Get Germanized

I recently discovered a very interesting and useful YouTube channel called “Get Germanized”.

It is hosted by a young German lad with bags of enthusiasm who is clearly very keen to help us foreigners living in Germany. The channel has a great deal of content covering a wide range of interesting topics including things such as job hunting, his Grandfather’s World War II stories and typical German stereotypes. He even has some basic German language lessons which are pretty good for total beginners:

Please go take a look at his channel and give him a few thumbs up or nice comments as he really is trying to help make our lives here easier.

German Property Searches

In response to a growing number of messages I am receiving asking about how to go about finding properties in the area, I can recommend the following web search engines:

Unfortunately, they are in German but it is easy enough to find your way around them using a dictionary, or for those who really cannot be bothered, by running them through an online translator such as the one available on Google Chrome.

I am working on doing a full article which will include common terminology and other bits of advice on finding property. I will publish that as soon as I can.

English Speaking Doctors, Dentists And Opticians

All of us who choose to live in Germany find one of the most daunting aspects is what to do when medical problems occur. Indeed, one of the most common questions I am asked is how to go about finding an English-speaking doctor, dentist or optician. Whilst I plan on doing a full article on this subject in the near future, I just want to share my experiences gained over the couple of years or so that I have spent here. Continue reading

Healthcare In Germany

In Britain, we all complain about the National Health Service (NHS), but having myself lived in several countries that do not have one, I think it is pretty darn good.

Of course, Germany is also highly regarded for its health care, but I must admit I do find it considerably more complicated to navigate than the British system. For example, when you start working in Germany, you must actually choose a provider as the government effectively contracts it out. And if you earn above a certain salary, you can opt to go private and your and your employer’s contributions get fed into that. Things get even more complicated if you are unemployed, self employed or a student.

Therefore, I was pleased to find a page on the “How To Germany” website which gives a good overview of how it is all structured and some of the rules and regulations which govern it all. Click here to go directly to that page.

Keeping Your Head Above Water

For those of you with property in the immediate vicinity of the river, flooding is always going to be in the back of your mind particularly with the current rainfalls being experienced across Europe. However, don’t despair too much as there are two very useful websites where you can monitor river levels from anywhere in the world allowing you to better decide when to either phone a neighbour and ask them nicely to clear out your ground floor or to make sure your insurance covers flood risk.

The first site is “Mosel Webcams“. As the name suggests, from there you can get real time video images streamed to your computer or smartphone from selected locations in several of the larger towns along the Mosel. The cameras are on all 24/7 and after the storms we have recently experienced the footage can be quite dramatic.

The website was started by two couples – Harald and Bernadette Mohr and Rüdiger and Heidi Mitscher – originally just to show off their home town of Traben-Trarbach, but the idea proved so popular that they added eleven more cameras in other locations and I am jolly grateful they did. Please do make use of the site and click on their sponsors from time to time so that they can continue to provide this excellent service. The site is in German only but is very easy to use even if you don’t speak the language.

The other website I find really useful if a little scary at times is the official “Hochwassermeldedienst” or “Flood Reporting Service” which covers all the major rivers and tributaries in the state of Rhineland Palatinate. Although it is also in German, much of it is pictorial and self-explanatory. For example, clicking on “Mosel” then “Karte” (which means maps) takes you to a simple map showing the monitoring points on the river, each identified by a coloured point representing the current river level status with green being less than the 2 year high water level (or in laymans terms, flood that occurs about once every 2 years in the statistical average) all the way up to purple which is the highest level i.e. greater than the fifty year flood level. It all depends where your property is located which colour is the one you need to watch out for. My house was last caught by the hundred year flood back in 1993, so I only need to start panicking when the alert hits purple.

Clicking on “Hochwasserfrühwarnung” or “High water early warning” reveals a simple map of the region similarly colour coded – green means all is okay, purple means inflate that dinghy and batten down the hatches. Although the map shows no place names, hovering your mouse over each section of the map will identify the municipality and you can click on those to get a bit more detail.

This site also offers graphs showing the current level of the main rivers (“Hauptpegel) as well as the tributaries (“Nebenpegel”) for each of the main rivers in the state.

 

 

Leaving 2016 Behind With A Bang

The Germans are remarkably responsible people. I mean, there cannot be many other nations in the world where people stand to attention at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the green Ampelmann to give them the all clear despite the fact there is not a car within a three mile radius and the weather is like a scene from The Tempest. The very same nation that shuns microwave ovens for fear of the damaging effects on the molecular structure of the food being heated. However, that impeccable approach to responsibility does lapse once a year – at New Year in fact when the tradition is to get plastered and lob fireworks (and lots of them) at one another. Continue reading

My German Learning Progress – Update

Well, that is week one of my two-week intensive German studies over, and it has been one of the busiest weeks of my life.

I am staying in the beautiful home of the teacher (actually, she is the school owner) and her husband, and each day comprises one-on-one lessons from 9am to around 4pm. Meals are taken with the family, and free time is also spent predominantly with them.

Being private tuition as opposed to class based lessons, the programme is tailored to my particular needs, and in my case it is a combination of grammar, phonetics and comprehension. Of course, I am finding the German grammar the hardest element to get to grips with, but also the fact that the entire day is pretty much solid German means I am feeling mentally exhausted quite often and on occasions emotionally drained too. The latter was a surprise to me – on Wednesday evening I just felt like jelly and incredibly homesick to the point where I thought to myself “why the hell am I doing this?”. I think this was the result of exhaustion from the intensive studies and the fact that it started to hit me that all my efforts to date really have only lightly scratched the surface of the vast sphere of the German language. My teacher came to the rescue and after half an hour or so I was back on track and ready to face yet another German social gathering, but I have to admit there are still occasions when I really feel I need to be alone but cannot without appearing rude. Continue reading

Sofa Salvation

We had a bit of a disaster when we moved into our house and hopefully our advice will help many of you moving to the region to avoid the same stress.

Generally houses in the Mosel have the living areas on the upper floors, with the ground floor being given over to utility space and more historically to wine production. The reason for this is simple – the flood risk. That means your sitting room is likely to be on the first floor, accessed by a staircase with at least one bend in it. Our house has no fewer than four such staircases, three of which dog leg back on themselves but with no half landing.

All fine and dandy I hear you cry, as such features add to the character of the property. We were of the same opinion – until our sofa (amongst other things) would not go up…! Continue reading

German State Pensions

I was surfing the web earlier when I stumbled upon the German Pensions (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) website and was pleased to see it contains some useful downloadable brochures in English and six other languages on State pensions for EU and non-EU citizens.

Of course, for those Brits amongst us everything in that respect is up in the air now, but at least it gives an overview as to how things work at the moment, and we can get an idea of what the rules might be if the UK exits the EU lock, stock and two smoking barrels.

The website can be found here and the downloadable brochures here.