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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