Christmas in Germany | EP 44
December is here and that means Christmas is just a few weeks away! We thought this was the perfect time to dive into the German roots of the holiday and the many ways a German Christmas is different from that you've experienced in the USA or elsewhere.
One of the German traditions that is not seen in the USA is the Advent calendar. In the Christian religion, the Advent season is the four weeks before Christmas, which is seen as the time leading up to the nativity of Christ. Of course, you do not need to be religious at all to purchase an Advent calendar. It provides a fun little treat each day in the lead up to Christmas. There are many different types of pre-made Advent calendars you can buy that have various themes. Above is an example of the general look of an Advent calendar. This one in particular has a make up theme, which means each little door has lipstick, mascara, eye liner, etc.
Most Advent calendars offered at local grocery stores feature mainly candies and chocolates. Depending on the quality of the calendar and the treats inside, the cost of an Advent calendar can range from 5 Euro to 50 Euro. However, on average they are around 10 Euro.
You can also create your own form of an Advent calendar, which is what my girlfriend and I do every year (see above). We buy each other small little gifts, wrap them, and hang them on our stairs. They are numbered so it is obvious which gift to open on which day. We alternate, meaning we each receive a gift every other day. This way, we only need to buy each other 12 small gifts, instead of 24. Keep in mind, these are small, low cost items. If you bought a proper gift for each Advent day, you would most likely have no money left for an actual Christmas gift!
We also mentioned the German "Adventskranz", which also celebrates the anticipation of the nativity of Christ in the Christian religion. For some, however, it is just a festive decoration to show the passing of the weeks in December as the Christmas holiday gets closer. The candles are lit one after the other during the Advent season. One candle is lit on the first Sunday in Advent, the second one from the second and so on. Most Adventskranz that you buy at the store are a green wreath with four candles attached to it. Some people make their own, which is what we did here with four candles surrounded by some greenery and other decorations.
The Expat Files: From India to Berlin | EP 43
Thanks again to our friend Prayag for sharing his story! We hope it gives confidence to all those who wish to move abroad and assume there will be many set backs put in their way.
Above is a small collection of images I took while working in India on the film "Umrika" several years ago. During the few months I lived in India I had some amazing experiences and met some truly kind people. Most of my time was spent in Mumbai, however for a few weeks we were in Satara, which is a small village in the mountains about 250 km to the south. I was also lucky enough to briefly visit Goa, which is a tropical paradise on the western coast of India.
The German Shuffle - Nr. 1 | EP 42
Let us know if you all liked our experiment (also known as the German Shuffle). If so, maybe every few episodes we'll do another "shuffle" where we talk about several small topics, instead of one overall topic for the entire episode.
During the "how've you been" segment of this episode Alex mentioned he had gone on a photo walk around Berlin. Above are some of the images he took while exploring some areas of the city he has never been before.
Traditions & Holidays | EP 41
Thank you again to our guest Mari Tischner of the YouTube channel "Adventures of La Mari." We had lots of fun having Mari on the show and we hope to collaborate with her again in the future, especially considering we only covered half of what we planned to talk about for the episode!
Please check out Mari's YouTube channel, which is also designed for expats.
Above is the pumpkin Geoff carved with this girlfriend this year. It was their first time attempting the "pumpkin eating a smaller pumpkin" style. They just happened to have the smaller pumpkin, which they had gotten from his girlfriend's farm a few weeks earlier, so they figured, "why not?"
As mentioned in the episode, November 11 in Germany is "Singles Day." Nope, it has nothing to do with dating. Basically, it's a day similar to "Black Friday" in which many online retailers have crazy deals on certain products. If you live in Germany and you're reading this today (Nov. 11) and you're bored, we suggest you check it out. Who knows, you might find a good deal.
No, we were not paid to mention "Singles Day." We just had very little content for this episode's "extras" page and needed some filler.
Mythbusters: Part 3 | EP 40
This week's episode was our 40th episode! For us, this is a huge milestone. The only reason we made it this far is because of all of you wonderful people that have continued to listen to us each week and send us such kind messages. We’ll keep going as long as we can bring you fun and interesting episodes. Plus, you’re the excuse we use to own a ridiculous amount of whiskey. Above is a little fun photo shoot we did with all of the whiskies we've collected thus far (actually, it's not every single bottle because of course a few have been finished and recycled). We both know this podcast won't last forever, but for the time being we're going to stick around!
We mentioned the infamous performance by David Hasselhoff at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin when the wall came down in 1989. Click here to watch the Hoff in all his glory. Pay special close attention around the 3:18 mark when you'll see a firework miss his head by about 2 cm.
Our Personal Language Learning Journeys | EP 39
As mentioned in this week'sepisode, we're no on YouTube! Our channel will have some of our full episodes and we'll have some bloopers and possibly other extras down the road. We're still just a podcast, so don't expect too much from us on the YouTube front. We can't guarantee a regular upload schedule, however, we'll do our best to add a little content when we can. We suggest subscribing to the channel because then you can ensure you'll see new videos when they go online. The best part is instead of just listening to us, you can now also see our beautiful faces. Enjoy!
Forever Young: Growing Up in Germany vs. USA | EP 38
Thanks again to Felicia from the "German Girl in America" YouTube channel for stopping by and telling us a bit about her childhood in Germany. It was fun for Alex and I to hear things about growing up in Germany that even we weren't aware of!
Berlin's new campaign against people who
do not wear masks while in public spaces.
During this episode's intro, we mentioned that a new public service campaign had just started in Berlin with the sole purpose of shaming people who do not wear masks in public spaces, such as trains, buses, shops, etc. In typical Berlin style, the campaign is very direct and does not "sugar coat" the issue. The German text states, "the raised middle finger to those who do not wear a mask. We follow the Corona regulations."
Berlin and Germany as a whole handled the pandemic quite well. During the summer months the number of daily Covid-19 cases had plummeted to very manageable numbers (most days saw less than 500 new cases in the entire country), however the past 4-6 weeks the number of cases have risen rapidly. We both completely support this new ad campaign because, quite frankly, there is no reason to not wear a mask in public. It saves lives.
Berlin, Berlin: Part 2 | EP 37
As you probably know, last week we had a prize giveaway. The prize was a copy of the funny book, "How To Be German in 50 Easy Steps."
Congratulations to our lucky winner Josh in Pennsylvania! Thank you to everyone for participating and we hope to have another giveaway in the future.
Above is a gallery of Berlin related images - click to enlarge
In the spirit of our series on Berlin, we have decided to post some more photos of our favorite city. However, instead of glamour shots, the focus will be more about random small details within the city. You might notice the majority are some how related to WWII. What can I say...I like history. Enjoy!
Oktoberfest | EP 36
It's very sad that Oktoberfest had to be canceled this year due to Covid-19, but of course safety becomes before beer drinking (has anyone ever sad that?). On a serious note, we recommend you all stay away from any large celebrations this October.
Below we're going to post some extra tips about visiting Oktoberfest (assuming it comes back at some point) and a link to a nice documentary to give you a better scale of the madness.
However, first we must provide urgent information about free stuff...
We hope you're already aware, we will be giving away a prize today to one of you lucky listeners. The prize will be a copy of the funny book, "How To Be German in 50 Easy Steps." The book has everything in German and in English, so it's great for everyone.
How to Enter:
During today's episode (released on Wednesday, Oct. 7) we said a secret code at some point during the episode. This means you’ll need to pay attention! When you hear the secret code write it down. Then create a post on your favorite social media platform (Instagram or Facebook) and tag the Americans in Germany Drinking Whiskey Podcast in the post. Be sure to include the secret code somewhere in the post as well. The winner will be chosen at random from those that tag us and include the secret code.
We'll announce the winner here and on our social media pages later tonight!
Click here to watch a nice documentary online that will give you a good idea of the scale of the Oktoberfest event and all of the craziness that goes along with it.
Tips, Anecdote and General Comments
• BEING DRUNK IS NOT REQUIRED: Oktoberfest isn't just about getting drunk beyond comprehension. As we mentioned, it's also for people that just want to go and drink 1 or 2 beers, enjoy the music and meet some new people. Your Oktoberfest experience all depends on what you're looking for.
• LEDERHOSEN: As most of you know, the traditional outfit to wear while attending Oktoberfest is Lederhosen (men) and Dirndl (women). Anyone who is hesitating wearing one of these traditional Bavarian outfits because they are not German and fear offending people, fear not! In our experience, Germans are not at all offended by non-Germans wearing the traditional outfits while attending Oktoberfest. As long as you're not mocking them/making fun of them, then you'll be fine. In fact, it's the people who are dressed in normal clothing that stand out of the pack.
However, keep in mind Lederhosen and Dirndl can be quite expensive. The Lederhosen that actual Bavarians wear, for example, usually cost them between 500-1,000 Euro (some people even spend more). This is because they will be using theirs for many, many years and usually have their family crest stitched on them. However, there are cheaper options for someone who will just be visiting Oktoberfest only once. For example, several German department stores sell decent quality Lederhosen for around 100 euro (C&A for example). You can go cheaper with non-leather Lederhosen (some at tourist shops are made of paper), however don't go too cheap because you'll regret it.
• TENTS: Keep in mind, getting into the tents, especially the very popular ones, can mean a long wait in line. If you want to avoid this and be sure to secure a place at a table, it's recommended to show up no later than 1:00pm (better yet, even earlier). If you arrive at one of the tents in the evening, there is a chance you'll have to wait 1-2 hours or might not get in at all. This is the main reason that we suggest finding a tent earlier and staying there as long as you can. Once you get into a tent you will need to walk around for probably 10-20 minutes to find some space at a table. Be aware that many will be reserved and you will not be able to sit at such tables (just look for any "reserved" signs).
• WEATHER: This time of year (late September/early October) in Germany has very unpredictable weather. I've attended some Oktoberfests that had beautiful warm weather with sunshine and others where it rained the majority of the time. Be prepared for both. It can be super annoying to buy a nice set of Lederhosen only to have to cover your outfit with a big winter jacket or rain jacket. I'd suggest getting some sort of cheap sweater that matches your outfit or at minimum bring a small collapsable umbrella with you, just in case. One year, I was waiting to enter a tent and suddenly rain started to pour down. After standing 40 minutes in the rain with no umbrella or jacket, we had to give up because we became so wet and cold.
• SHOES: Ok, let's talk about shoes. When you have a room filled with thousands of people drinking beer and dancing around, you're guaranteed to have a lot of that beer end up on the floor. This means you'll be standing on a sticky beer covered floor for a few hours at least. Do not - I say again - do not wear nice shoes when you attend Oktoberfest. Your nice shoes will end up getting covered in beer and it will be a pain to clean them. I suggest you find "throw away" shoes to bring with you. Before I attended, I went to a nearby thrift store and I bought a pair of used brown shoes for about 5 Euro. The shoes ended up matching my outfit and more importantly, I didn't care if they got ruined.
• BRING LESS: We'd suggest bringing as little with you to the Oktoberfest grounds as possible. First of all, no large bags/backpacks are allowed inside due to security concerns. On top of that, it's just safer to bring as little with you as possible because it's very easy to lose sight of your things. Once inside a tent most people end up putting their purse, jacket, etc. on the ground at their feet or on their table. However, what ends up happening is everyone is drinking and dancing on the tables and things get moved, fall onto the ground, or simply forgotten. Plus, as menionted above, beer is being spilled and it might end up all over your purse that's sitting on the table. I personally never brought a bag with me and always had all my items (phone, wallet, etc) in the pockets of my Lederhosen. The less you bring with you, the less you have to worry about.
FINALLY, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING...BE SMART!
Pace yourself, please pace yourself. It's so easy to over-do-it at Oktoberfest. You have to remind yourself that each glass of beer contains 1 liter of alcohol (the equivalent of 3 standard bottles of beer in the USA). Drink slowly and be sure to order yourself some food every now and then. Also, don't forgot to drink some water from time to time - there's no shame in ordering a water instead of a beer! We've witnessed plenty of young people who were trying to out do their friends and drink the most Maß (the liter glasses of beer) they could, only to end up seriously regretting it by the end of the night. Remember, the security guards inside the tents will remove and ban anyone who is seen being overtly drunk and causing problems. You don't want to be kicked out only 2 hours after arriving!
Both Alex and I (Geoff) have been to the Oktoberfest in Munich, but separately. Some great times were had, and some regrettable times were had...
Above you will see some random pictures (some a bit blurry) of what we saw and did while at the Wies'n. To be honest, we don't have that many snaps to choose from as we were busy enjoying ourselves and not so focused on photos.
Making Friends With Germans | EP 35
Thanks again to Shaun Behrens of The Germany Experience Podcast for joining us to help discuss this week's topic. He's lived in villages in Germany for many years now and his experience makes him knowledgable about how to make friends with locals in Germany. Unlike Alex and myself that have spent most of our time in large cities, he didn't have a huge expat community to use as a crutch. If you'd like to listen to his podcast please click here.
As mentioned during this week's episode, we will be giving away a prize to one of you lucky listeners. The prize will be a copy of the funny book, "How To Be German in 50 Easy Steps." The book has everything in German and in English, so it's great for everyone.
How to Enter:
During next week’s episode (episode 36 - released on Wednesday, Oct. 7) we will say a secret code. We'll mention it at a random point during the episode, but we won’t tell you beforehand when it will come. This means you’ll need to pay attention! When you hear the secret code write it down. Then create a post on your favorite social media platform (Instagram or Facebook) and tag the Americans in Germany Drinking Whiskey Podcast in the post. Be sure to include the secret code somewhere in the post as well. The winner will be chosen at random from those that tag us and include the secret code. Good luck!
For more information about the book that will be given away as the prize, click here.
The AGDW Podcast would like to welcome the new sponsor of our podcast, Coya Insurance! Before you freak out, let us ease your concerns. We love our fans and would only recommend a service we felt was valuable to the people who listened to us. I (Geoff) became a user of Coya long before we ever started the podcast. I searched through many insurance carriers in Germany and found Coya was the one that supported expats the best. Everything was in English (the policy, the website, the customer support, etc.) and it was easy to sign up with no red tape. We recommend Coya to anyone who is an expat in Germany and in need of home insurance, bike theft insurance, private liability insurance, etc. To learn more click here.
We respect all of you, which is why we'll always be honest. We chose to work with Coya because we think they offer a great service and also because that collaboration helps us to keep providing great content for you guys. We actually do not make any profit from the sponsorships we have. All the money goes straight to helping pay for the production costs of the podcast, which includes our website, hosting services, audio equipment, and the many bottles of whiskey we buy for the show. Without a great partner like Coya, it becomes much more difficult to keep the show at the high standard we enjoy.
Thank you to all our fans for sticking with us. You're the best!
In the beginning of the episode I mentioned I had gone kayaking over the weekend in Fürstenberg, Germany. Here are some pictures, if you want?
Berlin, Berlin | EP 34
We know you're all thinking, "why didn't they do a straightforward episode about Berlin before?" The answer is, we don't know! We have recorded episodes about the abandoned buildings of Berlin, the music scene and what we felt are the best and worst things about the city. However, up until this point we had never done just a general episode that gave you insights into the city and what sets it apart from other European capitals. We're sorry for the delay, but we hope you enjoyed this part 1 of 2. The second instalment will be out in the coming weeks.
If our vague description of the Berlin Festival of Lights didn't quite paint a picture in your mind, here is a short video that will give you a better idea of what this annual event is all about.
What's the deal with those first day of school "cones" we mentioned? In Germany, children are given Schultüte on the first day of school. To learn more about their history click here.
While recapping our weekend we mentioned our hike through the Grünewald forest searching for mushrooms. In the middle of the forest, away from any designated paths, we stumbled across a random crate of beer. It surprisingly still had four fresh unopened bottles sitting in it. A special thank you to the kind soul that left this in the middle of nowhere for us. We were quite thirsty and the beer really hit the spot.
Note: Do not pick wild mushrooms and eat them unless you know for a fact they are edible and not poisonous. Eating the wrong types of wild mushrooms can cause serious illness and in rare cases, death. Of course, we're not trying to scare anyone, however we want you all to stay safe!
It's Showtime! German Film & TV | EP 33
We hope you enjoyed our episode on German media! This one is near and dear to my (Geoff's) heart as I started being a filmmaker when I was 8 years old and basically made my Dad's VHS camera, my VHS camera. I've been working in the German Film/TV industry since I moved to Berlin, which was an interesting comparison to the film industry in Los Angeles.
Above is an example of what a typical film editing station looks like. This was a film I was working on a few years ago at Ambient Recordings Berlin, which was my favorite Berlin post production house to use as an editing facility. Unfortunately, it no longer exists. I've blurred the images on the monitors just so no one involved with that specific production freaks out over any privacy concerns.
If you're on a film or TV editing team it means your going to be spending many long shifts, over many months, in a dark room. This can be particularly painful during the summer. The editing rooms begin to feel like caves, but you need it relatively dark in order to properly see the brightness, contrast, and the color of the images as they are meant to be seen.
Episode Related Links
Here are some links related to the various topics we mentioned throughout the beginning of the episode:
• We were featured recently on an episode of the Moving Roadmap Podcast that was released on Sept. 1 and you can listen to that episode here.
• The first annual "Warning Day" happened on September 10th and you can read more about this new nation wide test here.
• For a brief history of the "Tierpark Berlin" zoo (formerly the main zoo of East Berlin), please click here.
• VPN's - We talked briefly about VPN's (Virtual Private Network) during the episode, which is a key thing to have while living abroad if you would like to continue to stream all of the TV and films you enjoyed back home. We are not sponsored by any VPN's, but I can say I have used StrongVPN the entire time I've lived in Germany and I've been very satisfied with the price and service.
• To those of you from the USA the Rundfunkbeitrag (mandatory payments for public TV and radio) probably sounded odd and a bit of a governmental overreach. To learn more about this TV & radio "tax", click here to read directly from the source.
• Do you live in Berlin and you want to be an extra (background actor) in a film or TV show? We suggest signing up with an extras casting agency such as Filmgesichter. It's free and can be a fun way to be part of a Hollywood film, while making a little extra cash on the side.
What's Up Doc? Visiting German Doctors | EP 31
Unfortunately, because of a busy work week we were unable to create an extension extras page for this episode. If you have any follow up questions regarding seeing a doctor in Germany, please send us a message.
As mentioned in the beginning of the episode, we recently discovered that Aldi, the German discount supermarket, won two gold medals at the Spirits Business Scotch Whisky Masters in 2018. One medal was for its Highland Black Scotch Whisky, and another for its Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky. They both sold for roughly between 15-20 euro. This news was of course a shock to us because usually the only bottle of whiskey you're able to purchase at Aldi is around 6 Euro and (no surprise) awful. We attempted to find either of these whiskeys at Aldi this past week, but without sucess. We're assuming they don't produce it anymore, as the article is from over 2 years ago.
We were invited to be guests on an episode of the Get Up & Get Out Podcast, which is hosted by Steve Krisel. The show features weekly interviews with real people that have "gotten up and out" of their home country to live and work somewhere in the world. We both really enjoyed being on Steve's podcast and think you should all check out our interview, which is online now!
The Do's & Don'ts of Moving to Germany | EP 30
It is important to note that everything we discussed in this week's episode was based off of our own personal experiences moving to Germany. We also know that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most of you are currently unable to even visit Germany and that makes moving quite difficult. This is very unfortunate, but we think in the coming months movement will become less restricted and we hope all of our tips will be helpful to you as things slowly begin to return to "normal."
German Websites for Apartment Searches
Below are some of the most used websites to find apartments in Germany:
During this episode we detailed how you can use German subways (most specifically the Berlin U-Bahn) to move furniture to your new apartment or move practically anything you want for free. Alex mentioned there is actually a video that promotes this very feature of the Berlin subway and this video was released by the subway's operator, the BVG. It's a funny music video that, with the use of a rap, lists all of the weird things that are allowed on the train.
If your German skills are not so good, you can click the "CC" button at the bottom right of the video player to turn on the English subtitles.
German Whiskey: An Adventure to the Spreewood Distillery
| EP 29
Ever since we started our podcast way back (it feels that way) in February, one of our top goals has been to visit the Spreewood Distillery and document the trip for all of you. Of course, life (Covid-19) got in the way. Recently, we were finally able to make the trip and this was the best excuse to have an entire episode dedicated to German whiskey in general. For all the details about the tour and our experience, take a listen. However, here we have some advice to elaborate on.
If you've heard the episode already, then you already know we ran into a few obstacles getting to our destination. The main problem was actually getting on the train! German regional trains have special wagons specifically for bicycle storage, which we had all used many times before. This was, however, the first time these wagons were so full that I wasn't able to get onto the train. This was the result of a few factors: first, it was a weekend with great weather, which meant many people were in the mood to do some cycling and secondly, the train we were taking was also the same train to a very popular summer destination (Spreewald Nature Reserve).
If you and your friends will be taking the train and bringing along bicycles, be sure to arrive on the platform extra early (20-30 minutes) to beat the crowds and have your tickets (including your bicycle ticket) bought well before the train arrives. When the train arrives at the platform, keep an eye out for the large bicycle symbols printed on some of the wagons. These are the areas you need to get to ASAP. Run, do not walk, to the bicycle storage areas. If too many people get there before you it may mean missing your train and having to wait 30 minutes or more for the next one.
An image gallery of our whiskey adventure
We did our best to document our trip to the distillery for all of you. Maybe some of you feel inspired to visit yourself or buy a bottle of Stork? To learn more about Spreewood Distillers and their offerings, check out their website.
Just to be clear, we are not sponsored by Spreewood Distillers and have not been paid in any way. We suggest their whiskey simply because it's very good.
You may have noticed that during the beginning of the episode we mentioned a man in Berlin that recently had to chase down a wild boar fully nude. Peaked your interest? Here's an article and yes, there are pictures.
Berlin: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly | EP 28
Alex in complete & utter shock
He's accepting reality: this is a bottle of Red Spot
This week's whiskey was very special for both of us. It was gifted to Alex by his girlfriend as a surprise shortly before we were about to record this episode. Luckily, my association with Alex benefited me in a huge way, as it meant I was going to be able to taste Red Spot as well! This is w whiskey by Mitchell & Son that we had labeled as our "holy grail" for a long time, but we never thought we'd actually get the chance to try it. It turned out to be just as amazing as expected (see our "Whiskey & Ratings" page). The above photos show just how surprised Alex was and luckily I was there to be able to document the moment.
Some lovely photos taken by Alex around Berlin
Considering this is an episode all about our likes and dislikes regarding Berlin, it made sense to include a small collection of photos that Alex has taken throughout the city over the years. To see more of his photographic work, please visit his website.
Scams! | EP 27
Europe is a relatively safe place to travel and the odds of you falling victim to a violent crime while visiting are very low. However, one thing that is hard to avoid as a tourist are scams. Unfortunately, you will be the fraudsters and thieves main target! Be calm regardless, because if you stay alert and know what to look for, you can avoid 99 percent of the scams thrown your way. During this week's episode we shared many personal stories and ways that you can stop a scammer in their tracks. When we ran out of time we realized we had still not talked about several different types of scams, so we're planning on a follow-up episode in the future.
If you are interested in scams want to see a behind the scenes look of how the crooks take advantage of unsuspecting tourists, we would recommend watching the TV series "Scam City." Many of the episodes can be found on YouTube.
Photos taken during our trip to the island of Rügen
As mentioned in the beginning of the episode, we were both recently camping with some friends on the German island of Rügen, which is on Germany's Baltic Sea coast and can be accessed via bridge from the city of Strahlsund. It's a beautiful area with a lot of small seaside villages. We camped at a site that is in a forest that lies at the edge of the sand dunes, which means we were only a 2-3 minute walk from the sea. The above pictures will give you an idea of the area.
The Northern coast of Germany is know for it's windy beaches. The weather is usually not overly warm and because of the wind you will see both people in swimsuits and people wearing jackets relaxing on the sand. The island is also known for it's delicious seafood, which is of course very fresh. It's very common to see fish sandwiches (many different types of fish on offer) sold from small food shacks.
Click here for more information about Rügen.
While camping on Rügen we tried a new bottle of whiskey we bought at a local grocery store. Here is our "off-podcast" review of the Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey:
It's a whiskey that just "exists". It's very plain and has no excitement in its flavor, which unfortunately disappears very quickly. However, it is drinkable.
“The taste doesn't linger long enough. It dies off too quickly, which makes it a little boring. However, it might be fine for some basic cocktails.“
"That's the most super mild whiskey I've ever had in my life. It's alright though.”
Weird Laws: Germany vs. USA | EP 26
During this week's episode we described many weird German laws you might not have known existed, and also did a "game show" style back and forth between Alex and myself regarding which country a law came from.
As mentioned in the beginning of the episode, we were both recently in Greece on separate vacations with our girlfriends. Below are pictures of each of us enjoying our first post-lockdown vacations outside of Germany. We both found the people of Greece to be very gracious and friendly. I personally can recommend Crete, which had a surprisingly wide variety of landscapes. Not only did it have gorgeous beaches, but there was also forested mountain ranges, including the Samaria Gorge (see the last image below).
Something we found interesting during our stays in Greece were the unusual face masks used by almost everyone in the service industry. In Germany, we're accustomed to seeing home made masks made of cloth or the typical one-time-use medical grade masks. However, in Greece the mask of choice was a plastic mask that hung around the neck and then went up the person's face, covering their mouth. I honestly thought I was witnessing a scene from Blade Runner, as these masks looked like Sci-Fi fashion. See below for an example.
Working in Germany: Employee vs. Freelancer | EP 25
It is important to note that everything we discussed in this week's episode was based off of our own personal work experiences in Germany. We highly recommend that you contact a specialist who can advise you on your individual situation and the type of visa you might be applying for.
Below are some links to use as a good foundation of knowledge regarding being a freelancer in Germany.
Applying for the Freelance Visa:
Germany is one of the few places in the EU in which you can apply for a work visa after you've already arrived, which means you do not have to apply first from your home country. You will need to make your application with your local foreign affairs office - the Ausländerbehörde. Oddly enough, you'll find that even during your first visa application appointment after arriving in Germany, the Ausländerbehörde employees will most likely only talk with you in German. Of course, this might be a little difficult if you only speak English. It's a bit of a catch 22 because you might be moving to Germany to learn the language, however upon your arrival you are expected to already speak it. We recommend that for your first appointment you bring someone along to act as a translator. If you're new to the area and don't know anyone you can try posting in local expat facebook groups to find someone to help. There are also sometimes services that will provide a translator for a fair fee.
Another option is to hire an immigration lawyer to complete your application for you. This will eliminate the need for you to personally go to an appointment and will greatly increase your changes of success, however it will cost you on average around 300 - 500 euro.
Personally, I attended my first visa application appointment by myself with almost no German language skills. It made things difficult, but with some luck I made it through it.
NOTE: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic things have changed a bit regarding the visa application process in Germany, specifically the making of appointments and the guidelines for attending appointments. Please visit the website for your local Ausländerbehörde for more information.
General Steps to Becoming a Freelancer
Mythbusters: Part 2 | EP 24
The release of our second “mythbusters” episode has unfortunately coincided with terrible news. Grant Imahara, one of the co-hosts of the TV series the “Mythbusters” has passed away suddenly this week. I grew up as a huge fan of the show and truly enjoyed watching Mr. Imahara solve problems, build amazing things, and laugh with his colleagues. For more details click here.
Berliners and Germany as a whole received very vocal support from then President of the United States John F. Kennedy. It helped to show the world that the West was uniting against the oppressive tactics of the Soviet Union. One of the main myths we discussed in this week’s episode was JFK’s 1963 speech in Berlin and whether or not he called himself a jelly donut. Click here to watch the speech in full.
In the spirit of busting myths and being that we are in the month of July, click here for some myths about Independence Day - America’s birthday.
Things the USA Does Better Than Germany | EP 23
This week we focused on what we felt the USA does better than Germany. One of the items we talked about might have sounded trivial, but trust us, it's very important. All you need to do is look above to see what we mean. On the left, you'll see Germany's sad excuse for nachos (keep in mind, this is how they are presented 99 percent of the time). On the right, you will see what nachos are supposed to look like. This is the difference between tears and tears of joy.
Recently, we received in the mail an amazing surprise - a bottle of whiskey from two of our fans! We'd like to say a special thank you to both of them. We tried this little "taster" during the episode as a side whiskey (as if we needed more) and found it very interesting. It had quite a long burn, which we both enjoyed. Someday we're going to arrange to get a full bottle of the Ayrer's.
A collection of photos from our weekend garden house trip.
Towards the beginning of the episode, we mentioned that we had spent the weekend at a garden house about 1.5 hours outside of Berlin. These garden houses are quite common in Germany as an escape from city life. They are very small dwellings (the size of a studio apartment) and it is not allowed to live in them full time. They are purely for enjoying nature temporarily and usually the house itself only accounts for about a third of the overall plot of land (the rest is, you guessed it, garden).
All German trains allow for bicycles to be brought on board as long as you pay a small fee for a "bicycle ticket". Usually, each regional train has a separate wagon that is specially for bicycles, baby strollers, etc. You can see in the pictures above that this train wagon is designated with a large bicycle symbol on the window and on the floor. If no bicycles are present, there are fold down seats for normal passengers. However, if someone has a bicycle you must give up the seat and allow the area to be used for storage.
Language Learning is "Easy" | EP 22
This week we focused on language learning with the help of our guest Cari, the co-host and producer of the YouTube channel "Easy German". You can find more of their content at the following links:
German Course Recommendation
If you're looking for an in-person immersive German course, I (Geoff) personally recommend the "Deutsch Akadamie", which has classrooms in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Vienna. I attended their courses many years ago in both Vienna and Berlin and thought it was a great value for the money. The teachers were very attentive and I found the 3 hours per day schedule to be the perfect length of time, as it left the rest of the day to explore my new city. All of the courses they provide are taught entirely in German, which is the kind of immersion I would recommend for anyone wanting to learn a new language. It might sound intimidating, especially to someone who knows zero German, but it's very helpful to train your ears towards the new language and eventually the you'll pick up on what the teacher is saying. When I was registered the price was only 200 Euro per month, but I think it has since then been increased to 245 Euro per month.
Note: This is not a paid advertisement and is simply an honest recommendation.
Learning on Your Own
Over the years (before and after moving to Germany) I tried around 10 different German audio courses and apps, including Rosetta Stone. The system I found to be the most effective is the "Michel Thomas Method". He was a polyglot language teacher that believed the standard way of teaching a language (memorization, flash cards, daily exams, etc.) does not work and instead he developed a system that forces your brain to create phrases on its own through casual conversation. An example of his method can be see in this documentary on YouTube.
Note: This is not a paid advertisement and is simply an honest recommendation.
When Nature Calls | EP 21
Some of the beautiful locations Alex and Geoff have visited inside of Germany.
We have both traveled throughout Germany's great outdoors and on this page we have included some amatuer images we've taken that show off the wonder of German nature. Of course, this only scratches the surface of the many landscapes you can encounter in this country.
The skills of photographer Stephan Hefele much better represent the true beauty that our adopted home has to offer.
For all the aspiring photographers out there, click here for a list of the places you should not miss while on a tour of Germany.
Urban Exploration in Berlin | EP 20
Some of the abandoned locations in and around Berlin that we discussed during the episode.
For some inspiration, we've include images we've taken on our "urbexing" adventures. Some of the locations were visited many years ago and might be no longer be accessible or in the same condition as seen here.
If you're interested in taking tours of abandoned histrical sites in Berlin, we recommend doing so through the Berliner Unterwelten (Berlin Underworld Association). They specialize in WWII and cold war related locations. Tours have resumed with hygiene measures in place.
Suggestions for YouTube channels about urban exploration: