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

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 “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.”

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!))

Mary Jane Cannabis Convention Berlin

Disclaimer: I bought some cheap tickets online and decided to go for completely novelty reasons but also because I was curious as to what the whole industry is like. I don’t smoke or vape, nor do I grow or invest, nor do I partake in anything pretty much related to this nor do I have any need for medical marijuana.

So, I am back from the Mary Jane Cannabis Convention in Berlin at Arena Berlin. It was a really interesting event although I was probably only there for about 1-2 hours before deciding to leave. It was crowded – the site listed out 250 international exhibitors, 25,000 visitors and 30,000 products. Interestingly enough there was no age limit but people under 18 needed to have their parents there and I did see a few kids there with their parents.

Most of the people there were pretty much the demographic that you’d expect here, with some I guess what you call dabblers or tourists. It’s a convention, so you have all sorts of thing that you’d expect going to a convention – ie checking out items from fertilizers to growers. And then you have the various suppliers on board for vapes, rolling papers, rolling kits and whatnot. And of course there is the produce – anything from edible hemp and CBD-infused products right through to CBD crystals and so on. Oh and weed.

Best “I’m in Berlin” moment was drinking this hemp infused (?) lemonade overlooking the river, with some people on the river standing up wondering “What the heck? Why is there so many people? What is the festival I wonder?”. Unfortunately the moment taken in a photo does not capture it in full.
Various hemp products – this one by an Italian supplier. I was a bit tempted to buy the handmade hemp pasta but it was 7 euros. I did try their hemp biscuits and breadsticks but it really was not that delicious.
Awesome live DJ
Some CBD infused softgel caps and CBD oil of various strenghts
These guys capitalized on the whole Netflix Narcos brand even though they are not associated with the series.
Some ‘high tech’ cabinets available in 3 wood surfaces, automatic/manual monitoring to control lightning, humidity and temperature, and so on. When it’s closed it looks like any other furniture.
In front are some samples of CBD infused hot/spicy condiments that you can try with fresh cucumber. There were also other condiments that you can try out infused with CBD – I tried these plus pesto with bread at another stall.

Ok, I came out with a few items though largely around CBD-infused products – tea, coffee, a lightweight oil, a couple of lollipops and someone gave me some CBD-infused dog treats.

I largely stayed away from stuff that I felt just really gimmicky and also a lot of the sugary stuff, except for the two lolly but they were only 50 cents each..

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.