How to: Collect your package at the Zollamt (customs office)

Getting a replacement or repair sent from Australia to Germany – what factors do you need to consider?

If you are receiving any packages from outside the European Union, you may at some point have to deal with the Zollamt. They levy customs duties and excise duties after importation and import VAT. With them the actual customs clearance takes place. Before a customs destination (ie the receiver) they hold the package for a temporary amount of time for further clarifications.

I’ve had packages received in the past, in one case it had to go through customs (but I never had to be there physically to pick it up) and I’ve also had gifts sent to me that never went through customs even though it was in the UK and EU. In Germany, you need to physically go to the Zollamt.


Before receiving any goods (either as gifts, as commercial purchases or as goods returned back to you due to replacement/repair) you should be aware of what the requirements are before entering the Community, as well as whether or not you need to pay import fees and if you do need to pay import fees, how much.

The formula to calculate customs fees: ((Value of goods + shipping costs) * inches) * import sales tax

For more information please go to https://www.zoll.de/


Waiting for Zollamt notice…

It took me about 6 weeks after I got noticed that my package was sent to get an email from the Zollamt.

In the mail, you will receive a letter most likely three pages of information:

– One page will detail that your package is at the Zollamt with information of the opening hours and days as well as until which date they will hold the package.

– One page will detail that the postal carrier (in this case, DHL) will charge some sort of ‘handling fee’ and that your signature, mobile and date/place is required.

– One smaller page will have some details and numbers.

Sign the required page and bring that, also bring the smaller page with you at the Zollamt.


What to prepare if I am picking up goods returned to me because of a warranty repair/replacement?

According to zoll.de: “Goods exported from the customs territory of the Community can be accepted as returned goods if their re-import was already intended at the time of export, or where re-import was not intended but takes place owing to particular circumstances. If these conditions for the acceptance as returned goods are met, the goods can be released for free circulation under relief from import duty.”

https://www.zoll.de/EN/Private-individuals/Staying-in-Germany/Returned-goods/returned-goods_node.html

This means that you don’t need to pay anything. However you should now that burden of proof that this is actually a valid return is dependent on yourself. Therefore the following are needed to show proof:

  • The receipt (die Quittung).
  • Email sent to the company that you are sending the product to them due to it needing replacement/repair.
  • Email confirmation/s back from the company saying that they are OK with the replacement/repair and that they have actually sent these back to you.

To make it easier I had the emails printed up already translated from English to German.

Also you cannot show them screenshots. There is a computer in place where people can log in to their email accounts and print up. You cannot print from a USB. I did see a sign for the Zollamt email address, I’m not sure if you can send the Zollamt your own documents though and how that works out exactly. But, there you go.

If you don’t have said documents, you run the risk of not showing proof that it’s an actual return and paying the import tax.. or at least having an uncomfortable time with the officers there.


Anyway, they give you a waiting number and you wait. So, even though the room was sparse, I waited for 40 minutes. I think it’s because other people had to go in and out of the waiting and customs inspection rooms (where the officers are located). You have a bluntish instrument to cut the package open and show the contents to them.

Anyway, that was it. The whole ‘experience’ took up at least 3-4 hours of my time though because of the travel (and the various SBahn work) but now I got my lovely package from Australia! (Which by the way was a pair of $900 prescription glasses that I needed fixed, and some lens cleaner that was sent to me)

((Also shoutout to the Zollamt lady with the awesome holographic nails working there!))

Italian Street Food Festival, Berlin

Enjoyed myself at the Italian Street Food Festival in Berlin! I went on Sunday at noon. Get off at Ostkreuz station, walk down Markgrafendamm including the ://about blank which still had music blaring and a small line-up outside and then you reach Osthafen where the Italian Street Food Festival is.

Since I arrived at around opening time it took about 15-20 minutes for the vendors to get ready a bit but I took advantage of there not being a lot of crowds.

A lot of seating area and this was in an inner city ‘beach’ with a small water area (not for swimming though). There was a live DJ playing music (not pictured here).
This was a Sicilian seafood caponata with really really fresh and tasty seafood. Berlin being inland, I have no idea how fresh they made it. Underneath was a Sicilian aubergine type of salad. They had bread to accompany it and it was really delicious and filling. It was almost like soda bread – not thick/dense nor thin/fluffy. This was topped with a basil leave and chopped almonds.
I ended up buying some truffels and a type of bruschetta with sliced pastrami ham and truffels in olive oil. It was delicious. They also gave me advice to store the truffels which is in olive oil and marinate it in for about 10 hours.

I have to say that I really need to make sure to go to Sicily since I love the cuisine there!

Four days in Hamburg

Overlooking the Altetouristk
Around 11am at the Fischmarkt area
Port for the Fischmarkt area taken outside the Fischauktionshalle
Some sort of bike swap or bike market at St Pauli

I spent 4 days in Hamburg in Germany. Really amazing city and the second major German city that I visited other than Berlin.

The entire city is quiet compact and pretty much a lot of the major sites are walkable from each other.

Some highlights:

  • Seeing the ships and port at Baumwall and walking alongside it from Baumwall U-Bahn to the Fischmarkt area.
  • Walking along HafenCity Hamburg where the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg is located. Also a very nice area to take in the buildings and other sites.
  • Having an Erdbeeren Prosecco overlooking the area at Jungferstieg overlooking the Alsterfontäne, especially when it is sunny. On Sunday there was an outdoor music setup but I had to leave.
  • Going on Sunday morning to the Fischauktionshalle – I went later (around 10am to 10.30am) to get away from the crowds of people there in the morning and went for one of the local specialties, Fischbrötchen, inside. They also had live music playing as well as a lunch buffet on the upper level. You can also buy these outside in the food vans parked outside, but I found the quality is not as good.
  • Going shopping and a coffee in the nice cafes around the city area.
  • Watching a wedding in Hamburg take place outside the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg.
  • Walking along the Alter Elbtunnel from one side of the canal / river to the other and seeing the city from the vantage from the other side. Also exiting via the larger elevators which had a loading capacity of 6 to 10 tonnes each.

There are lot of things that you can do in Hamburg – I’d love to come back and go see a theatre or show and also see the museums. Maybe next time!

6 to 10 tonne capacity elevator
Walking or riding a bike inside the Elbtunnel
Fischbroetchen is a local specialty.
HafenCity Hamburg building
Buildings at St-Pauli

Karneval der Kulturen 2019, Berlin

Sehr passend, dass ich einen Tag nach der Nachricht über die Genehmigung meiner #Deutschen Aufenthaltserlaubnis nach Karneval der Kulturen #Berlin gegehen bin. Ich komme morgen wieder!

Ich hatte eine Mandel sizilianische Granita und am besten gegrilltes Hähnchen aus einem afrikanischen Stall. Morgens, vielleicht Lebensmittel aus Russland, Polen, usw. Lecker!


Very fitting that one day after the news about my #German residence permit being approved, I went to Karneval der Kulturen #Berlin. Coming back again tomorrow! Had a almond Sicilian granita & best grilled chicken from an African stall. Tomorrow maybe foods from Russia, Poland, etc. Delicious!

Ended the day buying some more ‘home’ things and these white roses.

Getting my German Freelance Visa approved after four weeks

This post is a short follow up to my much longer entry about the process of obtaining the German freelance visa. You can read the entry below:

I was expecting a slightly longer waiting process, having read various timeframes. Anything from 3-4 months (developer already living in Berlin), more than 6 months (a programmer), 3-4 months (a travel blogger).

You get notified via email and they present you with the documents that you need to print out, the money that you need to pay the visa fee and further instructions.

I had to get another appointment at the LABO though, unfortunately (and as usual) appointments are blocked with the next appointment time available all the way in August. Of course, you do the usual – either refresh the appointments website trying to get an earlier appointment or you basically show up, wait for a long time (ie hours) to get a waiting ticket, wait some more for your actual appointment and so on.

I managed to get an appointment in just under two weeks – largely due to a mix of luck and also travel.

In your final appointment, you bring all the documents that they need to finalize things.

Now, one thing is that I actually stated that I wanted two years for my freelance visa, not knowing that I could actually ask for three years. The Ausländerbehörde case worker gave me three years! I was really ecstatic about it.

The case worker also spoke all in German and I’m glad to say that I also understood her and that I also spoke in German back (the understanding was also largely because I already was aware of the procedure and rules anyway).

I was not as busy as I would have liked during that time – most of it language learning, some reading, looked into other paperwork that I need (from looking into German driving schools and drivers licenses, right through to the pension system and requirements for the permanent residency). I also actually decided to buy a study guide for this professional certification and start going through it. Actually, I wished that I was a lot more busier and did a lot more, but the time has been productive. Now that my longer stay in Germany is confirmed there are more opportunities involved which is great.

Anyway this is just the entry step to freelancing and running your own business in Germany. There is a lot more things involved now – from tax to pensions and health insurance..

Lingoda Community Beta is using fediverse software

I’ve been using Lingoda since January and I’ve been an avid user since then because I took part in their three-month daily language learning Marathon for German and French. I noticed a link to the Community beta and decided to sign up.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see that they are using fediverse software*, specifically Mastodon. Attached a few screenshots though note it’s in BETA so things will change a bit over time.

Polls is a new feature recently added both on Mastodon (see Github) and Pleroma (see Gitlab) software.

The Fediverse* (a portmanteau of “federation” and “universe”) is the ensemble of federated (i.e. interconnected) servers that are used for web publishing (i.e. social networking, microblogging, macroblogging, or websites) and file hosting. On different servers (instances), users can create so called identities.

I’m currently using software based on Mastodon, Pleroma, GNU Social and there is also Pixelfed (for images) and PeerTube (for videos).

This is a status update that one can post. Note that the character limit is 500 characters but this is not a hard limit. For example, my profile based on Pleroma software has a limit of about 9000 characters.
Ideally, one should be able to follow each other based on various instances.

I will do another update over time to see how the Community goes, maybe, depending on how much things over time change.


Ah I see that they are now using the Mastodon front-end column layout which is much better since now I can see all messages and notifications!


Since this post is about Lingoda, feel free to use this code FYUVJH for 50 euros off the first month!*

Note: This is not like a PR thing and I’m not being paid or prompted by their team to write about them!

If you enjoyed this series, or found it helpful please let me know (or even better… use the discount code if you like the sound of Lingoda) where you can sign up for a trial.

Read my Marathon posts also for a breakdown over three months (and more) learning French and German.

Hafengeburtstag Berlin / Harbor Festival at the historic harbor of Berlin

The history of the first harbor festival of Berlin dates back to a document from 1298! Today it’s a bit more modern and it’s very nice to see something like this still being celebrated.

At the harbor festival in the historic harbor on the Fischerinsel in Berlin-Mitte there was a free event featuring a small concert stage, food / drinks trucks serving German fare, Spanish food, beers, mojitos and more. It was a small event but a nice day out nonetheless!

I had pommes des frites with a quark-based dip.


A bit of history of Berlin

In 1922, the railway system, that connected Berlin to its neighboring cities and villages was electrified and transformed into the S-Bahn, and a year later Tempelhof airport was opened. Berlin was the second biggest inland harbor of the country. All this infrastructure was needed to transport and feed the over 4 million Berliners

Where am I now post language marathon? Started with A1.1 to soon starting a B1.1 intensive in German…

This is a follow up post to all my previous posts doing a marathon via Lingoda. You can read the previous posts below.

Just a note that I did both the French AND the German full marathon at the same time.

Previous post nearing the end of my marathon!

Progress so far in the middle of the marathon

Starting the first month of the Marathon…

Did I get a refund?

Yes! I did in fact get a refund for the German because I fulfilled all of the conditions. Therefore I will be getting about 807 euros back!

Did I get two refunds for doing two languages?

Actually, this question I will never be able to answer because I didn’t meet the conditions to succeed the French part of the marathon due to a few reasons! One of those reasons was that I booked two classes on the final day – thinking that it should be ‘fine’ but I should have waited until the day after. The other reason was that a teacher was not found for one of my classes, I did not get a notice about it until it was too late and, thinking that I forgot to book for that day, I booked another class. I then decided to cancel said class when I saw email.

Anyway, rules are there for you to read – highly recommended that you check the rules very carefully and check your emails.

Am I still using Lingoda?

Well, yes and no. The yes part is that I decided to re-subscribe after a two week break but on a ‘lighter’ plan.

The no part is that I decided to look for a local language school to take up most of what I am learning – largely because I wanted something a lot more intensive with a set schedule of 3 hours per day in one block, 3-4 days per week.

How did I move from learning A1.1 to learning B1.1 since January?

First of all, I didn’t meet the lessons to reach the CEFR certificate requirement because collecting CEFR certification is not my goal. I did some A1.1 units, some A1.2 units etc and now I’m doing A2.2 units. My goal is to challenge myself just enough that it does not feel like I am reviewing a concept (unless, I want to review) while not feeling like concepts are out of reach.

And, to be fair, I decided to do a placement test for a language school. I placed at B1.1 level to start with for my courses. I also did sign up to go to a language course (not Lingoda) for A2.2 but found it more of a refresher and decided to leave the course.

CEFR certification (or TECL or something else) may be my goal when I am learning B2/C1 level.


Discount code for new users…

Feel free to use this code FYUVJH for 50 euros off the first month!*

*Don’t worry this is not a sponsored post…and to be transparent, I get free classes in return also.

If you enjoyed this series, or found it helpful please let me know (or even better… use the discount code if you like the sound of Lingoda) and for my next post I will do a comparison with intensive course and how it fares.

Berlin Maker Faire at FEZ

Today was my first time going to a Maker Faire and it was in Berlin at an area called FEZ which turned out to be this huge type of indoors and outdoors area just for children and young people to have fun. It’s actually my first time seeing this and it was pretty cool.

I only spent one hour at the Maker Faire and it was quiet enough for me as I didn’t intend to purchase anything there.

And left with a few German magazines to practice reading comprehension!

Kostenlos Zeitschriften

Some of the other stalls that interested me were, interestingly enough, most had nothing much to do with technology and more to do with ‘making’

  • Blacksmithing demonstration where I can actually watch a few blacksmiths at work. Very hot and physical type of work! Don’t think I’ll be taking up blacksmithing any time soon…
  • Making your own canoe, with a few canoes on display.
  • Very interesting sculpture made of light and wood with some LEDs – but the LEDs where more like icing on a well-done cake and the sculpture work itself was far more interesting.
  • A project featuring a robotic arm playing drums.

Thankfully not a lot in terms of ‘commercial’ type work, there were a lot of kids and families there though.

Personally, I’d love to go to a much larger fair – perhaps in Shenzen or New York, even London.

Flughafen Tempelhof für das Fest der Luftbrücke ✈️

Fest der Luftbrücke (Festival of the Airlift) took place on Sunday 12 May 2019 at the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. It’s an occasion with historical significance has it has been 70 years since the end of the Berlin Blockade.

“The Berlin Blockade (First Berlin Crisis) refers to the blockade of West Berlin by the Soviet Union from 24 June 1948 to 12 May 1949. As a result of this blockade could the Western Allies West Berlin, which as enclave in the Soviet zone of occupation was (SBZ), not on the land and water connections provide. The blockade was a means of pressure on the part of the Soviet side with the aim of ultimately classifying Germany into its own economic and political system via West Berlin. This was a strategy developed a few months earlier by the Soviet side and can be understood as the “first battle of the Cold War.

The Tempelhof Airport, one of Europe’s three iconic pre-World War II airports, is not in use for any flights. In fact right now many locals and visitors alike set up for picnics, to fly kites, to go for a run or skate especially for the summer. On this day, however, it was set up with many artifacts from the past as well as present-day vehicles – ranging from DDR-era police vehicles to present-day Bundespolizei helicopters. There was a lot of food stalls set up – from currywurst and fries to Brasilian and Canadian street food. Also a stage set up with bands.

Below is a photo from the US Air Force in Europe band headed by a female Lt. Cln wearing uniforms (I believe from 1949 era?) playing big band jazz.

There were a hanger dedicated to a large video and sound installation with snippets of the speech by Ernst Reuter “Schaut auf diese Stadt” (more details here) and snippet below:

“Ihr Völker der Welt, ihr Völker in Amerika, in England, in Frankreich, in Italien! Schaut auf diese Stadt und erkennt, daß ihr diese Stadt und dieses Volk nicht preisgeben dürft und nicht preisgeben könnt! Es gibt nur eine Möglichkeit für uns alle: gemeinsam so lange zusammenzustehen, bis dieser Kampf gewonnen, bis dieser Kampf endlich durch den Sieg über die Feinde, durch den Sieg über die Macht der Finsternis besiegelt ist.”

Another hanger with some more artifacts, photos below:

Just submitted my application for the German Freelance Visa – May 2019 | Update June 7: Visa approved!

Update: German Freelance Visa approved!

Before I start, here’s a profile about me. The steps that you can take will be different and for a number of reasons ranging from the industry that you work in right through to your nationality.

My profile:

  • Work in tech as a consultant (though not a programmer). Work in IT for four years, combined work experience overall is 9 years.
  • Masters degree in IT with an IT certification.
  • Australian, with the ability to enter Germany visa-free for up to 90 days.
  • Already lived in Berlin from 2017 to 2018 under the German Working Holiday Visa.
  • Some knowledge of German language (studying A2 level).
  • Funds in the bank, a comfortable amount (five digits).
  • Very familiar with the paperwork and processes involved, originally planning to switch to the freelance visa from the German Working Holiday Visa but decided to put it off by a year.

You can apply for the German Freelance Visa in any other German city that you reside in (aka that you have the Anmeldung in). However much of the results if you were to search for this term are in the service.berlin.de website, but it still involves having to go to the Ausländerbehörde in the city that you reside in.

First thing first – copy and paste all of the paperwork that you need from the visa website. You will constantly refer to this. Now let us take a look at the rest of the items below.

My application

Prerequisites

  • Freelance employment 
    It must be a self-employed academic, artistic, literary, teaching, educational or other self-employed professional occupation in accordance with s. 18 (1) Income Tax Act (see section “Further Information”).
  • Main residence in Berlin (or in this case, in the city that you reside in and have registered your Anmeldung in)
  • In-person visit 
    The interview should, if possible, take place by appointment.

Documents required

Valid passport


1 current biometric photo 35mm x 45mm, frontal shot with neutral facial expression and closed mouth, looking straight into the camera, light background.

You take your biometric photo at a photobooth but it needs to be the type that clearly states it can do biometric photos.


The form “Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels” (Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit)

Fairly straight forward – there are multiple language versions of the form (ie French, Spanish, English)


Financing plan

There is a downloadable template available for the finance plan on the service.berlin.de website for the visa and there are notes available in English.

To back up the finance plan, bank statements were provided. I only provided the latest statement (so, about a 2-3 weeks old) as I didn’t have enough time to generate newer statements. This was OK.


Revenue forecast

There is a downloadable template available for the revenue forecast on the service.berlin.de website for the visa and there are notes available in English.

One thing that the revenue forecast did not include is the amount of income tax that you pay. You can state this in the ‘Other taxes’ row. The amount of tax you pay will depend if you are single, have children, pay church tax, etc.


If you want to work on a fee basis: Letter of intent for the collaboration

Submission of at least two declarations of intent (with information on type, scope and description of the occupation).

These letter of intents are very important because it shows that there is a market for your freelance services. The submission needs to be at least two letters of intent, that means, letters of intent from at least two companies.

The amount of work, payments, hours of work, tasks of work, why you were chosen/how the relationship came about, your expertise and skills (which is why you are being hired) need to be stated, also it needs to be signed on letterhead.

Some blogs have written ‘the more the better’. It all depends on what your line of work. ‘Having more’ does not makes any difference with your application. There should be a mention of economic (in my case) interest in the region.


Fee contracts

I had no fee contracts but can be submitted if you have these.


Curriculum vitae

Add details of professional career, qualification certificates, diploma, references/sponsors.

I also included printouts of my degrees and certifications, as well as two signed reference letters from two companies that I have previously worked with.

Another thing that is not mentioned that I otherwise submitted are the samples of work. I submitted several samples of work, all printouts. A couple of these were samples of work that I have done on a public capacity (ie written an article for a large website, spoken at a conference, etc). Two of the samples, I decided to translate to German (automatic translation) and the rest submitted in English.


Health insurance

Proof of a secure livelihood must also include sufficient health insurance. Those with statutory health insurance are sufficiently insured. Those with private health insurance must consider the type and extent of their health insurance.

Now it is extremely important that you allocate enough time to not only find a suitable insurance provider and plan. Also the insurance provider needs enough time to process your payments and process the additional paperwork. Health care insurance providers also take their time replying back to you (if they even reply back in the first place..). Research well in advance and once you have the right quote and plan, start processing these at least two weeks before your appointment.

My own insurance provider also provided:

  • Further explanation of the health care plan with regard to German law, in German and in English.
  • Health care confirmation for the Ausländerbehörde in German. For example they provided “Bescheinigung für die Erteilung von Aufenthaltstiteln über einen privaten Krankenversicherungsschutz von einem EU/EWR-Dienstleister” alongside additional details (in German).

There are some providers out there that handle ‘expat insurance’ but you need to double check with them, before parting money, that they can provide those details above, at the minimum.


Lease or proof of home ownership

I submitted my lease contract.


Rental cost / expenses for property

Proof of the monthly rental costs (e.g. current account statement) or costs of the inhabited property; in each case in original form.

My bank statement should show expenses of property, but also the lease states amount I pay per month.


Proof of main residence in Berlin

This can be the certificate of registration at the main residence (Meldebestätigung) or lease and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord.

In this case, I submitted my Anmeldung as proof of main residence in Berlin since the written confirmation of occupancy is required for the Anmeldung anyway. Basically the written confirmation of occupancy states that you have actually entered your apartment, collected your keys, and that you are occupying that said apartment.

German bank account

Open a German bank account, I did not provide my bank details but you still need one for certain things (ie some services require German bank details).


My appointment

I managed to get the necessary paperwork ready fairly quickly. I got my Anmeldung shortly after I moved in, and I got the freelance visa appointment three weeks after I moved on. The appointment schedule is a bit of a nightmare though, for example I checked online and say next appointments not being available until 3 months into the future. Highly recommended to check each day to see if there are any cancellations.

I arrived 30 minutes before the appointment. However interestingly enough, there was a delay of about 20 minute until my number flashed. You go into the right building, level and room to wait.

Upon arrival, all sections of my documentation are all sectioned in its own plastic sleeve and they were handed over to the visa officer. The visa officer had to check some things, so I headed outside to the waiting area for another 20-30 minutes.

Back to the appointment, I was given a Fiktionsbescheinigung (Fictional Certificate) valid for 6 months as the application needed to be sent off to the Senate Department for Economics, Industry and Commerce since a decision cannot be made on their end about the application. Immediate decision (approval, rejection) can be made if you are, for example, applying for the freelance artist visa (but of course, you can only work as a freelance artist of a certain field). Unfortunately it’s not clear how long it takes – I’ve read anywhere between 6 weeks to 6 months, which is why I have this certificate just for some peace of mind so I am not worried about overstaying Germany as per the Schengen Agreement. Another thing is that on the event a decision is not reached for 6 months, there is also the option to have the Fiktionsbescheinigung extended.

Is the communication in English or German?

So while on the train, I was going through my A2.1/A2.2 level notes trying to brush up on my German. Overall, we both communicated a bit in English and all terms were understood, I had a couple of questions and it was all answered. The visa officer also mentioned that he was impressed with my CV with all the samples of work I provided and the copies of degrees also and is confident that I will get the freelance visa application through, it is just that a part of the process (the actual decision) is out of his area.

Total time spent at the interview? About 5 minutes.

In total, amount spent with the visa officer was probably 5 minutes (both initial glance at the documents and the final say). No further questions were asked of my application. This was probably because everything was sectioned off, and it helps to be there being completely organised with all your paperwork and your presentation. Waiting time was a lot longer.

Now time to wait …

This is why extremely important that you have enough funds to wait out the decision period – yes you could very well be living in Germany for up to 6 months with no income since you cannot work in Germany. I was reading a post about someone waiting for just over half a year for a decision (this was January 2019), and another person 7 months ago who waited 2-3 months for a decision. So, if you are in a field of work that requires further confirmation from the Senate, get ready for a mini sabbatical and use that time to catch up on your German lessons, relax and tour the city or country a bit, brush up on some learning in your field or work on your own personal projects. It would also be a good idea to set an interval of when to check, as well as you might even want to find an immigration lawyer, and/or keep your visa consultant/translator in the loop also in case things get a bit topsy-turvy.

Another thing is – make sure to double check all details. Do not entirely depend on just one source of information, make sure to do your research and be prepared. The common theme that I see is that it is up to the individual to make sure that they themselves are informed.

Note to readers: Please note that this post does not constitute as visa or immigration advice and that your experience will be completely different to mine. By the virtue of your nationality, profession, preparation and attention to detail to the process you may also have a different outcome to mine.

Walk around Prenzlauer Berg, Argentinian restaurant and first Weddingmartk of the season

Today, we are hit with a cold spell since people in Berlin are now donning their coats, me with a scarf even. But it doesn’t stop people from heading out to enjoy a more slower pace of the city during Sunday.

I started with a matcha latte breakfast at this Japanese crepe place and then I went for a short walk around Prenzlauer Berg. I then had lunch at an Argentinian restaurant, mainly white wine and empanadas.

And then, went off to Wedding to go to Weddingmarkt which is like a small artisan market. There were some very good ceramics on sale there and some interesting flowerpots. But it was mainly your typical type of wares – mixture of homewares and decorations, stationary and postcards, accessories, plants, food, etc.

Also had my first time (possibly? Or at least second) tasting quark which is like a German cheese-yogurt type of dessert. They offered three flavors in a cup, but for me it was far too much sweets and I only managed to eat 1/3 of it.

Flohmarkt (flea market) shopping at Berlin Ostbahnof during May Day (or Labour Day)

May Day is a public holiday in Germany and while there are many options that you can do during this day, one of those is shopping at the super-größe flea market located at Berlin Ostbahnof, one of the mainline railway stations.

There are many things for many tastes and budgets. From curated porcelain right through to porcelain in boxes selling for an euro. You can get some ‘old’ items (postcards, door knobs, frames), various artworks, even normal stuff like jars or cutlery, as well as some special furnitures and home decorations. I ended up coming out with some wonderful porcelain for coffee / tea / kuchen and some kitchenware items.

Tea cup and small plate for 1.50 euro

Tips for the flohmarkt

  • Have an agenda of what you intend to buy or check out – be it gifts, homewares, a decoration, frames.
  • Make sure to wear flat, closed shoes. Some of the area can be dusty and you do not want to be trampled when it gets crowded.
  • Bring your own bag – I packed a foldable lightweight bag. Some people came with those small personal shopping trolleys, others only clutched their wares.
  • If you intend to buy porcelain or anything delicate, it would be useful to bring some bubble wrap or newspaper with you.
  • Cash only!!
  • Check out the items laid out in boxes (probably not along the main walkaway), you may get some good value finds.
  • You can bargain (ie 10 euro for a sugar container, went down to 8, then 7 – though this was from the person’s side).
  • To eat, there are some areas with benches laid out or you can have a small picnic if you bring a blanket.

Follow up: Doing the Lingoda Language Marathon for both French and German!

This post is a follow up to my blog posts about doing a language marathon for French and German. This marathon involves 2 x 2 hour classes (for French and German) and another 2 hours of study, totalling to about 4 to 5 hours of language study per day.

Previous posts: Progress so far – month 2 and month 1.

I finished the two marathons for two languages and thought to share my notes around how I structured the three months. Looking back (see the notes “How I studied”) I would not do two languages at the same time, but I did because I was living (at the time) in a non English speaking country and I was also then moving to another non English speaking country on the last month of the marathon. So that was the only reason why I did two at the same time. Anyway here’s my notes, you can adopt it if you are also doing one language.

How I booked my classes / organized my day:

  • I would book classes for the first language first.
  • In your accounts page, you have an option to download your calendar in an .ics format. Download the calendar on to your calendar app and you will see all your classes.
  • Based on this calendar, I would then book my classes for the second language.
  • I have at least one hour in between the two classes. No back to back classes.
  • Each night before I go to bed, I would set my alarms to go one hour before each class the following day.

How I studied for the marathon

The 1-2 months was very difficult. I spent one hour (at least) doing my notes for each classes. With two languages, you are looking at about 4 to 5 hours each day to properly learn. Therefore if you don’t think you will be able to dedicate that time, I would reconsider doing two languages with the marathon seeing as Lingoda does these marathons are different stages

Another reason why it was difficult is because I was ‘speeding’ through one of the languages because I had studied it before. Meaning that in one language, I was doing A1.1-A1.2 and in another I went from some classes in A1.1 to doing 30% of A2.1
The final month was not as difficult, when it came to language acquisiton and I must have spent 3-4 hours each day. But doing the marathon got very stressful. For reasons I didn’t plan, I was also moving countries/houses, I had a trip planned out that I needed to go and I was going through some job interviews and various visa paperwork so it got very stressful in the last 3 weeks.

How I organized my notes:

Each class has its own notes, in Word (or Pages on Mac) format which I would then type with the FULL PDF-to-text version of each lesson PDF, my own exercise answers, other people’s answers, teacher’s notes, screenshots of teachers notes.

Each Word/Page document also had a beginning template which comprises of common rules, conjugation tips, common ways to ask a question, common ways to construct sentences, my own introduction etc.

Would I do two marathons again? Definitely not, but I justified doing the two since my situation during the last marathon did call for it (living in two countries). Some life events got in the way, and it is difficult to block in that amount of time for 3 months.

Will I use Lingoda after the Marathon?

I have 10 credits with Lingoda (not from Marathon) and I have paused the course for at least three weeks while I take a break and take care of other things. I would however be looking at more intensive courses offered by other language schools since I want to bump up my language acquisition.

Special thanks to the Lingoda social media team on Twitter…

Seriously, shout out to them who were like my personal cheerleader during the three months! A lot of their responses cheered me up when things got stressful.

Discount code!

Please note that this is not a sponsored post! But for a discount code for Lingoda, please use FYUVJH (I will also get a few free courses in exchange)!

Lingoda Language Marathon – Learning French and German daily – Progress so far

This post is the second part to my series (read the first part here) about doing a language marathon to learn both French and German. Just a note, that this post is not sponsored or paid for but I will be adding a promo code below for 75 euros off your first month.

And so far, things have been very busy and going extremely well. I have been keeping almost daily diaries of my lessons, my feelings and thoughts after it. I will go through and publish these after the marathon. I think that having small daily entries can give some better insights of the daily challenges but I do want to make longer posts like these for more in-depth type of thoughts.

Differences between the second and first month of learning…

  • I am considerably getting better with my pronunciation.
  • Since I am better with my pronunciation (here’s a small video I did from a German A1.2 lesson), I am a lot more confident with my speaking skills.
  • Learning with a native language speaker, compared to self-learning, has a lot more advantages compared to completely relying on self-learning. This is a lot more obvious when I get corrections with my sentence structures and exercises. When I self-learn, I am not aware of the mistakes that I am making.
  • As I take more and more classes, it is taking me less time to prepare my notes. I remember when I first entered A1.2 classes, I needed at least a full hour to go through not only the class PDF, but I would also need to take notes of how to pronounce certain words.

Some quick tips on the final month of the marathon… (though even better if you are considering starting)

  • Have an alarm in place at least one hour before your class and get into the habit of taking notes one hour before. I think Lingoda makes a recommendation to do a refresh for maybe 15 or 20 minutes before each class but I personally do one hour and that is the time I take to make notes.
  • I keep electronic notes (ie WordPad, Microsoft Word, Pages, whichever one you use) because it’s a lot easier to search through for words and notes being used. I also would take screenshots and put them in my notes.
  • I have one or two pages of a ‘boiler plate’ template. This boiler plate template has common ways to ask a question, some hints on conjugation, some hints on noun gender). For German the boiler plate template is a lot longer because I am adding various shortcuts like; how to tell something is a Trennbare Verben, shortcuts on what to use depending on nominativ/akkusative/dativ cases, various hints, common links that I use, etc).

Use of videoconferencing technology with learning…

Even though I work in IT and I love all things tech, I have to admit that I really wanted to do an actual language school because in this way, I can also get out. I also work remotely, so to me video conferencing is a bit boring but I have to say that whenever teachers make the most of the Zoom.in tools it makes the class a lot better.

Below is a good example from one of my French classes..

Teachers handwriting during class is very rare, usually notes are typed of drawn on the PDF. But one of my French teachers have the best handwriting I have ever seen!

Lingoda has some really good teachers that make the most of the Zoom.in software they use for conferencing but quiet a few prefer to go with just a video call, the PDF screen and typing at the screen which I think is perfectly fine as well.

What are the other students like?

One thing that I have noticed after jumping from A1.1 to A1.2 earlier is that I started noticing a lot more students actually living in Germany taking the classes from A1.2. Timezones also seem to play a role and they probably have peak times for those based in Europe taking classes. There also seems to be a lot more people based outside typical French speaking regions taking French classes, but I didn’t notice the same trend in my German classes.

Another thing that I noticed is that the students taking classes seem to skew more towards working as freelancers or working in the tech industry, especially with the German classes. It could be because German classes cost more to take (269 euros per month compared to 199 euros per month), and one tends to learn this for a specific reason (for work, because one lives in a German speaking region, etc).

Otherwise, I have not really run into any particular problems with it being a group class. I did notice that a lot of late classes (at 9pm, 10pm, 11pm) for German tend to be with either yourself only or with one other person.

Another thing I noticed is varying levels. So you have one student that is clearly very good at the level they are in, and they may be aware of it and the teacher would also provide feedback.

Which levels should I take?

This is the one thing that I have realized is around the levels. When I first started a new level, I needed to do a lot of notes beforehand but soon became ‘climatized’ to that language level after maybe 3 or 4 lessons. I think that levels should only be a common guide only because each person is different. For example, there was one student who is very good with conversational skills but not so good at doing the exercises.

Upcoming classes…

What are the downsides to Lingoda/ this model of language learning?

  • What you get out of language learning is what you put in. Don’t rely on the hourly classes for your instructions. You need to do the homework, do the notes, ask teacher the questions, make notes, and so on.
  • Since there are so many teachers you get very different quality and very different experiences. I’ve slowly come around to choosing certain teachers based on how well they teach, but it could also be their personality as well (in terms of, how well they teach, I think personality plays a part in it…)
  • And again, since there are many different teachers it may be hard to get some consistency. You can try to choose the same teacher in as many classes as you can also.
  • Since the classes are a group class, you can easily be in a class of varying levels. Most of the time, we are in the same level, but there comes a class when there could be one or more struggling (yes, I was definitely the one struggling back when I was not doing my notes or when I had very little sleep…)
  • You may run into familiar students, but little avenue to talk to them after the class and also to network with other students. In this case you may want to instead turn to social networking groups and events.
  • So far, I may have had a few instances of teachers not being found for the class, in which case a credit is given back to you and you are notified. Interestingly enough, all of these cases have happened for my French classes, not German.

Anyway, I hope this entry was a bit useful. Over time, I only studied A1 levels but just didn’t make the jump to A2 and my next classes are all A2 level.


Below are my promo codes!

FYUVJH for a discount – I will get a few lessons in exchange! Please note, this is not a sponsored post, just wanting to add a discount if you are interested.

Bruxelles 2019

I was back in Bruxelles, this time for FOSDEM 2019. It’s my second time in the city and my second time at FOSDEM, the first being last year.

Before I checked into my hotel, I took a walk around the shops at Louisa metro. I needed to buy a pair of boots for the winter and succeeded! Also stayed a bit at a cafe for a coffee and an energy ball. This was near Urban Outfitters.

This time around, I stayed in two areas. The first area was around the Ma Campagne metro stop. It was actually a nice area with some museums, galleries, restaurants and cafes to be at. I walked around and explored a few cafes over there:

The hotel that I decided to stay for the night was actually very nice, I decided to upgrade at the reception.

Later on, I moved to another hotel near the EU Parliament. It was OK, very large room but was not as nice as the previous one.

Since I have already been to Bruxelles before, I did the tours and walk around the palaces already. I did a bit of exploring before making my way to FOSDEM for the two days.

One thing I would have liked to do was arrange a tour/visit at the EU Parliament, however the times they have available clashed with my schedule. Hopefully next time!

This time, Bruxelles was colder than last year with a couple of days of snow or icy rain. Hopefully the weather will be a tad better next year.

Pt 1. Jewelry Making with Beads, Stones and Crystals

Freshwater pearl in red, lapis lazuli, rose quarts, amethyst
Some Czech crystals
Even more Czech crystals but smaller

I decided to enter into the foray of doing hand-made/hand-crafted goods that does not involve doing any form of typing. It needed to be small, compact, easy to travel with, something that I could make and then keep. Also something inexpensive. I decided to get started with jewelry making when I came across a profile of a designer, artist and jewelry workshop organizer. Had a look at her studio/home office for supplies (spent a good 60 minutes just talking about jewelry making!) and came home with some materials to get started with including a few starter tools.

I was quiet happy with the trip and result. First I need to do a few practice rounds with the bendable wire before I get started with the materials. I have in mind to do at least one ring and a bracelet.