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You can Du me; the formal or informal guide

Many European languages make linguistic distinctions based on interpersonal relationships. For example, a language can have two forms of the word “you”, and a speaker would use one or the other version depending on how well they know someone. In German this is the case with “Sie” and “Du” (“Sie” being formal and “Du” being informal).

This split leads to a chronic question for many native-English-speaking expats learning (or who have just learned) German: which form should one use, and when?  This, unfortunate confusion happens because these distinctions once existed in older forms of English, but they’ve since lost their place in modern English.

We expats learning the German language and culture are frequently struggling with this question, Sie vs. Du…so much envy for those lucky suckers learning English…

It’s hard when you are thrown into a new (and sometimes strange) culture. You are not just constantly out of your comfort zone but it seems that any faux pas, slight or not, somehow becomes this huge mistake in your head.

Sometimes improperly using sie/du can lead us into a downward spiral of self-doubt and we undermine our abilities of acclimation, but honestly let me tell you first things first, that’s nonsense. Get out of your head!

We, as expats can start to think and feel that we are alone when we make tiny mistakes like this.

Plot twist: we aren’t!

Most Germans make grammatical mistakes just like we do. In my experience it seems they just go by personal rules that work out unless corrected (sort of like guessing “Der”, “Die”, or “Das” for us–wing it until you’re told otherwise). Just think on the bright side, try your best and you will always succeed, or find the right answer. Germans are definitely not shy when a correction needs to be made.

But for those not so convinced..here is a little cheat sheet of suggestions i’ve found that will help you decide what to Sie and Du. (Or, rather, when to “Sie” or “Du”.)

  1. If both people are dressed casual, go informal.

  2. If both people are in an informal environment (chit-chat in line at the supermarket, or in the park) go informal.

  3. If one person is wearing a uniform in the place of employment (restaurant, café, shop, etc….) go formal.

  4. If there is more than 20 years difference between the people, go formal.

  5. In a work setting if both people are under 40 and wearing casual clothes go informal, otherwise go formal in the work environment.

Really though, these are just loose guidelines. Often they won’t exactly be the case. Usage of “Sie” or “Du” can be based on comfort levels or personal preference and how well you know a person. Just don’t fret, people won’t be offended when it is obvious you are not a native speaker. I myself have been here over half a decade and still fail once in a while.

The German language itself is extremely difficult and takes a lot of work to master. Most of the time trial by error when speaking. Just think of that great American motto of ours,  “Fake it till you make it”. I live by this when speaking German. The biggest road block you will find is lacking the confidence and getting trapped in your head. As long as you go out and give it all you’ve got, don’t sweat the little things and even ask to be corrected. In no time you’ll be Deutsch Sprechen wie ein Profi.

Essential Apps to Have in Munich

Essential Apps to Have in Munich

Trying to navigate your life in Munich? There’s an app for that!

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I am honestly so glad to be one of the later generations becoming an expat. In my first year, these modern conveniences saved my life. From finding my way in German to finding my way in the metro. Most answers were easy and downloadable. Therefore, I hope my list will also bring you some ease in your München transition as well.

Munich

Two very helpful Munich life apps are, naturally, the Munich city app and Abfallwirtschaftsbetrieb.

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München.de

This is the official Munich website just turned into a mobile app that offers information on events, shopping, hospitals, pharmacies, recommendations, i.e. practically everything.

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AWM München

I’m sure you know how important recycling is to the people here. For those coming from places where the separating of recyclables isn’t so distinct, this app offers information on when the trash will picked up and where to bring (and separate) your recyclables.

Healthcare

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Corona Warn-App

The Corona Warn-App helps to alert you if you have come into contact with an infected person and whether there is a risk of infection. Not my favorite recommendation, but I feel it helpful to share in these current circumstances.

teleclinicTeleclinic

Another local Munich startup, this is currently one of my favorite apps. It’s got a great user friendly design and the response time is amazing. I’ve used it for contacting doctors, getting perscrptions and sick notes. Previously health related services were limited to Private insurance patients, but teleclinic accents Public insured persons as well. The only limiting factor is that it is for the moment only available in German.

Learning German / translations

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Deepl translator

Learning German honestly takes ages. However, I have found this app to be the new love of my German life. This bad boy is great for finding all your vocabulary needs with much more accuracy than other apps like google translate. It also has a feature that allows you to choose if the format should be formal or informal, which I find to be super helpful.

Travel and Transport

The next essential list is transport. Since most of us in Munich dont have cars, our transport lives revolve around the metro system. Luckily there are some handy dandy apps for checking schedules, purchasing tickets, and even renting a bike or car when in need!

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MVG

You can easily find connections, time tables and purchase tickets directly through the app. One nice feature is that it will show you routes which have delays ( such as a line being down) and offer you alternative routes, or routes that would save time.

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Dott e-scooter

I am a very big fan of e-scooters, and even a bigger fan of this local scooter company. I find they have really reasonable pricing in comparisons to other scooter brands. I find it a great alternative for getting around the city as opposed to a crowded U-bahn.

Banking

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N26

One of the best banking apps in Germany I’ve experienced. It is incredibly helpful, can be fully in English (full English support) and super simple to set up.

Food Delivery

Of the essential apps, food is probably my most essential. Over the past year there is of course been a huge boom in liefern services. There are so many options for food delivery, you can have anything from nearly every restaurant delivered with a push of a button. So, my dear friends, here are the most popular apps for your eating needs:

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To Good to Go

Not your standard delivery app, but a great app for food. This local startup has found a way to combine great savings with an eco friendly twist. Their goal is to help limit food waste by offering business with a surplus of food a way to avoid throwing away excess by offering it at highly discounted prices.

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Lieferando

Lieferando is essentially the main delivery app in Germany. The past years it succeeded in buying out all the competition (RIP deliveroo, you will be missed), and setting it’s positioning as the head honcho. If you are looking for the standard pizza, pasta, burger takeout, Lieferando’s got you covered.

Have any other apps you cannot live without here in Munich? Let me know!

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Moving Abroad or Running Away?

Moving to a new country also means leaving another country behind. What if the situation you’re leaving behind is messy, full of problems and stress? Is your choice to move abroad a healthy way to improve your surroundings for a better future, or is it in some way a very elaborate method of running away from your problems? And what happens when certain problems sneak back up on you, because the baggage comes with you, even if you thought you left it behind?

A while back I sat down with my friend and fellow Expat content creator Nicole of The Expatcast, to discuss the topic of moving abroad. This comes up often in questions, not just from other people but now and then in my own thoughts.

We all have our own reasons for leaving a place, but not too often do we acknowledge the full spectrum of factors that led to our initial decision. For me, I have come to accept it was a mixture of running from my past and running towards a different future… but I may still be on the fence.

Feel free to have a listen to the episode for the full details and let me know what you think

or if you want more of a visual, have a look at my Freiburg visit here ⤵️

xxA

Filing taxes as an American abroad

Filing taxes as an American abroad

Being an American abroad comes with a lot of responsibilities and challenges that you will face in your new country. And often times as we get wrapped up in those, we start to forget certain responsibilities that still exist back in our home country…or at least I did. And that responsibility happened to be filing my US taxes.

All in all it was a prett big suprise to me when I learned that even though I have no ties with the US ( nor have I for the past decade), and I keep all my work and earnings abroad, I still was required to file my annual American taxes based on my work abroad.

It was a pretty stressful situation, but through the help of a good friend of mine I was put in contact with the wonderful team at My Expat Taxes who not only helped me get my taxes filed but even made it possible that I recieved the 2020 US stimulus check.

*If you don’t feel like reading at the moment, head to the bottom of the page for a quick & easy video option*

US Tax Filing basics

Regardless of where you live, where you work or where you keep your income, US citizens are required to annually file a US tax return. First it’s important to know that there Is always a change in threshold requirement for tax filing, so make sure to stay up to date. So for this article I will be giving the details on last years. The current threshold at this time is $12,200 in gross income.

Who is required to file US taxes abroad?

As a single person, you will need to file a US tax return if you are:

  • Under 65 years old and have a gross income of at least $12,200
  • Over 65 years old and have a gross income of at least $13,850

As a legally married person and your spouse is a US citizen or Green card holder, you both need to file a US tax return if you:

  • Are both under 65 years old with a combined gross income of at least  $24,400
  • One spouse is 65 or older, and the combined gross income is at least  $25,700
  • Both spouses are 65 and older, with a combined gross income of at least  $27,000

As an American citizen living abroad who is married to a non-US spouse, or someone who does not want to be included on your tax return, you will need to file a US tax return:

  • At any age, if gross income is at least $5 or more

Self-Employed Individuals

If you are a self-employed person, you have a separate eligibility requirement.
For self-employed individuals, the threshold is typically much lower. Currently, if you are a self-employed US citizen abroad you will need to file your US taxes if your worldwide income net earnings are a minimum of $400.
*Net earnings are the total amount of sales revenues after operating/business expenses, interest, tax, etc…

Who is not required to file US taxes abroad? ( Non-Filer)

If you are a person who has no income or your income falls below the annual threshold, you are not required to file for the year. However, it is good to know, even if you did not earn the eligible amount there are still some potential benefits that can be received if you file regularly ( I.e in 2020 the stimulus check).

There is much more information to learn about the US tax regulations for those of us abroad. For more specific questions, I would definitly urge you to check out the super helpful blog at My Expat Taxes.

But if you are interested in my personal experience, go have a look at the video I created

( Currently in process to file a decade of back taxes 😰 )

Best of luck and happy filing

xxA

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10 things Americans learn when they move to Germany

For an American, traveling away from home can be scary. Especially when it’s abroad.

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But, truth be told, there is not much to fear, I have here for you  the top 10 things us expats must encounter when we enter Deutschland.

1. Personal lives are meant to be personal

Coming from America, the land of excess, personal information sharing is a big subject that’s always coming in plenty. You randomly open up to strangers waiting in line at the grocery store, you start discussing your family life with a bank teller or let your local barista know all the gossip on your recent break up. No no no my friend, not here in Germany. The people here tend to believe in keeping the small talk to a null and sharing is only reserved for family members and certain inner circles.

 

2. Life has three genders

Get ready to make your dictionary your best friend. In Germany the lovely and simple gender neutral english “the” is replaced by three other articles, der-die-das. Why? because artichokes are feminine, water is definitely neutral and boxes are of course masculine. And the fun doesn’t end there, depending on grammatical situation articles can even change genders. how fun is that??

 

3. Convience is but a concept

The German lifestyle is one of regulation, routine and leaves not much room for spontaneity. Want to go out with friends? you better plan ahead. Thinking about doing your laundry on a sunday? How dare you. Want a great career?cool, go and get a degree for that specific area and don’t move anywhere else. Everything is very well-organized and there is always a respected place or time. Gone are the days of shopping after 8pm or getting nearly anything done on a sunday.

 

4.Silence is golden

If Germans were American they would have only one amendment that really matters; the fifth. There is nothing more important than exercising your right to remain silent. While Americans find it a gosh darn shame to waste a perfectly good small talk opportunity, the Germans are more than relieved when you decide to keep a nice stuffy silence going in the local transportation on your morning commute. Be sensible my dears, excessive noise is but a luxury.

 

5. Everything can be recycled

As I have previously mentioned, Germans love their order. And this trickles down to even the smaller things such as waste. Well, to be honest, in Germany not much is waste because the majority of items can be recycled ( yeehoo!) Glass is organized by colour, plastics are separated, organic waste has a bin of its own, paper, electronics  all have their respected areas. Not to mention in every grocery store there is machine where you can exchange your bottles for cash. Recycling is not just a choice but a way of life.

 

6. Cash is King

Start learning to carry more notes around with you. Most places wont accept cards, regardless if its a debit or credit card. Sometimes the minimums are also a bit high. You cant always rely on cafes, shops or even the ticket machine to take your card. Unlike America, cash is your best bet when out and about.

7. Sparkling drinks are fabulous

The mystery of German fixation on carbonated beverages will always be there. They love it in everything. Water is always bubbly and juice is mixed half and half with this water. If you don’t like the carbonation you must always specify you want still water otherwise you will get sparkling. And sometimes on the occasion there wont be any still water available.

8. Bikes are best friends

Most city infrastructures in Germany are build with their avid cycling citizens in mind. Separate bike lanes and streets are a very popular integration. Opposed to America where our streets are massive and the automotist and cyclists are always in a power struggle. Here there is a leveled order between drivers of all kinds.

 

9. There is no one stop shop

Grocery store, pharmacy, butcher, baker, candle stick maker. Thats right. Over here along with the rest, everything has its place. Gone are the days of super walmart or Costco. If you want to get your shopping, you must hop around. True you can get a couple standard  or prepackaged options at a grocery store.

 

10. Always test stereotypes

With all of that being said. Germany can come off a certain way, but it does not mean every person you encounter will be the extra replica of your expectations or anything I have written here. In my experience I have been surprised once and a while by the variety. Granted stereotypes exist for a reason, but I can guarantee you there are a lot of very Americanesk Germans out there and very Germanian Americans. In the end its about personal preference I believe. Be open, be yourself and embrace something new.