German Efficiency- Fact or Fiction?

We all know the stereotype that Germans are known for their efficiency…. well guess what, its a big fat lie. Germany has to be the most inefficient country I have ever been to, or at least any of the governmental systems. It’s like it’s some great big sham that’s really quite impressive how far it’s gone, I mean the whole world knows about German efficiency. They had some good marketers I’ll tell you that!

I have had numerous Germans comment “that’s German efficiency for you” and roll their eyes! It’s a complete and total farce and they are all well aware of it.

Everything you do goes through multiple people/departments, is full of paper work and will take weeks months.

The Germans looove their paper work and they love their lines. Everything you do involves getting there early, to get in the line then waiting at least an hour before it opens then probably another half hour to get a waiting number to then wait at least another hour to be seen.

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Now you might be thinking ‘come on Hannah you’ve only lived there 4 months’ how can you possibly know about German efficiency. Well if you really want to see how a country functions become an expat and move there. I have never had to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops or deal with so many different facets of governmental institutions. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t need to in Australia being a citizen and all but I seriously doubt it involves as much as Germany. I mean when Daniel moved to Sydney he got a one year working holiday visa…before he went… Online.

Not in Germany!! Nothing happens online, it all involves face to face with lots of waiting in lines and lots of paper work (and usually people who don’t speak English, even though literally everyone else including homeless beggars can).

Fortunately I recently discovered the best way to get what you need when they don’t speak english and refuse to help… keep looking confused and asking the same question over and over again… oh and look like you might cry at any second.

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You want a tax ID required for work? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.  You want to register your address? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.You want to apply for a visa? You’re going to have to wait in line for that. 7 times if you’re us, a record so far, we’re yet to meet anyone who took over 3 visits to lodge their visa application. I tell you by the 7th time of waking up at 4am to wait 4 hours all bets are off and social decency/being lady-like goes out the window. When the doors opened I ran up the stairs elbowing people out of the way… I’d do it again not my best moment.

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Oh yeh, did I forget to mention you have to register your address every time you move? Yeh every time. Even if you’re living in a hotel, because anything else you want to do requires that precious piece of paper.

The magic rule for calculating how long anything will take, times it by three.

They say the line will take an hour? It will take 3.
You order something to be mailed to you they estimate to take a week? It will take 3.
You apply for your visa and they estimate the processing time to be a month? It will take 3.

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The only area they are efficient is in the supermarket checkout. You feel like you’re on a game show where the slowest bagging shopper gets eliminated. The cashier will have swiped your stuff, taken your money and started swiping the next customers things into your pile before you’ve even managed to open the bag.

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One things for sure, after tackling all of these obstacles you feel pretty darn good about yourself.

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Disclaimer: This may all be because we live in Berlin, aka East Germany. I have been told the West is nothing like this, but these opinions are purely based on my personal experiences.

Budvegas- Budva, Montenegro

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Things as you might have heard have been a little hectic here what with working 12 hour days and crossing other expat milestones so I still haven’t finished recapping my travels from when I first arrived in Europe a whole 4 months ago! I can’t believe how fast time has gone, especially the last month.

So we if you’re new here or can’t remember where we were up to in that amazing first month in Croatia and the Greek Island we last left with the scariest jeep ride ever from white water rafting in the Tara River Canyon, Montenegro to one of the Adriatic’s oldest cities, Budva.

After crazy few weeks of non-stop partying and activity at Yacht Week and white water rafting we were in serious need of some R & R. Budva was the perfect place for it. Its quite cheap and besides visiting their Old Town and many bars there isn’t really that much to do besides go to the beach and chill out. Couple that with the fact its still outside the schengen zone (European visa area you can only be in for 90 days). Its a great way to extend your European vacation and relax. Not to mention is was super hot!

A big thing Budva is none for is its clubbing scene. There are all sorts of bars and clubs (fairly trashy of course) on just about every street, hence we dubbed it Budvegas.

We pretty much our few days in Budvegas eating cheap seafood feasts, and drinking cheap cocktails, catching up on sleep and lazing at the beach.

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About a half hour taxi ride is the town of Tivat. Even though its only a short distance from Budva its like you’ve stepped into a completely different world (and a much more expensive world). Its mostly made of up a very large super yacht marina with an outdoor mall of designer stores and fancy restaurants. All very beautiful and classy, unlike the rest of Budvegas. But also unlike Budva, it almost a complete ghost town! It might have been because it was the middle of the day and so it was very hot outside or perhaps because we were there at the tail end of the high season. It was a great place to get away from the semi-chaos of Budva for the afternoon and spend it sipping on delicious cocktails and lounging by the giant harbour.

Budva Montenegro harbour swim

please ignore my terrible cankles, my feet and lower legs were soo swollen for weeks after yacht week. They just couldn’t handle the serious heat, alcohol and lots of walking

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After a few days of detox and recovery we decided to one of Budva’s most famous attractions, Top Hill. Top Hill is a 5000 person nightclub on top of a hill (creative naming) that overlooks the whole city of Budva. After watching some youtube videos of it we had high expectations. Well like any night with expectations it turned out fairly crap. I don’t think I have ever been more bored on a night out. The club wasn’t even close to full so had virtually no atmosphere. Plus if you had a table (which everyone did, like a standing table) you could only order from a waiter which not only cost more of course but he was also never around! It might be better in the middle of high season, but it was not worth the taxi ride that night thats for sure.

Budva Montenegro top hill

All in all I wouldn’t call Budva a must see destination by any means, but if you need to extend your time in Europe by getting out of the Schengen zone or are looking for a cheap beach destination to chill out and save some money for a few days Budvegas is not a bad place for it.

 

 

A Week of Expat Milestones

The first week of 2015 was a big one for us. It was probably our busiest and most exhausting week since we arrived in Berlin. But some big expat milestones were crossed last week!

I got a German Bank account

Finally after living here almost 4 months I have a German bank account! I finally had to get it asap on Friday so work could pay me this week, talk about incentive. I cannot wait for my EC debit card since almost no shop (including grocery stores) will accept my visa or mastercards.

I got a German tax file number

Also needed to get paid but I’m an official worker in Germany now! It was another fun experience with German bureaucracy. The first lady said she couldn’t help so I took another number and tried the next person. She didn’t want to help me either but I have recently discovered if I just keep begging and looking confused and like I might cry they end up deciding it will just be easier for them to do it for me to get rid of me. The key to German bureaucracy!

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Daniel got an amazing job offer

So Daniel got a job a while back but hasn’t been able to work a day there yet because we are STILL waiting for his visa to come through. But in the meantime he has been applying to other jobs that are more what he’s looking for and he managed to score an amazing traineeship with a really impressive company. They had the most intense interview process ever narrowing the applicants from 350 to 35 before inviting the remaining to come to an all day interview and testing day, we’re talking 12 on 1 interviews! But he made it through and couldn’t be happier. We’re just praying his visa doesn’t mess it up for him.

Daniel made it on a water polo team

This is probably the biggest news. In case you’re a new reader, one of the main reasons we came to Berlin was so Daniel could pursue professional water polo. It’s a hard sport to get into as you really need to know someone as it’s very hard to find information. By some miracle a few weeks ago our lovely friend invited us for dinner with her flat mates and would you believe it they have a friend who plays on the team. What are the odds?! So they put Daniel in touch with him last Monday and by Tuesday he was already training 4 days a week with them. It’s been a very trying week for him as he’s been out of the pool so now he’s not in top form but he’s giving it his absolute all to get back into it

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This is from his old team but I can’t wait to see him do this again. Can you believe I’ve never actually seen him play?!

Daniel played in his first professional water polo tournament!

That’s right after less than 4 days on the team Daniel played his first ever pro water polo tournament! Poor guy had to play 5 games over this weekend which is pretty rough when he hasn’t played in months. But I think to be able to say he had a pro game versing prague on the weekend makes up for it.

It’s been a long road but it’s exciting seeing things coming together more and more. It’s nice not to be stuck in limbo between being tourists and belonging. I feel like we can officially say we live here. It’s a pretty nice feeling.

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Other expats what were your significant milestones?

A Day Trip to Dresden: Christmas Markets

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Am I the only one who can’t believe the holidays have been and gone already? Post holiday blues have certainly set in and I’ve only been back at work 1 day. As a remedy and since I refuse to admit the holiday period is over here is a recap of a day trip we took to Dresden (about 3 hours from Berlin) to visit their Christmas Markets. Don’t judge me, its cold and dreary here I need some joy.

We went to Dresden the Sunday before Christmas. It was our first time leaving Berlin since we arrived in September and it was so needed. Dresden is home to the Oldest Christmas Market in Germany. If you’re looking for a way to really get in the Christmas spirit look no further!! It was like Christmas exploded all over the square. It was the Christmas Market to end all Christmas Markets. We spent the whole afternoon exploring these markets and were sufficiently Christmased out by the time it was time to catch our bus back to Berlin.

Like any good Christmas market adventure we made the rounds trying all the free samples of stollen, drank some of the best gluhwein we’ve tried and had the most amazing marzipan melted chocolate hot chocolate I have ever had. Ah-fricking-mazing.

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The Best Ever New Year’s Eve Celebration: Leipzig, Germany

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I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again, those German’s know how to party!! This year was hands down the BEST New Years Eve celebration I’ve ever experienced. We rang in the New Year not in Berlin but in a city 2.5 hours away called Leipzig. One of my good friends from Sydney, Emily, was in Germany visiting her German boyfriend and brother and invited us to spend New Years with them. We couldn’t have asked for a better New Years Eve celebration and fun couple of days. From a snow filled first day, to a sushi making dinner party, checking out Leipzig and its crazy residents congregated in the square watching classical music in the rain… on a screen (we still don’t understand why) to the craziest New Years Eve celebration Leipzig did not disappoint. Of course a lot had to do with the great company we had, I swear the 2 days were just filled with endless jokes and laughs from people falling off chairs to learning new fun German phrases (my new fave is Geil it means epic/awesome/sick… but also horny, those crazy Germans) I think its safe to say a good time was had by all!

I’ve had some pretty amazing New Years eve celebrations over the years from Sydney, to New York, to Paris to Byron Bay. But this year takes the cake. Here are 5 reasons why this was our best New Years eve in Leipzig Germany.

1. Fireworks everywhere

Now if you know anything about the amazing spectacle of fireworks Sydney puts on every year (the best in the world in my humble opinion) then you can imagine why I don’t usually have high expectations of other cities being able to top it. But would you believe Leipzig took it to a whole other level this year. There weren’t any city run public fireworks displays, instead it is the one day a year fireworks are legally sold in Germany and people definitely make the most of it. We could hear the bang of fireworks occasionally being set off all day in the lead up by people who just couldn’t wait but nothing prepared us for the craziness of midnight. The streets were filled with people setting off their own fireworks. And I don’t mean little firecrackers, I’m talking full blown fireworks. It was absolutely insane. Bangs and flares echoing through the streets, the air thick with gunpowder and smoke. People throwing smaller firecrackers out windows onto the streets below. It was complete and total anarchy and it was amazing. My adrenaline was running high as we walked through the streets littered with fireworks. It was overwhelming trying to capture it on camera, I didn’t know which way to turn. It was so exhilarating and the most fun New Years Eve I have ever experienced. It’s one thing to watch fireworks, its another to be in the middle of them. I honestly don’t know how its legal but I am so glad it is!!

 

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not surprising considering the anarchy taking place

2. Setting off my first firework

If you really want to see (and hear!) what New Year’s Eve in Leipzig is like you have to watch this. This was a crazy experience standing in the road (with the occasional car or tram speeding by) while heaps of fireworks are being set of all around me and lighting a full blown, shoot into the air, explosive firework.

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my first firework!

3. Great Friends

Our New Years celebrations wouldn’t have been anywhere near as amazing without all of the wonderful friends new and old we spent it with. We had so much fun with everyone it was hard to leave!

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the boys and their fireworks

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ready to bring in the New Year with a bang!

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The boys and their beer

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Heading to the bus New Years Day, didn’t have time to stop for a group photo so took one while walking, have since decided we should make an album since we already have a cover

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Snow fun!

2. Great food

I swear we spent the majority of our time their eating. We had a great first night making sushi, my expat christmas wish came true! Their were many brunches, coffee and delicious cake at one of Europe’s oldest coffee houses, Coffee Baum, an amazing potluck buffet at the New Years party and a glorious buffet brunch New Years day. We won’t need to eat for a month (which is lucky since I’ve dubbed this month ‘just healthy eating january’ after the blowout of December!)

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homemade sushi, yep we made that

1. The Snow

The days before we left for Leipzig it finally properly snowed in Berlin. We have been waiting for this moment ever since we moved to Germany. It continued to snow the whole bus ride to Leipzig and the rest of that day. Its amazing how the blanket of white makes everything that much prettier. Naturally a spontaneous snow fight broke out (it was the best snowball making snow!!)

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beautiful snow covered leipzig

beautiful snow covered leipzig

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The people of Leipzig watching an orchestra performznce in the square… on a TV… in the Rain. We still don’t know why

A big thanks to Emily, Sebastian and Paul for the BEST New Year’s ever!

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