I went to Holy Shit Shopping Berlin which is like an Etsy-meets-Dumbo type of fair but more German and a dash of Weihnachtsmarkt to it. It was at the hip venue, Arena Berlin.
There were so many stalls lined up filled with art, prints, jewellery, clothing, stationery, consumable goods (food, drink) and home decor items. If you go to Bikini Berlin, then you might be familiar with some of the products here.
It was great since you know that you are supporting small businesses, start-ups and artists.
Some photos below!
Do you remember the first time that you travelled as an adult?
I sure do. It was back in the winter of 2010 to 2011 when I went to Canada and travelled all the way from Victoria on Vancouver Island right through to Quebec City, as well as day stop in Seattle which was my first American city. Most of the time was spent in Vancouver. I had a big adventure with my bag (and passport and wallet) stolen in Toronto.
Interestingly enough, it would only be five years later where I would later go to North America again – this time living in Vancouver and Toronto and spending one week in Seattle. And most interesting of all is that I have a pending application for permanent residency in Canada.
I like to circle back on cities and places that I have already been to, to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. Knowing that I can ‘circle’ back on these places is a bit comforting, I guess, less pressure to run around and going to all the sights in one go. Cities change all the time, you can live in one city like London for years and there is still something new to see and do.
At the same time, circling back to the places that you have been to puts you in a comfortable position. You’ve been there, done that.
I feel that I am taking travel in these ‘circling-cities’ for granted, and taking the new experiences for granted. For example, when I was in Vancouver, I barely went outside the house. A lot of the time was spent, surprise-surprise, in front of the laptop and typing away at who knows what. Back then, I was really stressed out juggling a freelance contract that was in a different timezone as well as looking for work-and-a-career-change in a foreign country. I decided to spend the time on side-projects, not wanting to take on board full-time commitments for 3 to 4 months.
Part of taking things for granted has been due to trying to continue to be a digital nomad, while also maximizing my savings rate as much as possible (with some shopaholic induced fails).
Living in Toronto, I was in a complete frugal-living phase and was determined to set some savings goals and meet it (which I did). However, I went too overboard with the frugality, leaving very little time to do a lot in and around Ontario other than two trips. If I wasn’t frugal, I was travelling to the USA with a total of six trips in the time I was living in Canada. Some lessons were learnt and I later noted that there is such a thing as being way-too-frugal. I felt that I could have spent more time exploring Canada and Ontario some more while I was there. I don’t regret taking that many US trips, though, considering the climate that we are in this year.
In Dublin, again, I was taking my time there for granted. The first reason was that I already travelled throughout Ireland back in 2012. The second reason why was that I was sick for about half the time, while also starting a new role. Therefore, the last thing on my mind was to go around exploring Ireland. Again, there were familiar sights which lends my sense of comfort and familiarity with the place. Maybe familiarity breeds laziness, perhaps?
Berlin seems quiet different, though I don’t know if it’s because I am living in a completely different culture now or because I have never been to Berlin or perhaps both. However, I am not really heading out and exploring the city and culture as much as I wanted to. And now that it’s the beginning of these colder months, the cool spring and summer Berlin that I have first been introduced to is now gone and will be for a long time. Maybe..just maybe…I should try to find the balance between not taking my situation for granted, to relax a bit more, and not be so fearful and risk-averse of the future?
Today, I went to the Tattoo Convention at Arena Berlin, starting off with a walk at Treptow Fields before turning around to Arena Berlin.
Treptow Fields and Arena Berlin
Arena Berlin is a pretty cool event space. Here’s what it looks like on the outside:
Treptower Art Center GmbH
On the way, I came across a flea market called Treptower Art Center GmbH. It was a mix of a lot of things – from really old furniture, lamps, second-hand clothes, right through to bikes and random tools. Managed to have a brief conversation with an old Turkish woman who only spoke German to me. We managed to communicate a bit, and I even understood her when I asked about what dates they were open (only Saturday and Sunday).
Berlin Tattoo Convention
Entry starts from 19 euros.
The Berlin Tattoo Convention is a yearly event (alongside other similar events in Thailand and Norway) gathering together tattoo artists, enthusiasts and hardcore fans alike.
The hall is lined with stalls filled with studios and artists. Each stall has a chair and a tattoo artist focusing intently on his / her piece. The tables contain business cards, postcard, calendars, printouts, tattoo design printouts, portfolio books of either drawing-based designs or photos of past ink pieces.
There are also stalls for the professionals – from tattoo inks to tattoo machine guns – as well as other stalls that would appeal to the whole body art / body modification scene like body piercing jewellery (there was even a pop up body piercing studio), merchandise and tattoo self-care products.
Mid-afternoon, the organisers invited dozens of enthusiasts up on stage to show their pieces.
Overall, it was a really comfortable type of day. Felt like everyone there was comfortable, in fact I have never felt more safer and ‘in the crowd’ than in a tattoo convention.
I myself am not even inked, and I’ve never actually been inside a tattoo studio let alone seen someone tattooed live. My only association with studios before this were the ‘mass consumerist’ / hairstudio-in-Walmart type. It’s the type that would have a folder of tattoos and you get one done based on a set design. Whereas the studios at this convention took a lot of pride in their craft.
And that’s all! One last look over from Arena Berlin..
This is a follow-up post to How I Organize Long-Term Travel.
When I organize my long-term residency plans (think from 2017 right through to 2021/2022) I usually approach it only from a fact-gathering / information-gathering viewpoint. This means that I keep myself open-minded, but still focused, while I gather as much facts as I can about the countries and situations that I may find myself in the future.
Below you will see quiet a few boards, and a lot of it has changed over the past week. For example, until a couple of weeks ago, I had plans to move to Spain or Portugal later this year but after some research into the visa details felt that it would be too cumbersome for me to arrange my papers. For example, both Spain and Portugal required police checks in all countries that I’ve lived in, as well as being physically in Australia in order to submit a fingerprint with the Australian Federal Police. If I was residing in Australia, this would not be a problem but since I have no plans to visit until next year, I decided to hold off the trip until next year.
What are the next option? Well, the next option is the easiest – and that was to not only stay in Germany for the duration of my Working Holiday Visa, but to also look into options of staying for longer. Looking into details about Germany, I saw that their freelance visa was actually for three years (not two that I previously noted) and from there, starting reading more about EC permanent residency which would allow me to become a permanent resident of the European Union. And with this, started plotting my plans to go from freelance visa (including one extension) to EC permanent residency until 2022. And there you have it. 2017 to 2022 will be all about Germany (so far in this journey…)
However, I still wanted to see what my options are in living and work remotely in other parts of Europe/Germany and I also wanted to have the option of it going beyond the Schengen agreement in case the opportunity arises. On the road to being an EC permanent resident, I still have the option to reside in Germany or reside elsewhere as long as it’s in Europe. Since I needed to be self-employed to do this, I decided to first target the self-employment visas followed by the Working Holiday Visa agreements. Despite the research, I found that Germany was still the most straightforward path from WHV to EC permanent residency in the European Union that did not require a large cash outlay and a lot of paperwork. However, France has an option to set up as a micro-entrepreneur so now I have France in my sights for summer to fall next year. And since I am planning a trip back to Australia in December, I can also allocate Spain to escape winter. In this case, on the road to EC permanent residency via the German residency route I can slowly ‘ease’ myself into German winters 😉
Now, some people are wondering – but what about those immigration schemes? Aren’t there affordable schemes? Yes, I am aware of these schemes. But many of them require a large cash outlay and meeting a lot of other conditions and paperwork. These schemes may even provide you the pathway to EC permanent residency in the same or a slightly shorter time period.
My only, main problem is that Germany currently has restrictive dual nationality laws. I am hoping that perhaps by 2022 they will start considering dual nationalities. However, if I still feel very strongly about having citizenship somewhere in the European Union, at the very least under the EC permanent residency all the requirements will not be as strict as non-EEA/EU residents. Or, I could save up enough to afford an immigration investment programme.
The last time I went out to the city centre was early June and since then, I’ve been outside Berlin travelling.
Now, the city is buzzing with summer crowds and local and visitors alike are enjoying the summer while it lasts.
In Berlin, there are many special ways of doing summer. You can be out enjoying a drink on a chair by the water or in Alexanderplatz. Or going alfresco dining in the many quiet eatiers around the place. Or riding your bicycle around the picturesque parks. Or having a picnic at Treptow Feld.
And the buildings and structure seems much lighter.
I don’t know about you, but for some reason the visual combination of brick and blue sky, or grey structure and blue sky is really pleasing to me.
Treptow-Köpenick is a borough of Berlin and is not what foreigners would typically associate to be a part of Berlin. It’s just a very nice, liveable, wholesome neighbourhood filled mainly with pensioners and families, and in particular young families.
The first time I came here was to the day before I moved in. I remember walking towards the apartment and marvelling how wondrously quiet and lush it was. Pink blossoms were growing on a tree overlooking the sidewalk and it was mainly residential. There were a number of people riding bikes – some with groceries or pets in tow.
And then there is the blue space of the river…
Treptow-Köpenick is probably where Berliners go to once they are ready to settle down. There are plenty of green spaces with parks and blue spaces with the lakes nearby. This is Berlin on a whole other level. Some people will call it suburban, some will comment how far away it is. But for me, this was an ideal place to live and focus on work and study. I can catch a ferry and explore the nearby lakes, I am only about ten minutes ride from the airport, many people here really only have German as their only language but they are very cheerful and welcoming.
I endeavour to take a walk up Regattastraße and into the area previously known as Köpenick. On the way you will see little houses with gardens (the Laubenpieper), also the Baumgarteninsel which is small little island reachable by boat containing small lots of houses and gardens.
Some time up north is the Köpenick Altstadt which started to look a bit English with the ducks, cobblestone streets and small houses:
I was in Berlin Intercontinental Hotel for a few nights.
I usually like these types of chain hotels since you know what you’re in for when you stay. There is some level of familiarity. I don’t have the budget to stay in these for all or most of my trips anyway, but sometimes I woulud stay in a hotel that I don’t know about and I would end up staying up all night because of the smell of the room (they even had those automated air freshners… should have been a red flag), or hotels with no sound insulation, or beds with non-existent pillows and springy mattresses. I’ve found that what makes a good hotel good is the quality of the bedding and you can expect good quality beds/pillows/bedsheets in these 4*/5* hotels.
1. Really good spa, pool and sauna choice. You have water beds, one sauna, a cold dip pool, numerous interesting showers, two steam baths, lap pool, large jacuzzi. Not as good as dedicated spa hotels like the Corinthian in Budapest but this is a good alternative. Unfortunately, things get in a bit of a disarray by the end of the day.
2. Location is good for higher shopping as it is within walking distance to Bikini Berlin, KaDeWe. It’s in the Tiergarten area so you also have the zoo and aquarium within walking distance.
3. Intercontinental brands.
4. Mattress is really comfy. I’ve found that quality of the bedding easily makes or breaks a good hotel. I’m also a light sleeper and have had instances where poor quality beds has led me to stay up all night.
5. The business centre (which I only used once to scan a document) was more the 90’s/early 00’s style centres (think faux leather chairs) but it was still a dedicated business center. Not 24 hours like in Hyatt Regency Waikiki but at least it exists.
1. Not really in the centre with the major tourist type locations if you want to be within an easy ride or public transport stop.
2. You have to pay an additional fee to access the spa service that I mentioned above. Which, I don’t understand considering the cost of a room. Then again, it’s quiet small if you compare to spa luxury hotels. Maybe the cost is a way to make it more ‘exclusive’.
3. Not really in an interesting area (like first point above).
4. The hotel restaurant did not seem that exciting, but only if you consider the brand name and location.
Checklist of things you need
In order to register your residence in Germany, you need the following items:
- Signed and dated rental contract with the landlord.
- Signed and dated landlord confirmation form (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung). You can only obtain this form once you have moved in. Landlords / rental agencies may not hand this out until you ask for it – so make sure to ask for a copy. This is a new requirement that has been in effect since late 2016.
- Identification documents (ie passport, any other identification documents you need)
- Registration Form (Anmeldeformular). It is possible to fill this form out and translated using Google Translate.
- Your confirmed appointment at the Bürgeramt. Simply choose the Anmelden einer Wohnung option to register your residence then select a date that suits you. You need to register within two weeks of arrival, but I was only able to get an appointment after three weeks which was fine.
Day of the appointment
Bring your emailed confirmation with you to show to the reception and they can motion you to a waiting area.
Inside the waiting area is a screen where you wait for your transaction number to come up alongside the name of the desk number to go to for the form registration.
Then you provide the documents to the staff member. It takes about 10-15 minutes to add everything in the system (depending on how slow they type, really), then you’re all set!
Make sure to double check your details and that they provide you with a registration certificate (called “Meldebescheinigung”)
They will print out a couple of pages, one page will be handed to you. After I stepped out the Bürgeramt, I decided to double check my details and they had my birth of date wrong.
When I got back, I tried to communicate to reception in bad German/English, but they could’t understand what I was trying to say, though luckily the staff that did my details saw me, then understood the issue.
After they finished up with another client, they sorted out my paperwork to the right birthday. Then, he handed me a different piece which is the registration certificate (called “Meldebescheinigung”).
Can you get your Identifikationnummer on the same day?
I initially was planning to get my Identifikationnummer on the same day since I have read that once you register, you can go to the Finanzamt and try to obtain it. I asked the Bürgeramt, and they said that I need to wait a couple of weeks for the letter.
It has come to my attention that there are quiet a number of blog posts and forum posts out there from WHV holders, including potential holders. I am also seeing threads created in general expat/immigration type of forums.
The issue with obtaining WHV information online (outside of what’s on the consulate), and that includes my blog, is that you don’t know if this info is relevant to you.
In addition, the main issue about creating threads looking for advice in forums is that frankly, many of the commentators out there are not at all familiar with the WHV. You then run the risk of getting advice that’s just completely-out-there-wrong.
If you are looking for information about WHV, I highly recommend that you get information from current and past WHV holders. WHV is a very specific and unique visa category and many people are not familiar with the nuances involved in this category.
As a current and past holder of working holiday visas for Canada, the UK, Ireland and Germany (as of May 2017!), I know that while I do look for advice, I’ve also found advice that I know is either inconvinient, or incorrect.
For example, I have written some blog posts preparing for my move to Germany (preparation, apartment) and doing these have made the process smooth for me. There are posts out there that talk about not getting your visa until after arrival – which would make things unecessarily difficult for you since there is the added issue of finding housing and potential risk of getting your paperwork wrong.
I also recommend finding and securing an apartment online. Now, someone replied back to me saying that there are scams online. Yes, I am completely aware of these scams (I have even reported some myself), and at the same time, I also know of several people who were scammed even after viewing the apartment in real life. Just have your common sense and wits about you when making these types of decisions.
Anyway, I just thought to write this post in case someone out there is looking for WHV info.
November 2015 was the first time I started planning my move to Germany. In fact, I had put forward the exact month and year that I’ve be moving – March 2017. I remember at that time, two years just seemed so far away, but life has a habit of just moving along, then next thing you know it’s March 2017 and I’ve just bought my flights to Berlin and waiting on my German work visa.
From November 2015 to February 2017, I barely did any planning. The only thing I did was send an email to the German consulate in Canada (where I was residing at the time) in August 2016 at the possibility of obtaining my German visa at the Consultate based in Toronto. Nothing more was done after that.
It wasn’t until late February 2017 that thing slowly started to pick up. I sent an email to the German consultate in Ireland (where I was residing at the time) to check if I can apply at their Consulate and got my confirmation. I was contemplating on applying after arrival and figured that it would be much more difficult doing so.
I started researching options to find a place and there were many. I realized, at least from one reply, that the real estate agents usually would prefer to arrange viewings on the week of arrival, so they told me to get in touch with them again later on in the date.
During that time, I was spending more and more time at moving-to-Berlin type of blogs and making a lot of notes along the way. Everything from the kinds of visas that I can apply for, to the whole registration process, and so on. Much of what I have done during this time has been process-oriented focusing on administrative details and practical stuff to do. I don’t have the time or energy to go around Pinteresting Berlin inspiration photos or read through things to do in Berlin for the weekend.
Early March 2017 I arranged my appointment with the Consulate, did some more apartment research. I was very keen to find an apartment before arrival since I was aware of how much things I will be bringing with me, that I’ll still be working full-time, that I have an online course that I need to finish and that I will have some issues with the whole not-speaking-German thing.
I also arranged my residence appointment at the Bürgeramt for March 30 – the day before my contract started. Though at the time, I was missing one important document that I can only obtain after moving in.
Mid March 2017, I have found my apartment and arranged to have the paperwork, contract and security deposit sent through. I also booked my flights.
I missed my earlir Consulate appointment, and ended up having to reschedule. I was two weeks behind schedule of getting my German visa.
I also finished organizing through the logistics of my move from the Berlin airport, to the airport hotel and from the airport hotel to my new apartment. For example, what transport options are available to me? How many minutes if the taxi ride from the airport to my apartment in case I don’t feel like using public transport? That sort of stuff.
I was also making notes of what I need to do at the Finanzamt. The plan is that on the same day as my residence registration, I was going to go to the finance office and try to get my tax ID on the same day (didn’t work out) and talk to them about setting up my freelance number (didn’t work out..again…language barriers).. I wrote down what public transport options to take, how long is the car drive in case I need to use a taxi, what paperwork to fill in and so on.
Again, it was all administrative stuff.
Late March 2017 I try to open a bank account. Unfortunately, didn’t work out with the whole identification thing. Plus, the customer service was not good so for me, it was a red flag not to use them!
I also get my signed contract from the landlord.
March 27 2017 I get my German work visa – just a mere one day from flying out to Berlin and picking up the keys to my apartment! This was all completely stress inducing. The reason why it was this close was because I missed my earlier appointment with the Consulate and had to reschedule.
Yesterday’s blog had a summary from Saturday.
Antikmark near Ostbahnhof
Today, I set out to go to an antique’s market (antikmarkt) near Ostbanhof as a startng point, then see where the days lead me.
There was an issue with the S9 line to Pankow so we had to disembark. Yesterday, I decided to take a random trip on the U-bahn, missed my actual stop (Zoologischer Garten) to go to Tiergarten. I decided to disembark on Deutsche Oper and walked around to find myself around the Charlottenburg area. Today, I decided to keep to the script and take the bus to Ostbanhof.
I’m still getting used to the landmarks, so I completely forgot that remnants of the Berlin Wall (with some art) are nearby. I decided to take a walk around the antiques market then make my way to the Wall.
The antiques market was definitely not the type you’d see in LAPADA Antiques Fair in London or the Spring Masters in New York (both I’ve been to) and there wasn’t a lot that wowed me. But then again, I don’t know that much about German history. I think that if you are there with an agenda in mind – ie purchase X from era Y – you might find some enjoyment in it. For me, it was a good browse around. I saw some medals, a lot of stamp collection books, a lot of children’s toys, some very old-looking stuff but that was really it.
The Berlin Wall
I admit that right now, I don’t know a lot of history about the Berlin Wall. So my first sightseeing trip was to look at the street art and think about how much walls suck.
This is also another area to check out, but I haven’t had a chance.
I was only around the Kottbusser Tor area and didn’t do much as it was rainy/Sunday. I dropped by at a vegan cafe to try out their raw cake (which was OK, although I have an aversion against anything that hints at having coconuts) but walked around a bit before going back to the U-bahn.
Based on my first impressions (the photos turned out quiet interesting), this is not really my type of area.
Living in Germany, or at least from the lens of living in Berlin, for the past three weeks has mainly been focused around settling in.
Here are some of my thoughts from being here for three weeks. Take note that I’m internally comparing to all the places I’ve lived in before so these are all based on my personal frame of reference.
- Berlin has a slower pace of life compared to London but not necessarily boring.
- Really amazing transport infrastructure. This has been my qualms in places like Dublin, Vancouver, and Toronto where if one part of public transport fails it pretty much can derail your day. Not so here. You can move on with your life with little to no interrupting if there was a service ending at a stop earlier than expected.
- The quality of life here is great – and even better is that it is truly accessible to a lot of people (in the ways of cost, public transport, availability in a lot of places). There is a lot of choices here in Berlin, and they (as far as I’m concerned) won’t break the bank. For me, a simple act of buying food or random homeware stuff (more on this later) is like paradise. Although, I don’t know if I’m still in honeymoon stage here. But yes, it truly beats the faceless, depressing concrete blocks of Walmart or Costco in North America. I look back on those days like some sort of nightmarish haze.
- The food here is really great. The kind of food items that you buy in ‘specialty’ shops in Australia, in the UK, in Dublin, in Canada is food that you can buy at any grocery store that you step in.
- There is no such thing as the ‘best place to live’ in Berlin. A lot of things you need are all fairly accessible and there is a neighbourhood type that suits you most.
- One of the cons is that I still feel really awkward when I try to navigate simple things when prompted to in German like lining up to the till or asking for a plastic bag. One of the shop assistants in Charlottenburg (where I was shopping) seem to have a mini anxiety (ok, not anxiety but still…) when she asked in German if I wanted a plastic bag, and I couldn’t understand her so ended up doing some nodding yes when pointing at the shopping bag.
- Even if I get lost, there is something new and exciting around the corner. A museum, a memorial, a cool shop. I walked into a store thinking that it’ll be your run of the mill cheese-and-bread shop but it ended up being this awesome deli with people standing around and eating inside.
Since I move around a fair bit and in the past few or so years, I’ve been staying away from purchasing really frivolous things related to a ‘home’. I can’t remember the last time I bought cutlery, kitchenware, homeware (I bought a lamp in 2015 for some Philips Hue lights that I later gave away), those sorts of things. I’ve only stayed in the essentials. Bathtowels – and even then I still moved around with my cheap Walmart bought towels. Beddings – I have only ever purchased one, a House of Fraser pillowcase from when I first moved to London during my first ‘domestic’ shopping trip. Kitchenware – the last time I bought a mug must have been in 2011. The last time I bought picture frames was in 2010 and they were gifts. The last time I splured on ‘domestic household’ stuff was probably in 2012-2013 when I was living in London. Ever since then, a lot of items were in the rentals or from friends. And I was fine with this. And it wasn’t because I couldn’t afford these things. In one way, I was attempting to save up but at the same time, I wanted to get into the mindset of doing less consumerism. I just felt so guilty buying things and having ‘more’ things. I don’t feel guilty when I purchase things that will be ‘used up’ and perishable anyway like food, makeup or skincare or items that I know can be sold on like high quality clothing. But when it comes to homeware, I’ve skimped on this part.
However what was bad about this is that I was always on the mindset that I would not even bother making a ‘home’ because I’d be leaving anyway. So, I was constantly at a mindset that I will always leave, so what’s the point? After spending a few years with that mindset across 3 to 4 cities, constantly thinking that you’ll be leaving anyway is not really a good mindset to be on. So in my attempt of trying to make a home I’m out there to the homewares shop, buying Parisian room fragrance, rearranging some dried grass, and drinking an aerol spritz out of my recently bougth hipster glass mug with a paper straw.
I find it interesting that there is still this desire to tie up identity and ‘homeliness’ with certain things – with purchase and subsequent ownership of such things. I’ve lived in five cities over two years now so I’ve had at least five different homes – and let’s not forget stayingn in countless ‘in-between’ places while I look for a place or wait for a rental contract to start.
I’ve been able to starve myself of this – like being happy with simple things. Sunshine (free!) going through the curtains (not mine, the apartment’s). Comfortable bed. Working Internet. I’ve always felt some sort of disdain towards that need to buy decorations, homewares. Do you really need a pink butter dish? Do you really need an aqua blue milk foamer? Do you really need seven types of chili sauces? Do you really need those fake flowers?
Previously, I wrote about using Amazon.de PrimePantry for my first proper grocery shopping trip. This came about since I don’t know German that well, wanted to save time shopping and wanted more types of product.
At the same session, I was doing a lot of household related shopping. When I first moved into my apartment, it was already furnished and basically ready to move in but I wanted to buy some household items anyway. I had planned to go out but … again would have to face the task trying to translate things from German to English (again, I know very little German and have only been here for less than a week), getting lost, getting hopelessly distracted by doing tourist things since I’m still in tourist mode. I decided instead to just buy it all online.
I think this screenshot also shows another one of my dilemmas:
Yes, that’s for buying something as simple as a new set of pillow cases and now my pillow world has completely diversified.
This YouTube video is also a good overview of the difficulties that you can have for not speaking German in Germany:
A few people have told me that you can get by with English in Berlin, but I have found this to be far from the case. From government papers, to contracts, from work opportunities to making friends and doing normal everyday activities like grocery shopping…it is immensely helpful that you know some of the German language. So while you can get by being a tourist visiting Berlin, it’s a different story when you are actually trying to live in Berlin.
This was more evident on my first day in Berlin, in Aldi. At the dairy aisle, I was thinking about which yogurt to buy when I had a man’s voice say something in German near me. I didn’t take much notice of him, then I heard the word a very strained “Bitte” and I looked sideways. It turned out that he was hauling some large boxes and I was in the way, so I quickly got out of the way. Another time was in Aldi, when the lady asked for coins…I thought that I was short of cash, so I took out a large note. She shook her head and proceeded to give me the change anyway. Since then I’ve been making the effort to actually hand something in correct cash just to avoid these types of scenarios!
This is all probably minor, but now my mind is thinking various what if scenarios when things are spoken to you in German…
Anyway, right now I am making as much of an improvement as I can to understand the language. I find that my reading and writing comprehension is better than my spoken and I probably fared the worst when it comes to understanding spoken German. Although, I was in Aldi again when I overheard and recognised “Wie gehts!” and was understanding the numbers spoken to me.
There is a common misconception that people on working holiday visas are undertaking unskilled work. There is also the common misconception that only unskilled work is available for those on working holiday visas.
In some cases, this may be the reality but it is completely dependent on your skills, aptitude, attitude, flexibility, CV-writing skills and interviewing skills. Not only that, but it also helps to have good interpersonal skills when working with global teams and different types of people. You get an added bonus for being able to obtain skilled work if you’ve had previous industry experience in the field, if you’ve attained education (including certifications), your ability to prepare for the job market in the area and also the job market in that particular area.
Skilled work is also not in any specific domains. Some people will say that technical roles will land you the most opportunities but I’ve found cases that span across other many industries – the arts, not-for-profit/charities, travel, entertainment, media, advertising and more.
I’ve done highly skilled work on the two working holiday visas that I was on – one in marketing in the UK which led to an award for the work and a lot of industry/global experience. Another in software SaaS for a US/Canada company while based in Toronto and after doing a career and industry change. Both opportunities also included additional educational opportunities – paid courses (including a paid course offered by University College London) and ability for me to easily attend meetups and industry events. On my 3rd working holiday visa (Ireland) I was interviewing for skilled work opportunities before settling on my current role which is closely aligned with my professional interest and I am also currently pursuing certification in the field also.
In all the countries, I’ve had no issues getting interviews for the skilled work though some didn’t want to talk further once they find out that my visa was temporary. Ireland was challenging because Australians can only work for 6 months but I came across short term contracts in software companies. Germany may have the additional challenge of being able to speak German but so far I don’t see this as a dealmaking obstacle.
It’s all about preparations
There’s a few ways to start reaching out and do your job search before the move to give yourself a head start:
In addition, make sure to also read up on my other entries on other ways that you can prepare – such as housing, banking and more.
One of the big hurdles when moving overseas is finding a place to live. You need to think about your temporary accommodation – its budget, its proximity to necessary locations, its contract stipulations in regards to stay. You need to get a bank account and other identity documents – including figuring out whether or not you can use your temporary housing to arrange this. For those that need to look for work, you also need to find work while juggling the fact that you don’t have a permanent place to stay, you don’t have a bank account (yet) and you are waiting for official identity documents. And to top it off, the fact that you don’t have these things, in turn, your ability to get housing – since landlords typically will want some identity documentation and so on.
Don’t fret though, because it’s not as bad as it seem. You can talk to the bank or to the real estate agent to find if there are any loopholes or flexibility in meeting their requirements. I’ve found that a lot of the discussions online, even the official text on a website, does not necessarily reflect the reality. I’ve talk to bank managers on other types of documentation that I can provide. I’ve talked to customer support to see if they can accept other types of documentation since I don’t have the document that they need.
Because of this, I developed an impression that 1) it’s difficult to find a place in Germany and 2) you need to find a place after arriving. But these impressions have been proven false because not only have I found a place in Germany, but I’ve been able to do all the paperwork before arriving!
It is possible for you to find online sites and startups that will not only show apartment listings, but will show photos/videos of the apartment, will allow you to book online AND will also serve as a conduit between yourself and the real estate agency/landlord. This is important and very convenient when you are finding your way around the non-English speaking world – I’ve found that even with Google Translate enabled, certain site functions don’t work and it starts to get exhausting constantly translating information to and from. Not only that, but I was looking for decently priced and high quality housing for up to 12 months, which strikes out those digital nomad oriented ‘coliving’ types of websites. Even then, I still persevered and found my awesome apartment here in Berlin.
I believe that being able to obtain the information that you need, in as real-time and real quality as possible – is an important asset for e-commerce websites. The information that I’ve obtained is as real as it can get and I trust the legitimacy of these sites (after looking at the reviews, the profiles, the company information and so on) enough to finalize all paperwork without being there in person. Not only that, I found that websites with no dedicated localization (and therefore, I need to rely on Google Translate), are not that trustworthy for me. If there is a feature that can’t be translated or it’s rendered useless because of translation then it makes for a bad user experience. So, if you’re going to localize your site then at least do it properly.
Anyway, back to apartment hunting in Berlin. The types of documentation that you may need to produce (other than identification) may include evidence of salary or a guarantor letter if you are a student. You will also need to state your study / work and your purpose of visit. With work, it is helpful to state your job title and whether or not you are a freelancer. I’ve also sent my correspondence in German (with the help of Google Translate!) as it was a bit awkward switching to English only.
Once you get the keys and move in and it’s all good, arrange an appointment to have your residence registered at the Bürgeramt. Originally, I was going to go there the day before I move in, but decided to cancel as this would have been a fruitless exercise.
With your residence registration, you will need the signed lease agreement and also an additional form called the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung signed by the landlord – this confirms that you have actually moved in and you’re residing there now. The reason for both is that you can have a signed lease agreement, but you also have a certain amount of time to be able to inspect the property and give your final wishes/concerns to the landlord about the property.
After moving in, make sure to take a number of photos of the property.
You may also need to do an Übergabeprotokoll which is a sheet which shows damages in advance.
Anyway, I just thought to publish this entry hopefully as motivation for those that are stuck in the housing rut while preparing to move overseas!
This series marks my experiences on my 4th working holiday visa for Germany and is written as an Australian applicant. If you are from other countries with the bilateral agreement, you may also find this post useful.
I also have some posts of my experiences under the Working Holiday Visas for Canada (called International Experience Canada), the UK (called Tier 5 Youth Mobility) and Ireland (simply Working Holiday Visa). It’s scattered all over my blog so please have a look at my earlier posts.
One main thing to keep in mind throughout the whole process
When I read posts from other applicants of the German working holiday programmes, there is a common theme emerging – and that is that the German immigration system will do the work for them. Meaning that, all German immigration authorities have native command of English and that everyone knows what a working holiday visa is.
The truth here is the opposite.
It is completely up to the individual to ensure that they meet the requirements for the working holiday visa. It is also up to the individual to ensure that they meet any other requirements to live and work in Germany – from making sure that the documents are correct to making sure to decrease as much miscommunication as possible.
With that in mind, feel free to continue on below for my thoughts around the application process for the German working holiday visa.
The Application Process
On the Australian Germany embassy website, Australians have the choice to either apply in the Consulate-General in Sydney or at the local immigration authority (‘Ausländerbehörde’). Being based in Dublin, I decided to do my application at the Germany embassy in Dublin instead. Another reason why I decided to avoid Ausländerbehörde was all because of their website. When I logged in to do an online appointment, there were no appointments available (not even if I browse all the way to 2020) and I was sure that there was an issue with their system after trying on three different browsers. I gave up and decide to apply here in Dublin.
If you decide to do your application after arriving in Germany, make a note of what the next available slot is for an appointment by going to the Ausländerbehörde website. From my experience in handling immigration bureaucracy (ie when getting my GNIB card here in Ireland), it is considerably better to research and try to get your paperwork and appointments ready in advance instead of showing up at the office and getting your information there. Do not assume that there will be a spot on the day of your appointment, or that there is even going to be availability in the near future.
In addition, don’t assume that information will be delivered to you in English and that it will be 100% accurate. I think that this comes from a source of naivety in people who the world is going to be functioning on their level at 100% English-speaking proficiency. The reality is that, especially in Europe, English is not going to be the native language and so it’s better to assume that whatever information you get, or whatever interaction you do, it will not be in native English level.
You are required to make an appointment and is usually booked out for two weeks. If you miss your appointment, you need to rebook again.
The documentation that you need in your application is pretty much straightforward and is outlined in the German embassy pages for working holiday visas.
One of the main areas of contention is around residence which was:
– Proof of main residence in Berlin
– Certificate of registration at the main residence or
– Rental agreement and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord
I asked the embassy if it’s acceptable that I only show a booking for two weeks in temporary accommodation and they were fine with it.
A copy/paste of their answer is below:
Yes you will have to provide only the first 2 weeks accommodation in Germany for the VISA application. Hotel / Hostel booking are accepted for this. Regards, German Embassy Dublin
I am seeing some posts were others are going all the way to secure accommodation in Berlin as part of their application. For example, they would arrive in Berlin, go to Ausländerbehörd, sit there for a couple of hours to get confirmation that their real appointment is in 10 weeks, and during that time they’ll have the opportunity to do room viewings. I did thought that perhaps there is an advantage for already being in Europe AND I am on a working holiday visa but I am aware of someone in Argentina who also went through the process at around the same time as I did and not seeing any issues with the paperwork.
Housing – moving from temporary, short-term housing to long-term
There are quiet a number of various residence options in Berlin and I have to admit that it has been a dream meeting the most basic residence requirement! Meaning that there is established infrastructure in place making foreigners seeking housing in Berlin very easy. We are talking public transportation and all the different options and places that you have available to search for housing.
It is also possible to book for and pay for housing online on trusted, dedicated platforms where they make the effort to provide as much detail as they can on what to expect.
Overall, even though I didn’t need to book for months long accommodation for the working holiday visa application, I still had the option to do so safely and securely.
I think that Berlin is one of the leading hubs for expats / digital nomads, global / remote workers and so on.
Back to the paperwork. Don’t forget that shortly within obtaining your long-term accommodation, you will also need to register with the town hall. Check online for an appointment slot that is available. In addition, there are documents that you need to take with you when you register.
One thing to keep in mind around housing is that if you require temporary accommodation to look for longer term housing, you do not need to register as a resident within two weeks of arriving. I would recommend going for temporary housing while applying for the working holiday visa as this is enough. Since it’s considered temporary, then you do not need get the additional documentation for residence.
A one year’s travel insurance is enough, so long as it covers Germany. Certain visas may require specific types of insurance but a standard travel insurance is enough. The reason being is that a working holiday visa is only temporary in nature.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a difference between travel insurance and health insurance. You can read more about my thoughts on this area here.
It is possible to open a bank account online and prior to arrival. You can also authenticate your identity online and without needing to be in a branch.
There are also various loopholes when it comes to opening bank accounts. It all depends on who you talk to, what type of account that you open and which bank.
Of course, you can also opt to go with other options that require in-person appearances. Banks these days need to be customer-centric. This means that banking services, should they wish to remain relevant in today’s modern world, also need to be available whenever and wherever the customer is. Hopefully, we will see more of these practices rather than forcing customers to change their whole day’s schedule just to open an account or cash a cheque.
Once you have registered as a resident you can now apply for your unique German tax number (Steuer-ID). This should be sent to you automatically after registering your German address.
Next part of the series…
Stay tuned for the next part of my German working holiday experience!