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 DĂŒsseldorf, 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

 

Tips for finding a flat in Munich

Tips for finding a flat in Munich

So you have managed to take the leap and move to Munich but now are in search of the second essential piece; a flat! And I’m certain as you have heard-or experienced- it is a double doozy trying to find accomidation in this sweet little city.

However, my dear expats, Aspen is here to help. I shall provide you with some of my best resources and advice to kill the 089 housing game.

  1. Know German ( or someone who does)

When in Germany, speak German! Most ads are in German and most landlords prefer a German speaker. When applying it is far more effiencent to write applications in German-you get much better and more feedback.

2. Types of rent

Unlike in the United States, rent is not such an easy topic to break apart, so here are some key words you should keep in your flat hunting vocabulary:

Kaution: The deposit. Typically in Germany the deposit will go into a special bank account held by your landlord that requires signatures from both parties. Although sometimes it is just transfered over with your first months rent payment, in which case it is always smart to keep bank statements tracking these transactions.

Kaltmiete: Literally ” cold rent”, this describes a contract in which utilities are not included in the rental price.

Warmmeite: The price of rent which includes utilities and Nebenkosten.

( Warmeite does not include internet,  or RundfunkgebĂŒhr)

Nebenkosten: These are basically building management fees. So anything associated with the building such as trash removal, cleaning services or elevator maitenence can be included in the NK. This will cost will change due to how much heat you use, in addition once a year you should recieve a seperate water bill. You will have to pay for the water bill if youve gone over your allowence, but sometimes if your under you can get a refund.

The Kitchen: This, to me, was always a strange topic. In Germany you can rent flats that don’t have kitchens, i.e bring your own stove. Coming from America where kitchen is not counted as furnishing I have had quite a few disapointing experiences. It is important to read ads well as sometimes there is a kitchen, sometimes not and sometimes you must even pay extra for the kitchen that is already there.

Wohnungsbewerbung: The rental application. Sort of similar to applying to a job, when applying for housing you will need a cover letter, CV and proof of income.

3. Rental Abbreviations to know:

2 Zi. Whg : 2 Zimmer Wohnung :2 room apartment

WG :Wohnung Gemeinschaft : Flatshare

Mobliert : furnished

EBK : Einbaukuche :Kitchen is included (stove, cabinets, fridge, sink)

EBK (Abl VHB____) : Kitchen include, but for a cost (VHB; verhandelbar; negotiable)

Parkett Wood floors

Laminate: Laminated floors

Tiefgarage : Car garage, usually an additional cost associated

2 OG m. Lift : 2nd Obergeschoss: Third floor (English) , with elevator

Spulmaschine : Dishwasher

ca. 100 qm (or m2) : About 100 square meters multiply by 10 to get square feet

Nachmieter: Someone who is looking to leave a lease earlier than scheduled

Untermieter: Sub-letter

ab. 1 Juli: Available 1st of July

ab sof. :sofort frei : Available right away

 

4. Websites to find housing

IMMOBILIENSCOUT24

IMMOWELT

 SÜDDEUTSCH ZEITUNG IMMOBILIENMARKT

WG-GESUCHT,

AIRBNB

Hopefully this can be a helpful start to your search. As always, feel free to contact me if you need some more advice or have some to share.

Best wishes little fishes

xxA

 

How to kill it in the Munich expat game

How to kill it in the Munich expat game

One topic I hear a lot is about Americans not being able to make it abroad. Namely in Munich. Germany in general is a very different cultural climate but Munich is the cream of the crop when it comes to culture shock on us Americans.

We all know how reserved Germans are and how this, in the start, is different for Americans. However, In Munich it is much starker. It is a very conservative city and the people are a bit more closed off then in some of the other major German cities, but honestly I feel these are just excuses. Sure there are cultural differences everywhere, you wanted to be abroad and now you are, so this brings me to my first point:

Get a thicker skin

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From my expat friends the thing I hear the most is the endless complaining about how cold Germans are. Well, tough deal babycakes. Maybe don’t be so sensitive. You are an expat for a reason, mainly being you wanted to live abroad. And with that comes cultural differences you must a just to in order to thrive ( if this is what you want). My first and biggest tip would have to be simply avoid sweating the small stuff. Don’t try to stay in your comfort zone. Embrace the difference, not be offended by it.

 

Find your social circle

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We as humans are very social creatures, not having a circle of like-minded individuals to share with can be rather devastating. A lot of my expat/ attempted expat friends have said this fact was the make or break to the whole game. Which I toootallly agree. My first year here I was rather miserable. I chose to hit the books and work constantly, so next to being the odd American out I was also  flooded with feelings of loneliness. Which did not help my adjustment one bit. It really made me doubt my ability to strive and thrive. I know people who had similar situations and eventually went home, blaming it on the city and saying they just weren’t allowed to make it. Honestly though, you need to try to work on finding your peeps first thing. It makes alllllll the difference on your progress. There are so many resources for meeting people. Meetups, expat groups, expat-german groups, sports groups, language exchanges..it’s endless. You just need to go out and search.

 

Find your purpose

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toughened up, Check✓

Friend circle, Check✓

Whats next? Finding something you enjoy. I’m not talking like go grab some hobby, jog or knit a scarf. Find something that gives you a reason to wake up in the morning. Most of us expats are here to study or work ( or if you are a spouse, same samesies) but that is not enough to be a happy camper. We have so much work here adjusting, learning the language, adapting cultural practices,  sometimes we face the fact we’ve lost ourselves a bit by trying to be an other person in this new life. Essentially you need something to combat all the work, and balance it out. For me, I found running. It’s great because it allows me to have a routine by myself but there are also many group in Munich where I can combine multiple things I enjoy; running and speaking German. So get on out, take a cooking course, get your sporty spice on, travel,  volunteer a bit. Just focus on finding something for you.

 

Find out how to do stuff

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Last but not least, let me remind you to get down to business. There is nothing more alienating than not know how to do basic life tasks in your new home; setting up a bank account, finding a language school, knowing what store to go to, filing taxes etc etc.. It drove me bananas. At first arrival I felt so limited and lost. You cant expect to branch out and hit your full potential, you’ve gotta go forth and find those resources,  be independent and learn how to get things done. Youre self-esteem will shoot up and everything else will be a breeze. I mean, honestly, yea it’s a bit intimidating at first, but three years in now everything is eassyyy peassyyyy.

I’d recommend googling some blogs, or checking out these sites for some help on day-to-day Munich questions:

Toytown

Expat in the City

Internations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving to Germany, 2 years later

Moving to Germany, 2 years later

As many people have asked, and continually do so, I have finally decided to sit down and answer a why German post. Coming from Hawaii to Munich always seems to baffle people in conversation, and when the initial shock is over questions about the expat experience come up.

Where are you originally from?

I was born in California, raised in Hawaii and then moved back to Cali for a couple years for college. I would say Im not from either 100% but a good solid west coast mix.

 

What made you decide to move away from the US?

Have you ever been to California or Hawaii? paradise. ok you got me. However, economically it is a disaster.  At some point I found myself beginning to get trapped under mounds of debt and realized that having no health insurence was not a way I wanted to live my life. I was in dire need of some stability. So I packed my bags and searched for a new home with more opportunities and benefits.

 

How did you decide on settling in Munich?

I initially did some test runs in my search for a new home. I had some time in Geneva, Paris and London, but all the while I had a nack for visiting Munich and eventually fell in love with it.

 

Do you have family or live alone?

Most of my family is gone now ( one of the major reasons I left America) However, I did start out in Munich as an aupair but now I am a full fledged adult and live alone. On occasion I will visit my German family so I cannot say I am entirely out here alone and roughing it.

 

Was it easy making friends or adjusting to the culture?

HAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Oh boy is this the question. I could write a thesis on this bad boy, and have probably verbally done so many times. The German culture – in contrast to American- is a very hard nut to crack. In America it is easy to walk out and talk to any old Joe on the street and build an ever lasting friendship eventually. but no, not here. Germans are very reserved and very exclusive. You meet people basically only through other people and if you cant speak German at all it can be very difficult. I mean I must admit I have heard Munich is extra difficult regarding this and if I was in another city it may be easier..but I chose the hard route. All in all I cannot fully complain though, in a way I really appreciate it a bit more in comparison to the over friendly American style. I find here when you actually can get into a social circle, the friends you make tend to be far more loyal and valuable.

How do you cope with homesickness?

In all honesty I do not have so much homesickness as Munich feels to me more like a home than any other place I have previously lived. Sometimes though, when Ive had a hard day or want to cry from studying the language I will go get a Starbucks. It may be over price, under quality coffee but it does taste the same in every country.

 

How long did it take to learn German?

This is a pretty reletive question. First things first, German is extremely hard. Most expats I have met tend to avoid learning it. They find when everyone here speaks english it doesnt make so much sense but also I takes a loooootttttt of work and investment.  I was lucky. I chose to start my Munich transition as an aupair so I had some good time in between working hours to hunker down and focus on studying. I did sacrfice a lot of my free time to catch up from a life of single language living and many a times cried because learning German grammar is a night mare. Now I am about a B2 ( just under native speaker) my comprehension is about perfect but since I work in english my speaking is not soooo ideal.

 

Do you feel at home yet?

For the most part I can answer this yes. In my first year it was really hard and I often felt very alone and reminded I did not belong. I did not know the city well and was very shocked by the culture. Going into my second year ( and once I learned German) I began to feel more at ease. Now that the second year is nearly over I can say I am very well settled. I have a perfect flat, job, my language skills are blooming, the social situation is..almost solved.. all in all I am just about as cozy and content as an expat could be. I’ve come to find that calling somewhere home is not about being happy because everything alway being perfect, its about feeling happy when nothing is going right. It is always a struggle in some way or other to make it here but at the end of the day I find it always works out well for me. Some way or another.

Top five Summer activities in Munich

Top five Summer activities in Munich

Ahhh yesssss, finally the days of snow are through and the temperature is headed up. Summertime is starting in Munich, and what better way to enjoy it then hurry on outdoors.

But wait! what is this you say? You don’t know what fantastic activities Munich holds for this season? Well then my dear, let me give you a little help.

  1. Englischer garten

Known as one of the biggest urban parks in the world, the englischer garten is by far one of the first attractions youll want to hit up in the Munich Summer months. It stretches on throughout Munich with its many wooded trails and chill  sunbathing friendly greenery. People come from all over to lay by the river, play volleyball, do sports and spend their whole days in the sun.

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They even have a part of the river where people surf. I knowww right? bananas.

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2. Open airs

Another popular summer activity in Munich is to attend an “open air”

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An open air is a bit of a loose term. Its like any sort of gathering event, with music and drinks outside. It ranges from big music festivals to smaller outside gatherings and even outdoor cinemas. Below I’ve added a couple standard open airs that would definitly be a good option to see for the new to Munich:

and here are some bigger note worthy festivals around the area

3. Cafes and Roof top bars

 

Now on to on of my favourite activities…eating and drinking! The long sunshine hours of summer create the perfect opportunity to sit outside, enjoy the weather and some treats. Whether you choose to brunch, lunch or go out for a drink the options are endless. Since I tend to post about my favourite cafes, right now I will just tell you about to great rooftop bars.

Flushing Meadows | http://flushingmeadowshotel.com/bar/

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This hotel bar sits in Fraunhoferstraße between the ReichenbackbrĂŒcke Isar and GĂ€rtnerplatz. They serve amazing smoothies and Açai bowls from Super Danke and have a fabulous list of drinks and cocktails ( my current favourite being the Flushing Meadows Spritz) Its a wonderful place to go anytime of the day, but particularly evening I find lovely.

Café Vorhoelzer Forum | http://www.vf.ar.tum.de/cafe/

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Located above the Technical University of Munich ( TUM or TU) is another great-and super popular- roof top bar. Naturally as its above the university, finding a spot there can be difficult but when you are lucky or have put your weight in it is worth it. The food is not someting extra ordinary and the drinks are standard but the atmosphere is really what catches you. And the view of the city is really great.

 

4. Glockenbach

Glockenbach is one of the more popular districts in Munich ( coincidently also my home). However it has two main areas that are great local attractions:

GĂ€rtnerplatz

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A small enclosed roundabout between Marienplatz and Sendlinger Tor is host to a wonderful mini garden park. People often come and sit on its benches and stairs under the central fountain for the day. Drinking a beer or radler, eating some ice cream or even just sunbathing with friends. The area is always very well manicured and the plants are changed out for each season.

ReichenbackbrĂŒcke Isar

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The part of the Isar flows under the Reichenback bridge near Fraunhoferstr. ( just a few minutes walk from GĂ€rtnerplatz) Its a great place to go and relax in the sun. It doesnt quite have the swimming capabilities as the Englischer Garten, but its more for just chilling in the grass or running along the paths.

5. Lake trip

Now this is a bit far off, but any proper Munich inhabitant will know it is one of the best ways to spend some free summer time. And with the amazing German public transport system, its pretty easy as well. All around Bavaria there are many great lakes or in german Sees to visit. Here are some of the most popular:

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