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Subject: soc.culture.german FAQ (posted monthly) part 6/6

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Archive-name: german-faq/part6 Last modified: 2001-09-02 Posting-Frequency: monthly URL: http://www.watzmann.net/scg/ Version: 2001-09
This is part 6 of the ASCII version of the FAQ list for soc.culture.german. Find the WWW version at <http://www.watzmann.net/scg/index.html>. The FAQ is posted on the first of every month. Table of Contents for Part 6 ============================= 23. Money Talk 23.1 Sending Money 23.1.1 Sending money to Germany 23.1.2 Sending money 23.2 Exchange Rates? 23.3 Tax 23.3.1 VAT in Germany? 23.3.2 Tax Treaty? 23.4 Currency Names and Nicknames 23.4.1 Mark 23.4.2 Groschen (10 Pfennige) 23.4.3 Taler (3 Mark) 23.4.4 Sechser (5 (!) Pfennige) 23.4.5 Heiermann (5 Mark) 23.4.6 Zwickel (2 Mark) 23.4.7 Pfund (20 Mark) 23.4.8 Hunni or Blauer (100 Mark) 23.4.9 Riese (1000 Mark) 23.4.10 Page comments 24. Moving! 24.1 European Resources 24.2 Taking a Computer along to Germany? 24.3 Taking Foreign Electronic Equipment to Germany? 24.4 Shipping Your Household US<->Europe/Germany 24.4.1 General Remarks on Shipping your Household 24.4.1.1 Other experiences: 24.4.2 Cars 24.4.3 Specific Shipping Companies 24.5 Things to take to Germany? 24.5.1 Some Presents might be Lucrative Paraphernalia ;-) 24.5.2 Little Things Easily Forgotten 24.6 Postdoc Experiences at a German University 24.6.1 Page comments 25. Urban Legends 25.1 I am a jelly doughnut 25.2 German Did Not Become the US's Official Language by 1 Vote. 25.3 Once I heard that 25.3.1 Page comments 26. Humor 26.1 Funny men of literature 26.2 Plain old funny guys 26.3 Younger guns 26.3.1 Page comments 27. Questions and Answers 27.1 Where do I Keep Up with German Soccer Results? 27.2 Ich lebe/arbeite fuer begrenzte Zeit im Ausland. Wie kann ich... 27.2.1 ...Angehoerige in Deutschland benachrichtigen lassen? 27.2.2 ...mehr erfahren ueber das Land meiner beruflichen Taetigkeit? 27.2.3 ...meinen auslaendischen akademischen Titel uebertragen? 27.2.3.1 Fakten fuer alle Bundeslaender: 27.2.3.2 Fakten fuer alle Bundeslaender ausser Bayern 27.2.4 ...mein Wahlrecht wahrnehmen? 27.3 Mail Ordering Other Stuff? 27.3.1 Software, CD-ROM's etc. 27.4 How can I Find Out about that Famous ... 27.4.1 Page comments 23. Money Talk Money in Germany mostly means real money, good old cash. Cash is used more commonly than any other payment method in Germany. Credit cards are accepted by many places, for example car rental agencies, airlines, almost all hotels, many gasoline stations, restaurants and bigger stores in bigger towns, but often frowned upon for small purchases. Many, mainly smaller, businesses won't accept credit cards because of their billing costs, so you better ask before you have to pawn your firstborn because you don't have cash on you. Businesses that accept credit cards usually accept all the major ones like Visa, Mastercard/Eurocard and American Express. Eurocheque cards (EC cards) are accepted more commonly than credit cards because of their lower transaction costs. You usually them from almost any European bank if you have an account there and fulfill certain conditions, similar to those for obtaining a credit card. Payment is guaranteed up to 400,- DM or the equivalent value in a different currency, but frequently higher sums are accepted when you present some form of identification. You can also get cash from ATMs with an EC card for between 0 and 4 DM per transaction. 23.1. Sending Money Getting money across international borders can be tricky. The following hints are mostly based on experiences of posters on s.c.g who needed to send money to mail order places in Germany / to transfer their funds when working abroad / for their own or their relatives' traveling needs / etc. (Says one reader:) As for financial transactions, let me point out that combin- ing various strategies you've listed really works well. For one thing if you have accounts on both sides of the Atlantic (or elsewhere for that matter) it's good to have checks of those accounts with you wherever you go. Here, for instance, I pay my bills in the US simply by sending checks from an American checking account. That way cash flow stays within the respective country and doesn't have to undergo exchange rates or excessive fees. To bring the money across the Atlantic international credit cards work great. 23.1.1. Sending money to Germany American ATM cards German ATMs accept nearly anything that's credit card sized and magnetic. Most German ATM's accept cards from one of the major American networks such as Cirrus. Ask your American bank though how many arms and legs they charge for cash withdrawals abroad. The German bank that runs the ATM in question will also want a cut, somewhere between 2 DM and 5 DM, usually. Transfering from an American account to a German Account" People have been able to transfer money from an American bank to a German (notably with Postbank and Raiffeisenbank.) It's possible to cash a personal check from a U.S. to a German account. The Postbank charges a fee of only 3 DM for one check, Raiffeisenbank takes out 15 DM. No other hidden costs, but, alas, you probably need to have an account with the respective institute for using this service. US checks must be made payable to the bank that cashes them. Sending a (e.g. American) personal check is definitely risky business, unless the check is a Eurocheque drawn on another European bank. Deposit with foreign branches of German banks If you are lucky enough to find a major German bank's branch in your city you might be able to direct deposit money. One bank that makes that work like a charm is Citibank <http://www.citibank.de/>, an American bank with branches in several states in the US and a fairly tightly knit network of branches in Germany. International postal money orders As of May 2000, the Deutsche Post AG does not accept international postal money orders anymore. If you want to complain about this, send email to their customer service <mailto:kundenservice@deutschepost.de>. Travelers checks Go to a local (e.g.) American Express office and purchase DM travelers checks. You lose a lot when you change your USD traveler checks at German banks. You can get single checks, 20's and above. No service fee, but a few points off the bank exchange rate. Make sure to fill out the Pay to the order of: field for security! Problem: You may not get the exact amount you need (DM 57.89) when paying, say, a mail order bill. American Express money orders Are well accepted by German banks. For long term you might consider opening a German bank account and depositing a regular payment with American Express money orders. Then you can pay German bills off of that account. Ruesch International Financial Services <http://www.ruesch.com/> will issue a draft in DM (and other currencies) at the current rate of exchange, plus a service charge of US$15 per transaction. Their services are for deposit only, meaning, the recipient needs an account in Germany! Call the U.S. headquarters <http://www.ruesch.com/offices/washingtondc.htm> in Washington, DC at +1(800)424-2923 to set up an account. Their website <http://www.ruesch.com/> provides a list of regional offices. 23.1.2. Sending money from Germany Cash advances from a credit card Some German credit cards let you maintain a balance on them by transferring money to a special account (ask the issuer of your credit card how to do this). If you have a balance on your card, you can obtain a cash advance up to the amount you have on the card, rather than being restricted by the usual per-day maximum advances. Depending on the credit card, a cash advance will then cost you the same as using the card for purchases abroad, usually between 1% and 2% of the total amount. Transferring from a German bank to an American bank Most German banks have close relations with at least one American bank and let you transfer money to any account with an American bank. You get usually hit with fees on either end. Deutsche Bank charges currently 14 DM for each transfer to an American bank. German account -> EC ATM Take along your Eurocheque (EC) card as long as you are travelling within Europe (and selected other countries; ask your local bank). Then you can get money from every ATM (Geldautomat) with EC sign. The fee is DM 5 for every take, but you get the interbank exchange rate rather than the marked down rates you get for traveler's checks or cash exchanges (shudder). Travelers checks You pay DM 10 at the time you buy DM-denominated travelers checks. Supposedly you should be charged no additional fees when you redeem them at your destination for their currency, which, however, does not turn out to be true in some places, as s.c.g readers report. Theoretically, in such cases, you can be reimbursed by your local German bank, once you are back ...what an overall hassle... 1996-10 23.2. Exchange Rates? On the web: o Xenon LAboratories' Universal Currency Converter <http://www.xe.net/ucc/> converts pretty much any currency into any other currency using daily updated exchange rates. They also maintain an archive of historic exchange rates <http://www.xe.net/ict/>. o Deutsche Bank <http://www.deutsche-bank.de/> offers a page <http://public.deutsche- bank.de/pb/kurse/nav.nsf/Frameset/UMOR-42HHP2?OpenDocument&ContentURL=/mis- docs/dbpb/deutsch/kurse/Devisen.html> of the latest exchange rates on their truly horrible website. o The Institute for Banking and Finance <http://www.wiso.gwdg.de/ifbg/ifbghome.html> at the Universitaet Goettingen maintains links to currency information <http://www.wiso.gwdg.de/ifbg/currency.html> o Olson's currency converter <http://www.oanda.com> 23.3. Tax 23.3.1. VAT in Germany? In Germany every retail price includes 16% Value Added Tax (VAT) (in German: Mehrwehrtsteuer, MwSt). If you buy goods in Germany and plan to take them with you to a foreign country it is possible to get a refund for the VAT. In some places you even get a discount in the shop. To get the VAT refunded you usually need some proof that you do not life in Germany (Passport ...) and a special receipt from the store. It is possible for Germans to get a refund if their Passport shows a foreign address. Then ask for your refund at the border or airport (if the store did not deduct the tax already). Please ask the customs people for details. This refund might be not available for residents of European Community member states. 23.3.2. Tax Treaty? The US and Germany have a tax treaty. This means that, as a US citizen, you only pay taxes to the IRS if your US taxes would be higher than your German taxes. So if your US taxes under your income would have been US$1000, and you paid US$900 to the Finanzamt, then you'd owe US$100 to the US government. On basis of this tax treaty German students, studying and working in the US, might be able to claim tax exemption for part or all of their US income. The key is whether you receive an assistantship or a fellowship. According to the US-German tax treaty special taxation of assistantships is limited to four years (maximum presence for these rules to apply) and $5000 per year are tax exempt (Treaty Article 20(4), Compensation during study or training.) Fellowships, however, have no limit in terms of time of presence nor in the amount (Treaty Article 20(3), Scholarship or fellowship grant,) i.e. as long as you receive a fellowship in the sense of this treaty your total "income" is tax exempt. Conclusion: try to get a fellowship. 23.4. Currency Names and Nicknames 23.4.1. Mark Supposedly Mark was a term coined in Cologne. People there used to put marks in equal distances on silver bars, and cut them at these marks if they needed smaller amounts of silver to pay someone. So the smallest fraction of one silverbar was one Mark. The Mark has gone through quite some changes with history: Before 1871 Germany was comprised of some 40 single kingdoms, each of whom had their own currency with their own name. 1871 United Germany comes into existance, and so does the Mark. 1871 - 1923 Mark (abbreviated M) 1923 Hyperinflation after WW1 causes the value of the Mark to drop by a factor 1,000 each month. At the end of the year, prices like 1,000 billion Mark for everyday items are common. A new currency was introduced, rendering old money worthless. 1923 - 1924 Rentenmark 1924 - 1948 Reichsmark (RM) After WW2 The four allied forces (U.S.A., Great Brittain, France on the one hand and USSR on the other) introduce new currencies in their respective zones. The former three agree to use the same kind, whereas the latter choose a different one. (Soon after this the two post-war States of Germany were established.) Period West East 1948 - 1964 Deutsche Mark (DM) Deutsche Mark (DM) (same name butdifferent!) 1964 - 1967 (same) Mark der Deutschen Notenbank (MDN) 1967 - 1990 (same) Mark der DDR (M) 1990 (same) adoption of West German currency 1990 - today Deutsche Mark 23.4.2. Groschen (10 Pfennige) The Groschen was an official currency unit in Prussia until 1871. The Prussian currency was the Taler (see below.) 1 Taler = 30 Groschen = 300 Pfennig (originally, 360 Pfennig, but this changed in the 1850s). The Taler currency was also in use in smaller states in northern Germany. Note that the Austrian Groschen (1/100 Schilling) is quite different from the German Groschen. 1997-01 23.4.3. Taler (3 Mark) remained a common term for 3 Mark coins until they were discontinued a few years before WW I. It has the same origin, by the way, as the US Dollar, the Danish Rigsdaler and the Swedish Riksdaler. (If you pronounce it correctly you'll still hear it ;-) Namely, they stem from the name of the currency used in the area of Joachimsthal in the 16-th century: the Joachims-Thaler. 1996-10 23.4.4. Sechser (5 (!) Pfennige) The term dates back to the mid-19th century. Until the 1850s, a Groschen had 12 Pfennige, and a Sechser was therefore half a Groschen. When the Groschen later lost 2 Pfennige and was only 10, the new 5 Pfennig coins were still, colloquially, called Sechser, which persists until today. 23.4.5. Heiermann (5 Mark) It appears that, in the 1950's, 5 DM would buy you some fun with a prostitute in Hamburg's redlight district St.Pauli. A colloquial expression for a bed is Heia, which is pronounced the same way as Heier ... 23.4.6. Zwickel (2 Mark) Casual name for the 2 Mark coin; some loved/hated politicians' portraits have appeared on its backside recently. (Strauss, Brandt etc.) 23.4.7. Pfund (20 Mark) A less common term is Pfund (pound) for 20 DM. This might date back to times when a British pound was still a pound and worth about 20 DM. 23.4.8. Hunni or Blauer (100 Mark) Very simply derived from the blue color of the hundert Mark note. 23.4.9. Riese (1000 Mark) Riese means giant, you get the idea. 23.4.10. Page comments View/add comments <http://www.watzmann.net/comments/list.php?page_id=27> 24. Moving! 24.1. European Resources European Resources <ftp://ftp.physics.purdue.edu/pub/scg/EUROPEAN.RESOURCES> is a collection of pointers by David Johnson that cover a variety of issues when moving to or visiting the European continent. Among others, there are: relocation kits, eurailpasses, international travel news, intercultural press, foreign newspapers and magazines, international employment gazette, the european (newspaper). 1996-06 24.2. Taking a Computer along to Germany? Will it work in Germany - different voltage, outlets? Is there a way to use an adapter? I know that works for hairdryers, but computers seem a bit more sensitive. o Do not (NOT) use the simple "converters" used for hairdryers, they sometimes are nothing but a diode that blocks every other half- period of the incoming ac. Great for heating coils, but a disaster for a computer. Either your computer accepts 230 V directly, in which case you only need a new power cable, or you need a decent transformer. It can be a so-called auto-transformer (without galvanic separation of primary and secondary,) which is half the weight and should be half the cost, but the thing must be rated for the power of your computer (especially the display, if you take that also with you). The transformer should be bigger than two fists, and remember: too big does no harm, except to your pocketbook. o Of course you know about the differences in keyboard layout, and umlauts in the German language... o Check the back of your computer about the voltage and frequency accepted. If it does accept 240 V and 50 Hz. No problem, all you need is an adapter for the outlet (BTW, they are easier to buy in Germany). If it does accept 50 Hz but only 110 V, you need a transformer. I've heard that the cheap ones from travel suppliers sometimes screw up. I bought myself a couple, but didn't try them yet. If it only accepts 110V and 60 Hz, you should consider getting a new power supply and exchange it in your computer. It should run well below DM100 to do that. 1996-06 24.3. Taking Foreign Electronic Equipment to Germany? If you wish to use domestic American electronics in Germany you will encounter difficulties such as: o The medium wave (AM) frequencies sometimes have different spacings (e.g. 9 kHz vs. 10 kHz). This will cause problems with digital receivers. o The voltage / frequency in Germany is 220-240 V / 50 Hz and not 110 V / 60 Hz as in the US. Improper voltage / frequency could result in serious damage. (Actually, that's true for most of Europe now, one of the cases where regulation is a benefit ...the states of the European Union have agreed to keep line voltages at 230V/50Hz everywhere;-) 1997-01 o German plugs have a different shape. While people from European Union countries might not have the line voltage problems, they are faced with differently shaped plugs, just the same! o TV uses the PAL norm. American TV uses the NTSC norm. French and British systems are different, yet. These norms are incompatible. Therefore foreign television will generally not work in Germany and vice-versa, although multi-norm (multi-system) TV's are available in Europe. (See `Audio / Video Tapes' for more.) 1996-1 Walk About Travel Gear <http://walkabouttravel- gear.com/wwelect.htm> do a thorough job of explaining which appliances need converters, which need adapters, and of course, they have some available to sell. 1997-01 24.4. Shipping Your Household US<->Europe/Germany Summary of a thread from Winter 1995. 24.4.1. General Remarks on Shipping your Household There are different shipping methods (besides airmail): Regular Shipping The regular shipping companies charge about 80c per pound for shipping from NY to Frankfurt. The more you have to send, the cheaper the rate gets. For shipment of less than 500 lbs, they usually use flat rates. For example, International Sea & Air shipping Co. (+1-212-766-1616) charges 1-100 lbs 101-200 lbs 201-300 lbs 401-500 lbs US$247 273 352 445 501-1000 lbs 1001-2000 lbs 2001 lbs & over 89c/lb 77c/lb 73c/lb If you live far from NY, you have to pay more. If I ship my stuff from North Carolina, the rate is much higher than the above rates. For example, DeHavens (+1-919-220-5441) in NC charges US$1.48/lb for 500-700 lbs, and US$1.35/lb for 701-1000 lbs. Several other local places have the same or higher rates. The good thing about these places is that their rates include door-to-door service. Discount Shipping There are some outrageously cheap shipping options for those who live in NY or other big cities. (See below.) US Post Office The regular shipping service by the US-post is much more expensive Than the above mentioned shipping service, but their book shipping option, known as M-Bag, is the cheapest way (under any ordinary circumstances) to ship books from anywhere in the US to anywhere overseas. They charge only 72c per pound. Each bag has the minimum weight of 15lbs and the maximum weight of 66lbs. You can put books and periodicals in these bags. The regular printed matter is excluded from this service, although its rate is still lower than those for other materials. Time to Germany varies from 2-6 weeks, so plan ahead. But for the price, you can't beat it. It is especially good for shipments of books and notes. Supposedly the bags get emptied in Bremen and the little boxes are sent individually; but soc.culture.german readers also have received the whole bag instead...Reportedly these bags take quite a beating, so tape the little boxes well! 1995-4 24.4.1.1. Other experiences: several quotes from readers of s.c.g I had about 800lbs of stuff to ship. I called several haul- ing companies and they would charge me between US$1000-1500. Almost as expensive as by mail. A friend gave me a number to call, where they charge only about US$250 per cubic meter (it's in a container on a ship). I called them and they con- firmed the price. I think you should get something similar from the east coast. Don't know about NC, but if you can get your stuff to NYC, there is a guy called K.D. Marreck who does shipments to Germany for an outrageously cheap price (I shipped my 5 large boxes with books, printer, PC etc for US$100). He cooperates with the German mover's company Kuehne&Nagel; I think what he does is he includes your handful of boxes in large containers paid for by companies doing large int'l shipments. First I was sort of suspicious since the ware- house, to which I had to take my boxes, was in one of the worst neighborhoods in NYC and looked rather run-down. But everything arrived complete and intact. Besides, I had got- ten the address from the German consulate in NYC, so I guess this guy is not known as a crook. The address: KD Marreck Intl and Domestic Moving Services, PO Box 43, Manhasset NY 11030, tel +1(516)627-0845, fax 627-6143 I am an air freight forwarder and I am most familiar with what you are saying. It is true that the warehouses (including mine) of freight forwarders are in the worst areas of town (for me Buffalo, NY). It is good advice to check with various shipping agents. If you are not in a hurry, tell the forwarder you wish to "consolidate" your freight with other oceanbound freight going to Germany. This means your freight leaves with other large shipments at a rate much less than usually charged. You can negotiate with forwarders.1996-01 Contact Panalpina in Washington DC. But make a conscientious decision what you want to send. Basically the bulkier an item, the more expensive it is per pound. My advice is to send as much stuff as you can through the mail, with the US postal service your local branch about book rates, and rates for sending things through surface mail. It may take a little longer to get your stuff once you are in Germany, but the savings are worth it. 1995-3 24.4.2. Cars Be aware of possible difficulties with finding parts or even just service stations for rare cars; rare being defined by the German market. Of all US car manufacturers, only Ford is presently in the German market to a sizable share. To get parts for a Chevy or Pontiac could prove very expensive. Japanese and Korean cars should meet fewer problems in Germany. Of course, practically all European car manufacturers also sell to the German market. Whichever way you get your car to Germany, you will very likely have to make changes to comply with German safety standards. The checking is done by, among others, the TUeV <http://www.tuevs.de/>. Their experts on car importing issues seem to be Herr Gayk, phone number +49 89 5190 3109, or Herr Schmidt, phone number +49 89 32950 931. Make sure that you can make your car the inspection before you ship it ! The following are quotes from readers of soc.culture.german. To ship your car over, in very broad terms, there are two ways of going: o shipping your car door-to-door with your furniture o shipping it separately. I chose the latter because it is much less expensive. When they ship your car with your furniture, you need a big container and in my case that would have meant wasting a lot of space. Another thing I did to save money is to drop off my car at the port and pick it up at the port in Germany. Finally, I learned there are potentially two middle men on the sending side - the moving company and the freight forwarder. I decided to eliminate the moving company and go directly to the freight forwarder. The freight forwarder does things like store your car until the next shipment and fill out paper work. The one I used is called Sea Bridge in Baltimore. No matter which way you go you'll need three copies of your title notarized front and back. Note that some readers report they didn't need this. In my case, the freight forwarder is going to make those notarized copies for me. In my case the charge for sending my 1992 VW Jetta GL from Baltimore to Bremerhafen is US$744 plus the insurance. The insurance costs 1.5 % the estimated value of your car. If I'd gone through the moving company, the insurance would have been 2.5% the value. I understand that when I go to pick up my car in Germany I'll need to pay some German port taxes. The agent at Sea Bridge advised me not to get an agent on the German side. He says that I could do the paper work myself in about 2 hours. I shipped a car to Paris. There are three ways to do it. First, you can have the car sent on a car-carrier. This is the most expensive way. Would have cost me about US$2000 to have the car delivered to Le Havre, France. Second choice, have the car shipped as if it were household goods - ie, in a 40 foot container. This way they deliver it to your city, and maybe even to your home. Cost runs about US$1000. Final way, and the way I did it - I had the car shipped in the 40 foot container WITH my household goods. Ran me an extra US$600 and I simply picked the car up at the shipper's warehouse in Paris. Call any major moving company for details. In Washington, try Security Storage, Victory Van, or Colonial Storage. For shipping cars US -> Europe you can try Sunship Interna- tional Harry Zaki (?) 1-800-344-9428 Aug '92: US$900 in 1992 I selected pick-up at home (in the US) and delivery to the harbor in Antwerp; it did cost around US$ 1000. I had it organized by Rainier Movers(?) (somewhere in Washington state); can recommend them. Last year I shipped my Mazda from Portland, Oregon to Bre- men, with the following costs: o Truck to San Francisco: US$250 o Ship from SFO to Bremen (via Panama): US$800 o Handling in Bremen: DM300 o Customs and Tax (Umzugsgut!): zilch o remodeling for Tuev: DM600 Transport: Bossi & CO. Inc., 80 Park Avenue, P.O. Box 69, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, tel +1(201)659-4471, fax 659-4325. Customs: Since I had owned the car for more than 6 months, and my residence was in the US, I was exempted. Otherwise it would have been 15% tax, 10% customs (22% for pickups) based on the value of the car. Insurance: my German insurance insured the car temporarily for remodeling. Remodeling: the car is a Mazda Miata, 1990. It's sold just the same in Germany. I had to change: bright lights to H4, turn signals separate from parking lights, brake lights need individual fuses. 1995-3 British vehicles need to change headlights ... and still have the steering wheel on the other side. But can't do the TUeV without having the headlights converted to continental type. Before also strict emissions testing ...1996-1 24.4.3. Specific Shipping Companies Abaco International Shippers <http://www.abaco1.com> in Chicago, Il offer special shipping rates to students moving over seas. Can also be contacted by email <mailto:ABACOINTL@msn.com> or tel +1(800)621-4504 A www site that might be able to help with most moving questions is www.vanpac.com <http://www.vanpac.com/>. Their site has lot's of resources on the subject. 1997-01 24.5. Things to take to Germany? 24.5.1. Some Presents might be Lucrative Paraphernalia ;-) o Jeans: A pair of l...'. is about US$30 in the U.S., while you pay around DM 150 in Germany... o T-Shirts, sweat-shirts, baseball-caps, mementos from such places as the Monterey Sea-Aquarium or the Museum of Modern Arts or the Air&Space or Smithsonian museum (or whatever is in your neighborhood) o Computer: software and paperback books about software and hardware. publications by your favorite computer users group (BMUG, BCS, whatever) o Books: paperbacks (non-fictional mostly), cartoons, cooking, travel guides, historical, biographies, etc... o Music: CD's are much cheaper in the US, especially if you do one of those mail-order buy 8, pay for 1/2 (and what do you mean I forgot to tell you about shipping&handling?), and some cannot be easily found overseas. Support your local starving-musicians and buy some of their stuff (CD's, T-shirts) at the next gig you in your favorite music hang-out... o Posters: from museums, art boutiques, Natl. Geo, Smithsonian o Magazines: Sunday NYT, last years Natl. Geo., Air&Space, Smithsonian, Architectural Digest, Texas (or whatever is published monthly with your state's name on it - with lots of pictures and local lore...) o Rags: CACM, IEEE, Foreign Affairs,... specialty rags (Private Pilot, Sailing, Woodworking, Beer and Wine Making,...) o Deli: Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce, KY Jelly, Tortillas, Tortilla Chips, Lemon&Lime Chips, Guacamole, Mole, Bagels o and if you are a photographer, why not make a couple of 8x10 prints of some of your best (sign them and put them in a frame) ?!? 24.5.2. Little Things Easily Forgotten If you need a Foreign-German dictionary, bring one. You can find German-Foreign dictionaries, but they are not as good since they are oriented more towards people who know German. The difference is subtle, the ones from your original country would probably be a lot more useful. Remember that the stores in Germany may only open their doors between 7 AM and 8 PM on regular workdays -- and not all of them do. They have to close around 4 PM on Saturdays, and all day Sundays. There are a few exceptions, esp. in the bigger cities (Kioske and they like); but those might prove hard to find if you are new in town. If you'll need something right away, remember to bring it. 1997-01 Addendum: Good places to buy something at off-hours are gas-stations. Most of them sell various groceries (not just candy-bars) and things like toothpaste or shaving cream. A lot of the newer ones even live up to a real 24h deli. In the past you could only rely on freeway gas stations to be open 24h, but these days, a lot are open 7 days 24h and only the really small ones close for more than 4-6 hours at night. 1999-01 You can purchase better Foreign-language tourist books in your home country than in German bookstores. (Maybe with the notable exception of English guides to metropolitan areas.) You might want to consider purchasing a calling card in your home country for calling home. Chances are calls to your card are still cheaper than telekom-originated calls; <sigh> Bring important telephone numbers, of course. You don't want to pay for overseas directory assistance. If you want to rent an auto, do it in advance, before you arrive in Europe. It is hard to believe how expensive auto rentals are in Europe (3-4 times higher than in the US, e.g.!) You'll have to figure out how to pay your credit card. They probably won't let you slide for 3 months. Many ATM cards work in Germany. This is probably the easiest and cheapest way to change currency. But don't depend on it completely. Bring some German currency. It's not always easy to change dollars, and there are often high fees. Some banks charge for travelers checks others don't. Best to be able to survive till you find one of the latter ones. Make sure that you have a place to stay for the first few nights. During major events (industrial fair in Hannover; Octoberfest in Munich...) all the hotels fill up for miles around. 1995-10 24.6. Postdoc Experiences at a German University All those wunderbar surprises that may or may not hit you, when you spend some time as a postdoc at a German university... appartment I am paying DM440 (+DM150 Nebenkosten) = DM590 for 35 m^2 in somebody's house. They have converted the top floor of their building into 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom and 1 room which serves as kitchen and sitting room. My understanding is that I am getting a reasonably good deal. I imagine that comparable space in an apartment building probably costs more. Btw, don't forget to ask about the Nebenkosten. The price quoted to me was just the DM450 and then I found out later they were going to add DM150 (supposedly to cover heating and water.) Oh, we always do this in germany, she said. I also pay electricity extra but it's not much ( DM30 per month). tax There are so many deductions that change every other month that I have no idea what I'm supposed to be paying. however, everybody else seems to be having similar amounts taken out of their pay. I estimate that all deductions *INCLUDING HEALTH AND OTHER INSURANCES* amount to about 1/3 of my paycheck. Initially it was about 1/2 until my tax status stabilized. I got the difference back the following month. insurance This depends on your income. if it's low enough you are obliged to have the government version; this is deducted from the paycheck. If your income is high enough you have the choice of taking private insurance of which the government will pay 1/2. your contribution is also taken out of your paycheck. I have private insurance at DM690 per month (ouch!) but it does cover visits to the dentist. As regards insurance (personnel not health), one is very strongly advised to get Haftpflichtversicherung (3rd party or liability insurance). It's the one personal insurance one is most strongly advised to get. Although house contents insurance etc is also a good idea. Cause any damage to anyone/anything and you will be liable. No question of going to court to settle a dispute, it is simply settled by insurance claims. If you have children you are liable for any and all damage they do (your child runs into the street and causes an oncoming vehicle to swerve into a telegraph pole or another vehicle. YOU are liable for all damage (to both vehicles, the telegraph pole, etc) ... DM 2 Mio was the minimum (1993), 5 Mio was recommeded. added 1/96 eating out Is horribly expensive. Cheap is DM15. Decent is DM20->30+. No refills for coffee. customary in the US. groceries and clothing Generally these are also more expensive than in the USA but right now I guess the dollar is weak and this makes it worse. Food shopping is not that much more expensive but clothes are usually quite a bit more expensive. Typical prices in a j.c.penney type store: shirts DM30-80, trousers DM80-150 shoes DM100-200. bureaucracy It seems that everything you want requires 10 forms plus copies of birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses (driver's license probably won't work) and whatever else you can think of. note: I live in Aachen which is a medium sized town. I'm not sure how much different the cost of rent and food will be in a large city. I forgot to mention something. It has to do with taxes/social security contributions in germany. Unfortunately, when I went to see the people in the administration, I spent about 1/2 hr and it was still not clear to me what the deal was but the gist of it is: There is some kind of pension scheme into which everybody (Angestellte) pays (Beamte get this automatically I think (?)). however, if you are here for 1 year only, you are exempt from these payments. It turns out that my contract here at RWTH Aachen will now be extended beyond the original 1 year. As a result, I now become obliged to make these payments and what is more, I have to make payments for the previous year as well. The bottom line of all this is that I have to pay (approximately) DM1000 straight down. This came without warning. I thought I would let you know in case anybody else asks about taxes etc; I'm sorry I don't have any more details. 1995-9 24.6.1. Page comments View/add comments <http://www.watzmann.net/comments/list.php?page_id=28> 25. Urban Legends 25.1. I am a jelly doughnut In his famous speech in Berlin, J. F. Kennedy, the president of the United States, announced Ich bin ein Berliner. This is frequently (and willfully?!) misconstrued as translating to the English phrase I am a jelly doughnut. While the German word Berliner indeed also refers to a German bakery deli, and a naive learner of the German language might be lead to believe Kennedy only embarrassed himself, it was actually never conceived in this meaning by the German audience. For a scholarly discussion, see the following journal article: Eichhoff, Juergen; Monatshefte, 85 no 1, (1993) p. 71. Ich bin ein Berliner: A History and a Linguistic Clarification. Summary: President John F. Kennedy's well-known exclamation has been often declared to be incorrect German, causing the President to be totally misunderstood by his audience. It is shown here that and why the statement, translated for Kennedy by a native speaker of German, is the correct and the only correct way of expressing in German what the President wanted to say. 1995-10 25.2. German Did Not Become the US's Official Language by 1 Vote. There never was any such vote. Dennis Baron, in Declining Grammar, p.218: In 1795, a proposal in Congress to print all federal laws in German as well as English lost by only one vote. Known as 'the German vote' or 'the Muhlenberg Vote,' after the speaker of the house who reportedly stepped down to cast the deciding negative, this event has been transmuted by pro- English folk tradition into a myth that German came close to replacing English as our national language. For a more complete account read one of his posts <http://www.watz- mann.net/scg/german-by-one-vote.html> to soc.culture.german. 25.3. Germany Once I heard that Mein Kampf is forbidden in There is no index of forbidden books. Legally speaking, this is a question of copyright laws. The state of Bavaria (claims to) own the copyright to Hitler's Mein Kampf. <http://ftp.utas.edu.au/docs/flonta/DP,1,1,95/HITLER.html> They do not grant the right to publish, copy, or distribute the book in any form, on paper, electronically, or on tape, in an effort to hinder the spread of the book and message. If you get any copy of the book printed after 1945, it was illegally produced and marketed. 25.3.1. Page comments View/add comments <http://www.watzmann.net/comments/list.php?page_id=29> 26. Humor It is a little known fact that humor doesn't translate into German. No I am not talking about translating your favorite Monty Python skit into German. I am talking about the word itself. Yep, German has no word for humor. Which makes life for German would-be humorists quite arduous. Lately, they have banded together and launched a website to celebrate their favorite food: das Butterbrot <http://www.butterbrot.de>. Stefan Raab, perennially trying to be funny, sung a song about a chain-link fence (Maschendrahtzaun) and its travails with its owner, Regina Zindler, and her neighbor. The whole affair has been amusing Germans ever since the fall of '99. Now it even has its own website <http://www.maschendrahtzaun.de/>. Not really funny ... Jokes aside, there is some humor to be found in Germany, some of it is seriously funny. Watch me as I give a taxonomy of German funny men in the following sections. 26.1. Funny men of literature The godfather of German literature himself, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, was known to crack jokes every so often. Anybody who has read Faust <http://gutenberg.aol.de/goethe/faust1/faust_to.htm> can attest to that. In a weak hour, he wrote a little known play called Hanswurst's Hochzeit which, with such illustrious characters as Ursel mit dem kalten Loch (Ursula with the cold hole), has all the thigh- slapping jokes one could ever wish for. Germany has also produced quite a few satirists, the most famous of them is certainly Heinrich Heine <http://gutenberg.aol.de/autoren/heine.htm>. Others are Georg Christoph Lichtenberg <http://gutenberg.aol.de/autoren/lichtenb.htm>, famous for his acerbic aphorisms, and Jean Paul <http://gutenberg.aol.de/autoren/jeanpaul.htm>. There are also quite a few satiric journalists, amongst them Kurt Tucholsky <http://www.informatik.hu-berlin.de/~goebel/tucho/tucho.htm> (have a look at An das Baby <http://www2.gasou.edu/gsufl/german/texte/tucho-1.htm>) and Karl Kraus <http://www.damaschke.de/kk/>. Wilhelm Busch <http://gutenberg.aol.de/autoren/busch.htm> is famous for his funny and satirical poems, which he also illustrated himself. Max und Moritz <http://gutenberg.aol.de/wbusch/mm.htm> is by now a classic children's book. Christian Morgenstern <http://gutenberg.aol.de/autoren/morgenst.htm> wrote poems (Fisches Nachtgesang <http://gutenberg.aol.de/morgenst/galgenli/fisches.htm>) that are funny and bizarre at the same time, predating Dada by several decades. 26.2. Plain old funny guys The classical pranksters from the twenties are Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt. Among Valentin's antics was a pun to protest the hyperinflation of the twenties: he wallpapered a parkbench with million and billion Mark notes and called it the Reichsbank. (I guess that one doesn't translate very well). Heinz Erhard was everybody's favorite in the sixties and seventies, when he displayed his very fifties sense of jovial, grandfatherly humor in film after film. One of the gems from these films is this poem, which he recites to a completely (and understandably) flabbergasted policemen: Die alten Zaehne waren schlect, man begann sie 'rauszureissen. Die neuen kamen grade recht, um damit ins Gras zu beissen. Another classic is Loriot who is a bit of a German version of Peter Sellers in his life skits. Apart from those, he has also worked as a cartoonist, written poems and directed some comedy movies (Oedipussy). Traditionally, most German humorists were Kabarettisten or political satirists. If you live in the US, watch Mark Russell on PBS to get an idea. Some famous ones are Dieter Hildebrandt, Gerhard Polt and Hanns Dieter Huesch 26.3. Younger guns In the eighties, the man was Otto Waalkes. Ask anybody who grew up in Germany in the eighties. In the nineties, people like Hape Kerkeling, Juergen von der Lippe or Tom Gerhard tried (and often succeeded) to be funny with plain stupid antics. A classic is Hape Kerkeling's dressing up, quite badly, in drag as Queen Beatrix of Holland on the occasion of her state visit and trying to get into the official state dinner as the queen herself. The TV station RTL <http://www.rtl.de/> started a German copy of Saturday Night Live <http://www.nbc.com/snl/> in the early nineties which launched the career of quite a few younger German comedians like Wigald Boning or Mirko Nontscheff. Slowly, Germany's changing demographics are having an effect on the comedy scene and there are several emerging comedians of Turkish origin, one of them is Django Asuel, who quite convincingly talks about growing up as a foreigner in small town Bavaria and the battles with small minds that entails. 26.3.1. Page comments View/add comments <http://www.watzmann.net/comments/list.php?page_id=30> 27. Questions and Answers 27.1. Where do I Keep Up with German Soccer Results? If you ask Thomas Hofmeister he will send you the most recent soccer results via email: hofmeist@zorro.informatik.uni-dortmund.de. His postings are also archived on a WWW-Server. <http://www.object- factory.com/Buli/> 27.2. kann ich... Ich lebe/arbeite fuer begrenzte Zeit im Ausland. Wie (Because this is only important for Germans, I write this in German. There are just too many special legal terms involved to do it in English ...) 27.2.1. ...Angehoerige in Deutschland benachrichtigen lassen? Im falle eines Falles...oder wenn einem sonst etwas zustoesst, kann eine Registrierung bei der deutschen Botschaft im Ausland hilfreich sein. Dort kann man Kontaktadressen hinterlassen, auf freiwilliger Basis, natuerlich. Keine "Meldepflicht"... 1996-12 27.2.2. Taetigkeit? ...mehr erfahren ueber das Land meiner beruflichen Ausfuehrliches Informationsmaterial kann als Merkblatt fuer Auslandstaetige beim Bundesverwaltungsamt, Postfach 680169, 50728 Koeln angefordert werden. 1996-11 27.2.3. uebertragen? ...meinen auslaendischen akademischen Titel Es gibt jetzt eine Broschuere, Anerkennung auslaendischer Studienleistungen und auslaendischer Hochschulabschluesse, welche kostenlos vom Bundesministerium fuer Bildung und Forschung <http://www.bmbf.de/> angefordert werden kann. Dort drin sind dann auch Adressen von verschiedenen Behoerden zu finden. Generelles zum Thema: o Zustaendig ist das Bundesland, in dem man seinen Wohnsitz hat. o Die Regelungen der verschiedenen Bundeslaender sind nicht einheitlich. o Das Fuehren auslaendischer Titel und Grade ist ohne vorherige Genehmigung durch das zustaendige Bundesland strafbar ! o In Bayern sieht es so aus: o Auslaendische Titel duerfen nur in der Originalform gefuehrt werden o Eine Konvertierung auslaendischer Titel (also z.B. M.S -> Dipl.-Ing. Ph.D. -> Dr. etc.) ist in Bayern lt. Auskunft des Kultusministeriums nicht moeglich. o Mit der Fuehrungsgenehmigung ist keine Anerkennung verbunden. 27.2.3.1. Fakten fuer alle Bundeslaender: o Um einen auslaendischen akademischen Grad in seiner Originalform fuehren zu duerfen, bedarf es einer Erlaubnis zum Fuehren ... o Diese Erlaubnis erteilt das Kultusministerium des Bundeslandes, in welchem der erste Wohnsitz liegt. Fuer Personen, die nicht in Deutschland wohnen, erteilt das Land NRW die Erlaubnis. o Die Erlaubnis kostet etwa 100-150 DM Bearbeitungsgebuehr. Die Bearbeitung dauert etwa einen Monat. o Die Erlaubnis besagt nichts ueber eine Gleichwertigkeit. Sie stellt lediglich fest, dass der Titel rechtmaessig erworben wurde und gibt an, in welcher Form er verwendet werden darf. Zum Beispiel wird aus einem Master of Science, der an der State University of New York at Albany erworben wurde, ein Master of Science at State University of New York at Albany. Gleichzeitig werden auch zulaessige Abkuerzungen mitgeteilt (Bsp: M.S. (SUNYA)). 27.2.3.2. Fakten fuer alle Bundeslaender ausser Bayern Es gibt noch den zweiten Weg (ausser in Bayern): Ihr koennt einen im Ausland erworbenen Titel als einem deutschen gleichwertig anerkennen lassen. Die Bearbeitung ist dann im allgemeinen etwas aufwendiger (laenger, teurer). Das Ergebnis ist, dass ihr euch dann statt Ph.D Dr. phil nennen duerft (oder auch Dr. rer. nat.). Die Details sind von Bundesland zu Bundesland sehr verschieden. Diese Anerkennung kann auch abgelehnt werden. In einem Beispiel (Baden-Wuerttemberg) wurde ein amerikanischer Master (in Computer Science) in einen Magister umgewandelt. Dies wurde mit der Studienzeit begruendet, welche kuerzer war als die Regelstudienzeit fuer einen Diplom-Informatiker. Wer nicht in Deutschland gemeldet ist, muss sich an das Kultusministerium von Nordrhein-Westfalen wenden. Es wird dann ein Nachweis verlangt, dass man wirklich im Ausland lebt. Da es in vielen Laendern (speziell USA) keine Meldepflicht gibt, muss normalerweise der umgeschriebene Pass vorgelegt werden (Kopie reicht). Andere Nachweise sind zum Beispiel ein Auszug aus der DMV-Kartei (im wesentlichen besagt dieser, dass man einen amerikanischen Fuehrerschein hat, welcher auf eine amerikanische Adresse ausgestellt wurde). Die Adresse in NRW: Ministerium fuer Wissenschaft und Forschung, des Landes NRW, Postfach 101103, (Voelkinger Str. 49), 40002 Duesseldorf tel +49(211)896-4335, fax +49(211)896-4555 Verlangt wird in NRW (wie sonst auch): Beglaubigte Kopie des Abiturzeugnisses und der Verleihungsurkunde fuer den amerikanischen Grad, Kopie eines Wohnsitznachweises, ausgefuelltes Antragsformular. Nach der Bearbeitung wird eine Gebuehr verlangt (war 150 DM). Ein Ph.D. wird in Dr. rer. nat. (USA) umgewandelt. Die Bearbeitung dauert etwa 3-4 Monate. Eine Korrektur: Auslaendische akademische Grade, welche in englisch, franzoesisch, spanisch sowie einigen anderen Sprachen verliehen wurden, werden seit neuestem, bundesweit, nur noch in ihrer Originalform mit Zusatz anerkannt. Diese Information habe ich einem Merkblattes des Kultusministriums in NRW entnommen. Aus einem Ph.D wird also kein Dr. (USA) mehr sondern ein Ph.D (USA). Eine Erlaubnis zum Fuehren des Titels in seiner Originalform wird immer dann gegeben, wenn die Universitaet welche den Titel verliehen hat im jeweiligen Land zum verleihen des Titels berechtigt ist. Die Gebuehren sind nach wie vor etwas ueber 100 DM. 1996-03 Eine Ergaenzung: Der vorliegende Gesetzesauszug ist der Paragraph 141 des Gesetzes ueber die Universitaeten des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalens (Universitaetsgesetz - UG) vom 20.11.79 zuletzt geaendert durch Gesetz vom 6.7.93. Demnach koennen saemtliche Hochschulgrade, staatliche Titel, und Bezeichnungen, die an einer staatlichen oder staatlich anerkannten Hochschule in einem anderen Mitgliedstaat der EU erworben worden sind, gefuehrt werden. Da diese Regelung sich unmittelbar aus der Richtlinie des Rates (der EU) vom 21.12.88 ergibt (89/58/EWG), duerften sich entsprechende Regelungen in allen anderen Bundeslaendern und Staaten der EU wiederfinden. 1996-03 27.2.4. ...mein Wahlrecht wahrnehmen? Der freundliche Bundeswahlleiter Johann Hahlen, Praesident des Statistischen Bundesamtes, hat in einer Pressemitteilung <http://www.statistik-bund.de/presse/deutsch/pm/p8130211.htm> fuer die Bundestagswahl 1998 die Bedingungen zusammengefasst, unter denen im Ausland lebende Deutsche an Bundestagswahlen teilnehmen koennen. Das folgende ist eine Zusammenfassung dieser Pressemitteilung. Jeder Deutsche im Sinne des Artikel 116 des Grundgesetzes, der aelter als 18 Jahre ist, mit staendigem Aufenthalt im Ausland ist wahlberechtigt, wenn er sich nicht laenger als 25 Jahre (seit April 1998, war frueher 10 Jahre) im Ausland aufhaelt. Ausland fuer Wahlrechtszwecke sind alle Laender, die ausserhalb des Europarats liegen; der Europarat umschliesst die Laender der Europaeischen Union und die meisten anderen europaeischen Laender wie Albanien, Andorra, Bulgarien, ehemalige jugoslawische Republik Mazedonien, Estland, Island, Kroatien, Lettland, Liechtenstein, Litauen, Malta, Moldau, Norwegen, Polen, Rumnien, Russische Foederation, San Marino, Schweiz, Slowakische Republik, Slowenien, Tschechische Republik, Tuerkei, Ukraine, Ungarn und Zypern. Waehlen darf nur, wer in ein Waehlerverzeichnis eingetragen ist. Da man bei staendigem Aufenthalt im Ausland nicht automatisch in ein Waehlerverzeichnis (ueber das Einwohnermeldeamt) eingetragen wird, muss man einen foermlichen Antrag auf Eintragung in ein Waehlerverzeichnis stellen und gleichzeitig eine Versicherung an Eides Statt abgeben, dass man Deutscher im Sinne des Grundgesetzes ist, einem das Wahlrecht nicht aberkannt wurde usw. Fuer jeden Antragsteller ist ein besonderes Formblatt in Erst- und Zweitausfertigung auszufuellen. Sammelantraege sind nicht moeglich. Der Antrag sollte fruehstmoeglich gestellt werden; er muss spaetestens bis zum 21. Tage vor der Wahl bei der zustaendigen Gemeindebehoerde eingegangen sein. Die Antragsfrist kann nicht verlaengert werden. In das Waehlerverzeichnis eingetragene Wahlberechtigte erhalten ueber die Eintragung keine Benachrichtigung. Ihnen werden ohne weitere Aufforderung der Wahlschein und die Briefwahlunterlagen ca. 1 Monat vor dem Wahltag uebersandt. Antragsformulare koennen von den folgenden Stellen erhalten werden: o von allen Botschaften und Konsulate der Bundesrepublik Deutschland im Ausland o vom Bundeswahlleiter, Statistisches Bundesamt, 65180 Wiesbaden o den Kreiswahlleitern in Deutschland Zustaendige Gemeindebehoerde, an die der Antrag zu richten ist, ist: o die Gemeindebehoerde der letzten gemeldeten Hauptwohnung in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, o der Oberstadtdirektor der Stadt Bonn - Stadthaus, Berliner Platz 2, D-53103 Bonn, wenn der Wahlberechtigte noch nie fuer eine Wohnung in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland gemeldet war. 1999-04 27.3. Mail Ordering Other Stuff? 27.3.1. Software, CD-ROM's etc. NBG USA INC. 482 Holly Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102, tel +1(800)624-8729, fax +1(612)290-9449 www http://www.winternet.com/~nbgusa http://www.agoralang.com:2410/nbgusa.html/ <http://www.agoralang.com:2410/nbgusa.html/> (not yet there 1996-12) email nbgusa@winternet.com 1996-12 Their catalog contains a lot of German software! Dictionaries, lexica, and other materials on CD-ROM, from the Duden Universal Woerterbuch & Duden/Oxford Grosswoerterbuch Englisch (US$180) to Langenscheidt's Taschenwoerterbuch English (US$60) to a generic "compact woerterbuch" (US$30). A tour of the Munich Zoo for US$20. An educational CD (in German) for US$25. A CD of German shareware for US$10. Some Mac and some Spanish/French/English stuff is included, too. 1996-12 Two of the biggest mail-order companies in Germany are reachable through the web: Otto <http://www.otto.de> and Quelle <http://www.quelle.de> 27.4. How can I Find Out about that Famous ... For German public figures check out the Munzinger-Archiv; a collection of leaflets containing biographical data of numerous people. 1996-02 27.4.1. Page comments View/add comments <http://www.watzmann.net/comments/list.php?page_id=31>