What’s in Your German Basement?

Berlin basement PHOTO: Erin Porter

Don’t worry – this is nothing to do with Josef Fritzl…although mentions of basements seem to bring up that imagery. (To be fair, Fritzl was from Austria like another infamous German speaker). This post is about the German basements (Keller or Souterrain or Untergeschoss), a mysterious place beneath most German apartments where stalls of old furniture, bikes, and seasonal accessories are kept.

In our last apartment, a tiny Dachgeschoss (attic apartment), we weren’t allotted one of these coveted basement spots. So we got creative. There was a shelf built into the loft of the foyer, we bought large closets and crammed things just about everywhere. It worked, but barely. Once we had a kid – it was over. Baby clothes and toys and just stuff spilled out of everywhere. It was time to move – ideally to somewhere with some storage.

Continue reading

Housewarming Traditions in Germany

Berlin housewarming

Toddlers warm a house Photo: Erin Porter

After all my complaining about finding an apartment in Berlin, it seems like everyone is moving into their home. We moved into our new place – complete with a room for our girl – almost exactly a year ago. While we were away in the States we missed two of our friend’s moves (sorry guys!). We also returned to new neighbors across the hall. And on our first weekend back we even went to a friend’s housewarming party – full of century old wood, food, friends and kids.

To commemorate these life events, you need the proper gift. In the USA, Emily Post dictates that a bottle of wine, a plant, or a loaf of bread or other food item are appropriate. But in Germany? I was a little lost.

Continue reading

Moving in Berlin – UBahn style

Moving on the Berlin U-Bahn

Moving on the Berlin UBahn.

I have moved a lot in Germany. Like 6 times in a year a lot. This is mostly due to poor planning, short-term sublets and an inability to commit to things like buying a full kitchen, but the positive byproduct is that we got really good at moving on the cheap.

As we initially moved to Berlin with just two suitcases, it was possible to make our moves purely by public transport. Nervous about our limbs simply falling off during these moves, we limited our purchases and kept our possessions down to 2 or three loads …at first. But, inevitably, we managed to accumulate more and more (like a baby) until our hobo moving method was no longer an option.
Continue reading

Relax Berlin! You Can Still get an Anmeldung

Rathaus Pankow, Berlin. Photo: Erin Porter

Rathaus Pankow, Berlin. Photo: Erin Porter

Frequently I see panicked posts from other expats. They are frantically looking for an Anmeldung Termin (registration appointment).

HELP! I need an appointment for a burgeramt asap, please!

What is an Anmeldung?

The Anmeldung is a necessary – and usually pain-free – step to getting settled in Germany. It is required of everyone who lives in Germany, both citizens and foreign residents. This requires a stop at your friendly (just kidding – rarely are office workers in Germany friendly) Bürgeramt or Rathaus (note that in Munich this is done at the Kreisverwaltungsreferat or KVR). 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

Learning German for Kids

We expats are coming and going, not always when we want to. My friend Ann Belle of family-friendly North Rhein Westfalia blog Belle NRW had to relocate back to the United States late last year reluctantly. After the initial years of stumbling to find her way as an expat mother, she launched Belle NRW, and was also comfortable and relishing in the positives of having her American children ages five and three in a German kindergarten. One of the biggest pluses, of course, was that they were learning the German language. So, it was with some regret that she was removing them from this daily immersion to repatriate back to America.

Before she left, she asked me for some book and toy recommendations that might help them retain their German. This is the list I sent: 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

Electrical Appliances: That Old Chestnut

Facing an overseas move? If you are moving from North America to Europe or from Europe to North America, you will definitely face the question of what to do about your appliances. Because of the difference in voltage, every expat has to go through this process of trying to figure out which appliances to bring with them and which to leave behind. There are several options:

  1. sell everything and buy everything new in Europe,
  2. sell some things, bring other things and buy the rest in Europe,
  3. or bring everything and use everything with transformers and adapters.

We expats often use factors such as length of stay (are we on assignment or staying forever?), storage space, or immediate cash needs when making the decision. Continue reading