How to efficiently Travel in Germany

How to efficiently Travel in Germany

We are hot in the middle of Summer and the fomo is real.

Unfotunately I will not be traveling much this summer do to work and studies, but I often hear a lot for most expats its a matter of budget ( especially the dear aupairs in this country), but fear not my friends! just because your bank account is low does not mean your hope should be as well.

One of the great things about Germany ( and europe) is the options to travel an stay in many wonderful places on a budget. So, here are som tips and ways I’ve learned to get around in my precareer days that will definitly help you keep on keepin on.

  1. Transport

We all know the schöne Deutsche Bahn, but with those Schöne prices, sometimes its not the best method to travel for a quick city trip. In my experience, I have found these two other opions to really up the ante and help me get from point A to B with ease on my wallet.

Flixbus

https://meinfernbus.de/

This great bus company has had my back in the aupair days and still provides a super option when I am budgeting. Unlike those in the US, busses here are a popular method of travel and a nice option at that. With so many locations in Germany and international, theres always a bus somewhere you can hop onto for a easy get away. I personaly like flix bus because not only is it super easily accessable but they have amazing prices and *bless* some strong af wifi game.

Blabla  Car

https://www.blablacar.de/

This next one is my go to even now a days. The app is amazing for last minute traveling. You simply add in your location, destination and it gives you a list of people who are driving your way. For about 10-20 euros a seat, you can spontaniously hop a ride. Its very well regulated and culturally people are really into it. So it can be a fun change of travel scenery if youre a people person like I am.

 

2. Accomidation

Hotels and Airbnb are fab and all…but the pricing and booking can sometimes be such a pain. If your not into this game, the following options for some cool casual city seeing may probably be right up your alley.

 

Couchsurfing

https://www.couchsurfing.com/

A bit out dated, I must admit, but still helpful every now and then. If you are looking to travel and need somewhere simple to stay or are looking to connect with locals, Couchsurfing can be a great option. You make a profile in their platform and it gives you a list of hosts in the area your visitng, you can chat with them, exchange numbes and voila! find yourself a free place to crash. Ive done it in emergency situations before and it worked out great. Granted sometimes it may be a little sketchy…but thats where our next option saves the day.

Friendsitting

https://friendsitting.com/

My new favourite contender! created by a pair of my friends in DĂĽsseldorf, this nifty little start up is an excellent option to the previous. Similar to the couchsurfing idea, you can stay wih new people in different cities for free..except these people are not strangers, they are friends of friends. The website is quite cleve if you ask me, it uses Facebook to connect your mutual friends and organizes them by availability, country and city. So you simply create a free account and go online and see where mutual friends are hosting. I like the idea because it connects me with people I have  better odds of clicking with and I feel a bit safer than if its just a stranger last minute.

Traveling is a really big cultural aspect in this country ( and continent!) and I believe it is one of the most important acivities a person can do to live their life to the fullest. So dont let your personal circumstances keep you down, I believe if your positive enough there can always be a way to get your way. For now here is my two cents, hopefully its helped you manage yours

 

Have a good summer sunshines

 

xxA

 

German Healthcare: Beginners guide

German Healthcare: Beginners guide

As an American, I can say this is one aspect to living abroad and in Germany in particular that I am incredibly fond of; healthcare! Having lived previously in a state where the prices were too high for me to afford coverage, I can say it is a relief to have the security of always having insurance.

The German Healthcare System

The German healthcare system operate under a dual private/public system. It is funded by sanctioned contributions that ensure healthcare for everyone ( public) or when applicable you can take out a special private healthcare plan. However, in order to get Private Krankenversicherung you must review some strict conditions.

Public Healthcare

If you are contracted in Germany as an employee to a company and make under 61,000 euro annually you ar required to take the government (public) healthcare, or Gesetzliche Krankenversicherun (GKV). The public healthcare is run by a little over 100 Krankenkassen, these all take a basic rate of 14.6% of your gross monthly salary. Although, if you are an employed worker earning under 850 euros a month then you are exempt from this taxation.

This public insurance covers you for primary care with doctors registered to your plan, both in and out-patient hospital care and even basic dental care. In addition, dependents living at your same address ( and registered) will receive coverage at no additional cost. GKV however will not cover private doctors, private hospital stays nor vision (for adults) or alternative treatments.

In order to register for public health insurance  one must be registered at the local town hall and have received an Sozialversicherungsnummer and have proof of employment you are then entitled to the public healthcare with all the benefits of a national.

In term of registration, most employers will take care of this portion however you can visit and review the different types yourself. Some of the largest (and most commonly taken) providers in Germany are AOK, BEK and DAK.

 

Private Healthcare

In addition to the standard public scheme, you also have the option to take out a Private Krankenversicherung (PKV) match any of the following criteria:

  • an employee earning more than 61,000 euros annually
  • working part-time earning less than 450 euros a month
  • self-employed
  • a freelance professional;
  • a civil servant or certain other public employee.

The private scheme typically offers a wider range of dental and medical treatment options and in some cases is tax-deductible. The levels of coverage and premiums are dependent on individuals as opposed to the public scheme which looks mainly on a per family basis.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the healthcare system

Germany’s dual healthcare system is placed somewhere in between the American Market run system and the British state-run system. With many options to opt in or out of the pros and cons vary depending on your choice of public or private sector coverage, however here are a couple of the most commonly heard praises and complaints;

Pros:

  • Your GP choice is not limited by zip code. You have the free range of doctors and hospitals regardless of location
  • The Private healthcare has a multitude of  different options for providers
  • You do not  need a referral when looking for a specialist, they just need to be covered by your type of insurance.
  • The cost of state insurance is dependent on your taxable income
  • All students receive discounts and special benefits for state insurance

Cons:

  • The higher your taxable income is the higher your contribution to state insurance is
  • Some Private health insurers wont except expats until they have reached a minimum residency term
  • There are concerns that with the public/private system, many doctors will move to the private sector to earn a higher income and in do so leave less skilled doctors in the state care
  • In some circumstances insurance companies do not cover the full cost of a hospital stay. Patients staying overnight in hospital may be charged extra fees ( such as meals)

 

 

Helpful healthcare phrases:

  • Hospital – Krankenhaus
  • Patient – Patient
  • Sick – Krank
  • I am allergic to… – Ich bin alergisch gegen…
  • I need a doctor – Ich brauche einen Arzt.
  • I need an ambulance – Ich brauche einen Krankenwagen
  • I need a hospital – Ich brauche ein Krankenhaus.
  • There’s been an accident – Es gab einen Unfall.

For a list of body parts and other useful terms check out this link

 

7 easy steps to get your work visa in Germany

7 easy steps to get your work visa in Germany

Alright, so sorry for the delay. Honestly this should have been one of my first posts since I always receive so many questions regarding it.

buuutttt without further ado, here are the steps to follow to gain that golden German dream.

Step 1: Arrive with the intent to thrive

So you have decided you want to live in Germany, fabulous! Wilkommen bb. Lucky for you, initial entry into Germany comes with a 90 day automatic visa (Schengen Visa) to valid passport holders of these countries.

Step 2: Find a cozy set up

Almost tied with step 1, step 2 can be as much of an adventure. For me I initially came to Germany as an aupair- super great for initial transitioning- but if you are here so then you need to find a flat or Wohngemeinschaft (roomies) asap. There are many great websites you can look at to apply for places, and naturally groups on Facebook I would recommend checking out as well.

Step 3: Register in your new city

This task is a bit more tedious, but as long you have your documents, patience and someone who can help you with German you are golden.

In Germany it is very important that you register your living situation to the city. Even when you’ve been here long term, every time you move residence you have to go to your local BĂĽrgerbĂĽro and notify them of changes. You will need your passport, apartment contract and appointment.

Step 4: Search for your job ( in 90 days)

Now the pressure is on. Thankfully the Schengen Visa has allowed you some time to kill if you havent already got any previous job leads, but you still have the clock ticking. My first recommendation would be to set up a Xing account- a German counterpart to your linkedin. Also, make sure you have a good German resume organized, this makes a huge difference when applying ( will shortly make a post regarding how to do this)

Check out websites, network, look around the city etc.. but remember it can be difficult when you first arrive matching job credentials here, so if your 90 days are ticking down don’t worry about having to settle for something less than your dream job. Upward mobility is an easily accessible theme here.

Step 5: Apply for your new visa

Congrats! you have a flat, you have a job, what shall we do next? apply for that visa baby!

First you will need to make an appointment with your local Ausländerbehörde to go and submit your application. Then you will need to get your paper work sorted out. This includes your Arbeitsvertrag (work contract), Antrag auf Aufenhaltstitel ( application for visa), and a Stellebeschreibung (Job description). Along with this, naturally you need your passport and a set of biometric photos for when your visa is printed. When you arrive they will usually hand you a form to fill out while waiting where you give your family background and information about health insurance.

The hand over of documents is pretty simple. Much similar to the DMV, you go and you wait for ages and ages until your number is called. You will go to a designated room and hand over your documents. Sometimes they will ask you a few questions, just to verify your information. If you don’t speak German, I would recommend bringing someone along to make sure the process goes smooth. Truuuusttt mee after waiting an hour you really don’t want to be turned around and have to make a second trip ( this has happened to me a few times unfortunately)

After you have submitted your documents you will recieve a confirmation letter and a temporary residence permit which will allow you to stay during the duration your visa is being processed ( If you have to leave the country DONT forget to take this along for reentry!)

Step 6: Wait for it….

Depending on if you’ve applied for a Qualified/ Unqualified or Blue Card the processing time can last up to a couple of months. Since your documents are being processed you are allowed to stay and live in Germany without any issue, however traveling out of the country is not really recommended. I mean the border usually doesn’t give much problems if you have documentation to prove you’re in the visa processing phase, but its best to avoid anything that could jeopardize the situation with immigration.

Normally you will receive a letter in the mail saying when your visa is finished processing and available to pick up. Before then, they will give you a contact number for your local Arbeitsagentur so you can call and check the status ( aka yes or no it is ready). Other than that, you just have to chill and enjoy your remaining free days.

Step 7: Pick up visa and party

Hurray! the mail has been received and it is time for you to go pick up your documents so you can head on into the German work world.

You will not need an appointment this time, but it is always recommended to try to get there as early as possible to beat the never-ending Ausländerbehörde crowds. Once arrive, you get your number and wait ( agaaaainnnn) until you are called. They will give you your documents and send you over to the Kassenautomat where you will hand over your passport to have the visa stamped and you pay. In my experience it was usually only around 60€ or so, but this varies, however your job will either pay or reimburse you for acquired visa fees. So, no worries.

 

All in all, it’s a rather easy and straight forward process. In my experience, everything you need in Germany can be accomplished if you are willing to do enough paperwork..boy oh boy do they love paper work.

Please comment below with your questions or if you have any additional points I missed, I would love to hear them.

As always, I’ll do my best to help out

xx A

 

Resources for Munich:

KVR|Kreisverwaltungsreferat

BĂĽrgerbĂĽro

Visa application forms

 

Housing websites:

Wg Gesucht

Immobilien Scout 24

Immowelt

 

Quote

Dabbling in Denglisch

So I was planning on writing this great big post about how I ( and anyone who follows my tips) learned to manage conversational German so quickly. I then shortly realized it was utter nonsense because over the past 6 months I have been speaking less German and more Denglisch.

Dẹng·lisch

Combination of English and German spoken by expats in Germany  and Germans who keep on switching between both languages.

“Kannst Du mir morgen helfen to plan this out?”

For those who have transitioned into Denglisch, it really isnt a matter of being poor at one language or the other. Your skill set is voided, its mainly about the situation. When you have to use two languages often in daily life, no matter how disciplined or precise you are. Eventually you end up mixing them when the passendes Wort cannot be found.

It unfortunately is a  nasty habit one finds themselves in. People will ask me to translate a word from German to english and I’ll be like ” yea I totally understand what that is, but no my brain can’t compute my mother tongue right now” i.e lost in Dengleschion. I find my German skills have weakend and my english moderately deteriorated. I am sadly becoming a lazy linguist I fear.

It’s really interesting how becoming bilingual later on in life works out. The children I have previously cared for were all bilingual straight out of the womb, they have the ability to perfectly transition between language and seldom mix them up. Were as I over here have begun facing a handful linguistic nonsense:

  • Yodaspeak
    Since the German sentence structure is occasionaly backwards compared to the English, my American brain overthinks it decides that it should always be this way. I’ll find myself talking in english and blurting out phrases like ” I will the book soon read”
  • Or?

In German they always use an affirmation seeking “oder?” (or?) at the end of a sentence. Often  I find myself switching it in to my native english by asking my friends something like, “We will go later to the party or?” yea. smooth Aspen, congrats on your englischcchhh.

  • Scchh!

I realized I had been in Germany quite sometime when I started added c  to any words with an sh. Not only would I mistakingly write it down, but embarassingly enough pronounce it once and a while.

What are your biggest Denglisch-ues? Has anyone found a good way to stay on track and seperate their languages?  I would love to hear more about your tips and experiences. As I have only been learning German for two years now, It’s always great to hear from a fellow expat!

How to easily file your German taxes

How to easily file your German taxes

Welcome to the world of the international adult. It is not just struggling to hold a full time job, speak a second laguage and naivgating oneself through a new culture, but also the joy of filing taxes in this world.

but no fear! the German tax system is rather easy to get through and with an average of 1.000 euro returns

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…it is definitly worth the hassle.

So sit back, relax, and let your friendly neighborhood expat guide you on the easy peasy tax return route

 

How to do your German Tax Return ( Steuererklärung)

First things first, make sure you have your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung ( tax summary, like a W2)  handy and have downloaded the latest copy of Elster

Ok, FYI there are ways to do your taxes by hand, however in this day and age I prefer the online option. Elster (ELektronische STeuerERklärung) is basically the dream tool.

Regarding this I have gathered for you a great guide:

  1. Print out the forms
  2. Sign
  3. locate a post office.
  4. Send them to your local Finanzamt
  5. Done!

Via the Elster method, it usually takes 1-2 months for processing to happen. However, you will have given them your bank data so one day your refund will automatically pop up in your account and voila! time to treat yo self

 

But but Aspen, my German isnt tax preparation reaadyyyyy

no fear kleines mäuschen, if you are not quite up to the challenege I would recomend you check out Steuergo .  This online tax assistance platform is directed towards expats and all in english ( yeehoo!)

but if you are a freelancer or have a bit more complicated tax situation I would recomend you see a Steuerberater. A Steuerberater is a tax preparer. Here in Germany it usually cost a couple hundred euros to enroll in their services, but they are very good at optimizing your return amount and naturally if you have a business, home, large family, multiple sources of income it can be in your best interest to have a profesional guide you along the German tax system.

You can easily search for a steuerberater by googling one in your zip code. There are always so many options, so it is not a tricky task.

 

 

Questions? Answers.

When is the tax deadline in Germany?

The deadline is May 31. However, if you missed it or were not able to find the time, extensions can easily be made. Also, in the German system, as an employee,  you are able to file your taxes from the previous four years. So if you miss out you can always do it next year without a penalty.

When will I get my money back?

I have been told typical procesing time is around 8-12 weeks ( or in some cases even 3 months) but if you have filed your taxes online this usually helps to speed up the process.