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 RundfunkgebĂźhr)

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

 

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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.

 

 

 

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 Reichenbackbrücke Isar and Gärtnerplatz. 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.

CafĂŠ 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:

Gärtnerplatz

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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.

ReichenbackbrĂźcke Isar

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The part of the Isar flows under the Reichenback bridge near Fraunhoferstr. ( just a few minutes walk from Gärtnerplatz) 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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