Tag Archives: Organisation

Living with a German

After you’ve moved in with a German, the next logical step is actually living with him, complete with all of his goibles (German foibles). Manfredas will be delighted to learn that I’ve spent the last few months discreetly observing (and photographing) his unique German ways, and have compiled a short list of what it’s like to live with a German man.

Please note: This post may contain sweeping generalisations…

1. German men really love doing laundry

In my previous apartment, I didn’t have a washing machine in the flat. Instead, I had to buy a token from the Hausmeister (for €3.50 a pop, no less) and haul my washing down to the basement. So, I was rather chuffed that we would have our very own washing machine in the bathroom, which I could use whenever I pleased.

Yeah, right. Enter German man.

Me: What are you doing? 

Manfredas: Putting on a wash.

Me: Didn’t you just do a wash? 

Manfredas: Yes, but after this one, I’ll be good for the week.

Me: Uh huh.

One day later:

Me: What are you doing? 

Manfredas: Putting on a wash.

Me: You just did two loads! 

Manfredas: Yes, but after this one, I’ll be good for the weekend. 

Me: Uh huh. 

One day later: …

2. German men really love Tupperware

The first time I went shopping after moving in, I bought some sliced ham. I got home, put it in the fridge, as you do, and didn’t think about it again until the next day when I needed it for my lunch. But where was it?

Huh.

Yes, Manfredas had found it, opened it, sliced the ham in half, and then sealed it in one of his (many) neat little Tupperware boxes. This might seem logical – most things Germans do are – but to me, it just meant that I couldn’t see the “use by…” date any more. So, my only options were to just keep eating it until I finished it – or it turned green and started growing hair.

3. German men love using dishes

When I cook – which has been a whopping four times since I moved in over four months ago – I tend to plate up in the kitchen and then bring just those two plates into the dining room.

A German man, however, will never use one plate or bowl where ten will do. So, we end up with a little bowl for the veg, a little bowl for the potatoes, a little bowl for the salad, separate plates for the bread, and a large dish for whatever the main course is, complete with separate spoons/ladles to go with each. While it adds a touch of ceremony to every meal, I’m also bloody glad we have a dishwasher.

Germans even wash the things that wash things.

4. German men love light

Like most normal (read: non-German) people, I like to sleep in a dark room. Germans, on the other hand, seem to have a disdain for curtains that borders on the fanatical.

Me: Jesus Christ! What time is it? 

Manfredas: Just after 6.

Me: Jesus Christ! Why am I awake!?

The answer to this, however, was obvious – flimsy little blinds that prevent the neighbours from peering in but flood the room with sunlight at a time when I should be far away in the land of Nod. After a friendly discussion or two, I’m happy to announce that we now have blackout curtains, and Berlin can relax safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to fly into a murderous rage due to lack of sleep.

5. German men love gadgets

As someone who hates all kinds of housework, I was ecstatic to discover that Manfredas owns (among hundreds of other things)… A ROBOT HOOVER! Yep, meet the Roomba:

In theory, you switch him on, put your feet up and he goes around the apartment hoovering it for you. Then, when you tell him to, he takes himself off “home,” plays a triumphant little tune and goes to sleep again.

In practice, you switch him on, he immediately makes a beeline for under the sofa and stays there until you drag him out. He then hits a couple of items of furniture and goes back under the sofa again.

While I’m not overly impressed, if any of our guests ever chance to look under the sofa, they sure will be.

6. German men take holidays very seriously

As it’s only one more sleep until our next holiday, naturally, our conversation the other night turned to that very topic.

Me: Hey, is there a shortened, affectionate form of the word “holiday” in German?

Manfredas: NEIN! 

Me: Well, in Dublin, you’d say you were “off on your holliers.” No German equivalent of that? Urli? Laubchen? (The German word for holiday is “Urlaub.”)

Manfredas: Good God, no! Holidays are a serious business! Urlaub ist Urlaub! 

I realised just how serious he was the next day when I received an Excel spreadsheet of our travel itinerary – complete with petrol stations.

Me: You have officially out-Germanned yourself. 

And you thought I was joking…

7. Every German man in the world owns a pair (or several pairs) of these:

Badeschuhe!

Socks optional. But not if you’re German, of course.

So there you have it – or at least the first installment. In the interest of fairness, I did ask Manfredas if there was anything he finds odd or annoying about me but no, seemingly I’m perfect. Then again, he hasn’t read this yet.

Ah, the joys of living with a blogger…

 

 

 

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A very German Christmas party

Me: What time is it? 

Manfredas: 11.

Me: Ugh, I think I’ll sleep for another hour. It shouldn’t take more than five and a half hours to put on a dress. 

Manfredas: One would think not. 

Me: Grunt. (I hate it that a German sounds more natural using “one” than I do.)

We were being picked up by Manfredas’ boss, Heribert, at 5.30 to go to their company Christmas party. As there would be at least a hundred new people and a hell of a lot of German, I suggested one for “Dutch courage” in the local bar beforehand. Amazingly, Manfredas had never heard of this expression before so I smugly took my leave with four hours and forty-five minutes remaining to put on a dress.

Heribert and his wife, Fraubert (yeah, I know I’m pushing it with that one), were waiting for us so we hopped into the car and I entertained everyone with my charming Germish. Manfredas and I had devised a game called “Spot the Ossi” which we shared with the Berts, neither of whom are East German (Ossi).

The shindig had been organised by Manfredas’ colleague, who is known internally as “The Sheriff”.

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Yes, you read that correctly – the party was scheduled to end at 11.59. Not midnight, not 11.58, but 11.59. Germans…

We were greeted by The Sheriff and I craned my neck to get a good look at her over the vast expanse of her yellow outfit; I imagine it was how David must have felt when he met Goliath. (I was David, in case you were wondering.) Our names were checked off a list and we were given name tags, which everyone just loves. We made our way outside to the mulled wine reception.

Me: There’s one.

Manfredas: Correct.

A woman with hair like blonde candy floss was an obvious first Ossi-spot.

Me: There’s another one.

Manfredas: Correct.

A woman who had dyed the back of her wall of hair purple was an easy second spot. We mingled a little, with me attempting to be on my best behaviour. The Sheriff soon started herding us towards the main reception room, where the big boss was due to give a welcome speech. We took our seats at the Berts’ table and I restrained myself from commenting (too much) on the phallic festive chocolates.

Am I right?
Am I right?

The Sheriff was given the credit for organising the event and lumbered up to collect a bouquet of flowers. All credit to the woman, she had organised it with military precision and everything went off without a hint of a hitch. The food was amazing – honeyed ham, duck, cod, mushroom ravioli, an extensive salad bar, fresh baguettes, a veritable potato fest, and a choice of desserts with fancy descriptions that defied any logic. “An interpretation of Apfelstrudel”… Anyone?

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The endless supply of free wine lubed up my linguistic skills and conversation at our table flowed as easily as the booze. The DJ played a rather bewildering array of tunes and, despite one failed attempt to get our dinner companions to do the YMCA, Manfredas and I had a rollicking good time.

Best of all, at 11.59, the Berts gave us a lift back too, saving us up to two hours on public transport. We finished our night as we had started it, looking fabulously overdressed in our local bar.

I remembered to remove my name tag just in time and avoided looking like a total prat.

A taxing time

If you listen carefully, you can probably hear a vague wailing sound coming from the general direction of Germany; a sort of pained whine, interspersed with sobs of horror and confusion. It happens around this time every year. It’s the sound of new-to-Deutschland freelancers trying to figure out how, in the name of all that’s holy, they’re going to do their taxes by the 31st of May.

The funny thing about all of this is that I actually thought I was prepared. I’d kept every receipt, every invoice, every pay slip, and even compiled them into neat spreadsheet documents, which I’d not only saved, but also printed out, paper clipped, labelled, slid into plastic pockets and put into specific folders. (Just in case there was any doubt that I’m turning into a German.)

The even funnier thing about all of this is that Germany has actually tried to simplify the process by allowing you to do your taxes online. Yes, the Germans have created a lovely system, the rather ironically titled, “elsteronline.de”, “Elster” meaning “magpie” – you know, the birds that love to steal your shiny things. I keep telling you Germans have a sense of humour…

Reliably informed by Sheila, the Half-Naked Aussie, that all we had to do was go to the Finanzamt and get a PIN number, I was confident that this was going to be a walk in the park. Of course, the idea that you had to go to an office to get a PIN to use in an online system seemed to defy logic, but well, this is Germany so…

We chose a time, met up, and then spent around twenty minutes trying to find a replacement bus for a train service that was actually running. You might think that this makes us total numpties, but with the underground trains in seemingly permanent disarray, and the overground trains on strike more often than your average German ends a sentence with “oder…”, it was a pretty easy mistake to make.

Now they're on strike indefinitely... (image from tagesspiegel.de)
Now they’re on strike indefinitely… (image from tagesspiegel.de)

We eventually got to the Finanzamt where we explained to the confused German lady what we wanted. After around thirty seconds, she handed us leaflets and told us to go online and register. She didn’t add “like normal people” but I believe it was implied. I asked her if it was easy and she assured me that it was. And off we went; the whole procedure had taken under five minutes.

The fairy tale castle where the Finanzamt people live
The fairy tale castle where the Finanzamt people live

Eager to find out just how “easy” it was, I sat down that afternoon and tried to register. Following the step-by-step instructions (in German) in the leaflet, I was amazed to find that it actually was easy. I received a password by email, confirmed that I had received it, and Step One was complete. On to Step Two… oh no, wait, this is where the German part kicks in. Now that you’ve completed Step One, you have to wait a week to receive a second password – by post. Sigh.

One week later, I received a rather flimsy paper envelope with the words “paperless and secure” emblazoned on it. Ha. The people in the Finanzamt must be chuckling all the way to the bank.

Proof positive that Germans are funny
Proof positive that Germans are funny

I logged on to elster again and, without even looking at the leaflet this time, completed Step Two. I was then able to download a security key in .pdf form, which enabled me to access the system. About to pour myself a glass of wine to celebrate my ingenuity, I first decided to have a quick look at what lay ahead. This was the moment my brain exploded.

WHAT?!
WHAT?!

So, I used the “translate” button at the top of the screen:

WHAT?!
WHAT?!

Now, the thing is that, in Germany, you can earn over €8,000 without paying any tax. As I only moved here in September, by the end of the tax year, I was nowhere near this figure. Therefore, I’m not actually sure I have to file a tax report at all. However, this being Germany, I don’t want this to come back and bite me in the “amt” at some point in the future. There’s probably a fine for “not filling in forms that you didn’t actually have to fill in but because you didn’t fill them in now you have to pay” or similar.

So my current plan is to just fill in as many boxes as I can. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I figure if the Finanzamt people come knocking at my door at some point in the future, I’ll just email them the number to a P.O. Box and then tell them that in a week’s time they’ll receive a document in the post. That document will be this online blog post in secure paper form detailing the reasons why I failed miserably to cope with their “simple” online system.

When in Germany and all that…