Interesting facts about Germany (Part II)

Some weeks ago, and after some controversial comments of #germancolleague that I shared with you in Instagram, I wrote an interesting, funny post about the german language, culture and history, so that we all could better understand this beautiful country and its citizens.

Since knowledge does not take up any space, I am back to share with you more interesting facts about Germany, its geography, its beers and some inventions that we can attribute to this country.

Are you ready? Then, let´s discover more interesting facts about Germany!

Beer

  • The world’s oldest brewery is located north of Munich and it is operating since 1040.
  • There is a law about how to brew beer in Germany – The Purity Law (Rheinheitsgebot) allows only water, barley and hops to be used in the production of beer. This law came effective in April 1516 after the unification of Bavaria to maintain the “purity” of beer and to lessen the competition between brewers and bakers for the grain of wheat. If beer could only be made with barley… Less problems to get some wheat 😉
  • You can drink a different German beer every day for almost 15 years.
  • The Oktoberfest started as a wedding party – 6.700.000 liters of beer are consumed at this enormous festival, which takes place in September.
  • There are around 1.300 beer breweries in Germany, which produce over 5.000 types of beer.
  • Be aware of where you are when you order a beer in Germany – Each region and city have their own beer. If you order just a beer in Düsseldorf, you will get an Alt, in Köln you will get a Kölsch and in Munich a Weizen.
  • In Berlin you can order a beer which is not brown – The Berliner Weisse is a white beer with either raspberry- or woodruff-flavored syrup.

 

Geography

  • Germany has the world’s narrowest street – Located in the city of Reutlingen this street is called “Spreuerhofstrasse,” and it is approximately 31 centimeters at the narrowest point and nearly 50 centimeters at the widest.
  • Approximately one-third of Germany is still forested.
  • Germany is the fifth largest country in Europe, covering an area of 357.022 square kilometers.
  • Germany’s largest wooded area is the famous Black Forest –  A mountainous region full of pines and fir trees, which also contains the source of the Danube, one of Europe’s longest rivers.
  • Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany – Its name means “Windy peak” and you can take a cable car up to the top of the mountain to enjoy spectacular views of the Alps.
  • Germany shares borders with nine other countries – Germany´s neighbours are France, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.

 

Inventions

  • The first magazine was invented in Germany in 1663 – It was called Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen (Edifying Monthly Discussions) and it was a philosophical magazine.
  • Do you like Fanta? – Then you may already know that Germans created this soda during the World War II due to the difficulty to import Coca Cola during Nazi times.
  • It is said that the first Christmas tree was created in Germany – Rather than being draped with illuminate lights and candies, the original tree was decorated with nuts and fruits such as apples.
  • Coffee filter paper was created in Germany – Melitta Bentz, a housewife of the city of Dresden, started to experiment to find a way to prevent coffee from becoming too bitter. When she tried using the blotting paper from her children’s school books, she had her “eureka” moment. It was 1908 when she patented her invention.
  • Have you ever heard about Haribo and its Gummy Bears? – The iconic Gummibärchen (Gummy bears) sweets were invented by Hans Riegel around 1920. He used acacia gum to create coloured candies. He started his own company to sell these tasty sweets in the city of Bonn around 1922. In fact, Haribo is just an abbreviation of Hans Riegel von Bonn.
  • Germans invented the first car – Carl Benz´s patent for a vehicle powered by a gas energy is often regarded as the birth certificate of the automobile.
  • You can credit the Germans for inventing the accordion – Christian Friedrich Buschmann was a german musical instrument maker who attached bellows to a portable keyboard with vibrating reeds. Naming it “Handäoline”, he patented this instrument in 1822. The first accordion was used in 1829.
  • Handball – This worldwide known game in which two teams pass a ball using their hands with the aim of throwing it into the goal of the other team, was invented in Germany.

 

Your turn!

Did you know any other interesting facts about german beer or geography? Did you know that Germany is the country thanks to which nowadays we can enjoy all these great inventions? Did you know other inventions we can credit Germans for?

If so, share them with us by leaving a comment below or via Social Networks. I hope you liked this post 🙂 Read you soon!

 

 

 

 

Anuncios

Paternity Leave: Rights and Job Protection in Germany

 

A couple of days ago I had an interesting conversation with both an American and a German guy about parental rights for employees in Germany. I think it was an interesting talk, because it was really enriching to better understand each country´s point of view about the necessities  and labour rights of parents-to-be.

To write this post, I thought that it would be interesting if I answer all the questions that the american (let´s call him Sam) asked to our german friend, so that we can better understand how parental leave works in Germany, which are your rights during this paid time off work and, last but not least, which are the most important german terms you should learn if you are expecting a baby in Germany.

 

How does the paternity leave work?

  • As an employee, you are entitled to parental leave until your child turns three.
  • Both parents can take time off work to enjoy their newborn (or newborns). Therefore, the parent intending to do this must apply seven weeks in advance. Do not worry because during this period your job will remain open to you and your contract cannot be terminated by your employer.
  • Parental leave can be taken by the mother and the father individually or jointly. Grandparents and other relatives can also take parental leave under certain circumstances, for example if the future parent is a minor.

What paternity pay and/or benefits can I claim?

  • Mothers are entitled to full pay during the first 14 weeks. This is known as mother protection time. However, both parents can claim some parental benefirs if they are on leave during the first 12 months after the birth.
  • This benefit is called “Elterngeld” and it is fully explained together with other important legal german words at the end of the post.
  • Important reminder: Those receiving parental benefit (Elterngeld) are still allowed to work part time up to 30 hours per week.

Can I extend my leave?

  • Usually, changes to parental leave or unplanned extensions must be agreed with the parent´s employer.
  • The extend leave is known as “Elterngeld Plus”. In this case, parents may get 28 months of financial support if  both parents work part time up to 30 hours per week at the same time. If so, the applicable percentage is the 65% of the difference between the average nett income before the birth plus earning post-birth.
  • The idea behind the “Elterngeld Plus” is to  “give mothers and fathers more time for family and greater flexibility”, said the former federal family minister Manuela Schwesig.
  • Important information: Parents can choose between Elterngeld or Elterngeld Plus, or they can combine both models. Let´s see this with some examples:

 

Can I travel while I am in paternity leave?

  • From a legal point of view, there is no problem to travel aborad while enjoying paternity leave. However, if you plan a long stay abroad you should be sure that the Krankenkasse (health insurance) takes over the cost in case of illness. In general, german health insurances covers up to six weeks when travelling outside the country. Afterwards, you have to insure yourself and your family privately.
  • Important information: This rule always applies – regardless of whether you travel during parental leave or just like that – but many people tend to forget it 😉

I struggle with the germans word, could you please explain me the most relevant ones?

Mutterschutz

This is the most important word: Maternity leave.

The “Mutterschutz” is considered a period of time to prepare yourself to welcome your baby, as well as a time to rest after the delivery.

Some important information you should take into account:

1. In total, the mutterschutz last 14 weeks. As a mother-to-be you can enjoy the 6 weeks before the delivery to prepare yourself for that moment. After the child´s birth you still have 8 weeks to rest and to enjoy your newborn (extended to 12 weeks in case of  multiple births).

2. The health insurance (Krankenkasse) covers a maximum of 13€ per day with a limit of 390€ per month, the rest is covered by your employer. Let´s see how it works with an example:

Frau Müller (traditional german name 😉 ) earned 2.800€ gross per month during the three months previous to the birth, which means that she earned 1.950€ net salary per month. If we calculate how much did she earn per day during the past 3 months, we can see that her net salary per day was 65€ (1.950*3 = 5.850€/90 = 65€). In this case, the Krankenkasse covers 13€ and the employer 52€.

3. In the case that Frau Müller had a private health insurance, she will receive 210€ in a single payment.

4. During maternity leave you will keep receiving your salary (Mutterschaftgeld)

5. Your job remains open to you and your contract cannot be terminated by your employer during the Mutterschutz because you are protected by Maternity Protection Act (Mutterschutzgesetz).

 

Elterngeld

Elterngeld is a tax-financed payment for couples who became parents. This subsidy will be paid during the first 14 months after the child´s birth and it must be divided between both parents.

The amount of the elterngeld is based on the after taxes income of the parent which ask for it. A person who earns less than 1.000€ per month will get between 100% and 67% of his net income, however, a person with a net income higher than 1.240€ per month will receive 65% of it (with a limit of 1.800€ per month).

Who can get this subsidy?

  • People who recently became parents
  • Parents of adoptive children
  • If the parents of the newborn didn´t work in the months previous to the child´s birth, they will receive a subsidy of only 300€ per month
  • Multiple births – In this case the parental allowance increases by 300€ for each additional child
  • If the beneficiary earned more than 250.000€ in the calendar year preceding the child´s birth, there is no entitlement to Elterngeld

Elternzeit

Elternzeit is a paternal leave provided by the employer, which can be taken any moment during the first three years of the newborn´s life.

This parental leave can be a full suspension of working hours or a reduction of the working day.

Both parents have the right to go on parental leave. Let me show you some examples to better explain how it works (these are real cases of friends of mine):

– Example A: Some friends of mine decided to divide their Elternzeit between both of them, therefore, each of them took 6 months of paternal leave (first the mother, and the last 6 months the father). Both parents enjoyed a full-time paternal leave so that they could enjoy the first year of life of their son.

– Example B: Other friends of mine decided to divide their Elternzeit in a different way. In this case, the mother took a 12 months parental leave after Mutterschutz and the father enjoyed 2 months of parental leave, one month in August (to enjoy some summer time with his daugther) and the second month once his wife´s parental leave ended, so he could spend some time with his daugther before she started the kita (kindergarden for babies).

During Elternzeit both parents are protected by law, any termination of employment is invalid during this period. That means that neither the employer nor the employee can terminate the employment contract.

When should I apply for Elternzeiz?

7 weeks in advance.

This is easier for mothers-to-be, since they have 8 weeks medical leave after the child´s birth. However, fathers have to ask for parental leave 7 weeks before the birth takes place, if they want to go on family leave right after the child´s birth.

Your turn

What about you? Did you have children in Germany? Have you ever ask for parental leave in Germany? Was the process complicated?

I still remember the american´s face when our German friend explained him how does the Elternzeit (Parental Leave) works. Alhtough, to be honest, also in Spain we don´t have such a great work-life balance. In fact, this is a quite sensitive topic in my home country…

How does work-life balance work in your home country? Do you also benefit of parental allowences, elternzeit and such things? Feel free to share your experience by leaving a comment below 🙂 or via social networks.

 

 

Interesting facts about Germany (Part I)

If you follow me on Instagram you have probably heard some stories about #germancoleague.

Since a couple of weeks, I realized that he´s becoming famous and, at the same time, he´s generating mixed feelings among my lovely Instagram family. Don´t get him wrong, he is really nice, the only “problem” with him is that he never got the chance to learn interesting facts about other cultures 😉

So that you don´t have the same problem as my colleague, I prepared a nice and interesting post about Germany, its history, its culture and its language.

Wait! Do not run away! I am not becoming a history teacher! 

This post is a funny way to discover some interesting (and maybe unknown) facts about Germany.

Are you ready now? Keep reading!

History

  • Germany was once a cluster of small kingdoms, duchies and principalities – They were unified as the German Reich in 1871. Later it became the Third Reich and in 1949, after the war, the nation was divided in two parts: the German Democratic Republic (Soviet-supporters) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The 3rd of October 1990, East and West were reunited.
  • Berlin was not always the capital of the country – Before Berlin, there were five other German capitals including the cities of Aachen, Regensburg, Frankfurt-am-Main, Nuremberg and Bonn.
  • Germany is home of famous inventions  – The light bulb, the automated calculator, the discovery of insulin, the invention of the clarinet, the automobile engine, the LCD screen and the Walkman, among others.
  • The first printed book was in German
  • Although the population is on decline, Germany still has the largest population in the European Union with around 81 million people. 3 million live in the capital, Berlin, and around 18 million live in the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Region (Düsseldorf, Essen, Köln, Dortmund…). It is expected that population drops to 67 million by 2060.
  • If you look at a satellite image at night, you can clearly see the difference between East and West Germany.
  • Mattel produced a Barbie doll of Angela Merkel to celebrate her 50 years old – The Chancellor of Germany (since 2005) was ranked as the powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine in 2012. Will she win the next elections?

Language

  • German is spoken in different countries – It is the official language of the following countries: Germany,  Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.
  • The German alphabet has extra letters –  A part from the common 26 letters of the alphabet, germans have umlauted forms such as ä, ö , ü and the famous “ß”, which do not exist in English.
  • There are two main divisions of the German language – “Hochdeutsch” and  “Plattdeutsch”.
  • When JFK visited Berlin he said “Ich bin ein Berliner”  which can be translated as “I am a jelly donut”.
  • Dialect changes drastically depending on where you are
  • German has hilarious proverbs
    • Das ist nich dein Bier! – “None of your business” –  literally “It is not your beer!”
    • Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei – “Everything has an end, only sausage has two”
    • Ich kriege so eine Krawatte! – “It really annoys me”  – literally “I get such a tie!”

Culture

  • Germans are the third largest beer consumers in the world – After the Czech and the Irish.
  • There are over 300 kinds of bread in Germany – So if you want to try each of them, you will need approximately one year. Are you ready?
  • The Christmas tree tradition came from Germany – Here it is called Tannenbaum and every single german person has one Christmas tree at home, mostly natural not plastic ones.
  • Berlin, the capital of the country, is nine times bigger than Paris and it has more bridges than Venice. Can you believe it?
  • In German schools, once German kids  are in the 4th grade, they are placed into Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium, which pretty much determines if they will go to university or straight to the work force. Is it the same in your country?

 

Your turn!

Did you know any other interesting facts about german culture, history and language? If so, share them with us by leaving a comment below.

Within the next weeks I will come back with more information about german beer, geography and inventions. Read you soon!

5 Tips for Getting a Job in Germany

Some time ago I got the chance to discover an online platform which helps expats to understand the german labor market and to get in contact with different employers. This platform, called Employland, is a great tool for international professionals who are looking for new challenges. Therefore, I invited Employland to share some advice with you. Are you ready? Let´s go!:

Planning your next career step in Germany? Not a bad idea. Opportunities for skilled workers and professionals from all over the world are only increasing here. The German economy has been growing steadily and there is a high demand for qualified workers, which cannot be satisfied within the German labor force. Long story short, the German labor market needs international professionals!

Employland, the internet-platform which brings together international professionals and employers in Germany, shares 5 tips for getting a job in Germany

1. Qualifications in high demand in Germany

Are you a nurse, a train conductor, an engineer, or an IT-professional? Then you’re in luck! These professions are some of the skill shortage professions in Germany. Due to Germany’s changing demographic and expanding economy, there is a high need and great lack of skilled labor in Germany. More than one million open job positions have been recorded recently.

Curious to know what other fields are experiencing a skills shortage in Germany? These professions are listed by the Federal Employment Agency in the so called White list, published twice a year.

An important note: Workers in the hotel and gastronomy industry do not appear on that list, but are always in high demand!

2. German language skills wanted for employment in Germany

In some professions, German proficiency is a must-have, as regulated by law. As a nurse, a doctor or a lawyer, for instance you need to prove you have German language proficiency. The required proficiency level may vary from state to state, but typically the B-Level is required.

Even though German language proficiency may not be mandatory for other professions, it is always a plus to have. The German labor market is still not very flexible when it comes to language.

Companies tend to expect employees to have German skills, but as always there are exceptions to the rule. While professionals having to deal with customers need to be proficient in German, IT-professionals may be able to find jobs not mandating German proficiency more easily.

In Germany, the majority of companies has exclusively German as their business language, but there are also some who have English as their business language and things are changing. The skills shortage and the need for international professionals will probably pressure companies to be more flexible when it comes to German language skills. But for now, it’s a good idea to practice your German.

3. Recognition of foreign qualifications in Germany

Even though it might not be mandatory for your particular profession, it may prove useful to have your foreign qualifications recognized. Whether or not you need to have your qualifications recognized depends on your profession. If you want to practice a regulated profession in Germany, you need to have your qualifications recognized.

Regulated professions include that of teacher, physiotherapist, nurse, and medical doctor, for example. If you want to exercise a profession that is not regulated (such as plumber, accountant, or electrician), you do not have to undergo the recognition procedure.

Exception: If you are third-country national and you want to exercise a non-academic profession in Germany, you need to have your qualifications recognized in order to obtain a residence title and practice this profession in Germany.

EU-/EEA-nationals who plan to work in a non-regulated profession in Germany do not need their qualifications recognized. However, they should still keep the following in mind: Training and education systems differ internationally.

Recruiters in Germany may not be able to assess foreign qualification efficiently. While they know which competencies and knowledge to expect from candidates who hold a Master`s or Bachelor`s Degree, your foreign degree may not tell them anything about the duration and content of your studies or training.

The recognition, which includes a description of your qualifications, helps German employers understand your skill and knowledge level. Thus, through qualification recognition you may raise your chances of getting a job.

4. Finding a job in Germany

How do you find a job in Germany? The Internet is obviously the most efficient way to find a job in Germany from abroad.

Check out job portals online, as well as German newspapers’ job markets online. Companies’ career websites are also a good place to look. You probably know social networks like LinkedIn, where you can create your profile.

Have you heard of our Internet platform? We bring together international professionals and German employers. Create your personal profile on our platform www.employland.de free of charge, so that employers from all over Germany can find and contact you.

5. Job Application in Germany

Make sure you know what companies in Germany expect from a job application.

The procedure and norms for applying for a job vary from country to country. For example, a cover letter is a must-have for a German job application, though it is uncommon in many other countries.

A cover letter is a running text in which you describe your motivation and your competencies. It does not reiterate the information that recruiters find in your CV. Instead, the cover letter is a good means to leave a compelling impression and display your personal skills.

Cover letters should be individual, crafted specifically to each company you contact. Recruiters use the cover letter to learn why you want to work in their company specifically, why you are passionate about that exact position, and why you are the one and only candidate to do the job.

Even though the CV seems to be common everywhere, be aware that the structure varies from country to country. A few examples of CV characteristics are how information is formatted, which information about former positions should be included, how detailed descriptions should be, and if a picture should be included. Be sure to have a good idea of how a CV in Germany typically looks before applying.

We wish you great success for your job search in Germany!

 

*About Employland:
Employland is an Internet platform which brings international professionals and companies in Germany together. Professionals from all over the world create their personal profiles free of charge on https://www.employland.de/en. Employers in Germany are able to view these profiles and contact prospective employees. Job placement is free of charge for professionals. In addition, Employland is also able to look after an employee’s residence and work permit and the recognition of qualifications, if requested.

Also check out the Employland blog which offers lots of information about life and work in Germany in German and English language.

 

New Regulations in Germany 2018

Coming back home after holidays is always something exciting; catching up with friends to talk about what happened the last couple of weeks, organizing dinners at home, enjoying a good glass of wine after work, discovering your mailbox full of informative letters… Wait, informative letters? What does it mean? Germany is, as you may already know, a very administrative country, which means that the administration will inform you every time that something change.

Yes, at the beginning of 2018 the German administration had a couple of things to share with me and, of course, I would like to share this information with you. Keep reading to discover the legislative changes in Germany in 2018

Social Security

  • The monthly installment of the “Krankenkasse” (Health Insurance Company) decreases to 1 percent, although the monthly fixed rate of medical insurance remains at 7,3% of the gross salary.
  • From the 1st of January onwards, the “Krankenkasse” for freelances will be calculated based on the latest income declaration.
  • Employees subject to temporary employment contracts will have the possibility to cancel their health insurance plan the moment their labor activity comes to an end.

Housing

  • It is expected that real state prices increase during the year 2018 but not at the rate we have seen in the last couple of years.
  • Construction of new properties will be more expensive. If you have a savings account dependent on construction, think twice before putting the first brick 😉

Family

  • Benefits of the maternity leave, or “Mutterschutz”, will be extended to students, interns and high school pupils.
  • Another important administrative change will be the amount of money that people who already have children will receive from the state. This monetary help known as  “Kindergeld”, will increase in 2€.

Let´s remember how much money did German parents received per child in 2017:

  • 192€ per month for each of the first two children
  • 198€ per month for the third child
  • 223€ per month for each subsequent one

Work

  • Decrease in the percentage of salary retained for pensions from 18,7% to 18,6%.
  • Increase subsidies for companies which hire people with any kind of disability. In this way the German government aims to provide companies with more facilities to hire new employees and, at the same time, to generate social consciousness among German entrepreneurs and its employees.
  • From the second semester of the year onward, companies with more than 200 employees will have to facilitate information about how much do they pay to men and women in equal position and to publish wage data in anonymous form. Thanks to this new law, German female employees will access to important information which will allow them to know how big is the wage gap in their companies. At this point, it is important to remember that Germany has one of the worst records in Europe when it comes to equal pay (women earn around one fifth less than men).
  • The deadline to present the income statement will be extended until the 31st of July (These are great news for those who have to present the income statement in Germany, aren´t they? :)).

To sum up, let me share some important german news with you, which are related to the main topic of this post.

Breaking news: Majestätbeleidigung

The offense for the use of the word “Majestätsbeleidigung” is deleted. Until a couple of days ago, this word was considered an insult towards foreign government bodies and senior officials. Paragraph 103 of the Penal Code penalized with punishments of up to 3 years for those daring to call “Majestätsbeleidigung” (foolish majesty) to any foreign representative.

The discussion on the suppression of this crime arose in 2017, when a German comedian used this word in one of his monologues to refer to Mr. Erdogan, the president of Turkey.

Breaking news: 500€ bill

This year european citizens are going to say goodbye to a bill that many of us we have never seen, but we have heard about its existence: The 500€ bill. Since the beginning of the year the EU have stopped printing it and, at the same time, it has been determined that this bill will be out of circulation at the end of 2018.

Did you like the post?

If you have heard about any other legislative change in Germany, which you consider relevant or that I forgot to mention, just leave a comment below or via the social networks and share it with us.

Have a nice week!

 

 

 

Christmas in Germany

One more year the season of joy, celebration and forgiveness has arrived to Germany. Since the end of November, most of the streets are decorated with colorful lights as well as with lovely, traditional Christmas markets all around the country. The smell of Glühwein (traditional mulled wine) goes across the cities reminding us that it is time to look back, be grateful and share our time with our loved ones.

Since the beginning of the advent, people in Germany are getting ready to celebrate this period of the year with their families and friends. But, how do Germans celebrate Christmas? Do they have any special tradition? Let’s find it out!

Most relevant days

As well as many other European citizens, including Spaniards, Germans like to celebrate both Heiligenabend (Christmas eve) and Weihnachten (Christmas Day) with their loved ones. In most of the cases, family members get together to decorate the Christmas tree, to cook tasty traditional meals and to attend to midnight mass. Another important German tradition is to place all the Christmas presents under the Christmas tree.

The second day of Christmas, Saint Stephen´s Day, is a public holiday here in Germany. For many people, the 26th of December is a quiet occasion spent with friends or family to recover and to get ready for the winter sales, which start the third day of Christmas. Saint Stephen´s Day is also a good occasion to attend with the family to a special church service on behalf of this saint.

Another important day during Christmas time is New Year´s Eve, known here as Silvester. Unlike in Spain, this is a day to spend with close friends who are mostly invited to enjoy a home-made meal, often in the form of a buffet.

While in Spain we like to spend the last day of the year surrounded by our relatives, here in Germany most of the people prefer to celebrate it by hosting home parties or by attending to any New Year´s Eve Party. Does this mean that we Spaniards do not celebrate the entrance to the new year? Of course we do! However, we still follow the ancient traditions of eating 12 grapes at midnight with our loved ones before attending with our close friends to any new year´s event. A totally different way to celebrate, don´t you think?

Food

In terms of food, Germans know how to celebrate this season sitting around a table full of delicious meals. Depending on the Christmas day they like to eat different kind of products.

A traditional Christmas Eve´s meal consists of carp or salmon accompanied by fried potatoes, sauerkraut, sausage and potato salad.

On Christmas day, Germans do like to start the day enjoying a variety of sweet snacks such as Plätzchen(biscuits covered in sugar), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Stollen(bread filled with dried fruit and marzipan) and Spekulatius(cookies flavored with cinnamon and other spices). Despite all the edible goodies during the day, they always have some room for a traditional Christmas Dinner. As a main dish, German families usually enjoy a roasted goose, turkey or duck, served with red cabbage and followed by a classic post-goose sweet such a pudding. Could you imagine yourself eating so much on Christmas day? At the beginning I was a bit shocked by this “all day eating” tradition.

In Spain, the 25th of December is the perfect occasion to spend time with the family while enjoying a huge meal consisting of seafood, traditional cold meat such as jamón or chorizo, lamb or hake, fruit andturrón (a confection made of almonds, honey, sugar and egg white and usually shaped into a rectangular tablet). Furthermore, as a country of wine producers, this beverage plays an important role during Christmas celebrations. In Germany, however, people prefer to accompany their meals with Sekt (sparkling wine) or champagne.

To celebrate the last dinner of the year, Germans enjoy preparing authentic homemade traditional recipes such as Sauerkraut, marinated herrings, potato salad, raclette and fondue. Silvester is traditionally full of activities such as playing games like “Bleigießen”, eating Berliner doughnuts, attending to mass, watching the popular English-language sketch “Dinner for one” or drinking Feuerzangenbowle. Midnight is marked by fireworks, toasts with champagne and best wishes and followed by a traditional midnight soup. In contrast to Spain, Silvester is mostly celebrated with friends either attending to public parties or preparing nice homemade meals.

Christmas presents

As in many other countries, Christmas presents in Germany are shared during the night of the 24th of December, so that people can open them either after dinner or the morning after. In many Catholic families they are told that the Christ Child gave the presents, however, in protestant families are told that Father Christmas or Santa Claus brought them.

Although Santa Claus is becoming really popular in Spain, we still like to keep our Christmas traditions. For us, the night of the 5th of January is a magical one, because the Three Wise Men come from a faraway country to make our wishes come true. When the night falls and everybody sleeps, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar visit every single Spanish dwelling delivering all the desired presents.

Despite the different traditions, both, Germans and Spaniards, we like to organize family gatherings and to spend time with our loved ones, who may are far from us the rest of the year. Ok, it is true that this season is partly about giving and receiving gifts as well as cooking and eating tasty homemade meals. However, the real meaning of Christmas is similar in both cultures. This season is a good opportunity to look back and be grateful for all the things in life that we are fortunate to have.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2018!

Downloading in Germany: Legal or illegal?

descargas

When living abroad it is important to be aware of the legality related to the information you obtain through an internet connection. In other words, is it legal to download web content in Germany? Since it seems to be an important topic for you guys, keep reading to discover more about the german legislation and to find the answers to all your questions.

Is downloading legal in Germany?

Let´s start from the very beginning.

German law consider that sharing content protected by copyright is illegal. That means, that you should be careful when using P2P programs such as Emule or Torrent because when we download any content from those online tools we are, at the same time, sharing it with other users, and that is the main problem. We are sharing copyright protected content with other online users.

Furthermore, when using those kind of programs we allow other users to see our IP address.

IP address: Internet suppliers (ISP) are obliged to share information regarding an IP address if the user is sharing content protected by copyright. Why? Because all responsibility will fall on the internet line’s owner. What does it mean? Let me explain it with an example. After a couple of months in Germany, a friend of mine hosted a christmas party at his place. In that party, some guests found out some interesting songs on the internet and they decided to download them. After three months my friend received a letter where we was asked to pay a fine of almost 5.000€ due to the high amount of songs that his friends downloaded at the christmas party. Although my friend did not download any single song, he is the owner of the internet line, therefore, the fine was addressed to him.

What happen if I receive a fine?

I know some people who received the famous letter. I like to say that this letter does not contain a fine in essence, but a blackmail.

I call it blackmail because the letter is sent by law firms, hired by companies owning copyrighted items, to monitor the traffic of platforms such as Torrent and similar entities to find copyrighted items. Basically, the letter is a warning to let you know that this lawyers know what you did and if you do not want to go to court you should pay a fine.

The most active law firm is Waldorf Frommer  (all people I know received the letter from this lawyer´s office).

fullsizerender-3

What should I do after receiving the letter?

The first minutes after receiving the copyright infringement letter can be really confusing; Should I pay the requirement amount? Should we ignore the letter? Should I hire a lawyer?

Well, let me tell you three options that you should take into account when receiving the letter:

  • To Pay: The act of paying the required amount to the lawyer´s firm means to recognized that you downloaded web content illegally. What does it imply? If you recognize your guilt you will automatically be registered on the german police´s records of criminal activity during 30 years. Furthermore, you will pay a high amount of money (people I know were asked to pay between 900€ and 5.000€).

 

  • To Ignore the Letter: To be honest, this is a risky option. Why? Because if after sending you three letters, the lawyer´s firm does not receive an answer from your side, they will take you to court. This 3 letters must be send in a 3 years period. If after the third year you have received non or less than 3 letters, you will be free of charge and you won´t hear anymore from them.

 

  • To Hire a Lawyer: With this option you will spend some many, less than if choosing the first option though. Why? Because your lawyer will find the best agreement for you, so that you will be declared no guilty and you won´t have to pay a high amount of money.

 

Which is the best option?

To be honest I would recommend you to hire a lawyer to whom you will pay around 300€. This amount will be a good investment though, since you will be able to avoid paying a high amount of money and going to court.

Important information: Do not sign any form and/or do not pay any fine without the approbation of a lawyer. Once you do it, you will declare yourself guilty of a crime.

Now it is you turn, have you ever heard about this letter? Have you ever received it? What do you think about this topic?

 

Organic food in Germany

After many years of debate, the European Union reached a couple of weeks ago an agreement on an overhaul of the existing EU rules on organic production and labelling of organic products.

This agreement was taken based on the increasing consumer demand for organic food in the european countries and, at the same time, it sets uniform rules across the EU with the aim of encouraging the development of organic production in the EU, as well as of improving the labelling of organic food.

Is this new agreement important in Germany?

Yes, this agreement is a huge step for the German market since Germany is a key player in the global organic market and has also played a pioneering role in the organic (people call it BIO here) food movement since many years ago.

What is the definition of organic food?

Organic or BIO products are made of ingredients, which were produced without any synthetic inputs and do not have any chemical additives.

Organic products do not contain toxic substances such as parabens, phthalates or lanolin, among others.

How do I know that I am buying organic food?

Easily. In order to regulate organic food standards, the German ministry of agriculture issued, in 2001, a bio label which allows customers to distinguish all the organic products* of the market.

*Organic products: no less than 95% of the product’s ingredients of agricultural origin must come from organic farms.

 

With more than 40% of the European market, Germany is the biggest organic importer in Europe with a turnover of more than €7 billion and more than 3.000 German companies producing around 50.000 products which carry this label. To date, every day an average of 20 new products are submitted for certification.

Where can I find organic food in Germany?

Finding organic food in Germany is really easy, as you can already imagine. Many businesses offer organic products (food, beverages, cosmetics…) due to the importance of the BIO culture in this country.

If you are interested in buying organic food check the following list of organic grocery stores:

#1 Denn´s Biomarkt

#2 Super Biomarkt

#3 Bio Company

#4 Alnatura

#5 TEMMA

#6 Reformhaus

What I really like about these businesses is that they do not only offer organic products but also products for allergy and intolerance sufferers (like me!).

Can I find organic products in regular grocery stores?

Sure! Many companies like Rewe, Kaufhof, Edeka or Lidl offer some organic products (not that many to be honest, if you really like to eat organic food it is much better to buy at a organic places).

Where can I get more information about this topic?

There are several organic associations in Germany such as Demeter, Bioland, Biokreis, Naturland, Biopark and Ecovin where you can find more information about organic products (press on the name to discover more). Some of these organizations operate worldwide and follow stricter rules than EU ones.

Another interesting information point is the International Green Weekwhich takes place each January in Berlin (more information pressing the name) and has attracted thousand of visitors in recent years (around 400.000).

Is there place where I can find organic beauty products?

Sure! Although many people relate the words “organic” and “BIO” to food and beverages only, beauty and skincare organic products are also present in the German market.

Since many years I also buy these kind of products, although I have to admit that since I moved to Germany I have discovered a lot of organic brands.

Therefore, and after trying different products of those brands, I am going to share with you which are my favourite ones (do not hesitate to tell me yours)

  1. Weleda – I love their face care and hand creams.
  2. Dr. Hauschka – I cannot choose just a single product… My favourites are the rose day cream, the soothing cleansing cream and the lavender sandalwood calming bodycream.
  3. Neobio – Trying their shower gels and shampoos should be a must 😉

If you guys decide to try any other skincare product or another organic grocery store please share your thoughts with me in the comments below. I am always trying new things, I cannot avoid it…

I hope you enjoyed this post 🙂 Do not hesitate to leave your comments below 🙂

 

 

 

Summer holidays

It is almost one year since My Expat World started this adventure. Thanks to you guys my previous small, familiar blog turned into a platform where we could share our experiences, learn more about Germany and the German way of life, as well as to travel the world.

Thanks to the blog I got to know different kind of people from all around the world who have extraordinary lives which inspire others not only to keep enjoying every single second but to share all those experiences with us.

You are my motivation to keep blogging.

Every time I receive some questions regarding Germany, every time you comment my social posts, every time you contact me to get some advice for you expat adventure… Those moments make me keep writing and developing amazing content for you. However, life had other plans for me the past few months and I was no able to write and develop quality content.

Sometimes life has other plans and people need to stop. However, I would like to keep in contact with you via Instagram with #SummerTheWorld

This lack of time made me realize that I need to take some time off to re-discover my blog, to write quality posts which answer all your questions, to put all my travel experiences together and to build up an amazing story which can be shared with you (and of course which be useful for you). In conclusion, I need to take some holidays to recharge my energy and provide you with better posts.

What does it mean?

It means that My Expat World is going on summer holidays, although it would be better to call it “creative holidays”.

During this weeks I am going to produce new content for the blog, in fact, I would like to start answering all  of your questions regarding Germany, the expat life and some of my trips before creating new content (If you still  have any question do not hesitate to contact me through the social networks or just by sending me an E-mail to expattheworld@gmail.com, I will be truly happy to help you J ).

#SummerTheWorld

I would also like to inform you that this is just a creative break on the blog, which does not mean that I will be offline and disconnected from you. Quite the opposite!

In fact, I would like to be connected with you via Instagram.

As I previously mentioned, your stories are motivating and inspiring, as well as a way to keep in touch. That is the reason why I would like to invite you to use the #SummerTheWorld so that we can be connected during this period of “creative holidays”.

No matter is you tag a selfie, a picture on the beach or just a picture of the coffee machine of your company, the important thing is to keep in touch during the summer time. Do you want to join this game? I am super exited and looking forward to see all your pictures 🙂

Furthermore, if you want to remember all the good things we lived together this past year you can always follow me on Facebook and Twitter, where I will keep posting information about Germany and other countries such as Greece, Spain, The Netherlands and more. And, of course, I will try to keep recommend you places for our traditional #SundayBrunch on Twitter (if you have never heard about it you can always follow my twitter account to join this tradition).

When am I posting new content again?

My idea is to come back to you in the middle of September (what a great idea to celebrate the first year of this blog, isn´t it?) so that I have time enough to put all your questions together, to organize my ideas and to create interesting content for you.

Once again, before I go on holidays, I would like to thank you for being part of this project, for sharing your experiences with me, for being curious and for contacting me. Thank you for making this blog possible! Thank you for being there!

I hope we read us again after the summer. In the meanwhile let´s #SummerTheWorld together!

Have a nice summer!!! Tons of love and gratitude for you!!

Best places in Germany

Unlike many people think, Germany is not a grey, serious and rainy country but an interesting place to discover something new every day.

After a couple of years living here I have had the opportunity to visit not only the well-known German metropolis such as Berlin or Hamburg, but also small ancient cities and the countryside. If you are willing to come to visit Germany in an unconventional way (by visiting some “non-so-touristic” places) keep reading this post because this week it is starting the “Best Places in Germany” post series. Are you ready to discover this remarkable country?

Best places in Germany (of the week):

Monschau

The first time I heard about Monschau was in December 2014, when I friend of mine advised me to visit its Christmas market. Since I could not do that (it is worthier to visit it during the week, instead of during the weekends) I decided to give this old town a chance during the summer time.

Located nearby the Belgium border, Monschau preserves an ancient style, which provides this small city with a special charm. The city center is divided in two by the Rur river, consequently, the two parts of the city are connected by ancient bridges.

What to visit in Monschau

  • Christmas market

Although I could not visit it (not yet 😉 ) I can imagine the importance and the magnitude of this market, since one of the most visited places in the city of Monschau it is its Christmas store (open all year)

  • Castle Monschau

Most part of the castle is in ruins nowadays. Reused as a hostel after the IWW it is the perfect location to host summer concerts.

  • Market square

The heart of the city. Here the visitor can find restaurants, ancient buildings with flowerbox adornments and remarkable spots to be amazed with the mountains surrounding the city.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, as well as one of the most important student cities.

Ancient castles, narrow alleys, hilly streets  and beautiful parks and gardens are part of the landscape. Its university is the oldest in Germany and famous for its medical faculty. In Heidelberg, everything is within easy reach either on foot or by bike.

What to visit in Heidelberg

  • Heidelberg Castle

The castle, one of the most important renaissance structures, was started to be constructed in 1210 A.D. and, although, it has been destroyed several times due to different wars it preserves its ancient splendour.

It is worth to visit the main attraction of Heidelberg and it can be seen from each corner of the city.

  • The Altstadt

Down in the Altstadt (the old town) there are plenty of narrow streets and squares full of restaurants, stores and cafes. The main square, Markplatz, is a cute place where to enjoy a good cup of coffee or a Rothhaus Pils, one of the most famous beers of Heidelberg.

  • River Neckar

Having a walk along the River Neckar is always a good idea to avoid the crowds and to re-discover Heidelberg. The view from this side of the river is really cute and, if the weather is good, this area of the city is the best place for a picnic.

  • Alte Brucke

The Alte Brucke (Old Bridge) can be discover after passing through a remarkable medieval gate. The bridge dates from the 18th century and it is the most visited bridge of the city.

Düsseldorf

And last but not least, the beautiful city of Düsseldorf.

The capital of the NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) Region reflects the development that this area of Germany suffered some years ago.

The old industrial city of Düsseldorf led to a modern, cosmopolitan city, centre of fashion, glamour and international businesses. Known as the german city of fashion, Düsseldorf has the honor to have been ranked as the 6th world´s best city to live in beyond other important cities such as Frankfurt or Berlin.

What to visit in Düsseldorf?

  • Mediahafen

To understand the transformation suffered by this remarkable city it is important to have a walk around its “Mediahafen”. The old port was rebuilt into a modern area full of international business, restaurants and hotels. Frank Gehry, in charge of this transformation, built the most emblematic buildings of this area.

  • Altstadt

The old town is the core of the city. Full of narrow, car-free streets is the best place to discover the ancient Düsseldorf.

  • Königsalle

Ready to have a walk surrounded by the best fashion firms of the world? Just visit the Königsalle.

Special tips:

  1. From the Rheinturm the visitor can enjoy a strinkingly view of the city
  2. Benrath Schloss (the palace of Benrath), located 15 minutes away from the oldtown by subway, has beautiful gardens and tasty home made cakes
  3. Bilk is the best area to enjoy a good meal under the sun
  4. Stadttmite is the place-to-be for sushi and japanese-culture lovers (more than 10.000 Japanese live in Düsseldorf, the largest community in Europe)
  5. An “altbier” tour should be compulsory ;). Do not forget to try the traditional Düsseldorf Beer!

Have you ever been to Germany? Which are your favourite places? Share your thoughts!! 🙂