Let the Christmas countdown commence

Usually once the 5th November is out the way I can start thinking about the C word but since Guy Fawkes night (when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament in London) isn’t recognised in Germany, plans for Christmas have commenced well in advance this year.

For any Expats planning on returning home for the festivities, planning early is key. I learnt this last year! When we moved to Bremen, I didn’t consider the different things we’d need to take in to account when returning home for a long period over the holiday season. First up, arranging the hire of a car. If you need to get around whilst you’re home book this as soon as you can. The car rental companies definitely do not see Christmas as the season of goodwill and rather the season to make money.

Cathedral Markt, Köln PHOTO: Sarah E

Now that we don’t have a base in UK we rely on family and friends letting us to stay, luckily they’re happy to be paid in festive cheer, otherwise there will be additional costs to the already expensive holiday season. It can be quite tricky bringing up these conversations as although you want to be organised early, not everyone knows their Christmas plans until the last minute.

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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