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So… I’m moving to Berlin. I regard this coming year as the introduction to a more long-term emigration. Despite being my Erasmus year in a 4 year course of German and Music at Liverpool, I have few doubts that I’ll be back on a permanent basis after I graduate.
This year I’ll be working at a Dolmetscherin in the city centre and living in Kreuzberg (contract pending.) Lena and I (my Austrian flatmate and dear friend) visited Berlin last week to secure a roof for August – but that’s a story for another day.
After a few more shifts hopefully I’ll have enough to put down my deposit without borrowing from mum. That said I don’t own a single piece of office wear…
Welcome to the real world Connie! 💸

I have two long term goals this year: to improve my German and become a Glanz.

Hopefully and nervously yours,
Connie

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100 Jahre UfA – Babylon Kino

It’s a rainy Sunday in Kreuzberg and I’ve spent the day recovering from a messy weekend in bed. It is also the last day of the 100 year Ufa film festival at the Babylon cinema.

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For those who don’t know, Ufa was a production company, founded in the late 1910s, that financed, directed and released some amazing movies in Germany until the end of WW2. Classics that British audiences may know include Nosferatu, The Blue Angel (starring Marlene Dietrich) and Muenchhausen.

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Lena was out with friends so I took it upon myself to visit the cinema alone. I am the kind of person who is perfectly happy in their own company and will happily visit museums, cinemas and exhibitions alone. Lucky for me I didn’t invite anyone anyway, because I kicked off by going to the wrong ‘Babylon Kino’.

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One speedy tube ride later, I snatched my ticket from the concierge and bolted for the door, making my seat with second to spare. The live organist began the score, and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis filled the screen. I’m only sad because I’ll have to wait some time before these classics appear on the silver screen again. Worth every penny, and every drop of sweat I shed running around Berlin in the rain.

 

Hertha gegen Leverkussen

20. Sept 2017

It was electric. After a few beers and a wurst, Lena and I headed into the stadium with our new blue scarfs blending us seamlessly into the local supporters. Our seats were just over the Ostkurve, the heart of Hertha BSC. The fan group manager was banging a drum, screaming military style chants up into the crowd that moved as one and echoed.

By the end we were singing along too.

After Leverkussen were done rolling around in their crocodile tears, we emerged victorious. We stayed to clap the teams and headed home.

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Lena says that the banners at half time were protests against the football federation, who are planning to increase pay for bigger teams, pushing smaller teams like Hertha out of the league. I don’t think that could ever happen to Hertha. The fans were terrifying, fantastic and full of love all at once.

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The beautiful game indeed. We’ll be back.

Bureaucracy Albträume (a long moan about paperwork)

It seems, that when people said that zee Germanz had a penchant for bureaucracy, that I hugely underestimated how right they were.

To become a live in Germany, you need to register with the local council. This is called Anmeldung. In order to get paid, you need a bank account and a tax number. To get a tax number you need to visit the Finanzamt (finance office) after you’ve registered. Then if you’re me, you need to navigate the infamous Vader (code name for the intern manager where I work so I don’t get caught bitching online) and don’t even get me started on trying to use a British bank abroad.

Oh and I forgot, in order to anmelden, in order to get a tax number, in order to get paid, you need an Einzugsbestaetigung (certificate of moving-in-ness) which is signed by the landlord, and to get that you need to endure one month of passive aggressive emails with a man who isn’t your landlord, but won’t give the contact details for your landlord.

Okay so now that you’re clued up on the basics, prepare for a triple speed review of my time dealing with people in offices in Germany.

First of all, banks are great. Everything was a lie. By far the easiest thing I did this month was opening a bank account. Getting any money in and out of it is the challenging part.

After a month of nagging our non-landlord and arranging meetings with the Anmeldungs office (the waiting lists for a meeting in Berlin is about a month long) we finally got into the office, only to find out that we needed a stamp. Yep. We were almost denied this necessary document because of an unofficial stamp that I could buy from WHSmiths. Me and Lena seem to have developed this technique in Germany, where if someone says we can’t have something that we need, I almost break down and she pulls a face of thunder and we have, so far, got what we want every time. On a lighter note, the Spandau Anmeldungsbuero is lovely.

THEN I had to deal with the magic 8 ball of rules and regulations, Vader. You can ask her the same question concerning pay, holiday, responsibilities, 3 times and have different answers every time (but you just keep shaking till you get the answer you want). So after being told that I couldn’t go home for one day for a family wedding, I finally got the day off. No change in approach. Always polite and always official. And after a very aggressive (on her part) email battle about my tax number, she finally passed me on to someone who knew what they were talking about. She’s internationally renowned for being difficult… and you think I’m joking.

FURTHERMORE today Santander has blocked me from my online banking and inform me that the only way to get access to it again is to visit a UK branch with photo ID… and I should do that by buying a flight… without my card… I mean. The whole thing speaks for itself.

So never underestimate how much the great people of Germany love a form, stamp, or photo ID… even though they seem to enjoy making your sweat blood for them.

It’s called art

After translating a few articles for URBAN NATION ART MUSEUM last week, Lena and I spent a sleepy Sunday making the short walk to Bülowstraße for the grand opening of the new street art museum opening there. Little to say, there was some fantastic stuff on show and would highly recommend a visit to any art-enthusiast in Berlin.

They opened up the whole street, with sculptures under the tracks of the tube that runs there, meet and greets, street food and live-art performers. There was also a wall that visitors could spray paint on, free of charge (financially and legally.) After a wander around, we got a beer, chilled in the park for a while and went home. Glorious.

First Take: Clubbing in Berlin

After purchasing a hand ‘Berliner’s Guide to Berlin’, Lena and I decided to go to a club – Chalet – wellknown for its outdoor spaces and all nigh parties. After a sharing a bottle of wine, which by the way was not nearly enough in terms of pre drinks to constitute a Liverpool night out, we headed for the club.

When do Berliners go out? Is it 11? Is it 12? Fun fact: It’s neither but we’ll come to that. Upon arriving we were ushered through a door and told not to take any photos inside. A secret club. Oh yes my friends. We wandered outside to a bar where we were ignored by the less good-looking barman but treated like princess by the pretty one so who’s really complaining?

The drink were expensive; I’m not going to pretend they weren’t. That said we were ordering G&Ts, and we later found out that beer was €3. We had a brief rather uneventful chat with some boys who were more interesting in taking the piss out of Lena’s accent than they were with actually talking to us.

We met some lovely local girls who we stuck with for the rest of the night and who couldn’t speak English so I was German-ing all over the place! We had a dance, we had a drink, we met a mental Australian girl who told Lena that her boyfriend had the penis of a sweet potato. She really was mental. Lovely. But a wild child for sure.

Chalet has a huge outdoor space with pit-fires, DJs, pyrotechnics in ponds, swing seats, greenery and a few bars. Inside is what can only be described as a squatter’s house. The walls are peeling and the bathrooms are falling apart. The dancefloor is the living room and someone’s crudely smashed a wall through to open up a seated area. Everyone smokes indoors and there are recreationals everywhere. It’s exactly how I imagined Berlin would be.

Suddenly it was 5:30am. “Should we go home Lena?” I asked reluctantly. Eventually we stumbled through a chip shop where the head chef had a lovely faux-English accent.

Next I remember was waking up at lunchtime the next day. We’ve been back since and I think we can confidently conclude that it’s a great night. 10/10. Would recommend.

First Day at Work

As the title may suggest, today was my first day at work. I woke up at 6am and began the 50 minute walk to work at 7.

Once I had arrived I did the normal introductory rounds of the office and naturally I can’t remember anyone’s name. My neighbour is a lovely manc student from Sheffield Uni who will be leaving me at the end of December. We spoke lots of english which threw me a bit off kilter with all the German speaking employees but I think starting monday I’m going to keep track of all my new vocab from translations.

All in all everyone was really nice (not to mention I can abuse printer rights when nobody else in the office). I feel bad though, it sounds like a lot of my Erasmus friends haven’t had such positive experiences on their first day.

I think it’s time for a drink…

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Schönes Wochenende!

To Do:

There are so many things to keep track of at the moment; from documents required for my ‘Anmeldung’ (registering in the city) to my new vocab. It’s hard to remember exactly all the things you need and want to do in your year abroad. And so for this reason I constructed a To Do List… a few of which I’ve completed since (Gal’s on a roll).

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My obsession with Knödel (a dumpling and consommé dish) stems from an unfortunate New Year’s morning where Lena’s family made a lovely wholesome lunch which despite tasting fantastic I couldn’t hold down. It was embarrassing and tragic and so to redeem myself I feel like I should learn how to recreate it.

Football is something I’ve always enjoyed but never found the time to dedicate to it. As I’m in a 9-5 for the following year I figured now was a better time than any to get into my local team. GO HERTHA BSC!

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To quickly explain the pavements point; on the walkways there are various textures. In the UK textured pavements are normally for the benefit of people with visual impairments. In Germany, they just seem to give bikes a sense of entitlement. Instead of cycling in the bike lanes designated to them on the roads, they take it upon themselves to hurtle past unsuspecting pedestrians at high speed. This particularly affects me as someone who has developed a habit of walking on the left…

All in all there are two key themes; boys and food. Says it all really doesn’t it.

Talking of food, it’s almost lunchtime – Mahlzeit!

 

Headed East for the Winter

I write this from my sofa in Kreuzberg; our new flat is now fully furnished and cosy as can be. I arrived in Berlin for good yesterday afternoon, carrying only a suitcase and my laptop. This of course was not ALL I took to Berlin; that adventure was last week.

After a week of collating boxes and bags of both mine and Lena’s various creature comforts, mum and I packed the car and headed for Berlin. The 5-day-round trip took us first to Dortmund. Our ‘Musicals’ playlist kept us entertained for the most part, but finally reaching the hotel was a relief. We had schnitzel (tofu and chicken) for dinner and were served by a lovely German woman who spent a year in Wales (she had a very endearing welsh accent, reserved exclusively for welsh town names).

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The second leg was a little more stressful. Both our phones were almost dead, so I was forced to call Paul (the man giving us the keys to the flat that evening) and explain that we had been stuck in gridlock just outside the city. He too proceeded to get stuck the same jam, and was himself 2 hours late. After signing a few documents, welcoming Lena home and lugging the bulk of our junk upstairs I spent a restless night on my new mattress which smelt like it had been marinated in the sooty water that collects in full ashtrays after summer rain storms.

The next day was mainly occupied by faffing around in the flat, cleaning, visiting IKEA for a new mattress and getting unexpectedly tipsy on beer and schnaps.

The journey home was broken up by a night in Essen. This was a little more enjoyable for me because the hotel managers couldn’t speak english, allowing me to have a full, albeit clunky, chat about Brexit in German as we checked out. On the way home we also took two Polish hitchhikers to Croydon, although missed out on the cheap wine at the crossing because we were herded into the wrong parking station.

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A week later and here I am, fully moved in and excited to explore the city.

Wish me luck! x

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p.s. If anyone knows how I can best stream GBBO without getting caught by internet police hit me up!

Schwierig Schwierig Zitrone Schwierig 🍋

People laughed at us. Landlords scoffed and estate agents sniggered but we secured a flat in Kreuzberg in less than 72 hours.
When we landed we were greeted with the heaviest monsoon rain I've seen all year. Lena also pointed out how floral German rain smells compared to the hard water of the UK. After arriving at the hostel we took the U-Bahn to our first viewing in Kreuzberg. The idyllic location hosted several independent restaurants so we visited 'Zitrone' for some Spätzle and Riesling. The first flat had a bad layout so we proceeded to search Bio-Markt notice boards for available flats, only to find yummy-mummy adverts for Tierpark Yoga.

The second viewing was promising but it soon became apparent that we were not the calibre of tenant the landlord required. The flat was far too big, but not big enough to host the 20-30 odd viewers who attended the open house.
Heartbroken we sat on a doorstep in Friedrichshain trying to find some motivation. The 4 hours sleep the night before hadn't done us any favours and my feet were beginning to throb. We decided on picking up dinner and pastries for breakfast at the local EDEKA and headed home to ring around for more viewings.
The second day we awoke to a building site outside our window – lucky really because our phone died and we had missed our alarms.
After some whistle stop sight seeing (Zoologische Garten, Siegessäule, Reichstag, Brandenburg Tor, Fernsehen Turm usw.) we visited Kreuzberg but the atmosphere had changed drastically. After getting harassed by some boys in a local park we headed for the flat for a sit down. Whilst we waited for the landlord, two boys ran part grinning in hot pursuit by two policemen. We knew the flat was a write off when one of them pulled his gun.

A little shook up, extremely tired and loosing our sanity we took the U-Bahn to Möckernbrücke to view our penultimate flat – a fully furnished dream location gal pad.
Full of hope we headed home to forward all our documents to the agency and were rewarded with a lunch-time meeting the next day.
After viewing the final flat the next morning we headed to the agency. 'Shook' doesn't come close to describing the feeling I had when the agency asked us for €10,000 up front (6 months rent and deposits). Understandable as it may be, with out guarantors not being native and Lena unemployed, I had to really beg to get it down. We have to cancel or interrail trip but it's worth it to have somewhere to live next year.

Getting into the plane was like a dream. My blisters had blisters, I'd passed that brilliant level of exhaustion where everything was funny and had come out the other side into a state of zombie I've only ever experienced at festivals until this weekend.
The good news is that now we have a plan and we have a roof and it has a fitted kitchen! (Most flats come unfurnished in Berlin because everyone rents and brings their stuff with them, including an entire kitchen)
Next up is registering at the citizens Büro, opening a bank account and starting work.
BRING IT ON!