce: Ansgar Koreng CC

Berlin Wedding Source: Ansgar Koreng

Every year, millions of tourists flock to Germany, a number that has been increasing year over year for over a decade. Most choose to stay in traditional forms of accommodation, but an increasing number are renting rooms directly from locals through websites like Airbnb. This has caused to a backlash against the site in many cities with limited housing, such as Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt, and led to a regulatory pushback that has seen the outlawing of unregistered vacation homes and the creation of compliance forces authorized to enter suspected illegal housing without a warrant. But despite this, Airbnb continues to grow in popularity, gaining new listing every day. So, you’ve got an apartment with an extra room, or you’re out of town regularly on business. Should you list your apartment on Airbnb, and what do you need to consider before doing so?

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

NOTE: The external web links on this page imply no endorsement of, nor any commercial relationship with the sites we link to. Such links are provided for your convenience only.

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

Grad School in Germany: 9 Unique Master Programs to Study for Free


Entrance to University of Bielefeld Photo: Jay Malone

Entrance to University of Bielefeld Photo: Jay Malone

Jane wrote back in October about the announcement that is still causing jaws to drop from Miami to Maui: the news that Germany, thanks to late arrival Lower Saxony, is now a country free of college tuition. Germany has long been known for its superlative system of higher education, and for many, like myself, the free tuition was just gravy. So for those of us who finished our undergraduate degree in the States, the only question to answer after recognizing the value of this opportunity is what to study. Fortunately, the German university scene is awash in graduate study programs certain to pique myriad interests while opening up future career opportunities in a variety of fields, enough to tempt just about anyone to pick up stakes and catch the first flight to Frankfurt. Here are a few standouts.

Continue reading

Green Sauce

Chopping herbs in London

Chopping herbs in London Photo: Chloe Daniel

The origins of Frankfurter Grüne Sosse (green sauce) are not entirely clear. It is largely believed that the Romans brought it from the Near East. But the route the recipe followed from Italy to Hessen (where it is today a celebrated local speciality) is disputed. Some say it was introduced in Hessen by Italian trading families, others that the recipe travelled to France and was later brought to Germany by French Huguenots – a story which makes some sense, given that the second largest settlement of Huguenots in what is now Germany was in Hessen in the late seventeenth century. What I know for sure, however, is that Easter is not Easter in my parents-in-law’s house in Hessen without at least one meal of Grüne SosseContinue reading

German – from Berlin to rural Hessen

Being a Yorkshire lass at heart who, despite many years in the south of England, has never managed to say a ‘barth’ instead of ‘bath’ or ‘grarss’ instead of ‘grass’, I am sympathetic to local dialects. In London, I loved hearing true cockneys with their staccato banter in taxis and across market stalls. And now, living in Germany, my interest persists, though admittedly in a somewhat limited way: so far I’ve only really been exposed to Berlinerisch (which I hear daily) and Hessisch (which I hear when we visit my parents-in-law close to Frankfurt am Main in Hessen).

The Berlin dialect – ‘Berlinerisch’ – is a melting pot of linguistic influences, much like the history and culture of the city itself. In it, you hear traces of High Germany, Saxish, Yiddish, Dutch, Slavic languages and French. It is littered with words from all of these sources. You hear ‘Bredullje’ instead of ‘Schwierigkeiten’ for ‘troubles’ from the French ‘bredouille’, and ‘Bulette’ for a small beef burger, also from the French; ‘Kiez’ for neighbourhood has Slavic roots; and the Yiddish ‘meschugge’ instead of ‘verrückt’, meaning ‘crazy’.  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

Teaching English in German-Speaking Europe

So you think you want to teach English in Germany (or Austria, Switzerland)… Well, you’re certainly not the first American (or Brit, etc.) to come up with that idea. The good news: There is a demand for qualified native speakers of English to teach the language in German-speaking countries. The bad news: The pay and working conditions are often poor. Do you know the questions you should be asking (and answering) before you accept a job teaching English in Germany?


Do you know that Germans normally learn the British version of English?

In our German Way Forum and other expat forums the pros and cons of teaching English as a foreign language (EFL, ELT, TEFL, TESL, TESOL, not ESL)* in Germany get discussed from time to time. Complaints about low pay, poor work conditions, and bad management are not uncommon from people who have taught English for private schools like Berlitz or a public Volkshochschule (VHS, adult education night school) in Germany. Nevertheless, for some people, teaching English may be a good job option, but you need to have the facts before you can make that decision, and definitely before you get on a jet headed for Germany thinking you’re making a brilliant career move. Here are some of the questions you need answered before venturing into the EFL field. Continue reading