Monday, 28 November 2011

Getting to Dublin

When Matt told me he was going to Munich for the weekend to visit some of his friends, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to visit my friend Julie in Ireland.
Excited to visit Julie and step foot into a new country loaded with sexy accents, I started researching my trip plan.
I figured I would just fly out of Nürnberg or at least, fly out of Nürnberg and into a city that flew to Dublin, but no such luck. It seemed that any of the airlines that flew out of Nürnberg would not connect up with others that would fly to Dublin, not unless I wanted to pay €800. So I researched the flights out of other cities and trains out of Nürnberg looking for the cheapest and most efficient way there.

Now as you already know, I grew up in the Ottawa Valley. Here's how we get places at home:
1) You drive
2) You take the train or the plane*
*When you take the plane or the train...someone will drive you in either their car or in one shuttle to said train station or airport. Even when the airport is a 2-4 hour drive.

Here's how you get to Dublin when you don't live with or near family, don't have a car, and can't just take one little shuttle to the airport:
Walk to underground subway, ride to main railway station, take 3 different regional trains(yes it was faster to take 3 than 1), take 1 bus, finally arrive at Airport......Fly to Dublin, take shuttle bus to Julie's work, ride home to Julie's house in the car.
Fortunately, I just had a purse and a small carry-on wheelie bag, so it was easy to make all the necessary transfers. It still blew my mind though.

Next to blow my mind:
Memmingen Airport in Munich.
You walk through the front door, check in on left, restaurant straight ahead, security on the right. I could see clearly out the windows on either end. After I went through security, I had to go to gate 5 of 7. One - three were downstairs, and the rest were upstairs. I mean literally up the stairs. No escalator. There was an elevator but I always find that escalator's are more common in airports. Anyways, up the stairs, grabbed a drink and bagel for the plane at the only other restaurant in the airport. Sat down and waited to board. I realized that the only people in the airport either worked there, or were flying to Dublin.
The flight boards and we walk back down a set of stairs on the opposite wall and out onto the tarmac.

Ryan Air:
Not assigned seats, sit anywhere, pay for in flight food and drinks and hear announcements every few minutes advertising their calender and scratch card sales, along with cigarettes and whatever else they sell.

Overall, it was an easy trip, I had row to myself on the plane, two new passport stamps, and a lot of learning about travelling. The ride back was not as easy, but that deserves it's own post.

Employed!! Katie the Nanny

Its finally happened. After leaving home almost two months ago and job searching for a total of 6 weeks after my job searching orientation, I have finally found something!
Position: Nanny/House Help for two children of a German and English speaking family
Salary: €12/hour
When:Monday-Friday 7:45am-2-3 from now until January
          Tuesday-Thursday 7:45am-2 or 2:30pm from January - May

I finally have something to fill my time, pay my bills, and fund all of my fun and travels.

I think the job is going to be pretty great. I've spent a number of years working with children, the difference being, those children were fed, dressed and brought to me and I was teaching them to swim. Now I'm the one getting them dressed, fed, and out the door. Luckily, I have some babysitting experience and a brother who is enough younger than I am to prepare me for changing diapers, dressing them up in coats and shoes, and spending hours sitting on the floor playing whatever. Although, that was a few years ago so when dressing the 16 month old this morning, I had to re-figure out, what arms go in when and try and not get her stuck with her dress half over her head. I'll admit, it got a little stuck...but she was fine.

I was a little nervous on the first day. What on earth do 16 month olds like to eat for breakfast, lunch, and snack? At least a four and a half year old will tell you exactly what they want and how they want it. Fortunately, the mother is not back at work yet and had planned a transition period of getting the children use to me. It kind of like job shadowing. I accompany her to take the children to school, and run errands, learning where everything is located. She tells me what she wants me to cook or prepare and I can get the housework done in the meantime while the children are at school. So plenty of time to see what they like to eat and how the like it prepared.

And in addition, I will now be taking the under ground train and a street car on a regular basis to get to their house so I have finally been forced to figure out the how these train things work. Matt did help to map out my route, but I had to go it alone. It was a successful journey and prepared me mentally for all of the trains and buses I would be taking on my upcoming trip.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Cooking and Baking in a New Country

I love wandering down the aisles in the grocery stores here because each time I go, I discover something new. I was aware that when I moved to Germany, they wouldn’t have all the foods that we do at home, for example sliced bacon. For the most part, I have learned to accept this and am happy to find new alternatives. However, there are just a few things that I am failing to understand, and without proper internet (which is another story) I cannot look up various stories that may sell them.

The first item is bread crumbs. I figure this would be one of those things that are in every grocery store, one of those things that are always kept in stock, considering the popularity of schnitzel. I have yet to find pre-crushed bread crumbs. We have taken to leaving a few slices of bread out over night to let them dry out, breaking them up by hand, and then crushing them with a potato masher, which usually takes 3 different goes. But what happened to modern day conveniences? I just want some bread crumbs that are sold pre spiced because I just cannot get the right flavor, something is missing. Any suggestions on either the location of the bread crumbs or good schnitzel spices?

The second is measuring spoons and measuring cups. I have literally searched almost every store; Real, Euro store, grocery stores, a number of kitchen stores and none of them sell measuring spoons or 1/4 , 1/3, and 1/2 measuring cups. They do however all sell various flour sifters. I mentioned this to my mom and she had them in the mail the next day, unfortunately they haven’t arrived yet and it feels like it’s been a while. She reminded me I could have checked IKEA, but I had forgotten it was here. I guess I’ll find out if the German IKEA sells them if these ones never arrive. In the meantime, I have taken to buying muffin mixes. Not that I have anything against mixes, it’s just that, the last two I bought (Chocolate Chip and then Plain Chocolate…the only options) both tasted the same and lacked distinctive flavor. I did not find a cookie mix, at least not in Edeka. So I am anxiously waiting for these measuring tools to arrive. In the meantime with our limited internet, I tried to do a search of German recipes and instead was directed to other European recipes where they measure in spoons and cups as well.
HOW do the Germans bake? Clearly from the variety of flour sifters available, it’s popular but...HOW?

As I am only here for 7 more months, I guess I can do without the casserole and Pyrex dishes and the loaf pan. Our land lady mentioned that if there is anything else we want or need, she would reimburse us for the cost but I just can’t ask for them for just 7 months considering the cost. The German pans are all €10 and up and I realize this is because they’re better quality but I miss being able to buy baking pans in the dollar store.

And lastly, while this has not been 100% confirmed yet as I have only looked in one store, no Ziploc bags? Just bags and chip clips. Does that keep it fresh? Does it keep everything from spilling out? To be safe, I asked for some Ziploc bags for Christmas.
I think I will see if I can find a German cooking class in English and learn how they do things over here.


A week after writing this, we found sliced Bacon in the grocery store. Things are looking up!

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Coffee is Black and the Milk is Expensive

I have noticed in Germany that you cannot just order a “Coffee with Milk”. A cup of coffee, when purchased in a porcelain cup is always served with a packet of sugar, an amazing Ginger cookie and sometimes a creamer on the side. Getting a little container of milk is not an option. I once tried to order a coffee with milk “Kaffee mit Milch” in Köln and while the lady repeated it back to me, a black coffee is what I got.
I have started to take a closer look at the menus when I want coffee now and have found that if you want milk, you have to order a café au lait or Milchkaffee. While I am not sure that café au lait is the same as a bit of milk, the real kicker is that it’s at least 30 cents more expensive!! I don’t even think you can buy little milkers that I could carry around in my purse, but that’s probably for the best as I’m sure letting milk sit in my purse would lead to bigger problems later in the day than spending 30 cents.

I by no means, mean to complain about Germany when I say I can’t get milk in a little container and they don’t have hot water in their bathroom sinks, I am just pointing out the differences. Canada provided me with a lot of little luxuries (except those ginger cookies) and I am just struggling to get use to some of these changes.

You may notice I keep mentioning these Ginger cookies. What are they? They’re little pieces of deliciousness that melt with the warmth of your coffee and make your day complete. I am completely enamored with them. The two brands I’ve come across are Lotus and Maitre and according to the package, you can buy them in the store!! I’ve checked my grocery store 5 times now and even the bigger Real, but no such luck yet. Perhaps when I have proper internet next week, I can actually look them up and find out where they are sold. But in the meantime, if you know where to find them, it would be helpful if you would comment.

And while I have sometimes just had to settle and drink the plain black coffee, I just prefer it with milk.


This post does not really include any advice but instead is to sum up one of the places I have been visiting, as my friends and family are reading this as well.

I’ve been to Bamberg twice so far with Matt and I am sure there will be many more.
He did a year abroad in Bamberg so this trip included my own personal tour. It’s one of the few cities that was not affected by the war and still has many beautiful buildings and sights. We’ve eaten at Café Express twice and it has easily become one of my favourite restaurants. It’s one of those places where you can have 5 different favourites on the menu because there are so many different things. Each time, I had an amazing meal plus a 0.5l beer for €10 or less. Which shows that you can have a meal, for the price of one cocktail which I still think is ridiculous.
Most to all of the buildings seem to have some sort of Jesus or Mary or another religious figure either carved or just on the top of the stone walls. Matt tells me you can go on a Brewery crawl as there are so many within a short distance although I have not yet taken a tour. I will definitely be taking one eventually and likely in Bamberg as with all the wineries and Breweries in Germany, we’ve managed to live in the city that does not have any...come on Nürnberg!

I went again last week with Matt’s Bamberg friends and we went to Fässla which I understand is the best place to get drinks, especially on a Monday. While we were drinking our beers, one of the locals had noticed we were all speaking English and came over to ask where we were all from and if he could join us for a bit. He had been drawn over by Guillaume’s accent because he said it was exactly how he remembered his own grandfather speaking, turns out, his grandfather had also been from France, like Guillaume. He sat with us while we finished our beers and told us of how he had joined the U.S army when he was younger and how he had been stationed in Germany. While he was terrified to come over here, to a new country where he did not know the language, he ended up loving it. Even though he left the army years ago (he’s currently in his late 50’s I think) he decided to stay in Germany. As Matt missed this trip to Fässla, we told him all about this man and he said he had ran into and talked to him on many occasions. He was an excellent story teller so if you ever find yourself in Bamberg, should probably stop by Fässla and see if he’s around. He’ll be the one reading his book by the bar.

Oh and the beer was delicious and they had a few Halloween inspired drinks. We went for the jello shot which they call a “pudding shot”

Job Hunting

So the job hunt has been going pretty slow.
As previously mentioned, I did not choose to stay in Berlin and a few of the suggested places to look for work are not available in Nürnberg. For example, Berlin has a magazine called Tipp Berlin that comes out every two weeks and can often be found for free in local cafes. I have googled all of the Nürnberg magazines, sorted through the piles in café’s or bars and checked the local News stands and none of these magazines have job postings. Another suggestion was the local tabloids, you know, the ones with the half naked girls on the bottom? I bought one and did not find a single job posting, except for the Astrological signs that I had initially mistaken for job postings.
The Saturday/Sunday Newspapers do have pages of listings, but sadly, no return calls from that.

 I have posted my resume on a few sites now, including Monster. Last Friday morning, I received an e-mail asking me to contact them by phone. I thought this might be promising, but sadly, the lady did not speak English and I could not understand her German. Needless to say, it was an awkward phone conversation followed by a German e-mail from her explaining that most companies require a good amount of German and she would not be able to help me, followed by an exclamation mark! This makes me wonder what employers interpret the line that reads”German language level-Basic” as, on my resume.

You may want to try The Local, Germany’s news in English which has a jobs section easily accessible from the main page. While I check this site regularly, sadly again, most of the jobs are not in Nürnberg.
You may also want to try a temporary staffing agency, but if your level of German is like mine, you should probably inquire in your letter whether it is possible to communicate in English.

Cautionary notes on using Google Translate. While it has been extremely helpful navigating the sites and translating job descriptions for me, I have started to notice that it even translates people’s names!!!! For example, Frau Schuh becomes Mrs. Shoe. So, while I am certainly not the one to be telling anyone “don’t use it, it sucks” because I don’t know what I would do without it, just remember that tidbit before you go and address your cover letter to a perspective employer. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

197 Channels and nothing to watch

We were fortunate to be provided with a TV loaded with 197 channels and we don’t pay any extra rent for it. However, 6 or 7 of them are the only ones in English. They consist or news, religion, and religion rock. The rest of them are majority German of course some French, Turkish, Russian and maybe even some Polish stations. I’ve watched a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother in German which are okay because if watched each of the episodes enough times in English to know exactly what’s happening. But I wouldn’t say I am unwinding while I do it. There’s a zoo channel dedicated to the Berlin zoo and while it is in German, I am fascinated by the entire little baby animals rolling around. I catch parts of the News when Matt watches it and had the great opportunity to watch Turkish Running on TV. Two people had to run 80 laps around a small round ring and the first of the two to finish, won.

Not that I am spending my working holiday watching TV all the time, but it’s nice when Matt’s not home for lunch or to watch a few episodes on a Sunday when nothings open or a few to wind down before bed. I have almost all of the seasons of 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother on my hard drive and a few other series, and Matt and I have managed to re-watch every single one of them. We even went and bought a new series on DVD at the store (Cougar Town…really funny) to keep us occupied until our internet arrives in another 8 days. Oh and because these are all American T.V shows or movies, even though you buy them in Germany, you can choose English as the playing language when it starts.

We have a lot of catching up to do on our favourite shows once the internet arrives considering they started end of September and its moving into the second week of November.

So if you don’t mind watching TV or movies on your laptop…consider you may not have internet for a while and load up an external with your favourite or a new season. Or plan to buy them once you arrive.

Why are the Cocktails so Expensive? And where is the Hot Water?

While I did not study abroad, Matt did, and I am fortunate to meet new friends and participate in these events with him. Matt’s Bamberg friends came to Nürnberg this weekend to reunite. It was full of good times, amazing people, lots of beer and too much Polish Vodka.

One of the most important phrases you can learn in German is how to ask politely for a Beer. Seriously. This is not a bad phrase. Anyone doing a European exchange, should be the age of majority when you arrive. If you don’t like Beer, you should probably learn to like it soon because it’s the cheapest thing on the menu. €2 or 3 or less if you’re lucky for a 0.5l glass...and yes that’s more than you get in Canada. You’re looking at €3-4 for a glass of bottled water, Coke, Fanta, or the two mixed together. If you want tap water, you can get that for free, but you better specify tap or else you’re getting bottled and you’re paying for it. Oh and no, you aren’t getting free refills for that price.

While I do enjoy beer, I enjoy the girly cocktails on some nights as well. Unfortunately, that’s a very limited or expensive option here. I feel as though some of the places I’ve been so far have a limited selection of Cocktails, Sex on the Beach is delicious, it’s everywhere, but it’s not always made the same and sometimes you want something different. I decided I wanted a change and went to the bar with a big cocktail menu. How much did I pay for the Swimming Pool and Chococoloda (both Pina Colada type drinks)??? €7 and 8!!! The current exchange rate is 1.4 so in Canada, those cocktails would cost…$10-11!! Looks like I’m not in Waterloo or Ottawa anymore… I read over the entire menu and there wasn’t a cheaper cocktail. I guess I got a bargain when I paid €6.50 for a Pina Colada at another bar.

On another note, don’t expect when you enter the bathroom in a bar or even just a restaurant or public washroom to be able to wash your hands with hot water or even warm water. If you’re reading this from Canada, consider yourselves privileged. Apparently hot water is expensive so you will often just find a tap labeled cold water. Letting it run longer will not make it turn warm. Apparently, hand soap is even a bit of a luxury? I was surprised when I went into the bathroom at the Munich train station that the bathroom didn’t even have a soap dispenser. At least that’s less common. So be prepared. Expect the water in the bathroom sink will always be cold and if it happens to have warm water, you will be pleasantly surprised. It may also be a good idea to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you at all times. 

Tired of Google Translating? How to find everything you need

When you don’t speak the local language, there are two things you should do upon arriving. First, start learning the language and second, find an English expat group.

Matt and I found a local English expat group on Facebook (keywords: English Stammtisch) and decided to check it out. I was surprised to find that it was not only foreigner travelers/workers but local Germans who wanted to keep up/improve their English. There were approximately 70-80 people overtaking this bar all speaking English which is generally something I have not been seeing. Besides the obvious opportunity to go out and meet new people, these people had great tips and stories. Job wise, a few of them offered to pass my resume along to the HR manager or see if their company had any open positions for me. One of them happens to work for a staffing agency and I have an appointment with her tomorrow.

It was a lot of fun and we discovered a new bar/area of the city and some other bars along the walk.

They are scheduled to meet up once a month at the same bar but often have other random events throughout the month, including: English book swaps, Halloween parties, or just extra mid month meet ups.

If that’s not your seen, Toytown Germany is an English website that offers many resources including job listings on forums. I took a browse through a few of the forums for the Nürnberg area to see what people were asking and offering. There were threads about apartment listings, where to find the best restaurants for a good price, where to find an English speaking hairdresser, etc.