All posts filed under “Expat in Germany

[Quiz] What Lidl Salad Are You?

Oh, hi there.

Please look at the past three months as the summer break of  a cheesy teen drama. Only difference: instead of living Summer at its fullest like Dawson and Joey, I was busy building a shelter for the upcoming nuclear war (s/o to ma’ boy Kim Jong-un).

Anyway, I’m here because I have a transatlantic flight in less than two weeks and I want this post to be my ultimate legacy in case I end up on the bottom of the ocean.

Take the Quiz and find out who YOUR TRUE SELF is!

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100 Days of German Words – A Quiz Show

You thought my 100 Days of German Words project was water under the bridge?

You poor thing.

I’ll keep riding this success with the desperation of the Fast and Furious franchise, repurposing old ideas like they were an unnecessary acoustic version of Jagged Little Pill.

So, one afternoon of two years ago I went over at Babbel‘s, dressed up like a nerd from Happy Days  and quizzed employees about my madeup German words.

The response to the video has been incredible and overwhelmingly positive.

kinda annoying

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll eat six kilos of Ben &Jerry and die.

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6 Freaky Things About Berlin Startups

Unless “mystery shopper” and “cat sitter”  really count as grownup jobs, it is fair to admit that I never had a job before moving to Germany. I had a family, though, and that family was led by two proud members of your average Italian working class. They took pride in enduring through their working hours for me and my sister, embraced the suffering of it and its discouraging lack of prospects. As I witnessed my parents’ lives, I grew up preparing psychologically for the depressing start of my career, kind of like a criminal prepares for jail time.

After five years in Berlin and more than one tech company on my resume, I can say that working here has been mildly weird, consistently fun and nothing like I was expecting. These are six things that struck me about German tech startups.

1) Quirky Team Names

One thing I’ve learned from the German startup scene, is that descriptive names are so very passé. If you’re hired as an accountant in a tech company, for example, the chances you’ll end up working in the “finance team” are extremely slim. Your team will instead be referred to with the name of an animal/a famous scientist/a made-up native American tribe.   You will attend serious meetings meant to address the concerning performance of the angora rabbits, to contemplate the possibility of new hires among the raccoons or to find a new leader for the alpacas. My scientific guess is that by the year 2025 all the animal names will be taken and startups will have to start exploring uncharted territories, naming their teams after things like sexually transmitted diseases, stripper nicknames, pokemons and toppings you can find on frozen yogurt.

Read the rest of this post on The Local

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German Supermarkets: A User’s Guide

This was written by me and featured originally on Uberlin.co.uk

Four years after claiming independence and moving to Berlin, the supermarket still feels like the most iconic place of my adulthood and one of the most fascinating Berlin places to write about. While other bloggers document colourful night scenes and vivid cultural environments, I find myself in a complicated love triangle with Lidl and Rewe, and am now ready to disclose the dynamics of these relationships. My user guide to Berlin supermarkets will lead you through a correct, satisfying and 100% German grocery shopping experience.

Dairy CaseDairy Case by Roey Ahram, on Flickr

CHAPTER 1: “I’M A PFAND MACHINE READY TO RELOAD”

First: Enter your supermarket of choice.

Second: Head towards the Pfand machine.

Any respectable trip to a German supermarket includes a mandatory stop at the Pfand machine, which is usually located before the actual shopping area. Not stopping there would be like going to IKEA without eating meatballs.

Glance at the 75-year-old lady who just beat you to the line by one fraction of a second. Using her last remaining life force, she’s carrying seven plastic bags full of bottles and is now feeding them into the machine.

Very. Slowly.

Consider leaving the line but then change your mind: it would be a drag to go through the whole shopping process with a bag dripping a mix of Club Mate and beer (probably a real cocktail recipe somewhere in Berlin). Also, you could do with freeing up an extra three square metres in your room before your flatmate calls the crew of Hoarding: Buried Alive.

Years pass. The lady lets you know she’s done by smiling at you and saying something incomprehensible, which is probably German for “I’m a rich bitch now. So long, suckers!” Watch her pink-haired body floating away with what was probably hundreds of Euros and a smile of victory on her face.

It’s your turn now.

You only have five bottles, so this shouldn’t take long. Unfortunately for you, after the first bottle has been sucked in, the machine notifies you that the containers placed on the other side of the wall are full. “You need to press the red button”, says the Pfand-bot.

The red button is the last trace of a Germany that wants you to feel in control. Clearly, its only purpose is to give you a false sense of safety, just like the numbers on Lost. Don’t even mind the button and do the only rational thing: cry out for help.

Don’t lose hope: someone will come.

CHAPTER 2: “WE FOUND CAKE IN A HOPELESS PLACE” Read More

8 Italian Expressions Having to do with Poop

One of the greatest things about living far from home is that distance brings clearness.

In particular, the less you speak your mother tongue, the more you start noticing tiny little things about it.

Sometimes it’s cute things, like the fact that the words sonnellino (nap in Italian) and burrone (Italian for ravine) sound pretty hilarious.

And then there’s those other times in which you realize something gross that will make you wanna return your passoport, like the fact that the language you’ve spoken nonstop for 26 years has kind of a poop fixation.

Here’s why.

poop_1

Pooping someone or Cagare qualcuno means paying attention to what somebody is saying or, more generically, to notice someone.

Usage Examples:

– How’s it going with Francesco? Has he asked you out yet?
– Not at all. He barely poops me….

OR

– …and after that could you please drive the kids to school?
– ……
– Hello?! Could you poop me?
– Uh?
– What’s on your mind lately? You’re so distracted!

poop_2

To make someone poop or Fare cagare a qualcuno means to Read More

Lidl and Me: an update

After writing about my relationship problems with Lidl, the german supermarkets chain, I experienced some weird emotions. Expressing my deepest feelings like that, in front of everybody, made me feel naked and vulnerable, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t have written one more word about it.

But then hundreds of you wrote to cheer me up, give me relationship advice and ask me how things with Lidl were going, so I figured the least I could do is give you a short update on the situation.

lidl and me

I’ll be completely honest with you: we went through tough times. Read More

Lidl, we need to talk

I won’t lie to you: when it comes to german supermarkets, REWE is my true and only love.

logo rewe

Rewe is sexy (every time I step in I feel the excitement of the first time) but it’s not like a one night stand. It is there for me, it cuddles me with selected delicious brands, it brings me the groceries home when I’m a lazy ass, it instructs me about the german culture with compelling sticker collections. Let’s admit it: there is nothing like REWE.

That said, I’ve always thought of you, Lidl, as a good number two.  You were like an old friend I don’t see so often but I know I can always count on. You were direct, focused on substance rather than appearance, always there to give me just what I needed without useless embellishments.

Lidl_logo

I used to care for you, and I know you used to care for me, but things have changed, we grew apart. I could have just stayed silent and turn to Aldi or Netto, but I really want things to be good again, therefore I’m going to tell you why I’m hurt. Read More

Top 5 German Habits You’ll Pick up (Against Your Will)

Don’t know about you, but I’ve always liked the expression embracing a new culture. It sounds peaceful and reassuring, and when I planned to come to Germany I used to think of myself as a Pocahontas in reverse ready to absorb and confront with open mind and arms this new teutonic world.

I soon realized, though, that if Pocahonts had known about McDonald’s, guns, stuffed turkeys and Zoey Deschanell, she would have probably spared  us some songs  and filed a couple of complaints. I also realized that there’s times in which you don’t feel as you’re embracing another culture as much as you’re handcuffed to it.

Everybody tells me that Berlin is not representative of Germany, but there’s things, little annoying habits, that I picked up along the way during my expat life in Berlin and they look 100% Deutsch to me.  I’m pretty sure you’ll pick them up too if you get to live long enough in this beautiful city.

1) Leaving bottles on the street

Kulturkonditorei: Pfand gehört daneben
My education turned me into a strict recycling machine and the thought of somebody leaving his trash on the sidewalk used to horrify me.
But.
In Germany empty bottles are not trash: they’re money. You go to the supermarket with your empties, a machine sucks them up and returns cash; for an empty bottle they give you up to 60 cents, which you can then reuse to shop.
It’s not very difficult to understand that leaving an empty bottle on the public soil of a relatively poor city is like anonimously delivering donuts to a fat camp. You lay the bottle on the ground, turn one second to your friend who’s trying to decide if the fourth club of the night should be Berghain or Watergate and zac – onomatopoeic italian sound – the bottle is gone.
You kind-of-sort-of-like give to the poor and you also avoid storing another empty at your place.
I mean, the fact that I’m just a couple of Club Mate away from buying myself a car makes me proud, but I can barely see the entrance of my apartment anymore and at this point my only hope is that the crew of Hoarding: buried alive finds me before it’s too late. Read More

Oh (no!) Tannenbaum

 O Tannebaum, O Tannebaum,
You give us so much pleasure!
How oft at Christmas tide the sight,
O green fir tree, gives us delight!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!

O Tannenbaum, says Wikipedia, is a german song composed in the 19th century. We’ve all sung it during Xmas holidays, at some point, and apparently it was such a big hit in Germany that american people decided to steal it take inspiration from it and use its melody to create the official states’ songs of Maryland, Michigan, Florida and Iowa, accidentally forgetting to let everybody know that the tune wasn’t original, just like Natalie Imbruglia did with Torn.  According to Wikipedia, its lyrics refer to the fir’s evergreen qualities as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness. Read More

No Country For Short Men

When I first got here, I was living in a house at the borders  of a forest with an exceptionally short german guy and two tiny taiwanese men. I felt like Snow White among the dwarves, with the exception that I was the one working all day long and they were constantly home doing my laundry, cooking for me and all that stuff. It was great knowing that there was a place, in this cold gigantic country, populated by people shorter than 1.70 and that I was their king.

Unfortunately after some months they went bad, like cute Gremlins that someone inadvertently fed after midnight: all of a sudden one of them became an alcoholic, one tried to sell me ecstasy in the kitchen and the other touched my bulge in the bus.

I had to move, even though this meant losing my special place in the world and facing the awful truth that I’m just another short Italian man. And of course this affected many aspects and situations. Read More