Getting Married in Germany: Practically Speaking

Whoops, it’s been nearly seven months since my last post. Didn’t really intend that, started a 2020 recap post somewhere along the way that I never finished, and though this feels a little bit like tonal whiplash if someone stumbled across this blog and just scrolled through, oh well, I’m going with it.

It’s been nearly a year since we got married and I thought if anyone else was looking to go through the process, I’d give a little bit of insight into how it looked for us, as well as how much it cost. As with any post here that has to deal with the oh-so-romantic aspects of German bureaucracy, it’s important for me to say this:

Via: https://giphy.com/gifs/theoffice-the-office-tv-secret-santa-BXOEmFSzNkOObZhIA3

Disclaimer: This is how it worked here, in our corner of Franconia, in the year of our Lord, 2020, for a German citizen and an American who’s been here 10 years (9 at the time), with a well-established working permit (now permanent resident), and depending on where you are, your mileage may vary. There are differences on what might be required depending on what German Bundesland you’re in, which district, which official you’re dealing with, what moon phase you might be in, and how quickly Germany gets knocked out of whatever football championship is currently ongoing. Also, pandemics are apparently a thing now so already-terrible government office hours are, surprise!, even worse than before.

Ahem. Moving on.

As I mentioned in the first wedding post, we started looking at planning in February, visited some locations, and were pretty darn close to putting down money. Thankfully we didn’t go through with it, and then the world shut down and we started to regroup. Given the fact that we had all these documents that needed renewing in October/November, we decided pretty quickly that either way we’d do the civil ceremony in 2020, and play it by ear with how we celebrated at the time.

In mid-April, BV reached out to the local registrar to see what documents we’d need, and what the process would be. Within a few days we had our list, and paid a small fee of €25 for the privilege of the information.

We needed:

  1. A certified copy of BV’s birth certificate (ordered from the city of Nürnberg for ca. €13)
  2. A long-form certified original of my birth certificate, which must be issued no more than 6 months out from filing date (ordered online from the state of Wisconsin with postage for $33)
  3. A German translation of said birth certificate from a certified translator (€35.04, and translator found via the official portal http://www.justiz-dolmetscher.de)
  4. Both of our current valid passports (or BV’s ID card would do)
  5. My current work/residence permit
  6. A sworn affidavit of my current marital status and allowance to marry (done in front of registrar in the office)
  7. Express declaration of both of our domiciles*
  8. Proof of income for both of us (i.e. pay slips for the last 3 months)

*The domicile thing had us both a bit confused, but basically what it broke down to was your birthplace and where you live now. For me it was fairly uncomplicated as the only place I lived in the U.S. was in Wisconsin, and they really don’t care how often you moved within the state or where your last address was. So when we had our appointment I said yes I was born in Wisconsin, that’s where I lived, now I live here, done.

Another thing to note: Bavaria is a bit different, in that they only require the affidavit that you are free to marry. As far as I know, in the other German states, you do need official documentation of this from the U.S. Not mad about missing out on that one.

Edited to add: upon publication I was informed that as of 2021, swearing an affidavit is allowed in all areas of Germany without documentation. Again, if it’s 2022, Venus is in retrograde, or you live in Landkreis OberUnterDorfau, they may do things their own way so always speak to your friendly local Beamter*innen.

So we gathered up our documents, I ordered my birth certificate at the beginning of May and that arrived in about three weeks, I had it translated, and we submitted everything first via email/pdf. Then, we waited.

A couple of weeks went by and we got a call from the registrar that everything looked good, so the next step was for us to come in and have an appointment to go through everything, me to swear the affidavit, etc. She was very adamant that if I was not a native German speaker, we MUST have a translator as we were doing a Very Legal Proceeding, and BV was not allowed to translate for me when necessary. I appreciate her commitment to her job and not getting accidentally sold for a small herd of cattle or something, but I know from other people that they have gotten away with less than perfect German and no translator so again… variance.

The gal who had translated my birth certificate was unable to join us, so it was back to the portal and I was lucky to find a lovely woman who was a dual citizen born in the U.S. and normally worked at conferences, etc., but was free to join us for several hours one afternoon in July at our appointment. We were there for nearly three hours going through all the paperwork, and reading in great detail, because both the laws of Germany and Wisconsin (that domicile again), the laws that apply to Wisconsin/Germany that would or would not preclude us from marrying.

Fun fact! In the state of Wisconsin, you can legally marry your cousin IF either the bride is old enough that children are no longer a possibility or the groom is proven to be impotent.

You’re welcome for this knowledge. I paid the translator €271.44 to learn it. I accept both Paypal and snacks, if you’re so inclined. But again, the translator was really great, super helpful, and said afterwards that our registrar was, in her experience… unusually detailed.

At that point all the t’s were crossed, all the i’s were dotted, and our paperwork was sent off to the Oberlandesgericht Nürnberg, or the Nürnberg High Court. Three weeks later in mid-August, our registrar got the okay from them, we submitted the final fee of €185, and were free to set our date for our civil ceremony. And that was it.

All told from first contact with the registrar to ceremony date, the whole thing took 5 months and one day, with a cost of about €557, give or take a Euro for whatever the dollar exchange rate was in May last year.

As far as the ease of the process goes, for me after 10 years here and the wealth of bureaucratic hoops I’ve had to jump through due to my own error or just life, this was SHOCKINGLY EASY. I know people have gone abroad specifically to avoid the pain of marrying in Germany, but if you’re not under an enormous time crunch, I really can’t say that any part of this was problematic for us. I’ve also never longed for a big, fancy wedding with all the trimmings, so keeping it just us was actually kind of perfect. Yes we still do want to celebrate at some point in the future with other people, but as it’s (checks watch) a year and a half into the pandemic and it’s just now maybe? a little bit? getting better here, we have no idea when that will be. For now, we’re married, and that’s what we wanted.

Bonus pic from our honeymoon. 🙂

Sound like fun? Sound like a nightmare? Leave a comment and let me know where you stand… ’til the next time (hopefully sooner than six months from now…)

Ten.

On the night of January 7th, I tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep. The previous day had been my first day back to work after the Christmas break and it had also been the first day of getting into my new job. It was a rather fragmented day, and my mind was spinning.

I needed to sleep… the 8th would be my first really full day. I would leave the house at 7:30am and not get home until 8pm. I had several meetings scheduled, and a mental to-do list to get through in between them. I would start a new class in the evening and was running through my list of introductory activities, trying to decide which one I wanted to use on a new class that I had hardly any information about. What to do? Not sleep, that was for sure.

Alternating with these thoughts was another theme… 10 years ago on this same night, I was also not sleeping much. I was on a plane, and sleeping on planes is not one of my strong points. That was the night I flew from Chicago to Prague with plans to do a TEFL course and… not much else.

10 years ago. My god.

Since I wasn’t sleeping, I mentally drafted all sorts of brilliant things to say in this blog post that would wrap up the last decade. But because I wasn’t sleeping, I also spent the next few days alternately running around, learning way too many new names, trying my best to absorb piles of new information, and failing miserably at getting my body back into some sort of normal rhythm. Needless to say, whatever I mentally drafted has been lost, which is probably for the best… 2:30am brilliance can be pretty weird in the light of day.

My second original plan for this post was to have a picture from my first day in Prague, and one from now. Then, the Facebook “challenge” hit.

Via Giphy

Okay, number 1: posting a picture of yourself from ten years ago and now is not a challenge. It’s clicking things on a computer, not performing surgery while blindfolded. Secondly, posting multiple versions of this “challenge” in an attempt to maximize the ‘ooooh, you haven’t aged a day’ comments is incredibly obnoxious.

It was, however, a neat comparison for me personally on how I have and have not changed. Clearly I haven’t changed much when it comes to saltiness/judgement.

Via Giphy

Not the most flattering self-assessment in the world, but I strive for honesty here. *shrug*

On the other hand, all these years in Germany among people with a healthy distrust of social media immediately made me reach for my tinfoil hat, particularly after reading things like this Wired article. Ten years ago, I probably would’ve been all “fun! Why not?” Now? Hard pass. At least, not on FB. Or Twitter. Or the ‘gram.

But luckily, my blog is none of those places… it’s my own little space, and I still want to do it here. Not because of some viral bs challenge, but because these last ten years have been  A CHALLENGE. Like, a real one.

January 9th, 2009 (no photos from the 8th… which given the long travel day is probably for the best). I was 25. I was in Europe with people I’d never met before, wandering through a city covered in snow.

Petrin Hill with magnificent people.

The next ten years of challenges meant making friends and losing them. They meant missing births and deaths and feeling insanely guilty for my life choices. They meant plane tickets and trips to the foreign police and screwing up on insurances and asking for help and muddling my way through the bureaucratic maze that leads you to start considering yourself an immigrant.

They meant learning to appreciate red wine,  and to celebrate any excuse to see somewhere new. They meant visitors and book exchanges and thousands of pictures that spread across continents. They meant abandoning the flared jean and embracing the legging (at least, in the comfort of my home… I still have limits).

January 8th, 2019. I am 35. I usually wear glasses now and I may still have one pair of flared jeans but those are regulated to garden work.

See? Here I am, enjoying Tchibo’s finest leggings and a hoodie (forever a hoodie person), in a very odd couch pose at the end of an incredibly long day.

The celebration consisted of leftover pasta, Sekt, and a very nice bottle of red from South Tyrol’s Elena Walch. BV even stopped at a bakery on the way home and got us two slices of Sachertorte to mark the occasion. Naturally the only classy viewing option for all of these delicious goodies was the season premier of The Bachelor. Because frankly, some things shouldn’t change.

Ten. Wild.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 23

Note: When scheduling posts it is helpful to click “okay” BEFORE shutting the computer. Sigh.

This morning while on my walk/jog, I got to thinking about an Intro to Anthropology class I took my first semester of college. I, perhaps foolishly, thought that the intro classes would be easy, but that was definitely not the case for this professor. It was an interesting but demanding class, and midway through the semester a fair number of the students in there were struggling to keep their grades up.

The professor told us that if we wanted to help our averages, we were welcome to come to her to discuss options. One suggestion was that students could do some sort of extra project, or presentation on their experiences with another culture. A friend of mine was taking the same class at a different time, and did just that. I’m a bit fuzzy on the details here, but I think that friend had done a similar trip as I had done with my high school French class, and thought that perhaps a presentation on that could help her out. That’s a cultural experience, right?

Nope.

Not according to that professor, at least. Ouch. As much as we were in the bubble of being on an organized class trip, that French trip for me was fairly life-changing. I knew right then and there that I would 100% find a way to travel again, preferably live somewhere else if I could.

And here we are.

On one hand, I can understand the professor’s perspective. We DIDN’T have much experience of the world, or other cultures. But c’mon lady! You’re teaching an Intro to Anthropology class at a public university in northern Wisconsin… most of the students in here are barely 18, the vast majority are from this state or the one next door… how high are your expectations? If people went on vacation to Florida instead of “up north” regularly, we thought they were full-on globetrotters.

One student in my class did manage to give a presentation on his idea of a cultural experience, and I guess she found it interesting enough to give him some extra credit. He was a few years older than most other people in the class and had taken a few years off to work and travel before coming back to school. That helps. He’d worked on a sheep farm somewhere in Ireland (or maybe Scotland), for some time, and lived with the family while he was there. Not the *most* exotic thing I’ve ever heard, but at least he got the chance to talk about it.

I wonder if I’d have enough material now to give a presentation… hmm.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, which will possibly now extend into June to compensate for the vacation gap, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Expat/Immigrant Qs

When I ran across this Q&A post earlier today on the very enjoyable blogs of Bev and Ami, I thought “that sounds like a good topic for a rainy day.” Turns out, it was a rather lovely day here but I’m home alone and have watched everything new… so there’s no time like the present!

Some people call me an expat, some may call me an immigrant, but either way I’m an American in a place that isn’t the United States. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

I was born in Menomonee Falls, WI, lived in Milwaukee until I was seven, then we moved to Eagle, WI. Eagle is mostly known for its smiley-faced water tower, and that’s about it. After a stint in Prague, I moved to Nuremberg in 2011, and eventually here to the ze Dorf outside Nuremberg in 2013.

Our village has a castle, and the castle has this cool gateway.

2. WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME COUNTRY

Floating in a sea of “what now?” post-college, I decided that my best bet to travel while still making money was to get a TEFL certification and try to teach English. I had no idea how long I wanted to do it for, and where I would end up going, but nearly nine years on I guess it has worked out okay for me.

3. WHAT TYPE OF REACTIONS DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MEET NEW PEOPLE AND TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE FROM?

This has definitely shifted in the last year and change. It used to be an “okay, cool, where in the U.S.?” and now it’s a decidedly less relaxed conversation, thanks to 45. Germans have been pretty used to an American presence in most places since the end of the Second World War, so we aren’t really anything that new and exciting here. I do find the reactions of military-affiliated Americans funny sometimes, in that they’re confused by what I’m doing here of my own volition.

4. WHAT WAS THE EASIEST/HARDEST PART IN ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

After coming from Prague, a lot of things seemed really easy. The paperwork had some sense of order to it, whether or not everything was being done correctly, was something I wouldn’t get into trouble with for a couple years though. The hardest part was not being surrounded by a group of built-in friends right from the get-go. I’ve found people here but it took some time, and if you’re not the most outgoing, social person in the world (introverts unite! Separately!) making friends here can be tricky. The good news is that once you are friends with someone here, they are sticking around. To me, that’s invaluable.

One of the first girls I met here six years ago got married in June. It was lovely.

5. IMAGES, WORDS OR SOUNDS THAT SUM UP THE EXPAT EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD SO FAR.

In Prague it was the sound of the tram. My bedroom window overlooked a stop where six trams stopped during the day and four at night. The drivers ring the bell every time they start so that sound is inextricably linked with Prague in my brain. In Germany, it’s a lot of things… Red trains. Red trains for days. Alpine bells, or the sound of the rooster next door crowing. The smell of roasted almonds at the summer festivals, or that smell mingling with the scent of Glühwein at the Christmas markets.

Red trains > other trains.

6. YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD OR DRINK ITEM IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY

Käsespätzle is life. Not to mention a frosty glass of whatever local beer is on tap (minus Tucher, that is).

Kirchweih libations.

7. WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU SAID “YES” TO IN YOUR NEW CITY THAT YOU WOULDN’T SAY “YES” TO, BACK HOME?

Probably spending as much time on public transportation as I do here. First of all, where I grew up there was no public transportation. If I wanted to find a public bus, I’d have to drive 30 minutes in Waukesha, and get on a bus there. Doesn’t make much sense, really. I took a Greyhound one time in college and that was enough to freak me out on the Greyhound experience. The only times I can remember taking anything like public transportation was a shuttle bus down to the Milwaukee lakefront for Summerfest, a Brewer game, or some other sort of special event. Otherwise it was all cars, all the time.

8. ARE THERE ANY CULTURAL NORMS/PHRASES IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY WHICH YOU CANNOT STAND?

Sometimes I’m amazed that Germans are able to get anything done when they spend half of their lives shaking hands. I now know that if BV and I have to leave a family gathering, it’s necessary to start that process about an hour before we actually plan to leave, especially if we have to catch a train. Give me an “Irish Exit” any day of the week, because to me, that’s better than demanding people’s attention, interrupting conversations, etc. in order to have a formal goodbye.

Additionally, I’ve found that since a good deal of my classes have taken place in more technically-oriented companies, I’ve had to hear a fair amount of “women be shopping” sort of jokes (or half-jokes) from my mostly male groups. My usual strategy is to laugh it off and give them a bit of shit for that attitude, but I’m really not a fan. I have also tried out the tactic of switching the discussion to their hobbies because guess what? All that specialized sporting equipment, all those electronic toys and gadgets you have at home? Those are not cheap, buddy. Just because you only have two pairs of shoes does not mean you are a supreme example of fiscal responsibility. Most of these guys would say that women and men are equal in their companies, and in Germany as a whole, but they have a long way to go on a lot of things here.*

9. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST DOING IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

Any frequent readers of this blog can answer this one, I think. Get me south to the Alps and I am a happy camper.

Hiking in Austria this August.

10. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER MOVE HOME FOR GOOD?

That is a question that I have a hard time answering. Never say never is usually a good philosophy for me, but the chaotic way that things seem to be unraveling at the moment makes me lean towards no way. If something should happen that means I do have to go “home” for a period of time, that’s one thing. But after nearly nine years gone? In those nine years, I think I’ve seen enough of this way of life to make me confident that this is what I want, and what fits the life I want to live best.

The water of the Eibsee is as refreshing as it looks.

 

*Not that the U.S. is doing much better at the moment.

A Very German Weekend: Part Two

First of all..

short·ly [shawrt-lee]
adverb
1.in a short time; soon.
2.briefly; concisely.
3.curtly; rudely.
4.a unit of time in Heather’s world that may extend to more than two weeks

Apologies once again for the delay in posts (I know people are falling over in despair around the world and all), but things got a bit hectic in the preparations for my parents being here. They visited for a week, but the cleaning, laying of hallway floor, and trying to make this look less like a haunted house in general, was  pretty time consuming. But we’re back, we’re recovered, and so it’s time to blog again.

Back to the German weekend….

One of the things I really wanted to do this summer was to see the raising of a Kerwabaum (or Maibaum, if you prefer), at one of our local festivals. I mentioned it briefly in this post about the Erlangen Bergkirchweih, but it’s something I haven’t seen here yet. For the last three years, I’ve been driving past these things, or spotting them rising above villages on the train, and by God, I wanted to see them actually put one up. Part of the charm of moving to ze village here, is that our town actually still does this as part of their Kirchweih celebration. Last year, BV and I were back in the States the weekend of the fest, but this year I was determined to go. So on Saturday afternoon, we wandered over to the Marktplatz to see what there was to see.

Another part of the charm of moving to the village means that there aren’t that many people so we were able to get a good spot. BV was still put in charge of photography on this one though, because the majority of Germans are still taller than I am, and I don’t enjoy taking pictures of people’s backs. The tree was still on the ground when we arrived, so BV was dispatched to grab us some beers before the show began.

The whole operation took about an hour to complete, and of course, the soundtrack was provided by a local band. Different parts of the procedure seemed to involved different songs, as the conductor kept a close eye on the tree’s status at all times. Here you can see the band, and the tree propped up on sawhorses. If you look closely, you can also see the snazzy hats that the “Kerwa Boys” wore pre/post tree-raising, and their Maß beers, which were consumed at every possible pause in the process.

kbaum1After this, the “Kerwa Boys”  began to get out the long poles, which you can just see in the photo above. Two poles are connected at one end with a short chain, and the poles are used to gradually scoot the tree higher and higher.

As I said before, the band’s conductor kept a sharp eye on things at all times, so when the tree was being set in its final position she could cue the band for the celebratory song. All in all, it was very festive, and the Kerwa Boys celebrated by draining whatever was left of their beers. Immediately after that, they traded the long poles for their special beer tables, which were placed at the bottom of the tree. Tradition says that they tree must be guarded by them for the remainder of the fest, lest another village come by and swipe the tree. How anyone sneaks one of these things away in the middle of the night is beyond me, but apparently it happens.

Once the tree was settled in place, the mayor came out to give a little speech and officially open the festival. He talked for a few minutes, and then introduced a poet, who came out in a super-sweet outfit to read a poem that basically talked about all the shenanigans that the Kerwa Boys and Girls had gotten up to the year before. Village lesson: they do not forget your shenanigans, so behave yourself!

kbaum10After the Poet of Shame was finished, the band played a bit longer. I noticed the guy pictured below standing there, and asked BV what was up with the alarm clock.

kbaum12He had no idea (bad German, bad!), but our questions were about to be answered. The band cleared off, and made way for a semi-reluctant sheep to take the stage.

kbaum14He was not entirely thrilled with being the star of the show, at least not at the beginning.

In some towns, the dancing takes place around the Maibaum, but because of the placement in our town, that’s not possible. Instead, the dancing took place around the sheep on the stage. Yes, around the sheep. Because the winner of the dance, gets a sheep! Score!

Okay, they probably don’t really get the sheep anymore, but… traditionally speaking, they got the sheep. So how does one win a sheep?

kbaum15See the bouquet in the girl’s hand on the left? That is the winning bouquet. The afore-mentioned alarm clock is set, the band plays, the older gent in the middle calls out the dances, and the flowers are passed from couple to couple. When the alarm clock rings, the couple holding it scores the sheep. Soooo… keep your eyes on the bouquet!

I found this whole thing to be totally adorable. Plus, the sheep seemed to have accepted his fate, and just hung out watching the dancers. Some of the dancers seemed a little fuzzy on the steps, and I also enjoyed watching them as they kept an eye on the feet of the other couples. I guess the dancing club needs to meet a bit more often. But then, the alarm rang, and we had a winner!

kbaum24The winners then got to take a celebratory solo circle dance around their new sheep….

Finally, the opening ceremonies had come to an end. The last thing to do was for some guys to shoot off some old-fashioned powder guns, and for everyone else to drink more beer. We headed back home, so we could gather our grillables before heading to a friend’s house for a BBQ and the Germany-Ghana WM match.

kbaum28Naturally, those guys also had sweet outfits to wear. But since that isn’t such a nice picture to end on, I’ll give you this one instead….

kbaum27Fest love connections happen at all ages…. even the mini Kerwa Boys can’t resist a lady in a Dirndl.

Fest Season Is Upon Us: The Erlangen ‘Berg’

Shhhhhh.

 

Do you hear that? The ominous thumping? Sounds like an Oompah band mixing with the bass line of German Schlager music, aka DJ Ötzi and company? (Side note: if you don’t know what that is, Google. 🙂 I’m not linking to the silliness.)

If you hear that, it means that you are somewhere in Bavaria and there is a fest nearby. Don’t see anything? It’s easy to find one, just turn around. Summer around here is pretty much a non-stop traveling parade of giant pretzels, people in Dirndl und Lederhosen, giant beers, and brightly lit rides. In the mail the other week, we got a complete guide to all of the village fests in our area, so if we want to, we can pretty much hit one a weekend from now until September. At least we can’t say there’s nothing to do on the weekends, right? Almost every village has it’s own separate Kirchweih, which just lasts a weekend. The bigger towns and cities will party for a longer time though.

A note: according to most people, a Kirchweih is officially a celebration to mark the anniversary of a town’s church. Somewhat suspiciously though, all of these seem to take place in summer. Kirch (church), is still in the name, but at this point the religious aspect is as elusive as a Wolpertinger. Today, it’s just a fun town celebration, an excuse to put on your Dirndl and do a little ridiculous dancing. Some traditional aspects remain, and many villages still put up their Maibaum at this time. According to the poster for our village fest in a few weeks, this will happen so I’m hoping I can get there in time. I still haven’t seen one go up, and I want to see this!

Since our fest isn’t for a few weeks though, today I’d like to share with you the Mother of All Franconian Fests: the Erlangen Bergkirchweih. Around the area, it’s affectionately known as the Berg (or Berch), or the much-less clear Kerwa. To be honest, that might be spelled wrong but that’s how it sounds in the Franconian accent. Except less clear. I’ve been hearing about this from my students since I arrived here, and was assured that this was Franconia’s (our region of Bavaria) answer to Oktoberfest. In fact they said, it’s better, because Germans actually GO to this one. I said that I hadn’t gone to Oktoberfest and not run into any Germans yet, but I would take their word for it.

Now, I don’t think I got the full experience, as we were there early in the afternoon on Saturday, but it was enough time for a beer and a few pictures. I was very happy that I had convinced BV to go along with this, as he was convinced that it would be packed and horrible. Which is exactly what all my students had been saying for the last three years as well.

“Germans go! It’s better than Oktoberfest! But so many people! I don’t go!”

I’m paraphrasing three years worth of conversations here, but you get the idea.

Granted, Saturday was hotter than bejeezus, so perhaps it wasn’t as crowded as it could have been, but I thought it was totally fine. But, once you’ve survived The Pit, aka, the standing-room only area in the middle of the Hofbräuhaus tent at Oktoberfest, no other fest looks crowded in comparison. A word of advice? If you’re at Oktoberfest, do not go in The Pit. It’s horrible. Just don’t.

We walked up the hill- hence the Berg in Bergkirchweih, bypassing all the food goodies, until we reached the row of Keller. This was a pretty cool thing, I thought. At Oktoberfest, each brewery has it’s own huge tent, or Zelt. There aren’t any windows, so you have no idea what’s going on inside until you get in, and that’s if you get in! Once you’re in, you have to get a seat at a table in order to get a beer. If you try to flag down a waitress while lurking in the walkways, they will knock you over with the ten empty Maß (liter glasses) that they’re carrying. Or worse, the ten full ones. Those ladies do not mess around. Get out of their way. At the EBK (I’m lazy, sorry), there are different Keller, which are large seating sections, stepping up along the hillside. Underneath the seating area was a place to walk up and buy beer, and some had stages at the top. Most of them served Tucher (the beer from Nürnberg), or Kitzmann from Erlangen.

After taking a look down the row, we found a place in the front row at one of the Keller. This was easy to do as that was the only place exposed to the sun, and as I said before, it was hot. Our table was reserved later in the day, but that was no problem as we weren’t planning on staying too long. BV drove, so his fun was limited. We weren’t sure if there was service, as we didn’t see any waiters or waitresses, so BV consulted with the next table. They assured us that there was service, but said it may be faster to just go get the beer ourselves. This is a definite advantage over Oktoberfest… waiting for a beer there could be an Olympic sport. We were thirsty as could be by this point and waiting was not going to happen.

BV ran to go get us beer, and I baked a bit in the sun. While he was gone, I realized while he was gone that we were sitting in a Keller that served Tucher beer! The brewery had another name, but was owned by Tucher…. uhoh. It’s the biggest brewery in Nbg, and they’ve bought up a lot of smaller breweries, but usually it’s still their beer in the glass. Neither of us are fans of it, and there are just so many better beers around here! Luckily he caught our mistake too, and returned with liters from the Steinbach brewery, a small brewery right down the hill in town. Yes, we sat in an area with the incorrect beers. For shame! To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s a big no-no, but better safe than sorry. When a waiter finally did pass our table, we turned our glasses just in case. I’m not big on scoldings from harried waitstaff, sorry. I would normally show you a sweet beer picture here, but the only one is of me looking very warm, so we’re skipping that today. BV needs to work on his portrait skillz. As far as cost goes, a beer this year was 8€ everywhere we saw, plus of course the 5€ deposit fee on the mugs.

The seating areas were pretty full, but as I said before, it was early so things were still fairly tame. There was the usual array of bachelor/bachelorette parties, people in weird costumes, and of course, plenty of people in Tracht (traditional clothing, aka Dirndl and Lederhosen). We enjoyed our delightfully cold beers, and watched the show. These adorable ladies were selling shots, presumably part of a bachelorette shindig, and I’m not sure what’s holding the attention of the gentlemen better. The girls, or the shots… what do you all think?

berg7berg6Not a great picture, but you can kind of get an idea of how the terraced seating looks. I absolutely loved being under the trees and in the open air! I will say though, that if you’re clumsy, you may want to consider drinking as close to the main thoroughfare as possible. The steps up were a bit steep and tall. A few Maß and I could see people tumbling down faster than Humpty Dumpty! And once the table dancing starts later in the evening…. look out. There were a fair amount of warning signs but who knows how effective they are. Drink with caution, kids.

We headed out in search of lunch after our beer, as we wanted something more substantial than fest food. But there was of course time for a few more pictures. The next one I’m including for a few reasons: 1) it shows part of the edibles area, 2) it includes the terrifying ear of corn that appears at all fests and sometimes haunts my nightmares, and 3) there are children in Tracht. Kids in Tracht are pretty much the cutest damn things in the world, but no, I will not be producing any in the near future. Sorry not sorry.

berg3But since I don’t want to give you all nightmares too, I won’t let that be the last picture. Instead, here are some pretzels and the Erlangen Schlossgarten, on our way back to the car. Not a bad place to lay in the grass and people watch, right?

Have no fear, we absolutely had a pretzel. On our way to lunch. Fest!

So if this post has at all convinced you to head to the Bergkirchweih, you’ve got a few more days to do it. The fest ends on the 16th this year, so strap on your traditional finery, hop a train, and get on over here!

More info:

Erlangen Bergkirchweih Official Site

Have you been to the Berg? What are the best fests where you live?

An Unexpectedly Awkward Monday Afternoon.

-0r-

What Happens When You Dive in and Totally Smoke the Bottom of the Pool With Your Head

*Spoiler Alert*: It hurts.

In the last few months I’ve become increasingly irritated with what I’m doing here. Not Germany as a whole, and not my life in Germany, but what is paying for me to be here. Teaching English is absolutely a great way to go abroad and see a bit of the world. I have no arguments there. My issue is what happens when you’ve decided that you want to stick around somewhere for a while. Or forever… it remains to be seen.

Some people have a love and a passion for teaching. That is a wonderful thing, God bless you, and the world needs more of you. I am not one of those people. There are some things that I have considered teaching on a more permanent basis, but English is not one of them. Some days it’s fun, and some days it makes me want to tear my hair out. Students hate grammar, I hate grammar, everyone hates grammar. It’s a necessary evil but I’m damn sick and tired of it.

A few weeks ago I had a mini-meltdown over all of this when I was deep into procrastination mode over lesson plans. It happens every 6-8 weeks like clockwork, but I never seem to learn not to put them all off until the last minute, aka right before I have to go in for a meeting with the bosses. It’s not just the paperwork though, it’s a lot of things that I don’t really want to get into at this point in time. Suffice it to say, I’m realizing that if Germany is where I want to be for the foreseeable future, it’s time to look into other options.

This is easier said than done though. Even here in the Nürnberg area, home to Siemens, Adidas, and Puma, there aren’t that many options for me. If I had a better grasp of a second language, or more business-related education I would have a better shot at a job in one of those companies. But I don’t, and I have never wanted to be an office bee. I tolerate going in and out of offices now, but it’s just not something I ever saw for myself. Additionally, if you haven’t gone through the German system of schoolings, trainings, apprenticeships, etc., it’s hard to get your foot in the door (their school system is fairly different from ours, and a topic for another day).

So what to do?

Back when I had the mini-meltdown, I started trolling German job websites looking for something, anything that I might have a shot at. Even better, I found something. I found something that lined up with what I studied, and what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. I debated for a week or so, checking the listing every day to see if it was still there, and then I sat down and wrote one of the more earnest letters that I’ve ever written. I enlisted BV, who was kind enough to translate it into “nice” German for me. Nice German meaning German that didn’t sound like it was written by a 5-year old; “Das Auto ist blau,” etc. We did put a disclaimer on the bottom stating that I had significant help writing it, since my German is a work in progress. We sent it off and I waited.

Waiting sucks, incidentally. It should probably be banned.

I heard back from them eventually, and they requested a sample of work. They also asked if I would be interested in doing a two month internship, as I’ve never actually worked in the field.  I spent the weekend analyzing, over-analyzing, and trying to put something acceptable together. I sent it off and waited again. Waiting still sucked, and this time was even worse, as anyone who is being judged on their creative work could tell you.

A week or two later, I got a response, and they asked if I would still be interested in an internship. I responded that I most certainly would be interested, and we scheduled an interview for two weeks time. That was yesterday.

To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting as far this interview went, but it was a very confusing experience for me. Not only was it my first interview for a job abroad that was not conducted entirely in English, but it was just kind of odd overall.

I arrived about ten minutes before my appointment time, and was directed to take a seat at a table in the studio. At the table was a jug of water, some Easter chocolates, and seven places neatly set with water glasses, blank sheets of paper, and pens. My mind immediately jumped back to the first days in drawing class in university, where we were directed to draw the people sitting across from us, and then we all got to critique together. What fun, am I right? I sat down very gingerly, and tried to not break the skirt that I had repaired for the occasion. Over the next ten minutes, four other girls trickled in. The oldest was 28, and the others were all in the 21-24 range. They were dressed fairly casually, three in jeans and one in black outdoor pants of some kind. My American self was feeling very over-dressed, out-of-place, and out of my damn mind already. I briefly considered just leaving then and there, but sucked it up.

The studio owner came in, greeted us all, and first asked me (in German) if I understood her. I said yes, and she continued on. She said that we were the last five chosen out of 18 applicants. Or 80. I was a little fuzzy on that. Damn numbers. Either way though, that felt pretty good. She first introduced herself, and explained that she liked to have these little sort of “meetings” in interviews, to ease people’s nerves, and also keep her from having to repeat herself multiple times. That’s understandable, right? She then asked us to introduce ourselves.

Fuck. Me.

Two of the girls went before me, giving the usual information: names, ages, school/training, experience, and why they were there. Then it was my turn.

I’m pretty sure I blacked out at this point. Whatever German I know completely left my brain and I muddled through an introduction in a shitstorm of grammatical chaos. Wonderful.

The next two girls went, and I couldn’t tell you anything they said because I was having an internal meltdown and wondering just how purple my face was. I’m guessing it was somewhere between Barney the Dinosaur and those grapes on the Fruit of the Loom logo.

Thankfully, the introductions were over then, and the owner started talking again. She kept talking for at least the next hour, with my either understanding everything perfectly, or being very confused. Some things were perfectly clear, and others were much fuzzier. For example: I thought the position I was there about was a 2-month internship, which was what had been discussed via email. However, she was talking at one point about a 3-year position, with three weeks of the month in the studio, and one week in school studying various subject. I know that is a normal step in the German school system that a lot of students do, but I didn’t really think that was on the table in this case. I’m still not sure if that is an option that we could take, or what the deal was there. Like I said, there was a lot of confusion, especially compounded by the fact that you miss so much when you’re trying to puzzle out what someone just said.

After she wrapped up her talk, she asked each of the girls a few questions. each time telling me that she’d talk to me on my own later. Fiiiiiine with me. When they had finished with all the questions, she asked me and another girl to stay. She thanked the others for coming, and told them that if they got the position, they’d hear something from the studio in the next few days. If they didn’t hear anything, no dice. I was confused again here, as I thought at the beginning she said that she’d be speaking to each of us individually, but apparently that wasn’t the case.

The other girl was invited into the second part of the studio, and the owner gave me a book to look though. I flipped somewhat absentmindedly, trying to decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing that I was still there. After a few minutes she came back in, and invited me into the other room.

Now, on their website it says that she spent some time in the States, and they do have English-speaking clients. A lot of people don’t get the chance to use English in their daily lives and get really excited to break it out. This was not one of those times. Again, I can’t be upset about this because obviously if I want to work in Germany at an actual company that is not a language school, it’s not unreasonable to want me to speak German, and for a foreigner, this was a test as much as anything else in an interview. So yes, the remainder of the interview was conducted in German.

To be clear, at no point was she rude to me. She was just very direct, one of the things I appreciate the most here. She told me that I was in the same boat as the other girl, and we were really both being let down easy. She said that some of my work was good, but for their purposes, it was not where it needed to be. She also said my German was not up to par to work there. This was not a surprise to me, or anyone else I daresay. I tried to explain that for my work now, it’s not necessary, so I understand that it’s not where you might expect it to be, especially after three years. However, when I came here I spoke about five words; now I can make myself understood (albeit awkwardly), have a conversation, read and understand fairly well. I consider that pretty darn good for not having had a single lesson. For this situation? No, not good enough.

She told me that I should work on what I need to work on, if I’m serious about this, and I can always try again next year. I did appreciate the constructive criticism, and I’m afraid that I came off badly because I couldn’t really express that to her. I also tried to explain that I just wanted to take the chance, even if it seemed silly with my current language level, because this is something I really want to do. Not sure if I got that one across either… plus her baby farted really loudly and that distracted both of us. This may be a ‘thank-you’ note situation. We shall see.

I went back out into the sunlight, and took a long walk to the Bio-market to buy fancy cheese and a decent wine; two things scientifically proven to dull humiliation. Was it as bad as it could have been? Definitely not. But it was the most foreign situation I’ve found myself in for a looooong while. It’s horribly uncomfortable to not be able to put together a coherent thought in an interview, when normally selling yourself is something you are darn good at.

If I want to be here in the long run, and I want a job here that falls more into line with how I want my life to be, this had to happen. I had to take a leap into the pool, and yes this time I definitely thwonked my head on the bottom. It sucked, but now it’s out of the way. I got some decent advice on what I need to work on, and I have every intention of following through on that.

Has anyone else braved the German job market? Got any tips for the rest of us?

That was a lot of words, so here's a mountain.

That was a lot of words, so here’s a mountain.

What Not to Say to Your German Significant Other

-or- More Fun Confusion with DuoLingo

Turns out my handy dandy app is not just for improving my linguistic skills; it can also raise important cultural distinctions. The other day I was playing with DuoLingo again, and was working on one of the family or people categories. At one point the sentence “Eine Beziehung ist ein Abenteuer“*or ‘a relationship is an adventure,’ popped up for me to repeat aloud. BV was sitting there, so I said (semi-sarcastically), “oh honey, isn’t that sweet. Our relationship is like an adventure.”

He gave me a confused/funny look and said, “sweet? Why sweet? That’s not really a good sentence.”

Disclaimer: may not apply in DE. VIa

Disclaimer: may not apply in DE. Via Pinterest

Huh? Now it was my turn to be confused. Why? Isn’t that a good thing? Adventure, excitement, spontaneity, aren’t those all desired qualities in a relationship? Don’t I see tons of ‘Pins’ a week touting ’25 date adventures’ and other nonsense cluttering up my Pinterest feed?  Turns out, maybe not so much in Germany. It’s like a whole damn nation of Yodas running around here.

I don’t want to generalize and say that all Germans would agree with the sentiment but he said it was a fairly common line of thinking. He explained it like this: if a relationship is described as an adventure, that means it’s maybe something dangerous or something you shouldn’t be doing, e.g.. having a one-night stand, being unfaithful to your partner, or other “illicit” behaviors. Being adventurous within a relationship is fine, so if you want to go out and get crazy with your partner, go for it! But having an adventure implies that you’re straying from the secure place you “should” be in. Stability and routine aren’t so scoffed at here, which I guess means there’s less bitching when your coupled up friends don’t want to go out partying on Saturday night. This is not a bad thing. But I can’t agree that adventure is bad either.

On second thought, maybe I’m only saying that stability is okay because our last few weekends haven’t involved much beyond pajama pants and amusing ourselves with the cat and her acrobatic hunting abilities…. hmmmm….. Nah. Personally, I say to each his own.

Stability and routine might sound boring to some people, and adventure and excitement might sound like too much to others, but I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. I’d like to strive for a healthy mix. If I can spend a fair amount of time in my PJs watching movies, but still go out and explore new places, that’s great with me. I was glad that DuoLingo brought up this subject because then BV and I had the chance to discuss what kind of adventures we want to go on together. The list was quite extensive; clearly we have no desire to be boring yet (or ever). If others think we are, that’s their problem, not mine.

Unfortunately we are limited at the moment because he really needs to focus on his university program, and frankly the money just isn’t there right now.  But when school lightens up for him and our bank accounts are a little more flush, we’re all over it. There’s still a lot of world to see, and I’m really happy that I have someone who wants to do ALL THE THINGS with me… even if we don’t want to call it an adventure. But honestly? I’d rather just call it life, anyway.

So I’m curious… has anyone else run into this line of thinking? Are adventures bad news or is the real enemy routine?  

Prague: It Was Bound to Happen

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time (and managed to make your way here from Blogger), you may have read one of my many entries on Prague. It’s no secret that I love the city and maybe if things had shaken out differently, I’d still be there, living the Lost Boys life with all the all nutty expats.

But, life intervened and here I am. Part of the reason is that the Golden City is like any other city in that it’s not without its problems. In my 2.5 years there my friends and I had some experiences that were less than savory. There were drug-addled people in the park near our house (which was smack in the historic center), needles in the streets, perverts on the trams, and teenagers trying to pick your pockets as they made out behind you on the escalators of the metro. One of our friends was even accosted by a prostitute at a sausage stand. He managed to hold onto his dinner, but she got away with his cell phone. Note to tourists: don’t try to be nice to the ladies of the night and tell them that they’re beautiful before saying you’re not interested. Tell them to F off, and watch your pockets.

The teenage pickpockets tried to get me in my very first week in town. Luckily they were young and less than smooth, so I caught them in the act. Plus, there was only a book in that pocket of my bag anyway and somehow I doubt they would have enjoyed whatever I was reading that week.

That moment showed me that the tourist guides weren’t kidding about pickpocketing being a problem in Praha. Moreover, it could happen anywhere, in the tourist spots or not. Most of the time after that I spent with Professor Moody levels of Constant Vigilance (Thanks, J.K. Rowling). Other friends had phones stolen off of bar tables, jackets leave clubs, wallets went missing all over town, but I managed to avoid it. Until the last visit.

BV and I headed to Prague for a weekend visit in January. My sister was there doing the same TEFL course I did, which gave us a prime excuse to relax our stringent budget and visit. I was very excited to see my sister and get the dirt on her TEFL experience. I was also excited to show BV my favorite spots, since he’d only been there once before and hadn’t seen some good things.

All in all we had a great weekend. We rented a sweet little flat from AirBNB, and on arrival we went straight to my favorite Mexican restaurant on this continent. We hung out with my sister, some of her new friends, and one of my old roommates. Good times were had by all.

We decided to do a bit of shopping on Sunday afternoon before we had to catch our bus. There were a few places I wanted to hit on Wenceslas Square (Sephora, I miss you! Come to Germany!), but first we stopped for some coffee and cake. That’s where my Constant Vigilance failed.

In a bright and crowded cafe, on a Sunday afternoon, a guy made a big fuss out of changing the small stool at the table behind BV with the chair at the table next to us. Ten minutes later when we decided to leave, BV’s wallet was gone and so was the guy. AWESOME.

I had looked right at the guy during the chair switch and thought, “he doesn’t fit in here.” Maybe it was his face (ugly), maybe it was his jeans (ugly), maybe it was instinct – I don’t know. But whatever it was, it didn’t register strongly enough or he wasn’t quite “wrong” enough to make a difference. Two years ago I would have known that even in a bright cafe full of people sipping lattes, it wasn’t a good idea for BV to hang his jacket on the back of his chair like that. Putting the wallet and phone in the inner breast pocket isn’t enough sometimes. I should have taken his coat on the bench against the wall with me. But, we didn’t. After all the time I’ve spent in that city, it was bound to happen.

Really, we should be thankful that it was only the wallet. But spending our last 90 minutes in Prague calling the bank, trying to find a police station to file a report, and running to the bus put a serious damper on the weekend. So be warned, if you stop at Paul’s Cafe on Wenceslas Square, watch yourself. Okay, watch yourself everywhere on Wenceslas Square. And if you see this skeezeball in the blue hat, white and blue Adidas jacket, and ugly jeans, kneecap him and tell him he owes BV for the nearly brand-new wallet and me for one missed trip to Sephora.

dirty sleezebag thief

Prague, I still love you, but it may be awhile before I can convince BV to visit again. Clean up your act.