Archives

The Munich Culture Clash

Roxana moved from Bucharest to Munich. She tells us two short stories of her first experiences as an expat in Munich and the difficulties and differences she had to face in the first months.

Oops, here comes the police

I was at the end of my first half of a year of living in Munich. I had bought myself a Smart, the perfect car for this city. So, one night, I went to a movie and watched a film that starred Tom Cruise. Then, I was on my way home, with loud music blazing from the car’s stereo and the ceiling left open for fresh air. It was the stars and moon above me! Just before I turned into my street, I saw the police in the mirror.

I told myself: Hey, they don’t care about me, and I don’t care about them. But even so, better keep an eye on them.

And suddenly, more lights appeared on the top of their cars and some words started to flow in red lights. From all that multitude of words, I understood just one: STOP!

So, I stopped. Two officers came to me and started talking in a language alien to me. My mind could just register a few words: ‘Auf Wiedersehen’, ‘Guten Morgen’, and ‘Ich spreche kein Deutsch’.

Not good and not enough, especially in an encounter with the police. I opened the door of my car. I still had a cigarette dangling between my lips. At that moment, their voices started to yell. So, we do this, ha? You pull your weapons, and I raise my hands. I saw that in the movie.

My hands went up. They were still yelling. With one hand up, I put the other one to my ear and said: I DON’T SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE. One of them came closer, still blabbering and with one hand on the gun. I mumbled to myself – ‘Well done, Roxana!’

And then, I started screaming in my perfect English:

“I don’t speak German. Do you speak English?”

He did. They both did. And it was just a routine check-up. They were young guys, and funny too.

“We told you to stay in the car and kill the engine.”

“I didn’t understand.”

“Now we know.” “Go kill the engine!”

“OK!”

“What are you doing?”

“I am going home!”

“Where are you coming from?”

“From a movie.”

“Was it a good movie?”

“’Edge of Tomorrow’ with Tom Cruise. And it’s ok. Not good, but ok.”

“Have you been drinking?”

“Nooo!” (I had an Aperol Spritz before the movie)

“You wanna blow?” (Of course, the old blowing joke! Ha ha ha ha! Such a good joke!)

“Yes.” (I did it wrong two times.)

“Take your tongue in and let the air out.”

“OK.”

The third time was the charm. I didn’t see what the thing said, but I saw their smiles:

“You had been drinking a bit.”

I smiled too: “Yes, I did.”

“Since when are you in Germany?”

“For almost 6 months.”

“And do you like it here?”

“Not bad. It’s an amazing city.”

“OK, go home. Have a nice evening.”

“You two too. Auf Wiedersehen!”

So, this was the first lesson I learned: When the police in Germany stop you, keep calm, kill the engine, stay in the car, and ask them to talk in English.

The second lesson that I learned: Germany is well developed in a lot of fields, but getting an internet connection can turn out to be an interesting trip.

 

What you should know about German internet

I am an addict. I am addicted to the internet. I can’t deal with my life without the internet. It started back when I was a journalist, when the internet was taking me places that I had never dreamt of. Fast and beautiful and full of information!

I haven’t owned a TV for almost 20 years now. And I am very proud of it. The bigger bugger is the fact that this “no TV life” is feeding my internet addiction. Back in Bucharest, this was never a problem. You could never finish the internet, be it the Wi-Fi at home, coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques, or even your mobile data. No, sir! It was never-ending. And the price? Well, for what you pay here for 3GB, you get the never-ending story in Romania for the same amount.

After moving here, to a country where civilisation has greater and bigger standards, imagine my surprise! And how easily I have become a financial slave to the communication companies. The internet is not only expensive here, but hard to find and hard to keep as well. It’s like running on an open field after rabbits. You see them, you have the feeling you can catch them, but that never happens. I am not ordering Beluga Caviar; I just want the internet. I felt robbed!

But the internet is not just expensive. The connection is another problem. Even if you have good connections, you may still have “wall problems.” For example: in front of the door of my building, my mobile data was running perfectly. But the second I crossed the door, it was gone. Like a ghost. Those 5 centimetres made a big difference. Or if you go into a tunnel, don’t expect Google Maps to give any more details on where to go because the juice is out. And if you live here, you know how fast you can take a bad turn in a tunnel and end up nowhere, well somewhere for sure, but not on the right track.

I have tested and talked to other people about this. For the locals, it is normal, because this is how it has always been. But for us, the outsiders, it’s mud on the dance floor. My advice to you? Well, don’t get frustrated. We are all in the same mud hole! Stop eating caviar and truffles!

 

Finding help and friends with Project Expat

It’s been quite a while since I moved to Germany, and I wish there would have been something like Project Expat before. But thanks to Project Expat, there is a community I can tell my story to and give advice. And there are certainly a lot of good English-speaking partners to help me and all of you out there to make living for expats in Germany much easier.

Guide to German Employment Law

Most expats come to Germany because of work. Therefore, it is inevitable to deal with German labor law sooner or later.

In this featured article of our esteemed partner MAYR Kanzlei für Arbeitsrecht will get you the most important information about labor law:

At the center of “Employment law” is the employment contract, determining the relationship between employers and employees. In general, the parties can freely choose the applicability of German law and determine the working conditions. German Employment law is governed by a variety of statutory provisions restricting the freedom of contract and guaranteeing employee protection rights. Aside from statutory provisions, there are numerous collective bargaining agreements between employer’s associations and unions, so called “Tarifverträge”. These can set rules for working conditions in certain fields or companies which may trump the regulations in the individual employment contract and deviate from the statutory provisions. In companies that have a works council or “Betriebsrat”, there may be additional agreements between the employer and the works council, so called “Betriebsvereinbarungen”. These, too, may prevail the regulations of an individual employment contract.

Whereas a collective bargaining agreement is negotiated by the unions and therefore independent of the employer’s company, the works council (“Betriebsrat”) is an organ of employee representation that can be elected in most companies and that has a range of participation rights.

Signing an Employment contract

Most employment contracts are concluded for an unlimited period of time. A temporary contract can generally be limited and extended for a maximum period of 2 years, without giving a reason for the limitation. After that, any time limitation must have a valid reason. Otherwise, the employment contract may be considered to have been concluded for an unlimited period.

Most contracts include a probationary period of 6 months, during which a notice period of 2 weeks must be observed. A longer probationary period or shorter notice period are not permitted by law.

Being Employed in Germany

Employers are obliged to deduct employees income tax and register employees with the social security system. The contributions to social security are split between employers and employees, and deducted from the gross income along with the income tax.

There are numerous regulations for employee protection, such as a right to six weeks of continued remuneration in case of sickness, a minimum holiday entitlement of 20 days per year, a right to request part-time work and parental leave, maternity protection and a minimum wage of currently EUR X. There are numerous other regulations regarding maximum working hours, health and safety at the workplace, etc.

Ending and employment contract

An employment contract can be ended my mutual agreement, or by notice of either party. Giving notice or signing a separation agreement bears the risk, for employees, of receiving disadvantages later on, when applying for unemployment benefits. We highly recommend to seek professional advice before signing a separation agreement or giving notice.

In German employment law, employees are protected against unjustified termination by the “Kündigungsschutzgesetz”, termination protection act. This provision generally applied to employees who have worked for the same employer for at least six months, and in companies that regularly employ more than ten employees. This provision sets a high bar to justify a termination in a lawsuit, as the employer is then obliged to prove the reasons for the termination, and the lack of alternatives to a termination, in each individual case.

A termination must be hand signed by the responsible representative of the employer. There are two types of termination: A termination with a notice period, and a termination without a notice period. The minimum notice periods are determined by law, within the first two years of employment, a notice period of four weeks before the 15th or the end of the month generally must be observed.

Employees have the right to contest a termination before the labour court, within 3 weeks of receiving a termination. If they do not do this, the termination becomes valid. Termination lawsuits are common, and the risk of cost is comparatively low as each party carries their own lawyer’s fees. Most termination lawsuits are settled by a severance payment.

It is well worth it to sign up for a legal insurance that covers employment law. This way, employees can consult a specialist employment lawyer in case of an unjust termination and there is virtually no financial bar to accessing their rights before the labour courts.

 

Do you have any further questions?

If you need labour and employment law services offered in English, Lorenz Mayr’s MAYR law firm for labour law with its offices in Berlin and Cottbus is your best bet. Lorenz Mayr, who’s a certified specialist attorney for labour and employment law, founded this law firm in Berlin in 2003. This firm has several dedicated attorneys and specialist lawyers, all of whom have previously demonstrated their expertise successfully in employment law firms in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Birmingham/USA, Brussels, Prague, and Regensburg.

 

Get in touch

Web: https://www.mayr-arbeitsrecht.de/

Phone: +493069809070

Mail: zentrale@mayr-arbeitsrecht.de

Popular Cities in Germany

It is difficult to compile a ranking of the most beautiful German cities, especially when moving to Germany. That’s because every tourist, immigrant, and even every German prefers a different German city. All big cities in Germany provide a wide variety of restaurants, architecture and culture. It’s the nuances that make the difference. Primarily, the local habits, traditions, and customs make the different cities unique. In addition to that, a Bavarian, for example, especially the older ones, could hardly imagine moving to Hamburg or Berlin. Similarly, a north German would probably not move to the south if he didn’t have to. So the best advice is to take a close look at the cities and then make your choice.

The Bavarians will, of course, call Munich the most beautiful city, while a Hanseatic city probably won’t let go of its beloved Hamburg. For many, not just young people, Berlin is surely the place to be. Perhaps that’s why many expats in Germany prefer moving to Berlin when starting their stay in the nation. In the past decade, cities in the east of Germany have grown into lovely places like Leipzig, and of course, Dresden. The difficulty in this ranking is with each one’s personal preference, which means considering what kind of city I prefer. In all the bigger cities in Germany like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, and Dresden, you can enjoy a well-developed nightlife. Each of these cities has numerous sights, which makes each city interesting for different persons. For instance, if moving to Munich is on the cards, you would do well to know a few things about the city. To begin with, Munich is well-known for the Oktoberfest and its numerous beer gardens, which are the places to be during spring and summer. Then, you do have the English Garden where people like to meet all year long. But people in Munich are sometimes unfriendly in the beginning, though that’s sort of a Bavarian tradition. But if they get to know you, they’ll soon become very warm-hearted. If you like winter sports, Munich is the ideal city because the Alps are pretty close, which let many go there just for one day. Another fun fact about this town is the “Schicki-Micki” or “Bussi, Bussi” society. You are called this way if you like to dress well, spend money in fancy restaurants, and simply try to look as good as possible.

Munich: Heart of Bavaria

The completely opposite of Munich is supposed to be Hamburg. Though it’s as beautiful as Munich, the city is different than other big German cities. Its inhabitants are often regarded as a bit stuffy and conservative by the rest of Germany. It means they are not as open-minded as others. But this is a typical prejudice. It is right that they are not very friendly in the beginning, but that can change within minutes. The complete opposite of Munich and a must-do activity in the city is visiting the Hamburger fish market. It opens every Sunday at 5 o’clock and all fishmongers of Hamburg are there to get the freshest fish. But basically, everyone can visit it. There, you can get to meet the “normal” people of the city. Another place everybody should visit at least once is the world-famous Reeperbahn. Known for its extensive nightlife, it has to offer something for everybody. In addition, Hamburg has a fantastic harbour, and outstanding architecture when you visit the Speicherstadt or the Elbphilharmonie. So, if you are not annoyed by the fact that it might take a little bit longer to get to know the people, Hamburg is a good place to start in Germany.

Berlin the Geman Capital

Speaking about important German cities, we have to take a closer look at the capital Berlin. No other German city has changed so dramatically over the past few decades than Berlin. Today, it is known for its cultural diversity and somehow for being different than other cities. If you’re moving to Berlin, you’ll soon get to know the “Berliner Schnauze”, which is the slang of the locals that’s really hard to understand, even for Germans who move there. “Dit find ick knorke” for example means I find it really great. So, moving there involves the challenge of understanding the locals. But generally, the people of Berlin are easy to come along with and very helpful to foreigners. Berlin is the most international city in Germany and many foreign tourists visit the city every year. Every “Kiez” or neighbourhood in the city and district is different and so are the people living there. You can find both wealthier districts and poorer districts in Berlin. But what they have in common is that they give the impression of being a little village within the city. The city has also many interesting sights like the Museumsinsel (museum island), the Reichstag, the Pergamon museum, and the television tower.

Carnival and cathedral metropole Cologne

If you are interested in the so-called fifth season, the carnival, you must move to Cologne or Düsseldorf. Both cities are famous for exuberant partying between November and February. But both cities have more to offer than the celebrations. Both are located at the Rhein, a wonderful river. Both cities have many small galleries and extraordinary art museums. Both cities are linked by a rivalry because Cologne is bigger than Düsseldorf but Düsseldorf is the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. And another “dispute” between them is the question of which town has the better and more famous beer. The inhabitants of Düsseldorf would say their Alt is the best beer in the world whereas the inhabitants of Cologne would insist that their Kölsch is the best one. If you want to decide which one it is, you’ll need to move or travel there.

Frankfurt the financial centre

The financial centre of Germany is definitely Frankfurt am Main. Its skyline is shaped by skyscrapers and it has the biggest airport in Germany, which is helpful if one has to travel a lot. In the old town, you can enjoy Äppelwoi and grüneSoße. Äppelwoi is a bit like cider and the sauce comes along with all sorts of dishes. Frankfurt has many interesting sights like the Paulskirche. On May 18, 1848, in the course of the German Revolution, the first freely-elected National Assembly met in the Paulskirche, which is regarded as a cornerstone for democracy in Germany. Nowadays, a permanent exhibition provides interesting background information on the beginning of democracy through to the development of German unity.

Dresden & Leipzig: Eastern Germany

If you think about moving to East Germany, I would recommend Leipzig or Dresden. Both towns are very modern with interesting old towns. Dresden has a bit more historical sights to offer though. The Frauenkirche, which was completely destroyed during World War II, offers an outstanding view over the old town. The Zwinger provides space for several museums and the Semperoper speaks for itself.

Leipzig also has quite a lot to offer for its inhabitants. For example, the old trading exchange, the Bavarian railway station, the central station, and of course, the Augustusplatz with several buildings from different decades of the last century are worth a visit. At the Nikolaikirche, the Monday demonstrations against the DDR and the Stasi started in 1989. This was the beginning of the German reunion. But just as in Berlin, you have to get used to the Saxon dialect. For example “Eiverbibbsch” is a typical expression you will hear in both cities. Its meaning is you shouldn’t curse.

Lovely small cities

But besides all these major cities, you shouldn’t forget that Germany has also interesting towns, which are smaller than the major cities. When moving to Germany, you should also consider these towns. Nürnberg with half a million inhabitants, for example, is famous for its Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in December. Freiburg is famous for its alternative way of life due to the many students who live there. Weimar and Erfurt are well-known for Goethe and the Bauhaus. Thus, as you can see, German cities have a huge variety to offer and there’s a place for everybody moving to Germany to feel comfortable and cosy.

Berlin the German Capital

Everybody knows Berlin or at least has heard of it, which is why many expats in Germany prefer moving to Berlin when starting their stay in the nation. This city has become increasingly popular worldwide in recent decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, both as a tourist destination and a place to settle down. This is true not only for Germans but for people from all over the world. These facts have led to Berlin’s international cosmopolitan flair and charm. This internationality can be seen not only when you stroll through Berlin’s streets, but also when you are looking for a restaurant. Even the art scene presents to its audience artists from all over the world. The Berlin International Film Festival has been one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world for decades. One could continue this list endlessly, but everyone who comes to Berlin has his/her own preferences that are important to him/her. Berliners themselves have become accustomed to living in a multicultural society. For example, Berlin is home to the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey.

In addition to this modernity, you can always find small retreats that offer you peace and relaxation. Every district and every neighbourhood is strongly influenced by its inhabitants, and thus, they are all different. For instance, you will find variety in what the pubs and cafés have to offer and their designs. Something you will find in every district in Berlin is Spätis. Spätis are small shops that sell goods to customers until late at night.

Living in Berlin

Moving to Berlin means learning the special vocabulary for Germans as well as for foreigners. As mentioned above, Späti is one of them. Another one would be Schrippe, which is a word for bun. Fisimatenten describes the word excuses, and meschugge is another word for crazy, for instance. Everybody has to get used to them. One must also know that Kiez is the word the district one lives in. What everyone should take into account is that rents in Berlin have gone up quite a bit. This means you should have enough on your hands time to search and find a suitable apartment. It is also helpful to concentrate on one or two neighbourhoods to get insider tips to make an informed choice. For instance, an insider tip could be about regular viewings, which usually involve a massive crowd of people that reduces your chances of seeing the property correctly and evaluating its condition. These facts await someone in everyday life of Berlin.

 

Must Visit

Now, let’s talk about sightseeing in Berlin. It is almost impossible to mention all spots one should visit after moving to Berlin. But after a while, everyone will find the sights they are interested in. Therefore, we will mention only the really famous ones everybody should visit. Remember that this list is not a rating of the sights but is just a list.

  1. Der deutsche Reichtstag

The German Reichstag is an impressive building and the seat of the German parliament. Its architecture, history, and awe-inspiring view from the roof or the dome are already something exceptional that everyone should have seen.

  1. Die Berliner Mauer

A gigantic wall ran right through Berlin until reunification, dividing the city into East and West Berlin. Even today, you can see parts of it along the 7-kilometer-long Wall Trail. The path starts at Potsdamer Platz and ends at WarschauerStraße. On the way, you pass the permanent exhibition “Topography of Horror”, where you can see the wall in its original form and cruelty combined with personal stories of people who were affected.

  1. Das Brandenburger Tor

The Brandenburg Gate was a component of the Berlin Customs Wall. It was built under Frederick William the Second and completed in 1791. On it, there is the Quadriga. In the chariot pulled by four horses is Victoria, the Roman Goddess of victory.

  1. Der Fernsehturm

The TV tower is the highest tower in Germany that stands tall at 368 metres. It is located at the Alex and, of course, offers an incredible 360-degree view over the entire city. The most beautiful view is during sunset, when the city is bathed in a beautiful light.

  1. Der Gendarmenmarkt

Gendarmenmarkt is Berlin’s most beautiful square. It is located between three large buildings. In the centre is the Concert Hall of Berlin. On the sides, you can look at the German and French cathedrals. The market is a place to linger with exciting and interesting restaurants and cafés.

  1. Die Museumsinsel

The Museum Island is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site, where you will find several museums such as the Bode Museum, the Old Museum, the New Museum, the Pergamon Museum, and the Old National Gallery. The best way to learn about the exhibitions hosted here is to search online.

  1. Die Spree

Last but not least is the Spree. To experience Berlin from the water is something very special as a boat trip is totally worth it. Most of the sights of Berlin can be viewed from the Spree. In addition, there are several landing stages where you can leave the boat or get back on. It’s a very relaxing way to visit the sights after moving to Berlin.

 

Typical Food

The topic of food in Berlin is a difficult one to discuss. Not because there is not enough excellence related to it, but you do not know where to start with your recommendations.

When you think of Berlin and traditional food as a German, you automatically have to think of currywurst and kebab. The city is full of currywurst stands and kebab stalls. the traditional dishes don’t correspond to the German mainstream, but are still worth a try. But of course there are also delicious, old dishes cooked according to grandma’s recipes. Berliners love boulettes with potato salad, false rabbit, a meatloaf stuffed with egg,. But there is also a false Heinrich, which is nothing more than bratwurst with false sauce and mashed potatoes! Who of course wants something special must try quite clearly Königsberger Klopse, They are an East German specialty. It consists of Frikadellen in a Beschamelesauce with capers.  Since Berlin still has the reputation of being poor but sexy, simple dishes are of course still preferred. Potato soup with sausages is just as popular as liver with apple, onion and mashed potatoes. For those who like it meaty, it must be Kassler with sauerkraut, fierce and crude. However, it is a dish that corresponds to the basic idea of our capital, keep it simple.

Cured pork knuckle with pea puree, is another Berlin specialty worth trying.

Brined eggs are a traditional dish and are a standard offering in Berlin’s pubs. They are hard-boiled eggs that have been pickled in a strong saline solution and thus preserved. Rollmops is herring fillet with a filling of onions and gherkins rolled into it. The rollmops is held together by two small wooden sticks. It is not eaten with cutlery, but put into the mouth as a whole and is a traditional part of the hangover breakfast. Teltower Rübchen are special turnips that come from Brandenburg and are eaten both raw and steamed.For dessert, we recommend once the famous Berlin air, a cream served with raspberry sauce or the Berlin pancakes. As a drink you have to try a Berliner Weisse with shot. This is a wheat beer, which is served either with raspberry syrup or woodruff. It is probably common worldwide, one could still list numerous dishes that are typical of Berlin, if you move there, you will in the course of time, certainly get to know one or the other curiosity of the local cuisine. Have fun tasting!

 

Restaurants

What you should definitely try, however, are currywurst and kebab, which are the traditional takeaways in Berlin. Since everybody prefers a different kind of food, it is hard to say which restaurant is the best of its kind. But Borchardt must be mentioned. For 150 years, it has been located at the Gendarmenmarkt, boasts of a long tradition, and is very popular among celebrities and politicians. Its food differs from many others, and it actually has something to appease everybody’s palate.

Another interesting place is ClärchensBallhaus. Established in 1913, the restaurant offers fresh food, which is a combination of traditional dishes with modern influences. Another interesting fact is that they offer dance classes and concerts as well.

Spindler is also a restaurant you should try after moving to Berlin. The cuisine at Spindler is modern, French-inspired, and cosmopolitan. It is positioned directly on the Spree River and offers good food and a fantastic view at the same time.

Cafe Botanico grows all the vegetables they use themselves. Moreover, the pasta is homemade. The farm-to-table restaurant with its own 1,000 square meter permaculture garden in the middle of Berlin works sustainably and with a consistent low-waste approach. The target group here is guests of all kinds who come by not only because the food is organic or fair but because it tastes good and makes them feel good.

Tisk is an old German word for table. The two chefs come from East and West Berlin. They want to combine and present traditional Berlin cuisine with flavours and spices from around the world. The Tisk has an open kitchen, which lets you watch your dishes being prepared. Berlin also offers several food markets where one can eat throughout the whole day. You will just have to keep your eyes open though when you visit these food markets after moving to Berlin.

 

Public Transportation

The fact that Berlin is extraordinarily large in terms of area has ensured that public transport is very well developed. Public transport in Berlin consists of a rapid transit system with S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains as well as RE and RB trains. Politically limited mainly to the eastern half of the city, there is also a large streetcar network. In addition, there is a citywide bus network, so that citizens can cope with everyday life well and quickly. The only drawback is the BER. The Willy Brand Airport was supposed to open in 2011, but the opening was ultimately postponed to 2020 due to faulty planning and exploding construction costs. Today, 46 million passengers a year can use the national and international flight routes. It is precisely these special exceptions that make Berlin endearing and special.

 

Dialect

The Berlin dialect is something very special. An important tip for new Berliners is not to try to speak it yourself. It will always sound funny and disturb Berliners. The people of the capital are known for their cheeky Berlin snout – in one situation or another they like to say something casual. This should not be taken too personally, because you just talk frei Schnauze. That means they don’t mince words and get straight to the point. In the course of time, you will get used to it and be able to classify it correctly. The most important proverbs and terms will now be listed here. Icke stands for I, for example, that you should know as a tourist or expat.

Dit is mir schnurz piepe! means that the matter is not important to the person. Nu aba ran an de Buletten! stands for the fact that one really has to tackle something now.

Dit find ich Knorke means I think that’s great!

Pass ma uff Keule! In Berlin, Keule stands for brother or buddy – “Pass ma uff Keule” means something like “Watch out” or “Listen up, friend”. You should also pay attention, because the warning is not meant to be too friendly.

Keene Haare uff’m Kopp, aba ‘n Kamm inner Tasche! No hair on your head, but a comb in your pocket! A phony, an impostor or a braggart can be aptly described with this saying from Berlin jargon.

Regarding the dialect, one can also only say that it is a real challenge for everyone. This is true not only for expats, but also for Germans who decide to move to Berlin. One can only say that everyone who comes here needs a lot of patience to learn and understand this unique dialect. Good luck!