A Swiss in Germany – Hiding

a swiss in germany - cat
© by Rihaji via Pixabay

There are some days when I try to avoid contact with other people, and it is amazingly easy to do so in Berlin. You do not have to talk if you are not in the mood. That is a bit sad, however. You can go to the supermarket, or for a walk, or to the playground, and you do not have to say anything to anyone. Once, I queued up at the post office, and a guy shoved me away and went in front of me. I did not say anything because I was not in the mood to defend myself in front of other people. I was not afraid of the confrontation, but rather of speaking German. I felt insecure, and I did not want to expose myself and my different way of talking, so I kept quite.

As a Swiss from Zurich, I naturally understand and speak German. However, it is not possible to hide my nationality because of my accent. I figured out that people are sometimes irritated by the choice of my words or when I try to be funny. Humour is a very tricky thing in a foreign language, especially when you are so close to that foreign language that people expect something from you. German people mostly understand what I am saying, but it sometimes can lead to misunderstandings or strange situations. I once tried to buy some bread at the bakery. I thought the slang word for a sandwich was “schrippe,” which is just a plain white bread roll, but it was in fact “stulle.” I pointed at it and told him in my best German that I’d like a schrippe. He nodded and rolled his eyes and then answered impatiently in English: “What do you want? A sandwich?”

Sometimes others try to copy my accent and make fun of me. I paused to visit my favourite coffee store, and one of the waiters shouted through the entire place, “Grüezi” when I entered the store. I am sure he just meant to be nice, but I felt uncomfortable to be exposed. I do not wish to talk about cows, mountains, chocolates or gold – not with strangers and not with my friends – although perhaps about Swiss cheese because that is something I really like. I wish to adapt to my new daily colloquial, and I realize after having been in Berlin for a while that I have to learn a new language. Moreover, I think it is much harder to relearn than to learn a language from the very beginning. Sometimes I wish I could, at least, pretend to be German to feel like I am undercover. I also think that prices increase when store employees recognize that I am Swiss. Especially when I go to the organic farmers market at Kollwitzplatz. Is it just a feeling that I have? A Swiss inferiority complex?

During one of the parent assemblies, we were told what to bring for our kids to the preschool called Vorschule. (During the year before they begin school, children attend Vorschule. It means that they learn some basics in writing and counting once a week). I did not understand half of the equipment we were supposed to organize for them, for example, Federmäppchen (a case for writing tools), Hefter (a folder), and Riss which means a Papierstapel (a paper stack).

While I was watching my daughter’s favourite movies, I also detected that they often have characters with a Swiss accent in the German version. For example, in Frozen or Tinkerbell. I do not know why it is often the characters which are a bit daffy. Don’t get me wrong. I really like being Swiss, and I know I am privileged. I can live abroad and be very comfortable with my everyday life here in Berlin. However, I can comprehend how many people have to deal with prejudices, language barriers, and inhibitions. As a consolation, I will soon go to the movies to see the latest Heidi movie.

Appointment at Bürgeramt Berlin

How I got a new passport in less than 2 weeks

Yesterday I tried to get a new passport for my trip to NYC later this year. Therefore I had to go to any Bürgeramt in Berlin. But only very few ones are actually serving citizens without an appointment. The problem with appointments is that the next available appointment was about two month from now if I did not have an emergency.

In Case of an Emergency

An emergency would be for example if you have to plan travel and there is no more appointment available before you go. But you would have to prove documents the exact time of your journey.

Another emergency would be if you had lost your ID or passport or any other important document. But even in these emergency cases the local office can decide not to take you on without an appointment.

Unfortunately my case did not count as an emergency is there was an appointment end of August and my flight was only a few weeks later. But for my personal taste the time frame was way too narrow. So I decided to try my luck:

I waited one hour in vain

On their webpage they let me know that only the Bürgerämter in Kreuzberg are still offering a chance to get things done without an appointment. So I was heading towards the Bürgeramt Yorkstraße at about seven in the morning. I grabbed a quick coffee to go and was expecting to be one of the first in line. And I was lucky as there were only 10 people waiting in front of me. As I was waiting till about 8 o’clock send me an employee showed up. She was proclaiming that anyone without an appointment could go home except if they came for certain matters. Unfortunately applying for new passport wasn’t one of these matters. So I ask her what I should do as the next appointment I could find in the Internet was two months from now. And she told me that on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:30 AM until 8:30 AM one could go to their webpage and check for spontaneous appointments. Those appointments would be for that same day. I was skeptical at first and called the hotline 115 explain the situation to them. They were simply not aware of such the possibility and just told me what I already knew, That they were no more appointments in the coming two months. So I decided to nevertheless wait a few more minutes and to ask at the information desk what they suggest I should do. I explained to them that I have heard their suggestion but also that I got contradictory information from the hotline. And ask them whether they would give me their word that their information was correct. The woman behind the counter promised me personally that I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment as mentioned in the hallway. I left the place after 90 minutes and rode home.

A Lesson in Trust

The following Monday at 7:30 a.m. I was checking the website and I couldn’t believe what I saw they were indeed several appointments available for that same day. The fact that I would have to drive through whole Berlin for example to Prenzlauer Berg, didn’t really matter to me. I was touched that the two women have been honest with me and decided to give it another try in the following two weeks. A week later I found a convenient appointment which I booked successfully. I went to the place the same day, applied for my new passport, paid for it and was told I could pick it up for days later. And so it happened.

I found one trick helpful: I went to the appointment site just right before 7:30 AM and every minute I refreshed the page until the first appointments showed up. So if you do not see an appointment at first don’t despair refreshing your page might help.

Plan B

But there is another way to get an appointment. When I was waiting in line that first Monday I heard from a guy next to me that they’re even webpages on which one could find appointments in exchange for a fee. Somehow I manage to find this appointment service. The page Bürgeramt-Termine offered me two options: they would either find me and the following five days anywhere in Berlin at any time for €25 or do so in only 48 hours for €45. I register for the €25 offer and what I really liked about this page is that they with only charge you in case you really take that appointment. That means even if they presented an appointment to me that maybe would not have suited me I could have canceled that and would not have been charged. You can even let them know if you preferences for example that you’re looking for an appointment in the afternoon or on a special day but of course they will not promising that they would be able to consider all your wishes. So when after a few days they could not find anything according to my preferences they sent me an email and ask her that I would like to broaden my search. As I had already found an appointment I wrote them back that I would like to cancel my order. I would have done so before but I couldn’t find a cancel button. They said they were going to consider this for the future.  It was a very friendly communication and I can also very strongly recommend their services as I’m aware of that not everyone has the liberty check for one hour on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays between 7:30 AM and 8:30 AM.

So in case you need to get a quick appointment your chances are pretty high to get one. The only downside are that you would have to be very flexible and to take that appointment for that same day that you get to know about it and to be willing the drive through the whole city of Berlin. If that’s not possible for some reason all you can do is to arrange an appointment and wait up to two months if not longer.

Share the good news – There’s Enough for Everyone

If you find this article helpful please share it with our fellow Berliners. You might as well share it after you’ve got your own appointment if you’re afraid that this strategy becomes too popular and would make it more difficult for you to get one ^^. But I wouldn’t worry that much. There were plenty of appointment on every day that I have checked their page. And I checked on four days until I found one that suited me.

I wish you success and a wonderful time in Berlin the Mutterstadt.

Helpful Links

  • Link for those of you who simply want to register on time: https://service.berlin.de/dienstleistung/120686/
  • Link for those of you who would like to apply for a German passport (might be rather interesting for the Germans among you).
  • All other issues can be found here. Unfortunately that list in in German language only.
  • Take a look at the hashtag #TerminWuesteBerlin on Twitter to read about other people’s experience with the Berlin offices.

My Experience with smarterGerman

I recommend smarter German
die Garage / Image via Pixabay

The Beginning of my German Learning Career

12 months ago with bags packed, passport in hand and butterflies in my stomach i stepped into a plane headed to Germany. I was moving sight unseen to be with my then German fiancée, now wife. Guess how many words I knew. Yup, that’s right, about 5. Bier, Wurst and “Ich liebe dich”. Now I am the proud owner of a TELC B2 certificate with an excellent speaking score.

I was completely new, foreign, dependent and unable to speak the language. Needless to say i had very good reasons to learn as quickly as possible. So i rolled up my sleeves and got to work. With a few newly bought language books, a dictionary and naiveness I quickly found out the difficulties, strangeness and complexities were huge and well …terrifying.

Pushing through the difficult beginning phase i managed to achieve a very basic understanding of  the A1 maybe A2 levels in about 2 months. 2 months of 4-6 hours daily of self learning and slight interactions with my future in-laws. Month 4 I enrolled in a language course. In order to fulfill the visa and residency requirements I needed to pass the B1 German Language Test allowing me to stay in Germany. Because of my previous self guided learning i scored high enough on the entrance test to start at the B1 level. Saving me about 4 months of time and a lot of money. But i still had 3 months ahead of me.

At first the class was a good change and an opportunity to start using the German language, but it slowly started to become ineffective. First of all it was a 5 hour class 5 days a week. Very time intensive. Secondly there were between 20 and 24 other students. Although it was a culturally rich experience, as we came from all corners of the world, it also meant that each person was at slightly different levels of understanding and capability. And because of that it was quite common that the pace of learning would slow dramatically down to a crawl in order to match the pace of those who were struggling.

So paying a good deal of money, sitting in a class 5 hours a day and learning about 2 hours worth of information, it was clear that i was under-utilising my time, money and energy. I am not going to beat around the bush with this. German is a complex, specific, and very demanding language.  However so is any language if you are not guided properly either by yourself (one of the few) or a teacher. Better yet a teacher that brings out the teacher within you. This is were Smarter German comes in.

sG Taught me to how to Learn Efficiently

I came across this youtube video explaining simply and clearly when and why to use different past tense forms of verbs. The teaching was clear, the method was effective and it took about 5 minutes of my time. I was hooked. I went through all his videos. Each one gave me more insights into the German language as well as his teaching methods. Shortly later i started learning from him. Since i was already halfway towards achieving my B1 Certificate we set a goal of reaching B2. In the end after 45 lessons spread across 30 sessions I obtained both my B1 and B2 Certificate, feel much more confident and have a strong foundation that enables me to continue learning on my own.

Michael’s teaching methods are creative, effective, and quick. He is the teacher I needed and wanted. He taught me techniques to learn, showed me the short cuts and the patterns. He has passion for his language and sharing it. He challenged me to utilize his methods to become my own teacher. He saved me time and brought the language to life. 

It’s way Simpler than they Say

German doesn’t have to be as hard as many make it out to be. I am 100%  positive I could have saved even more money, time and a lot of headache had I started learning from Michael from the start. If you want to learn the language be smart about it. Invest your time, money, and energy with Smarter German.

 Patrick Boulger

A new life with smarterGerman

Meet Klaus-Heidi, A Swede who changed his name in exchange for a year in Berlin
die Flagge / Image from Pixabay

Klaus-Heidi learns German

You might have (not yet) heard of Klaus-Heidi, the Swede that is about to start a new life here in Berlin in 2014, sponsored by Lufthansa. All that participants have to do is to legally change their name into Klaus-Heidi. Unfortunately for many of you, only Swedes can (still until the 14th of November 2013) participate. But do not despair. You can also start a new life by picking up German (most likely you have already done so, why else would you read these lines) and learn it properly from the beginning. You know with whom. Klaus-Heidi does. Lufthansa wants him or her to learn proper German fast. What better program could they have chosen than smarterGerman? I know. I am excited about this opportunity and am curious to meet my student in January next year.

I liked the idea to take the hipster issue to a new level and adding a trace of self-irony to it from the very beginning. I will keep you posted. Meanwhile check out their sweet video (click on the link below) in which you can listen to a slight Berlin accent from the voice over and get an idea about what is considered a stereotypical Hipster-lifestyle.

In case you are interested in learning German, just contact me and we might find a way to come together. Please check my homepage for the prices and also read this article to put them into relation. A good start are my videos that are available for little money but already provide tremendous value if you prefer to learn on your own or are sitting in a German learning class struggling with the German grammar. It is all very simple, trust me. You can learn German, too. And it doesn’t have to take years. I wish you success and hope to hear from you soon.

Cheers
Michael Schmitz

Until Stats Tear us Apart…

die Braut - the bride / Image by NGDPhotoworks via Pixabay
die Braut – the bride / Image by NGDPhotoworks via Pixabay

I was contacted by a young woman from overseas asking me a delicate question. I wasn’t sure if she was serious but also wouldn’t want to take the risk to offend her. Read how I have solved the split.

Dear Subscriber,

it took me some time and effort to come up with the information below so I would like to share it with all the other women out there as I wouldn’t like to have to go through my stack of data once again due to future requests. Hence I will publish your question and my answer anonymously, so that you don’t have to worry about someone recognizing you. But be aware that comments of other users might be of unpleasant nature and therefore you shouldn’t read them if you don’t feel up to this kind of anonymous feedback. As you have allowed me, I have been as honest as possible. Here we go…

I was Asked

I was wondering what are my chances in finding a future spouse there. Im a very beautiful lighter skinned African American. Im nearly whiter than my ex white boyfriends if not the same color. How likely is it for me to find a mate in 4 weeks? Would German men be open to marrying me? Please be very honest.

 

My Answer

that‘s a tough question and as I am not really an expert in this field my mere opinion would not contribute any reliable information. But let me approach your problem from an analytical point of view spiced with a bit of wisdom that I‘ve gathered over the last 40 years. Are you ready?
Let‘s take a look at some facts. There are 81,8 Million Germans of which 50% are of male gender. Of those approx. 16,7mio are between the age of 20 and 50 which I simply assume might be your preferred age-range.

Now, there were ~378.000 marriages in 2011. Of those ~24,800 were marriages of German men with non-German women or roughly 6,5%.

The Top 10

Unfortunately the US do not rank among the top 10 of nationalities preferred by German men. That means that less than 539 marriages might have involved females from the US. That‘s lowering the odds to 0.14% for marrying a German guy.

So much for the statistical chances of getting a German guy. Now let‘s take a quick look at the odds of keeping him for a while before spreading the wisdom:

Everything Ends

While there were 24,800 new binational marriages (German male, non-German female) ~10,200 old ones were divorced in 2011. It took them 14,5 years in average to get divorced and women usually turned 42 before they took this step. Please take this under consideration for your long term planning. You can prolong this period significantly by joining almost any monogamous religious cult and by moving to a rural area with not more than 100,000 inhabitants. Also living together before marrying is beneficial to the length of your marriage unless your cult disapproves this lifeform. You should also consider to wait until you turn 30 (if not already) as with every year before getting married your chance of getting divorced sinks by 7% (men 2%). The final measure to undertake against getting divorced is having a child (minus 40%).

Interlude

So as you can see it is not that easy for a woman of your origin to find a willing groom and it takes a little bit of planning to keep one should you be lucky enough to have found one. But that‘s just the numbers. Let‘s breathe some life(experience) into them:

Odem

A few words on my background. I was actively married to a Polish woman (Top nationality in the ranking of non-German partners) for ~2.5 years from 2001-2003 when I turned 29. My divorce came through in 2009. I have a 12 year old son, am an atheist and live in the biggest city of Germany. So not all the above factors apply. We lived together for 6 months before marrying. My parents, though having had their period of separation, are still married, although I wouldn‘t take them as THE ideal couple. That‘s fourty years now. My grandparents have lived together for over sixty years until my Grandfather died happily.

Now, people marry out of different reasons. Let‘s ignore ,love‘ for now as it rarely is what people claim it is and even if it were what people claim it is, it can not overcome grave gaps in a couple’s attitudes and worldviews.

Die Katze im Sack

The question here is, why would you want to marry a German man, I mean why not an Italian or a Turkish one, not to speak of an US-citizen? Have you got any idea about the German culture and relationship traditions? What requirements besides being ,German‘ would HE have to fullfill? And would you like to have any friends besides your husband? Should they also be German? How would you deal with German culture that might seem pretty odd to you at times compared to your own.

Let me just take a quick look into your direction: What do you bring with you into the marriage? Why should HE marry you? I mean besides maybe being a good looking female of younger age.

 

Epilogue

Well, I hope to have answered your question insofar as my arguendo might have led you to overthink your idea of marrying a German man one more time to be prepared for the eventualities that might come up when undertaking such an endeavor. I haven’t put under consideration the fact that you would like to find your future husband in the short period of four weeks, which surely doesn’t contribute to the chances of getting things done the way you’d like to.

In any case I wish you all the luck you need and hope to be invited to the wedding in case you find Herrn Richtig.

Sources

  • http://www.focus.de/panorama/boulevard/gesellschaft-welche-ehe-haelt-wie-lange_aid_194737.html
  • Eheschließungen von Deutschen mit Ausländern
  • http://www.bpb.de/nachschlagen/zahlen-und-fakten/soziale-situation-in-deutschland/61538/altersgruppen
  • http://www.verband-binationaler.de/index.php?id=30

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