Weekly Wrap-Up

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This is a new section looking at the interesting, hilarious and odd things I have discovered in the previous 7 days.

Culture

Pharrell William’s song ‘Happy’ is one song that I can’t listen to and still feel sad by the end of it.  Now, we’ve all seen this song performed in many gorgeous, far-flung places in the world, but I bet you’ve never seen in performed in ASL (American Sign Language).

Part of being a good parent is introducing your child to the most iconic children-friendly movies of all time. But which films should make the cut?  Here are the 55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience by their 13th Birthday. It is an awesome list.

History

Admittedly there is more that we don’t know about the Stonehenge then what we do know. Now new research has discovered even more secrets about this iconic landmark.

Language

Everybody speaks English in Europe right?  Well, you might want to rethink that. Here’s a map that shows the percentage of people per country that are able to have a conversation in English.  In some areas, that percentage is pretty low and in others it is nowhere near as high as you might have believed.

Romance

We all know that readers make the best lovers (you all knew that, right?), well here are the reasons why. So date a reader today!

An Unexpected Award

I received an unexpected email last week that initially I thought was spam, but I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out not to be.

My blog has been listed as one of the Best 10 Websites for Expat Women on the website My Currency Transfer.  Joining me on that list was fellow Aussie now calling Germany home Liv Hambrett, so I am definitely in good company.  They even gave me this lovely little badge.  Thanks guys!


Finalist - MyCurrencyTransfer.com's Expat Stars Awards 2014

How To Apply For Permanent Residency In Germany

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Credit: BAMF

Regardless of how long you have been in Germany one day you are going to contemplate applying for permanent residency, even if it is just so you can stop having to re-apply for your work visa every year.  So, how does one apply for permanent residency in Germany?

Just before we get started, please note that this is just a general guide to applying for Permanent Residency. Not everything written here is going to apply to everybody seeking Permanent Residency. Please ask your local Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office) for what you need to do to apply for permanent residency based on the visa you currently hold.

Ok, now that’s out of the way, what does one need in order to successfully apply for Permanent Residency otherwise known as an Niederlassungserlaubnis?  Well in true German style it requires a lot of documentation and the documentation you need depends on what kind of visa you currently hold.

All of the information below was gotten from the Hamburg Welcome Centre who have guided me through getting my very first work visa, my EU Blue Card and now my Permanent Residency (when it comes through *crosses fingers*).

General Documentation

  • A completed application form
  • A valid passport
  • A biometric photograph (max. six months old) which complies to the German standards
  • Confirmation of registration of place of residence
  • Rental agreement or evidence of property ownership and last annual billing for heating and operational costs
  • Sufficient German language skills / certificate Integration Course Level B1 *
  • Confirmation of at least 60 months (5 years) of contributions to the German public pension insurance or comparable private retirement arrangement. If you hold an EU Blue Card you need to only provide proof of 24 months.  This document must be obtained from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung.

* Note about language requirements: What you need to provide to prove your German language skills seems to change depending on which visa you have. I needed to prove that I had a B1 level of German.  At the very least you will need to prove that you speak around an A2 level of German whether that is via a certificate or a short interview conducted in German.

The further documents you need to provide depend on whether you have a salaried position or are self-employed/freelancer. You may be asked to provide some or all of the documents below depending on the type of work visa you currently hold.

Salaried Employment

  • Employment contract
  • Confirmation of employment
  • Last three salary statements (payslips)
  • Tax clearance certificate. This document must be obtained from the Finanzamt

Self-Employed/Freelancer

  • Confirmation of employment
  • Tax clearance certificate. This document must be obtained from the Finanzamt
  • Last three salary statements
  • Calculation of profits from tax consultant/auditor
  • Excerpt of the Commercial register
  • Business registration
  • Audit report form filled in by tax consultant for Chamber of Commerce

The above checklist can be downloaded from here.

Once you have obtained all the documentation required by your local Ausländerbehörde depending on the visa you currently hold, you will need to make an appointment to submit the documentation and possibly undergo a short language test/interview, if required. Whilst I do have a B1 Zertifikat Deutsch, my application interview was held entirely German. I have no idea if this was to test my level of German or just done by default.  However, I was never asked if I preferred to speak German or English which is normally the case when I go to the Hamburg Welcome Centre to talk visas. So, please consider this a warning that you will be expected to demonstrate some German language skills.

After all of your documents are scanned and fingerprints taken, you will then need to pay the application fee which was €135 as of August 2014.

You will then need to wait a ‘few’ nail-biting weeks for a letter which will tell you whether or not your Permanent Residency has been approved.  Unlike other countries, you do not have to submit your passport at time of application, therefore, you will be allowed to travel out of the country during this waiting period.

Once you received your letter from Berlin stating that your Permanent Residency has been approved, you can pick up your credit card-like electronic visa from your local Ausländerbehörde office and go and celebrate your new status as a Permanent Resident of Germany.

 

For those of you who have already gone through the Permanent Residency application process, please let me know in the comments below how the above article compares to your experiences, especially when it comes to the German language requirements. Also, if you had another visa type, other than a work visa, please let me know what kind of documentation you needed to supply in order to apply.

 

Weekly Wrap-Up

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 This is a new section looking at the interesting, hilarious and odd things I have discovered in the previous 7 days.

Geek Culture

It will probably surprise no one that I used to play D&D.  I was a relative late comer to the game, not playing until my mid-20s, although I did play an online MUD version of D&D in my late teens. This article Slaying the demons of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ looks at not only the brand new version coming out, but why we play D&D in the first place.

History

I, like you probably, didn’t think that women saw any frontline action as soldiers in World War 1 & 2, but I was wrong, meet Flora Sandes, a British woman who was on the frontline in both wars.  I want to be her when I grow up.

Language

We all know how hard it is to find a job in Germany when you don’t speak the language (if you don’t, take a look at this post). However, could you learn a foreign language from scratch in a short amount of time in order to land a job? This article from the Guardian examine this issue.

Science

We all think that the freedom to chose the things we want will make us the happiest, right? What if you found out that was wrong?  This TED Talk on The Science of Happiness will make you re-think how you think about happiness.

Last week I went to see the new Scarlett Johansson film ‘Lucy’. I knew just from watching the trailer that the science in it was going to be bullshit, but I still enjoyed the film cause it was pretty much 90 mins of Scarlett being badass & who doesn’t enjoy that.  Fortunately, someone way more smarter than me explored the Brain myths in Lucy for all of our facepalming pleasure.

10 Things No One Tells You Before Moving To Germany

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1. Bomb Evacuations will become a regular occurrence to the point where you don’t even get worried about it any more.

2. In at least the first year, if not longer, your mood will depend entirely on whether you were able to successfully order something at the bakery in German

or not.

 

3. Meeting up with friends in foreign countries for the weekend will become totally normally as will going to a different country just to go to the beach.

4. You will become addicted to either CNN International or BBC World as they are the only English language channels broadcasted in Germany.

 

5. You will find yourself thinking teenagers buying crates of beer at the supermarket is totally normal.

6. You will start to refer to the seasons by what food is suddenly available eg Spargel season and more importantly, you will begin to get excited about this.

7. Your supermarket suddenly stocking a different brand of Peanut Butter will totally ruin your entire week.

8. After about 18 months, your English will become peppered with German phrases and you will find yourself forgetting English words.

9. Even when not in Germany, you will find that going shopping on a Sunday is unthinkable and if you actually do go shopping you will treat the event like you are visiting an alien planet.

10. You will learn the hard way that the advice ‘Everyone speaks English there’ you received before you left is completely and utterly untrue.

What do you wish you had been told before moving to Germany? Let me know in the comments.

Weekly Wrap-Up

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 This is a new section looking at the interesting, hilarious and odd things I have discovered in the previous 7 days.

Culture

With the death of Lauren Bacall this week All 16 of the Icons Name-Dropped in Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ are Now Gone. The only upside to this is that music video still looks incredible 24 years on, which is something that can be said about very few music videos.

Do you have a question about death that you are afraid to ask? Well, Ask A Mortician is here for you. This You Tube channel run by real-life Mortician Caitlin Doughty will answer every question you had about death, even some that maybe you never really wanted to know the answer to.

Germany

Understanding Germany – This is a blog that all expats living in Germany should be reading as it explains the sometimes bewildering and impenetrable German society, culture and politics. This blog is written by a born & bred German so you know you are getting the inside scoop rather than an expat’s take on it.

Humour

And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles – Everyone needs to learn to pick their battles in life, but somehow I think that being married to Jenny aka The Bloggess would result in hilarious consequences no matter what battles you picked.

Language

Get Germanized – A You Tube channel looking at German language and culture. The videos about German culture are a little gimmicky and sometimes over the top, but the German lesson and slang videos are solid. However, where this channel shines is the German word of the day, which is only available to Facebook & Twitter fans.

 

 

Alma maters, Opera Houses & Tigers

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This is Part 2 of the photos I took whilst visiting family & friends in Australia.  If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.

After spending some time up in Newcastle visiting family, I headed down to Sydney where I lived for 15 years to visit my friends. Whilst there, I paid a visit to my beloved alma mater Sydney University.

The Quadrangle is the most famous part of Sydney Uni and for good reason, it is just gorgeous.

I spent quite a lot of time there in my four years at the University.

I also made sure to visit some of Sydney’s most famous sites

And some of its historical places like The Rocks

I then went somewhere I have not been in years – Taronga Zoo because to be honest, I love photographing animals, especially when they are this photogenic

As always I have many more photos than I put up on the blog, so if you are interested you can check out the Sydney Uni album, the Sydney album and the Taronga Zoo album on Flickr.

 

 

Beaches, Sunsets & Humpback Whales

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After returning to Germany after visiting my family and friends in Australia almost a month ago, I have finally gotten around to uploading and sorting through the photos that I took whilst there.

My hometown of Newcastle, where my parents still live, is a beach town and home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in Australia.

- Bar Beach

 

Newcastle Harbour is also the world’s largest exporter of coal and my parents, who have an apartment right on Newcastle Harbour, spend quite a lot of time on their balcony watching the ships sail into and out of the harbour.

- A ship coming into the Harbour at sunset

 

They also have a great view of the Newcastle skyline

 

And of the Queen’s Wharf Tower that is affectionately (or not so affectionately) called the B.D.  You can probably guess what B.D stands for.

 

Whilst visiting my parents, we spent one day up the coast at Nelson Bay on a whale watching cruise.

We saw the locals just hanging out

And of course, we saw the main attraction, humpback whales.  I took hundreds of photos all perfectly lined up, just to get hundreds of photos of the sea as I could never get the timing rights when the whales breached.  This is a photo I just snapped randomly.

It did require some straightening up and cropping as it was snapped so randomly that nothing was set up. There is lots wrong with the photo technically, but even with all its faults, I just love it. Watching the whales out on the ocean was just such a wonderful experience.

And here is a photo of one of my favourite Australian birds, the Rainbow Lorikeet, just because.

 

If you are into photography or just want to see more of my photos, you can take a look at the Newcastle photos and the Nelson Bay ones on Flickr.

More photos of Sydney including the Taronga Zoo are still to come!

 

 

 

Humid Hamburg

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English: Drops of sweat

Photo credit: Wikipedia

High humidity is not something people think of when they think of Hamburg, Germany. Rain, wind and fog is what Hamburg is known for.  To be honest, it’s rainy, windy and foggy here for about 9 months of the year at least. However, when (and sometimes if) summer arrives, it arrives with its friend High Humidity.

The humidity has been sitting between 70-90% for the past three weeks plus and I’m getting really sick of it.  I am sick of every morning when I arrive at work having to wipe the sweat off my face and neck with a handful of tissues and having to deal with them being completely sweaty again 30 seconds later. It should be noted here that my office is not air conditioned and since it is west facing it resembles a sauna every day from 2pm onwards.  I’m also sick of standing on the train during my morning and evening commute feeling the sweat dripping down my back. Now some people look gorgeous sweaty, but not me, I’m just one big hot mess of disgusting-ness.

I’m looking forward to Autumn with its crisp foggy mornings with a desire as big as my desire to see the next Avengers film (Trust me, this is a desire of epic proportions).  Please tell me I’m not the only one.  Please reassure me that there are those of you out there that can’t wait to break out the sweaters, winter coats and boots.  This summer can’t last forever, right? It has to be over soon.

Is It Hard To Learn German?

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Image from page 58 of "Henn-Ahn's German ...

“Henn-Ahn’s German grammar” (1888). (Photo credit: internetarchivebookimages)

The question I most wanted an answer to when I first moved here only knowing a handful of German word was ‘Is it hard to learn German?’ After almost four years here I have a definitive answer. Yes and No. Trust me on this, all will be explained.

Firstly, no, German is not hard to learn.  That is it is not harder to learn than any other foreign language.  Every single language has an element or elements about it that are difficult to master and German is no different in this respect.  In fact, English speakers are at an advantage when learning German because of English’s Germanic roots. You will learn lots about English when you start to learn German.

However, yes, German is hard to learn but not for the reasons you might think.  German is hard to learn because any foreign language is hard to learn, especially when you are an adult and are learning your first foreign language.  I was in my mid 30s when I first started learning German and trust me, the adult brain can be quite resistant to learning a new language.

German is also hard to learn because of the amount of time you need to dedicate to it.  When I first moved here I thought that doing 3 hours of lessons a week plus living in Germany would mean that I would just pick it up. That most definitely did not happen. 3 hours of lessons per week was nowhere near enough to get vocabulary and concepts to stick in my mind and just because I lived where German was spoken did not mean I just absorbed it through some osmotic process.  Whilst living in a German speaking country gives me lots of opportunities to learn German, if I don’t actively take up these opportunities and devote time to them, I’m going to learn very little. In order to learn a language you need to fully immerse yourself in it. You need to speak German regularly, watch German TV, listen to German radio, read German books and write regularly in German – and all this takes time out of your daily life. The people that ‘pick up’ the language quickly are the ones who are devoting a large chunk of their day to learning German.

Learning German is also tough on your ego and in ways that you could not previously imagine it would be. You need to be 100% okay with making a complete and utter idiot of yourself and having people abuse you for not being able to express yourself properly.  Don’t think this will not happen to you.  It will and it will happen regularly and it takes a hell of a lot of mental strength to deal with it. You will give up on learning German multiple times. I know I have.  I have gone months at a time without any real effort in learning the language simply because I was tired of having to deal with it all. I wanted and needed to go back to my little English-only cocoon to recover and regroup. The important thing is not to stay in that cocoon forever.

The hardest thing about learning German is not learning the vocab but is devoting the time needed and having the mental fortitude to withstand the frustration along the way. If you can do this, you can master the German language. I know I am still on my way there.  I don’t spend a large chunk of my day doing all the things I should. Yes I do read German books and watch German TV shows, but I don’t do this every single day nor do I speak German as much as I should and I definitely don’t write regularly in German. Therefore after almost 4 years here my German is only in the functional to conversational range and my written German is abysmal. That, however, is all my doing and is not a reflection on how hard German is to learn.  I choose to put in a limited amount of work and therefore I get back limited results.

So is it hard to learn German?  Yes and No.  If you devote a large amount of time and effort to learning it, then no, German is not hard to learn, but if you don’t or if you get discouraged and give up along the way, then yes, it is hard to learn German.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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