Moving to a new country is scary. But then you realise you’ve just violated an unspoken cultural rule and now everyone is judging you. If you’re in Germany, it’s not even silent judging, it’s excruciating public directness. Here are seven of the most common mistakes made by first-timers in Berlin and how to avoid making them!
Sarah arrived on the scene in rainy November last year to see what it’s like being an interpreter and translator in Berlin. She’s been running back and forth to public and legal offices producing translations at lightning speed, proofreading, taking notes, shadowing and observing the very best and worst behaviour of Berlin’s bureaucratic jungle. Because if you’re going to hang out in the capital during the dark winter months, then you may as well go all out with fluorescent mood lighting. Here’s what Sarah has to say about her internship so far…
What attracted you to the German language?
I always loved how logical German seems, especially in a grammatical sense. Learning about different cases and adjective endings helped me understand this logic more and made me feel like German was an exciting puzzle to be solved rather than just a big jumble that was impossible to wrap my head around.
You’re completing a mandatory year of overseas work experience as part of your degree. Why Berlin?
I’m originally from London, which is big and busy and diverse, so I knew my best chance of getting the biggest variety of German experiences was to head for a big city like Berlin. Although there’s something to be said for the charm of the smaller, more rural areas of Germany, I just wanted somewhere where it was impossible to get bored, and Berlin, with all its diversity, seemed to me like the perfect place for that. I’ve been proven right so far!
What do you want to get out of your time in Berlin?
I’d like to have enough confidence in my ability to speak German that I don’t sweat the small stuff so often. When you’re in an academic environment, you obviously want to do the best you can, but I think there can be a tendency to fixate on the smaller mistakes and overlook your achievements, which isn’t helpful or fun to experience. So, I’d like to get as much experience speaking German as I can so that I’m not so hard on myself when I make mistakes and instead feel encouraged to keep trying. I also still haven’t tried döner, so I’m definitely in the right place!
Describe a typical day at Red Tape Translation
I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day at Red Tape, and that’s half of what makes it so much fun working here. My day can include shadowing interpreters at their appointments, who each have different interpreting styles (and tips for me to steal). I also help with translations, usually of purchase contracts. Last week, I assisted Kathleen in translating 4000 words of dense legal German into English for a read-through at the notary’s office. It’s tough at times, but it’s rewarding to know that you’ve helped someone take a big step in their life like buying a house or getting married in Germany. It helps you to feel part of something bigger than just you and your German to English dictionaries. I’ve also gotten to research and write blog posts, sit in on Red Tape interviews and team meetings, and observe Skype coachings.
What are you finding fun about the internship?
I would say the variety of the internship has been my favourite part so far. Not just in terms of the jobs I get to do, but the people I get to meet, both clients and interpreters, who all have completely different stories, which I get to have a little glimpse of every time I shadow an appointment. Before coming to Berlin and joining Red Tape Translation, I had no experience in the world of interpreting, or even professional translation, so every day I learn something new that I know I’ll carry with me in the future. There’s also something very validating about seeing people in action in the field in which I want to work one day and getting to see them connect with others and do their jobs well.
What is the biggest frustration you’ve experienced in the world of translation so far?
This is a strange answer given that it’s Red Tape’s speciality, but I’d probably say German bureaucracy. I always appreciate how detailed it is and how it tries to account for basically any situation, but it can definitely be frustrating to have done all of your research and to feel as prepared as you can be for an appointment, only to be turned away because of a technicality! Keeping your head in those situations, and also making sure the client doesn’t panic, can be very tricky.
What is the most significant learning curve you’ve faced?
Learning to tackle legal translation, for sure. Although I’m studying German at university, we tend to focus on translating literature and articles. Purchase contracts didn’t quite make it onto our syllabus, so I felt a little out of my depth the first time I was presented with one. Translating legal documents has taught me that translating is a lot more than just looking up a word and selecting something that fits the context; it can involve researching and teaching yourself legal concepts, so that you can fully understand the English version of the contract as well as the German one. It also doesn’t help that some sentences in these contracts can go on for entire paragraphs, so I’ve had to learn not to run at the first sign of a Bandwurmsatz!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (The typical interview question)
The scariest question so far! I used to go back and forth a lot due to my lack of confidence, but I think if I’ve learned anything from my time at Red Tape so far, it’s that I definitely want to be involved in the world of translating AND interpreting in some way in the future. Ideally, wherever I end up, I want to be using all of my languages, and I want to keep doing things that push me out of my comfort zone a little bit (like making phone calls!). My year abroad has just amplified my love of solo travel, so I’d love to integrate that into my life somehow, too. I’ll have my degree and a job that I genuinely enjoy, and will maybe even be adding new languages to my arsenal!
The administrative team at Red Tape are taking a well-deserved break from Monday, 23rd December until Wednesday, 1st January 2020. You can expect a response to your calls and emails from Thursday, 2nd January onwards.
We wish you all a wonderful holiday season!
Today we’ll explore yet another area of infamously complicated German bureaucracy: business registration (Gewerbeanmeldung). A trade licence, known as a ‘Gewerbeschein’, is required for any newly-established commercial enterprise with a fixed premises. This also applies if you are self-employed (unless you’re truly “freelance” – what’s the difference?), moving your existing business to Berlin from another federal state or country. The Gewerbeschein allows you to run your business in the city in which you have registered it.
If you are a sole trader running your own business (self-employed), one of the managing partners of a business partnership, or a representative of a legal entity, it’s your job to take care of the business registration. Here’s everything you need to know.
Which documents do you need to register your business?
- Proof of identity – either an ID card (Personalausweis) or your passport together with your certificate of registration (Meldebescheinigung) – in some cases, you can declare your identity online.
- The business registration form (Gewerbeanmeldung), filled out – either get it from the local district office, download it electronically to print and fill out or fill it out and submit it online in certain states – see below.
- Residence permit – if you’re a non-EU foreign national, you’ll need to present your residence permit. Make sure it allows self-employment – it should say Selbstständigkeit erstattet or Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet.
- Excerpt from the Trade Register – if the business is listed in the Trade Register, you’ll need to provide the excerpt proving this. For businesses listed in foreign trade registers, you’ll need to provide both the excerpt and a certified German translation.
- To register a legal entity that is still in the process of being established, you’ll need to present a statement of approval from the partners.
- To register a legal entity with multiple representatives, you will need to fill out a supplementary sheet for registering representatives.
NB: To register a foreign business in Germany, you’ll need to have a domestic representative present your paperwork, along with a power of attorney and details of a German address for the business.
Can it be done online?
In 14 out of the 16 German Federal states, you can submit this application online. Each state varies – some allow you to sign it digitally, others need your original signature. If you’re applying in Berlin, there’s a brand new online process, available in English. We’ve tested it out, it takes around 15-20 minutes and is very comprehensive! There’s also no need to print and sign anything as there is a declaration of identity (Identitätserklärung) at the very end. After you’ve paid, you should receive an email confirming your business registration within a few days.
Where can you register your business in person?
If you need to talk to a human, you can still book an appointment at your district office (Bezirksamt). However, unlike registering your address (Anmeldung einer Wohnung), which can be done at any Bezirksamt, you will have to go to your local district office. This means the district office of your business’ premises, not your home address. If you live in Pankow but you want your business registered at your co-working space in Neukölln, go to Neukölln!
How much will it cost you?
The cost of registering your business varies slightly depending on the Federal state, type of business, number of legal representatives and chosen registration process.
The prices in Berlin are as follows:
- Sole traders – EUR 26.00
- Business partnerships – EUR 26.00 per partner
- Legal entities with one legal representative – EUR 31.00 (plus an additional EUR 13.00 for each additional representative)
- Online business registration – EUR 15.00
Book a Skype coaching if you’d like some help getting through the online business registration process. Submitting the form usually takes about 15-20 minutes and once completed, we’ll help you get a self-employed tax number and take you through the basics of staying compliant as a business owner in Germany.
Caroline and Rick thought Berlin was pretty special and loved the idea of getting married in Germany. But they weren’t even sure if it was possible. Neither of them is a resident, and neither of them is German. They scoured the internet and eventually asked a German lawyer for help, who in turn told them to get in touch with Red Tape Translation. Turns out, it absolutely is possible. We guided them through the whole process, helped communicate with florists and hairdressers and saw it through in a beautiful ceremony in Berlin Charlottenburg.
From the moment he graced the Red Tape office with his booming, resonant baritone and unconventional passion for recycling, Thomas brought a particular flair to business operations. He kicked a bunch of processes into shape and was known and loved by clients for his signature phrase, “we will gladly handle that for you”. Here are some things clients say when they rave about Thomas:… Read More
Time flies! 6 months have gone by since Fiona Gillespie started her internship at Red Tape Translation. We asked her to contemplate her time at work, her blossoming relationship with Berlin and of course, her future.
What was the highlight of the internship?
There have been so many highlights in my 6 months with Red Tape Translation. I think the main highlight for me has been the variety of it all. I’ve worked on translations from purchase contracts to cannabis permits, booked swimming lessons and law consultations as well as observed declarations of paternity and many appointments with notaries on the Ku’damm. Oh, and also a trip to prison! I never could have imagined how varied each day would be. The 6 months have flown by and I feel like I will leave with a wealth of experience and good tips.
Which situation really challenged you?
At least to begin with, I think German phone calls were the most challenging. There’s something quite daunting about speaking on the phone in a foreign language and not having the luxury of being able to lip read – I didn’t realise how much we read people’s lips and facial expressions when we communicate. With that being said, no phone call was a failure! I set myself up beforehand with all the vocab that could crop up and made sure I didn’t leave a phone call until I had the answers I needed. It’s important to remember a phone call is just two people on the phone and the person on the other end will more than likely be encouraging and helpful. Mission accomplished!
Which achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the volume of documents I’ve translated (with amazing feedback and support from Kathleen). During my studies at university we normally just translate small newspaper articles or website extracts. This meant that coming from university into something professional was quite the leap! I really feel as though I have learned so much about translation and the feedback is something I will carry through the rest of my studies.
What advice would you give to an intern getting started in the translation and interpreting world?
A few tips:
- Stay organised – sometimes there can be a few different projects overlapping. I am a big fan of checklists and to-do lists to keep me on track.
- Always make some time to go over the feedback given on your documents. Even if it took me a week or so before I got a few minutes to go back over a document, it is really important to try to take in as much of the feedback as you can. Try to apply the feedback to your next documents – I am always working on this!
- Have fun! Enjoy the variety of it all and make the most of observing appointments. Ask the interpreters questions about the appointment and also their interpreting style. Everyone has slightly different ways of doing things and there are always things to be taken away from these appointments. It has been a real joy to be a fly on the wall with so many interpreters.
What’s next for you?
After I finish up with Red Tape Translation in mid-July, I then have five weeks to enjoy the summer in Berlin! I know it will be amazing and I have an endless to-do list of places I want to visit in the city. There are a few trips planned to other cities in Europe and then, before I know it, I will be on a plane back to Glasgow to enter my Junior Honours year of MA German and Spanish at the University of Glasgow. I know I will miss Berlin when I get home, so I need to make the most of my time here. In 2020, I look forward to spending a semester abroad in a Spanish-speaking country to try to brush up on the Spanish I have somewhat neglected.
Overall my experience in Berlin has been incredible and I have Kathleen and the amazing team at Red Tape Translation to thank for that. This city has given me so many strokes of luck and it will always have a piece of my heart! Bis zum nächsten Mal, Berlin!
Here’s a collection of all the observations, tips, tricks, anecdotes and commentary written by myself and my British peers, all of whom are entangled in Brexit one way or another.
At the turn of 2019 we gave you Six Tips for Skittish Brits in the wake of the forthcoming Brexit deadline.
Interpreter and singer Suzy Fischer played her cards right for early German citizenship.
Eight months after submitting her citizenship application, Katie Kruse received a curious letter.
Spurred on by her generosity of spirit and emboldened by her dual citizenship, Katie regaled us on how to pass the citizenship test with flying colours.
Back in 2014, I visited a handful Kitas while 5 months pregnant. I signed up at a few. I emailed my desired Kita every 8 weeks for a year after the initial meeting. I applied for a childcare voucher (Kitagutschein) 9 months early, the earliest possible date you can apply. When it arrived, we emailed it directly to our Kita of choice. It was a full-time voucher (7-9 hours). It seemed we ticked the right boxes, for a day after doing this, my daughter got an offer for a full-time spot. In the weeks that followed, we were offered a place in three other Kitas for the upcoming summer. I patted myself on the back for my superior organisational skills and that was that. But that was then and this is now.
November 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berliner Mauer, the wall that divided Germany’s capital city for around 28 years. Berlin will host a whole series of events throughout 2019, in particular throughout November, to take a look back at the events that unfolded. If you plan to be around in the fall of 2019, it’s going to be a pretty special time to be in Berlin. … Read More
A minimum wage (Mindestlohn) has already existed in many European countries for quite a while. Despite this, its introduction in Germany only happened very recently. In 2015, negotiations between the CDU, CSU and SPD saw a minimum wage of €8.50 introduced to Germany in accordance with the Act Regulating a General Minimum Wage. Over the following years, it increased gradually. Right now, it is 9.19 EUR per hour. As of 1 January 2020, it will increase to €9.35 per hour. Some industries have been given a transition period before becoming compliant.
In April 2012, I became a bride. My honeymoon trip to my native Australia was going to be particularly special – not just because I got to spend two weeks of wedded bliss with my dashing new groom, but also because we were going to be two of the first customers to set foot in Berlin Brandenburg airport. We were scheduled to depart from Tegel and return to BER 20 days later. Well, kids, I’ve now been married for seven years, I have two children, though I am yet to set foot in Berlin Brandenburg airport. Here’s what happened.