Tag Archives: Expats

Send me your stories!

After four and a half years here in Germany, I think (hope) I’ve tripped over pretty much every obstacle this crazy, wonderful, bureaucracy-loving land has put in my way. Each time, I picked myself up again, albeit with a muddy face and grazed knees, had a chuckle about the absurdity of it all, and carried on – writing a blog post or two (actually 154 of them) along the way.

Still, I thought, surely there’s a more bump-free way to integrate into German life? (I’m getting contemplative in my old age, you see.) It was around this time that a German colleague approached me with the idea of working on a German-English book together. We toyed with the idea of writing a dual-language storybook but I’m crap at fiction; I find real life is generally much funnier.

So I started thinking about what I would have appreciated when I first moved here, with around four words of the language and a naively optimistic attitude to becoming German. The answer was – a “German in my pocket” – someone who could answer my questions, tell me the right way to say something, and basically just guide me through everything from scaling the wall of bureau-crazy to figuring out which pizza toppings I was ordering. Short of shrinking Germans so people can carry them around with them everywhere, the next best solution seemed to be a book. 

So, we’ve written one!

At the moment, we’re adding the finishing touches, making sure everything is “in Ordnung” legally and financially (in case it actually sells) and then it will be formatting time. We’re hoping to publish at the end of this month – I’m working with a German so this will most likely happen. We’ve got 20 chapters, chock-full of useful information, FAQs, useful vocabulary and (hopefully) some entertaining reading.

Now, obviously I’m hi-larious but I thought a nice way to round out the book would be to add some funny anecdotes from other expats here – you know, to show that we all go through the same stuff and (for the most part) survive. And that’s where you come in.

Anything from the red tape madness to everyday adventures; if it’s funny, I’ll find a way to make it fit. All I need is a paragraph or two and the name you’d like to be credited under – this is your big chance to finally be Tallulah rather than Nora or Doris if that’s what your heart desires.

So please, have a think, take a little time to write a few words, and put them in the comments below. If you’re shy, you can send it to me at linda_ogrady@hotmail.com – although surely Germany has knocked any shyness out of you by now.

Making me happy should probably be reward enough but, if your story is included, there might be a few giveaways…

(Note: This is all me and totally unapproved by the German partner so don’t take any giveaways as a given.) 

Thanks in advance!




Your health is your wealth

After you’ve found somewhere to live in Germany, registered your address, opened your bank account, applied for a tax number and left your religion, the next thing you’ll have to contend with is the health insurance issue.

Having health insurance is compulsory in Germany. While I think this is a nice idea in theory, as someone who goes to the doctor maybe once a year, it can also feel like you’re sitzpinkelling your money away.

Still, you really have no choice on this one. Even if you decide to be a rebel, and don’t take out health insurance for a few years, Germany will eventually send the Gerichtsvollzieher (bailiffs) after you and you will owe the full amount of health insurance premiums since you moved here, plus 1% interest. And that probably is as scary as it sounds.

After the bailiffs have been round
After the bailiffs have been round

If you’re in full-time employment, your employer has to cover 50% of your health insurance. If, however, you’re a freelancer (like me), you have to take the whole hit yourself. Although there is a lot of information about German health insurance online, I decided to save time and just ask some people I knew who they were with. TK Insurance won the poll, so I looked up their website.

Here’s the general gist – your contribution is calculated as a percentage of your gross salary. Currently, this is 14.6 percent (general contribution rate) plus a TK-specific additional contribution rate of 0.8 percent. Yikes. There was also this rather confusing section on the application form…


What if I earn between €450 and €4,575 a month?

I decided to stop faffing about online and just call an actual person. When I’d hung up, I decided I probably would need health insurance after all, as the information had given me a minor coronary. Even if you don’t earn anywhere near €4,575 a month (which I don’t), they’ll assume that the absolute minimum amount you’re earning is €2,100 and calculate your contribution based on that figure – whether you’re actually earning that much or not. This would have made my monthly contribution €314.69 – and would have meant that I would be moving into a doctor’s surgery to try to get my money’s worth.

Fortunately, I’m a firm believer in ranting so that’s exactly what I proceeded to do when I got to the staff room the next day. As luck would have it, one of the other teachers had just sorted out his health insurance that morning, for the princely sum of €75 a month. This sounded more like it.

I went home and looked up Mawista. It really does exist and is an insurance company dedicated exclusively to covering foreigners living in Germany, for up to five years. Their “Employee Flexible” package costs just €75 a month and covers medical treatment, dental treatment, temporary stays outside Germany, and even massages (though probably not the kind with the happy ending). Essentially, it covers almost everything TK does, but at less than a quarter of the price. Sign me up.

I filled in the ridiculously simple online application form and was informed that my application was being sent for processing and I would have my documents shortly. This was at 11.38. I went and took my washing out of the washing machine and was just hanging it up when I glanced at my laptop. It was 11.43 and my documents had arrived. I was covered.

I haven’t needed to go to the doctor or dentist yet, but hey, I think I might just start going once a month anyway. I may as well try to get some use out of the €75 a month that I would otherwise be spending on wine and cake…

Delicious tooth decay
Delicious tooth decay


Useful information for foreigners living in Germany can be found here