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.

beetle juice waiting room gif

source

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.

sad glee gif

source

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.

she's the man gif

source

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.

tina Fey gif

source

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

source

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

emma stone all i do is win gif

source

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.

5 German Christmas Market Desserts You Must Eat!

top 5 german christmas market desserts

You may have gathered by now that I live for dessert. Its a constant battle between wanting to eat all the desserts and not wanting to look like a giant dough ball. But right now its Christmas season and I’m in Germany aka land of Christmas and all things Christmas yummy so I say to hell with dieting I’m going to eat all the things! (and then maybe just eat salads all of january to balance it out, thats how it work right??).

When I first was thinking about moving to Germany I read a lot about life in Germany and what to expect, but what got my most excited was the German Christmas Markets. I was just praying we’d get a visa in time so we could stay long enough just to go to the Christmas Markets. Well my wish came true and they have not disappointed! We’ve been to 3 in Berlin alone so far and had a day trip to one in a nearby city, Dresden, this weekend. It was by far the most magical Christmas Markets we’ve seen. It would make even the grinchiest person feel warm and fuzzy.

The hardest part about Christmas Markets is the fact that you are absolutely spoiled for choice on what to eat. So after much trial and error here are my top 5 German Christmas Market desserts you must eat!!

1. Lebkuchen

lebkuchen

Christmas German lebkuchen

We first ‘discovered’ Lebkuchen at Starbucks, we thought the Lebkuchen Latte was what they called eggnog lattes (Daniel has told me about how delish they are so I had to try one even thought they are way overpriced here). After one sip it was clear it was not eggnog. It wasn’t until we then found the real Lebkucken at the Christmas Markets we discovered its actually a giant heart-shaped gingerbread cookie covered in dark chocolate! Lebkuchen is tecnically gingerbread, but we find most common are these heart shaped ones. It is so yummy and perfect for eating on the go at the markets as its not messy and easy to break bits off to share.

2. Schneeballen

schneeballe christmas market germany

schneeballe christmas germanygerman schneeballen

 

Translated to ‘snowball’ these weird shortbread, filled and coated ball things look like they are some weird concoction of left over pastry all rolled together (they probably are). But don’t let this fool you they are so good! Basically they are strips of short bread all rolled together to make a ball about the size of your palm and then filled with a crazy large variety of flavours from marzipan to champagne white chocolate and then coated in a variety of chocolates and/or sugar. The best part is they keep for up to 8 weeks! So if you have the willpower they are great for taking home or to a Christmas party later.

3. Stollen

stollen christmas markets dresden

German market stollen dresden

We have been seeing this powdered sugar covered German fruit bread all over the place for weeks, way before any other Christmas food had come out. Everytime we go to the supermarket there have been so many varieties I figured it must ‘be a thing’ and we needed to try it. Well last weekend when we were at some Christmas markets with friends I asked them and they instantly started raving about it. It looks like its going to be a soft, fruit bread/cake like item but its actaully kind of hard and brittle, not really doughy at all! Also way better than we expected. For all you Americans out their who despise fruit cake never fear! This is nothing like fruit cake! I really can’t describe its uniqueness, you just have to try it.

4. Germknödel

 

This was easily the weirdest dessert we have come across. So much so we probably never would have ordered it if our friend hadn’t told us it was her favourite and that we HAD to try it. Its like an asian dumpling crossed with a berliner (cherry jelly filled donut), swimming in vanilla sauce thats been poured over it before being topped with poppyseeds. Sounds crazy right? Well it kind of is to be honest but its actually so good and really satisfying. Very filling though, this was one dessert I didn’t mind sharing with Daniel.

5. Glühwein

gluhwein stall christmas markets dresden

gluhwein christmas markets germany

This might be my favourite…

Ok so Glühwein isn’t technically a dessert but what better way to finish off your dessert testing than with a nice hot, steamy and very alcoholic Glühwein. Opt for the “mit shuss” option for a good time, it translates to ‘with shot’ and they are certainly liberal with their free pouring. Thats one way to beat the cold, warm from the inside out!

I hope this has gotten everyone in the Christmas eating spirit!

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 Cozy Cafes to Hideout Berlin’s Winter

Happy Friday everyone! We have an exciting weekend ahead of us with numerous overseas visitors. Daniel’s Dad arrived today after surprising us with this news only a week ago. It’s especially exciting to have him here as tonight I finally got to meet him in person (as opposed to skype)! Also arrived today are a couple of my friends from home so I can’t wait to catch up with them. It’s so exciting to be able to say we have overseas visitors, perks of being an expat!

We have a number of things planned with Daniel’s Dad but since its freezing outside (check out my instagram for my complaining if you don’t believe me) most of them centre around food. And by food I mean coffee and cake, obviously.

So if you are in Berlin and find yourself freezing and needing to head inside (which trust me you will), here are 5 cozy cafes around the city where you can grab a steamy latte macchiato, cake and warm your frost-bitten fingers.

1. Shakespeare and Sons (Prenzlauer Berg)

This one we just discovered the other day only a few blocks from our apartment and it is for sure our new fave. As an english bookstore cross cafe you can sip a delicious (and well priced) cappuccino, sitting in a plush armchair while being surrounded with walls of books. Need I say more? Well yes I do because they also serve bagels with house special cream cheeses (get the fig and avocado!). And if there is one thing I love almost as much as cake, its bagels.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

2. Martins Place (Kreuzberg)

You might have caught my rave about this already but really this place deserves more than one mention. With three quarters of the space dedicated to a kitchen that has walls lined more cake pans than I’ve ever seen you know you’ve stepped into this cake enthusiasts dream. Look no further than the display of amazing cake creations. I say creations because these are no ordinary cakes, these are gourmet cake extravaganzas. Good luck choosing. Keep an eye out for Martin who sometimes pops out of the kitchen with a new cake for the display. Tip: go on a week day if possible as there is not much seating and you will find a long line out the door on weekends.

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!!

Martins-place-line

The line out the door!

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

3. Leuchtstoff Kaffeebar (Neukölln)

A hipsters delight, this place draws a young coffee drinking crowd with its wonderful cappacinos and home made decor. With mostly bare wood, stripped walls and hanging lightbulbs its rustic interior makes use of its smaller space with couches on stilts of varying levels up the walls. I’m still unsure as to how people manage to get into these couches but don’t worry there are plenty of floor couches for those of us less cool. Their fresh daily, crispy outside, soft, flakey inside croissants are the best.

Leuchtstoff

Apparently they do good brunch, yet to try it here but I don’t doubt it as Sunday brunch is an institution in Berlin.

4. Cafe Moma (Prenzlauer Berg)

What looks like a small place opens out in the back to have a variety of armchairs and lounges. Amazing Latte Macchiatos, carrot cake and fresh made to order toasted baguettes piled with layers of prosciutto and cheese, its a perfect rainy saturday hangout. A super sweet husband and wife duo, she doesn’t speak English but sure makes wonderful sandwiches and a welcoming smile.

Cafe-moma-read

5. Frollein Langner (Neukölln)

A wonderful cafe/bar to spend an afternoon playing one of their many boards games or an evening enjoying the acoustic sounds of an amazing performance by some talented local performers. Numerous rooms to choose from all with a cozy atmosphere and variety of mix and match couches and arm chairs, coffee tables and even a piano and fussball table its like hanging out in an antique store.

frollien-langer-cafe

Frollein-langer-berlin

Acoustic night or serious chess game, you choose

What do you think makes the perfect cozy cafe hangout? Any other Berlin cafes we need to try?

 

 

 photo H54Fbutton_zps973d26e1.png

A Week in Pictures

berlin-sunset-picnic

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
Berlin-park-fall-leaves

The view from our new apartment

winter-comfort-cinnamon-rolls-hot-chocolate

Winter comforts. Cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate.

berlin-graffit-wall

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!!

mexican-food-berlin

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

berlin-streetscape

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

 

The Fall of the Wall | 25th Anniversary

Fall of Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin. I was really glad we got to be here to celebrate such a historic event. Also as we have quickly discovered the city of Berlin knows how to throw a party. To commemorate this occasion a 15km line of illuminated of balloons on poles was erected through the city to symbolise the wall. Then at a special celebration last night they were all released into the night sky.

The balloons were set up all weekend so Berliners could have the chance to walk the ‘wall’. We went and checked it out Friday with friend (thats right we have a friend now…one friend…between two because we’re cool like that). It was a really great way of displaying the wall because it made it so much easier to envision the, almost random at times, separation of the city. There was information along the way with excerpts about certain sections of the wall from bold escapes to tragic deaths to the mass exit of people into West Berlin on Nov 9th. Its hard to truly imagine what it must have been like, the joy and relief they must have felt when it was torn down 25 years ago. The balloons had a fitting eery beauty to them.

wall of balloons 25 year celebration berlin

balloons through berlin 25 year anniversary

ghost figure art berlin wall

We got so caught up in conversation and seeing the balloons we ended up walking about half of the route over 3 hours! As much as I enjoyed it that was more than enough. However it was great to really feel like a part of this city as we not only got to explore more of the city but were constantly surrounded by other Berliners following the line of their history.

The real celebration happened last night with the release of the balloons. It seemed like the entire population of Berlin (and probably more) came out to see it. The trains and stations were so crowded the ones near the main area were closed! We didn’t even realise we weren’t at the right station at first as we just got funnelled out with the masses of people. We managed to make our way to Potsdamer Platz and along the line of balloons until we were within sight of the Brandenburger Tor (the main event). It was a great spot to watch as we could see the line of balloons for blocks and were only a couple meters away from them. The atmosphere was joyous as everybody waited for the moment. Unfortunately we weren’t right at the Brandenburger Tor so couldn’t hear the symphony playing Beethoven’s 9th as the first of the Balloons were released but the cheer of the crowds as they floated into the cloudy night sky well made up for it. They didn’t set them all off at once but in a one-after-another wave formation. This made for some fun moments when a few balloons every so often wouldn’t release and the crowds went wild cheering them on as their releasers battled the balloons.

celebration 25 years fall of berlin wall

fall of berlin wall 25 year celebration

25 years Berlin Wall balloon release

After the release the crowds starting moving forward to now head to the Brandenburg Gate. With the release of the first wall we thought it was done. But we were deceived. There was in fact a second wall, less sturdy then its predecessor but separating people none the less. There was a sudden breach of the wall, we made a dash for freedom! I ducked under the fence made it through. Daniel unfortunately, did not. And thats how we got separated by a wall in Berlin… ok not that dramatic but we certainly enjoyed the irony of the situation.

separated new berlin wall

He looks impressed doesn’t he

We eventually decided to cut our losses and get out of there before the crowd got any rowdier (it was getting a little worrying especially as we were right in trampling territory if a break was to suddenly occur). We ended the night with celebratory quark balls, also known as fried dough balls rolled in sugar and possibly my favourite thing about Berlin, so I’d say a successful evening all round.

I feel really lucky to have been able to be in Berlin a be a part of such historic event. Sometimes what you give up to be an expat can be overwhelming, but moments like these remind you why you’re doing it and make it all worth it in the end.