Buying an apartment in Germany is an experience all in itself. Once the contract is signed, there’s an extra special perk: membership in the German home owner’s association for your particular building. You might know it as the “body corporate”, “condominium corporation”, “strata council” or “commonhold” in other countries. Once you’ve bought an apartment in Germany, you’ll come to know it fondly as the “WEG”, that is, the “Wohnungseigentümergemeinschaft”. So… what exactly will you be getting yourself into? How does it work? And will you ever get out alive?
Those pesky 90 days in the Schengen region, they disappear so quickly. Now time is running out and I really want to stay, just a bit longer – can I extend a Schengen Visa? Can I get my leftover Schengen tourist days once my resident permit expires? And what is this bilateral visa waiver thing I keep hearing about? WARNING: This post doesn’t have all the answers. But it’s a bloody interesting read all the same.
Fierce mums and fragile mums, old mums and new mums, expat mums, proud mums, despairing mums, exhausted mums, mums with empty nests and mums-to-be – I salute you. Because I think you’re so terrific, I’ve decided to honour you with a 50% discount on Skype Coaching and Life Admin services for the next week – so until midnight on Mother’s Day, 13th May 2018.
Life admin – it’s something everyone has to deal with. Correspondence, finance, tax, registration forms, paying bills, etc. It’s so necessary and so painful. And in a foreign language? Excruciating. Getting the answers you want feels like banging your head against a brick wall. It’s hard to talk to customer service without getting shut down for not speaking German. The credibility of replies on English-language social media forums is questionable at best. Lately, I’ve been getting all sorts of requests for help with expat life admin tasks, things like “can I pay you to sort out this billing issue?”, “I got a scary letter from the Finanzamt, can you help me understand it?” or “Can you find me a medical specialist who speaks English?” I can, I can and I can! Introducing Life Admin from Red Tape Translation.
What’s the difference between a regular interpreter and a court-sworn interpreter? Why do some offices insist on using “official” interpreters? And why do they cost so much more? I finally feel adequately informed to answer this question, because I’m in the middle of my vocational training to become a court-sworn interpreter. And it is no pony ride, let me assure you.
This type of request has been popping up with surprising frequency. Here’s how it usually goes down. A customer who doesn’t speak German gets approval for a loan from a bank, either alone or as part of a joint purchase, and everything is ready to go except for one thing: the bank sends the loan documents with a requirement for a statement from a court-sworn interpreter. The statement should declare that the interpreter has read out the terms of the loan to the client in English and that the client has understood them. Why is this requirement from banks causing such waves of panic in the interpreting industry?
The British Ambassador Sir Simon Wood met with concerned British citizens in Berlin at the British Embassy on 13th February 2018 to talk about the latest news on Brexit and freedom of movement, after the agreements of December 2017. Here’s what we found out:
- British citizens resident in Germany before Brexit will still have access to reciprocal health care (EHIC, reimbursement arrangements, etc), pension payments and other state-funded benefits (e.g. child benefits).
- British citizens who have been living in Germany for more than 5 years will be granted permanent residence. Brits registered as living in Germany before March 2019 will be able to stay and can then apply for permanent residence once they have reached the 5-year mark.
- Permanent residency is not freedom of movement. It only applies to the Federal Republic of Germany and can lapse if you leave Germany and deregister. Then, if you return, you might have to start from scratch with a regular residence permit and wait 5 or 8 years before achieving permanent residency.
- Frontier workers have protected rights as long as they continue to be frontier workers, if they were working across borders before Brexit.
- Family reunification (parents, partners, children) is possible up until Brexit, even if the children are born after Brexit. Partners are defined as being “in a durable relationship” and must have commenced their relationship before Brexit.
- Those wishing to apply for German citizenship will be able to do so after being in Germany for 8 years and holding permanent residency.
- British citizens who have already fulfilled this 8-year term and wish to have German citizenship are encouraged to apply for it ASAP. If the citizenship application is approved while Britain is still an EU member state, dual citizenship is not an issue. After this, it is not clear whether dual nationality will be tolerated or not.
- Reciprocal agreements in education (e.g. ERASMUS) should continue.
- The embassy expects further clarification before October 2018 – all decisions have to have been made by then so that the agreement can be ratified in time for Brexit in March 2019.
- The Berlin senate representative assured British citizens that they are “all Berliners” in the eyes of the Senate. Well, ain’t that nice!
If you want some help putting together your citizenship application, get in touch!
I have a confession to make. I applied to join the Factory some months ago, and my application was rejected… I sulked for a week. It was probably just bad timing, but the Factory Berlin was never far from my mind. I ran into a few friends who flaunted their coveted memberships and got a hot tip from one of them – I should reapply, as they’ve just opened a brand new building, and the timing is golden.
I sent off a killer application, added a healthy dose of Vitamin B, and within a week, I got the green light!
Hello friends and supporters, welcome to the new year in Germany. Enjoy the occasional thick and fluffy snow and when things get a bit slippery and scary on the icy streets, grab yourselves a pair of Yaktrax traction cleats – you won’t regret it. I spent some time abroad in the southern hemisphere facilitating valuable synergies (ie. visiting the fam in Australia). There, I received my yearly fix of Vitamin D, which is important for getting through February in Berlin.
Germany is a country that prizes qualifications: a piece of paper that says you’ve earned a degree, done an internship or completed vocational training. I’ve got a Bachelor of Music to my name, but that doesn’t necessarily look so interesting when you’re trying to tell the Agentur für Arbeit that you want to start a business as a translator and interpreter. I might not have a business or translation qualification on paper, but being an opera singer is a lot like being founder, customer service rep, market analyst, administrator, translator and accountant all in one. So founding Red Tape Translation wasn’t that much of a leap, even though I wasn’t officially “qualified” to do so. In this respect, it gives me great pleasure to be the person who doesn’t quite fit the mold, but still has the skills to succeed.
Dear friends and followers,
Thanks for a terrific 2017. Hmm, perhaps not the best year in terms of cashflow (let’s just call it a “spending year”, shall we?), but an unbelievably significant one in terms of growth and learning curves.
With the help of the talented Laura Yeffeth, I launched a brand new website in June and it has been nothing but fabulous. In November, I celebrated my fifth year of business. Take a peek at all the things that have happened over the last five years. Whoa.
If you’re overwhelmed by all the different types of visas and residence permits available to you in Berlin and Germany, this short glossary should clear things up.