Are We Out of The Woods Yet?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, to anyone still out there reading hello! I’m sorry it’s just been crickets around here. Life just got too hard and too busy for the last 6 weeks to find time for sleeping and breathing, let alone blogging. It’s been probably the most trying and tumultuous few weeks of my life but having come out on the other side, it was 100% worth it. You might have a vague idea of what’s been going on if you follow me on instagram but basically it’s been an emotional roller coaster ride of apartments, jobs and visa dramas. It all started getting crazy when we ended up apartment-less but I mean really the craziness started when I began working 12 hour days. So much big news I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just flash back to the end of January when things started to take a turn for us. As you might know, Daniel had landed a job back at the end of October but hadn’t worked a day yet as he had been waiting 3 months for his work visa to be processed. Good old German efficiency. Well, it turns out his visa had been ready since Mid November, the Alien’s office just lost it. The plus side to the whole situation was that it gave him plenty of time to apply for other jobs (he really didn’t want the other one but had no choice since he needed a visa). Well mid- January a miracle happened and he landed an amazing 1 year contract with an online marketing company. This was right before we needed to find a new apartment since our temporary accommodation was about end. We really wanted to find a long term place so we didn’t have to move a third time in 4 months, however it turns out we way underestimated how hard it is to find an apartment in Berlin. Three days before we had to be out of our apartment we really started to panic.

apartment search desperate berlin

I knew we’d hit rock bottom whenI had to post this in every single Berlin apartment search facebook group, but it worked!

We’d left it too late to even find another AirBnB. By Thursday night (we had to be out Saturday) we booked an emergency hotel a few blocks from our apartment. During this same time, other big things were happening. When Daniel had gone in to his new work to sign his new contract they told him that even though he was one of 5 who had been selected out of 350 applicants they still wanted 5 more people. This is when Daniel learned that they were doing a second round of interviews. So, he told them about me. Long story short, the Friday before we had to be out of our apartment (11am Saturday) I was in a 6 hour intensive interview and testing day at Daniel’s company applying for the same position. We got really lucky and, that afternoon, someone who had seen my desperate facebook ad contacted us. She told us she was going overseas for a month on Saturday so we could rent her place while she was gone. After the long interview day I met Daniel and went straight to her place to secure the apartment. Unfortunately, we couldn’t move in until late Saturday and we had to be out of our apartment early Saturday. So later that night we moved into the hotel… in the snow.

His face pretty much sums it up. I wish I could say that was all our stuff, but no this was one of 3 trips. The best was when we had a clothes drying rack perched on a suitcase with a dish drying rack attached. A very classy moment. I"m pretty sure everyone thought we were homeless. I guess we were at that point.

His face pretty much sums it up. I wish I could say that was all our stuff, but no this was one of 3 trips. The best was when we had a clothes drying rack perched on a suitcase with a dish drying rack attached. A very classy moment. I”m pretty sure everyone thought we were homeless. I guess we were at that point.

That weekend we moved twice. First to the hotel Friday night/Saturday morning then to the temporary place Saturday evening/Sunday morning. We had accumulated quite a lot of stuff by this point as the apartment didn’t have everything, so it took us 3 trips back and forth to move all of our stuff in suitcases and plastic bags on the public transport system. I think it’s safe to say it was one of the worst weekends of my life.

The next few weeks were just one giant sleep deprived blur. Daniel was super lucky and his new company helped him resubmit his visa with an agency so it all went through in a couple weeks, with only the slight hiccup of him almost getting deported when his extension visa ran out before his work visa had come through. My lunch times were spent either going to different governmental offices to get all the necessary paperwork to apply to apartments or continuing to interview at Daniel’s company. One of the biggest decisions but also the most exciting I had to make was when I got offered a permanent position to stay on with my company and become a manager or to take the new position at Daniel’s company I managed to secure! After a lot of consideration and back and forth I took the new job! I am now working at the same amazing online marketing company as Daniel in the Social Media Marketing team and having now been there a week and a half it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! It was a gamble because I was already well established at my old company and I was on a fast-track management path but in the long run I will be much better off with my new company. Not to mention I no longer work 12 hour days! The environment at the new place is just so perfect, it is so much more than we knew when we took the jobs and we are so excited to be there.

We also got really lucky and after viewing and applying to so many different apartments and getting nothing (not even a response) we managed to land an apartment a thousand times better than I ever thought we’d end up with. We are in the exact area we wanted, one of the nicest in Berlin, surrounded by cafes and bars, 5 min walk to a shopping centre, main train station and 15min tram ride to work. But the best part is that we are on the top floor! We get a lot of sunlight (which is rare in Berlin) and we have an amazing view from our balcony. It was a struggle to get a place but we couldn’t be more happy with where we ended up.

We are obsessed with the view from our balcony, can"t believe how lucky we got.

We are obsessed with the view from our balcony, can”t believe how lucky we got.

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Best part is we get sunshine, a rarity here in Berlin.

Best part is we get sunshine, a rarity here in Berlin.

All in all it’s been a complete emotional roller coaster and a real struggle. Yes we got lucky, but in the end we worked really really hard for this and I feel like we are finally truly settled and set-up for an amazing life in Berlin for however long we decide. Next step, it’s time to travel Europe on the weekends.

And if you made it to the end of this crazy long story, thanks for following along. Everyone’s support has meant so much to us (and I swear next time won’t be a crazy long monologue!). Here’s to finally being stable in Berlin.

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.

how  its feels bagging your own groceries

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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.

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!

Berlin Snow expat excited

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?

Exciting News!

So I’ve been a bit quiet on the internet front the last week, but thats because… drum roll…. I finally got a job!! *fireworks* *celebratory trumpets* *tears of joy*

It was a long and sometimes rough process but I have an awesome job at the company I wanted (read: spammed their HR with applications) It came completely out of the blue, the called me midday Friday and asked if I could come in in 3 hours for an interview with an MD (this never happens, I’ve had numerous Skype interviews with their HR for other jobs). I literally spoke with him for 10min before he asked me to start Monday! Things move fast here! The position is even in Marketing position like I wanted! (I was previously in sales and trying to transition to this so yay for not being stuck in sales the rest of my life). Its great I’m doing social media management so I literally spend my entire day on Facebook (I used to get in trouble at my last job oops). But I think I’m going to get sick of Facebook very quickly.

upper east side berlin freidrichstrasse

Yep I’m working on the Upper East Side…Berlin not Manhattan. I still felt cool.

Its a really cool company, it feels like university meets real world. Only downside is 12 hour days are the norm. Sounds like fun no? People stay until 8, 9, 10 just as a standard! My first day at about 6pm I was like “soooo… what time do people leave…” Its going to take some serious getting used to. Luckily I have the most amazing boyfriend who has had dinner ready and the apartment spotless every night when I got home. Sorry ladies, he’s taken. He does have an identical twin though… jokes (but seriously he does).

After not working for the last 4 months its a bit of an adjustment but I’m so glad to finally be more stable and to have some income so we can do what we really came here for, travel!! We’re planning on celebrating by taking a day trip to a smaller city, Dresden, a couple of hours away. Its supposed to have great Christmas market so we don’t want to miss that! So far we’ve been to 3 different Christmas markets in Berlin and are not even close to being sick of them. How could you ever get sick of festive cheer! And lots of yummy food and gluhwein of course. We have learnt through trial and error with some guidance from our German friends which foods to eat (and a few we wont be trying again). We ate this weird looking dumpling thing on the weekend that we never would have picked but our friend told us it was her fave, and it did not disappoint. It was certainly an odd creation though, think berliner (jelly filled donut) cross asian dumpling cross bread and butter pudding. Confused yet?

Well here’s to making it through my first week of work and actually earning the weekend! Happy hump day everyone!

5 Budget Friendly Ways to Christmas-fy Your Home Away From Home | A Travellers Guide

hotel christmas decorations on a budget

Away from home from the holidays? Us too. That doesn’t mean your ‘home away from home’, be it a hotel room or temporary apartment like ours, has to be cold and grinch like. It also doesn’t have to cut into your valuable traveling budget.

I know I didn’t think it could be done either, its not often you hear budget and christmas in the same sentence. Its hard with Pinterest absolutely exploding this time of year with stunningly decorated houses full of Christmas cheer. All I desperately want to do is make our apartment look as glorious as them. However since we’re not sure how long we’ll be in Germany and the fact we tend to move apartments every couple of months we didn’t want to invest in a bunch of Christmas decorations and items. We also didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on decorations as we’d much rather spend it on travels and experiences. So we had to get creative.

Here are 5 easy and budget friendly ways to Christmas up your home away from home

1. Candles

Candles are the easiest way to instantly make your home feel warm and cozy. We found Christmas lights didn’t really fit in our budget so candles worked out as a better way to have some lovely twinkling lights around the room. Whether in a line or tea candles in mason jars they make a world of difference. Make sure you have at least one scented one, the red one in the second photo below smells amazinggg, its cinnamon & maple. Straight up smells like cinnamon roll aka heaven. Its a steal too at only 1 Euro from Primark.

Christmas-candle-window-ledge Christmas-snowflake-candles

2. Hanging Ornaments

Some cheap ones like these from IKEA won’t break the budget and work great hanging in the window.

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We couldn’t find fishing line to hang these with but I snagged some free string from IKEA (in their packaging section) and then just frayed it to get thinner pieces

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3. Homemade Ornaments

We had a great night filled with Christmas carols, paper ornament making and wine. Must have wine.

Christmas-Decoration-makingDIY-christmas-tree-topper DIY-gold-brown-paper-ornaments

4. Pine Needle Branches

There is a florist selling Pine Needle branches on just about every block here in Berlin, but our apartment block has some pine tree in the courtyard so I sneakily just trimmed off the ends of a few of those branches. They’ve been a great way to make it feel (an smell!) a lot more Chrismasy since we decided not to get a proper tree.

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5. Mini Tree

Speaking of not getting a proper tree we debated over whether or not to get a tree. We went out to a few Christmas tree seller pop-up stands and the local supermarket who sold some too. In the end we opted not to buy one. If we wanted a decent tree it was going to cost at least 30 Euros which was more than we wanted to spend (especially since we’d then need a tree stand which cost around 15 Euros). We’d rather spend that money on a nice Christmas Eve dinner (we’re thinking fondue!). So instead we have this adorable miniature potted tree we bought on whim from IKEA weeks ago for 1.29 Euros. We just added some decorations and bam its christmas ready. I actually love it, its super cute and doesn’t take up precious space in our studio apartment!

DIY-Christmas-mini-tree-ornaments

One important thing to do though is buy a special ornament from the country you are in. Daniel’s Dad was kind enough to buy these beautiful (and very German) ornaments for us that will be so special to have each Christmas to remind us of our Christmas in Germany. We hope to continue to add to the collection!

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A cuckoo clock and a gingerbread house, does it get more German than that?

Now the place really feels Christmasy and ready for constant Christmas Carols, Hot Chocolate and snuggly nights in watching Christmas Movies

Ugly Christmas Sweater selfie rudolph primark

What Christmas post would be complete without an ugly Christmas sweater selfie

What DIY Christmas decorations have you made? Any other expats/travellers have any other budget Christmas ideas?

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All I Want For Christmas… An Expat’s Wishlist

I love being an expat, but sometimes there are certain comforts from home or particular Australian things that I would do just about anything for. Its funny how your perspective on things you need let alone want really changes when you don’t have things you used to just take for granted.

Some of these items aren’t necessarily stuff we can’t buy in Germany but they might be outside our budget or not necessary enough to justify purchasing and the having to lug with us from house to house (especially when at the moment we’ll only be here a year).

So without further adieu heres a list of random items I would love the big jolly fat man to carry down our non-existant fireplace and place under next to our adorable miniature christmas tree.

Expat-Christmas-Wishlist

 

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1. Vegemite

Come on, I’m Australian, you can’t be surprised. I don’t care how cliched it is. Oh sweet Vegemite how I miss you so. Both Daniel and I brought a small thing of Vegemite and they are already gone (by gone I mean they are still in our fridge waiting to be cut open and scraped clean). Ahh damn Daniel for being the only American to actually like Vegemite, I should never have weened him onto it, now I need to ween him off!

2. A pot large enough to hold pasta

So annoying all we have are these little bitchlet pots that I’m like, who even buys these?? All we can do pretty much is boil eggs in them. I had to cook pasta sauce across 2 pots the other night, its just such a pain.

3. Sushi

Sushi. Oh glorious sushi, what I wouldn’t do for sushi train right now omg. Next time I’m in Sydney I’m just going to stuff my face with sushi until I never want to look at it again. Germans right now are probably like ahh we have sushi all over the place. This is true, but it is so expensive!! Its like 8 Euros for a tiny, snack size amount of very plain looking sushi that wouldn’t be enough for anyone expect maybeee a child. Thats $12 Australian, for like 4 small pieces, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

4. A store that accepts Visa and Mastercard

So many places only take EC cards (Some kind of Euro credit card) and won’t take my visa or mastercards! What is going on?? Its not like I even have American Express, these are Visa and Mastercard! On Thanksgiving we were buying our groceries for our feast, we get to the front of the line, have scanned and bagged all our items then when I go to pay on my card we find out they don’t take either. We had to hand almost everything back since we only had a small amount of cash on us at the time. So embarrassing with a giant line behind us. Then we went to the supermarket next door and had the same thing happen. Not fun. Now we make sure we always have cash on us, and coins because the tram ticket machines only take coins! I hate coins.

5. Toaster with a cancel switch

Our place has the cheapest toaster, every time I want to pop my toast up early I either have to risk burning/electrocuting myself or pull the plug out so it pops up. The struggle is real.

6. Clothes Variety

I am SO sick of all of my clothes. Since we weren’t sure how long we’d be here and we plan on doing quite a bit of traveling all I brought was one backpacker pack and one carry-on size suitcase worth of stuff. Not going to lie it was quite a challenge and they were literally stuffed to the brim (thank god for space bags). I’ve bought a couple things here but really only just a couple warm things I needed since I was freezing, but I try not to buy much else since we have to move it from place to place. Its so hard though especially with H & M and Zara on pretty much every corner just begging me to buy all the things (my friends and family know I’m just a bit of a shopaholic).

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I’m still pretty proud of myself, a whole walk-in wardrobe condensed to only this

7. A Dryer

At home in Australia I don’t use a dryer (for Americans reading this, we have them we just rarely use them), but here I feel like it should just be a given that you have a dryer, yet our place doesn’t have one. Trying to squeeze all of our clothes onto one tiny IKEA rack that is then placed in the middle of our studio apartment where it takes like 3 days to dry is getting old fast. Don’t even get me started on when we try to wash sheets, its anything goes at that point, hang it on a door? why not. Across 2 chairs? We’re getting serious now. Not to mention the whole lack of clothes thing I mentioned before means I have to be strategic what I wash and when so I don’t end up with no dry shirts again (turns out I like white, which means they all end up in a whites load).

8. Sunshine

Sunshine is a rare gift here at the moment. Most of the time it is permanently grey and dreary and most likely foggy. Yesterday it was so foggy you were damp after being outside for 10 minutes. It wasn’t raining but you still got wet. Coming from Sydney (and Daniel from California) we are really used to a lot of sunshine so this has been a major adjustment for us. So when the sun does come out its like a big happy surprise. I’ll wake up to see sun streaming behind the curtains and get so excited I’ll leap out of bed and just throw the curtains back. before getting outside ASAP.

9. A magically refilling fridge and Pantry

Ok this might be a bit unattainable but I miss the (usually) full fridge at home living with my parents. Man I had it good (I’m sure my parents are getting satisfaction reading this, hi guys, yes I appreciated it!). I also miss being able to just drive up the road to the supermarket and drive back. Here when we do our weekly grocery shop its like an expedition of walking a few blocks, catching the tram, cramming everything into our backpacks and bags then tram and walk back. I swear it takes forever! Not to mention planning our weeks meals and list writing before so we stay on budget. Then by the time the Sunday rolls around we somehow always seem to be out of something like milk and we didn’t realise before and of course all the supermarkets are closed Sundays. Oh well grocery shopping will forever seem like a breeze one day, when we have a car in the US or Australia and where we won’t have to spend ages trying to translate an ingredient to make sure its what we think it is.

10. SNOW!!!

When it comes down to it, all I really want is snow. All we really want is a White Christmas. I’ve had one other white Christmas and Daniel has never had one. We cannot wait for it to snow here, its going to look so beautiful from our apartment windows looking out over the park below. Everyday I check the weather forecast and its constantly changing. Earlier this week it predicted snow for today, but now we have the most beautiful sunny weather today. Then it said Monday, now it says Wednesday. So I’ve given up, it will just be an exciting surprise one day when it finally happens.

What’s the most unconventional item on your Christmas Wishlist?

A Week in Pictures

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We had a really lovely (and sometimes a little hectic) week this last week. It was a welcome change to be busy (and not because of the Ausländerbehörde). I wrote about how life was good and things were really starting to come together the other week and its true. Each week we seem to become a little more stable, a little more established into life in Berlin. A little more like we truly live here. Its a relieving feeling. Packing up your life and moving across the world without jobs or visas is a daunting thing and sometimes I forget what a big deal it is (not to mention being my first time moving out of home!). As an expat in a new city trying to make a new life sometimes you find yourself with this sort of tightness in your chest. I feel like my heart is racing a million miles an hour as I try to ‘do everything’ and ‘sort everything’. Fear of failure is strong when you take such a big leap.

Not having any income yet is hard but we are lucky Berlin is such an affordable city and there are so many things to do that cost little to no money. I had a catering waitress gig the other night which was chaotic and also quite hilarious. Trying to give me instructions was fun since I don’t speak German and they only spoke fragments of English. I was told my job would to “fly”. Yes, fly. I was like “ok yep shall do, wait what?!” Turns out fly meant take plates of food around haha. Daniel’s job starts in 2 weeks which will help a lot. I will miss all of the quality time we have been able to spend together though (24/7 and he still isn’t sick of me). We’re looking forward to not having quite as strict a budget and being able to do some travel.

We moved into our new apartment last weekend and couldn’t be happier. We looked hilarious transporting our things on the train, suitcases, clothes drying rack, plants and all. Even though this place is smaller and not as nice and decorated as the other one we like it much more. We’ve been able to add our own touches and things. It actually feels like our home and not somebody elses. Its amazing what a difference it makes. Not to mention we absolutely LOVE our new area. Its beautiful and so clasically European feeling.

But besides the stress we really do love it here and things keep getting better and more established (thus less stressful) each week. Not to mention freezing!! Holy crap the temperature plumetted this week, I had to go straight out and buy a proper jacket and thank god I did because everyone was out doing the same. When I was buying my jacket I wanted to make sure it would be enough to keep me warm when its apparently going to get down to -15!! So I asked a couple people, it went something like this “hi do you speak English? Ok so umm I’m from Australia and we don’t really have winter so i was wondering… will this keep me warm enough here??” I think they enjoyed it.

Sometimes you just have to sit back and look at the amazing life you are living (in Berlin!) and remember how good you have it, stress and all.

The last week in photos
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The view from our new apartment

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Winter comforts. Cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate.

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Thanksgiving for two!

Thanksgiving for two!

Love my new coat, heres to a warm but no visibility winter!

Love my new coat, heres to a warm but no visibility winter!

Can you tell how happy I am/ just itching to dig into that cake?

Can you tell how happy I am/ just itching to dig into that cake?

5-layer-cake-martis-place-berlin

Martin’s Place in Kreuzberg makes hands-down the greatest cakes. This is my fave cake so far with its creamy, buttery icing and candied orange peel. Ah-mazing.

Photo does not do the cakes justice, but look at all the cake tins hanging in the kitchen!!

Photo does not do the cakes justice, but look at all the cake tins hanging in the kitchen!!

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Our fave Mexican place, Santa Maria. The most LEGIT Mexican and in Berlin, who would have thought??

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No better place to spend a cold Saturday. Coffee, tea and reading books.

No better place to spend a cold Saturday. Coffee, tea and reading books.

Picnic on a hill overlooking the city. When the sun is out you have to make the most of it.

Picnic on a hill overlooking the city. When the sun is out you have to make the most of it.

Can you tell I love food? And cake (because it is its own category).

What’s your go to winter activity when its freezing outside? Anyone know of some other great cafes/ brunch spots we need to try in Berlin?

Life Is Good

Life-Is-Good

Today marks 2 months since we moved to Berlin, and you now what I realised today? Life is good! A lot has happened in the last 2 months. There have been ups like being here for reunification day and the fall of the wall anniversary. There have aslo been downs, mostly associated with the Auslanderbehorde aka aliens office. But now it finally feels like everything is falling into place.

When we first arrived in Berlin everything was new and exciting, currywurst? Yes please! A giant pretzel? why not! Beer in the middle of the day at a festival? Hell Yeh! After a few weeks though the novelty wore off slightly and we found ourselves at a bit of a loss. Without jobs we had endless free time, which sounds good in theory (I would have killed for that a few months ago) but when everyday is the weekend nothing feels special. It’s easy to fall into a rut when you don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language and have no sort of regular routine. We weren’t home, but we weren’t traveling, it’s a very strange feeling. Couple that with the painstaking job searching and visa process it can be quite tough. After having to go to the Alien’s office a total of 7 times!! Each time getting up at 4am and waiting in line for hours with a bunch of wannabe Germans who keep trying to cut the line (seriously I nearly lost it the 7th time, there was some serious elbowing happening I’ll tell you!) all because the front desk lady took an instant disliking to us because we couldn’t speak German. It can be pretty disheartening. I was about ready to pack it in.

But we didn’t. Things started to pick up. And you know what the great thing about Berlin is? There is always stuff happening. Berlin really is an amazing city, there have been so many events happening during this short time we have lived here from Oktoberfest to reunification day to the Fall of the wall anniversary. Let me tell you they know how to throw a party! I can’t wait for the Christmas Markets, bring on a month of Gluhwien!! This is not to mention all the amazing markets around the city, the acoustic nights at bars that feel like home, the comedy nights at cozy cafes and so much more. We’ve been so lucky to have already had numerous visitors and more to come!

We are in a really great place now. Daniel starts work soon and we both have some great looking potential job prospects. We have met a few great people. We’ve got our favourite restaurants and cafes as well as lists of weekly events we hit up or plan to check out. Even this blog is starting to take off. Friday we are moving to a new apartment in our favourite area on the other side of the city and we couldn’t be more excited. I’ll miss our first apartment, its so nice and we were spoiled for space, and I love our little park and the hipster cafe with the sofas on stilts. But I can’t say I’ll miss almost getting peed on by a homeless woman, faeces of an unknown species (aka we’re never sure if its dog or human) or getting woken to the sounds of screams that sounds like the Turkish mafia. Neukolln, it’s been real. I’ll try to visit occasionally (maybe).

We still have a little way to go before we are truly settled here, but it’s almost starting to feel just a little bit like home. I cannot wait for the first snow! And Christmas Markets! And Gluhwien! I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.

Tonight we went ice skating 2 blocks from our house, at an uncrowded outdoor rink as the slightest hint of snow swirled in the sky. So yeh, life is pretty damn good.

Here’s a snapshot of our first 2 months in Berlin

Sightseeing-Berlin

Being Tourists

Victory-column-berlin

Atop the Victory Column

Potsdam-Palace-Fountain

Oktoberfest-Berlin

Berlin’s Oktoberfest

Berlin-Wall

The Wall

Bear-Pit-Berlin

Sunday Funday at Bear Pit karaoke

Berlin-Reunification-Day

Berlin Reunification Day

Beer-for-reunification

Celebrating Reunification Day like Berliners

Marketneulle-BerlinBerliner-kindl

Fall Leaf Love

Korner-Park-Neukolln-Berlin

Our favourite park around the corner

Love-in-Berlin

Grunewald-exploring

Exploring Grunewald Forest

Parks-of-berlin

Parks around Berlin- Potsdam & Grunewald Forest

Swing-Dance-Berlin

Templhof-Airport-Park-Berlin

Templehof Airport turned park

Templehof-Runway

Going to miss being a block away from Templehof Airport Park (good thing it will be freezing!)

H&D-park Brandenburger-Tor Berlin-Train-Sunset

 

5 things that I’ve found surprising in Berlin

Brandenburger Tor German Unity Day festivities
Sometimes I forget that I’m living in a completely foreign city with a different language and culture. Thats the problem with living in cities, they tend to all be very similar. But then you will see things or experience differences that snap you back to the reality that you are living almost exactly on the other side of the world. One of Daniel’s friends explained to us recently he calls these ‘Map Moments’. Moments that make you stop and realise that you are in a place you had only previously looked at on a map and dreamed. With international travel being so easy, you just hop on a plane and within a matter of hours (ok so try 30 from Australia) you can be in a completely different part of the world. Its so simple you sometimes forget just how far away you are. I think if we still had to travel months by ship we’d have a greater appreciation.
So here are 5 things I’ve found surprising in Berlin

1. They still fix and replace cobble stones.

It just looks like so much effort it amazes me they still maintain this tradition and don’t just concrete or asphalt instead. Don’t et me wrong though I’m so glad they do because they are so cute and classic European but I watched them dig them all up to the replace the pipes outside our apartment and then have to replace them all and I swear it took forever and looked so tedious.
Cobble Stone Repairs

This has been the state of our street the entire time we’ve been here

2. Everybody speaks English.

From young to old, business men to the crazed homeless dude who wanted to recite us poetry and switched to perfect English when he realized we didn’t speaks german (lucky us). That is everyone except the employees at the Alien’s office, because that wouldn’t make any sense would it.

3. History is everywhere they just seem to accept it and get on with it.

There is a carpark built on the site where Hitler’s bunker was and then surrounded by apartments that look onto it. The holocaust memorial has people sitting on it and playing around it (though they may be tourists). The picture at the top was taken at the big city festival for German Unity Day. I just found it fascinating the contrast of people on a ride right next to one of Berlin’s most iconic symbols of the Cold War, the Brandenburger Tor (though it is now the symbol of a reunified Berlin).

4. The weather is completely bipolar.

One minute it’s sunny with blue skies, you go into a store come out and it will be pouring with rain. We learnt very fast to always bring a jacket (I swear the Germans just pull one out of no where when the weather changes)

5. Sushi is everywhere but is so expensive.

We’re talking €6 euros for 4 bite size pieces. That’s like $9 when you convert it too! I just can’t bring myself to get it even though I miss it so much, I’m sure I’ll cave one day. On the topic of surprising food we found an amazing authentic mexican restaurant Daniel loves called Santa Maria. This is big coming from him because he is the biggest mexican food snob out and had previously refused to eat Mexican in Berlin as how could it possibly be any good being so far away from California Mexico. Of course it was pretty much full of other Americans, but their burritos are delish, not to mention the 4 Euro happy hour hibiscus margaritas. Ah-mazing.

Anyone know any scrumptious, well priced sushi joints in Berlin?

Berliner Bureaucracy

Oh the joys of bureaucracy. It’s been a difficult week. We are currently in the process of trying to work out and lodge visas. It is not something they make straightforward or give you much information on.
I’m currently sitting in a waiting room filled with crazed people desperate to just be given a waiting number. Daniel’s currently standing in a queue if you can call it that. It’s a semi organised formation of people all trying to elbow each other out. There’s a lot of suspicious eye movement, making sure no one pushes in front of them. The tension is palpable to say the least.

Daniel Berlin Immigration line*

The scene right now

There are conversations about visas that have already expired but they can’t get an appointment to see anyone, others who have come here at 5:30am 3 days in a row, people who waited 6hours the day before only to be handed an appointment for 6 weeks time.

But that’s just this morning, this is not our first German bureaucratic experience. Last week Daniel’s boss sent us to the wrong building. We waited half an hour in line before being told “nein”, handed a piece of paper with a bunch of versions of “please come back with papers written in German and a translator” then promptly made to leave the counter. We decided to try our luck on a another floor just incase we went to the wrong desk and fortunately found a kind woman who spoke a little English who was then the one that informed us we were at the wrong entire place.
So Tuesday we tried again, at the correct place this time, Auslaenderbehoerde, aka the Alien’s Office. Because thats what we are. Aliens. And they don’t let you forget it!

Nein baby meme

We got there just after it opened at 7am, there were people going every which way. We had no idea where to go but I knew we needed to work it out fast because I had read the allotted ‘no appointment’ numbers for the day run out fast. There are a few signs around, but of course all in German. We asked a sort of pseudo info/security desk and managed to get the gist of where to go. When we got to the right spot it became even harder. There is no one to ask, there are a couple signs in German and there are people filling the waiting room and lining up down the hall. Its a nightmare. Luckily a few friendly other Americans (can always count on friendly Americans) told us what to do… Wait in line until someone leaves the room behind that door and then go in to beg get a number. After waiting about 45min in line Daniel finally just went in, luckily because no one was in there. He was kicked out in a matter of seconds and told to come back with a translator, again! We were at the Alien’s office for gods sake!! Homeless people on the street rant to us in English as if the people working in the Alien’s office can’t speak English?!! I mean what are the other poor people in the same waiting room from Sudan and South America supposed to do, they can barely even speak English let alone German!!

Thankfully this nice couple, American wife, German husband, took pity on us and he went in with Daniel to translate. Such a kind man he not only translated he went out of his way to defend Daniel’s case! He told us the lady had wanted to kick Daniel out straight away and he argued with her that it was not right and that Daniel was bringing “prosperous work to the German economy unlike the rest of the ‘so-called’ refugees she was letting just file in and destroy our economy”. He went on that Daniel was educated, skilled and already employed and that she should, well pretty much that she should pull the pole out of her ass. This guy really restored our faith in the people of Germany, he went out of his way to help us and he didn’t even know us AND had his wife and not quite 4 week old baby waiting.

While this was all going on I was chatting with her and the other people in the waiting room, turns out this ridiculousness isn’t unique to us (kind of a relief to know were not just stupid). They told us you need to get to the office at like 5:30am and that they’ve done it in the middle of winter before. This was the third day in a row one a few of them had come, one guy had even had an appointment! They said even for Germans the bureaucracy is a nightmare. So after a bit of solidarity bonding hearing other people’s stories we felt no less frustrated but a little less disheartened to know that this is just what has to be done and that every expat working here has already been through this shit. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

So here are again, third times a charm right?? Right?? I’m waiting in the US waiting room again because the Australian room is already filled up (lucky me the other nations in my section are Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, Jordan, Yemen etc so you can imagine its pretty busy). Daniel went in slightly more prepared this time with pretty much the only German phrase I know ‘Konnte ich bitte eine wartnummern ham’ (I’ve probably totally butchered this)- ‘Can I please have a waiting number?’ At least I hope thats right. Hopefully they’ll see it as a sign of good faith.

Oh wait, he’s back! And what do you know… we have to come back 7am Monday. Let the good times roll.

Anyone have any tips on the visa process in Germany??