Archive for May, 2015

So you got a job with Airubs in Hamburg, the 2015 edition

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

So, when I first came to Hamburg I was quite confused at first and I decided to write down what I’d learned for those that would follow me.

The problem with that was that I was still relatively new to Hamburg and half the stuff was . . . . well, not wrong. But definitely not something someone who had lived in Hamburg for 3 years would write.
Or someone that had lived in Hamburg for his/her entire life would write.

Also, things have changed.

I have now lived in Hamburg for 3 years and I need to correct some things I have mentioned in the previous post.

So, you’ve scored a job with Airbus, in Hamburg. Excellent.

Well, let me be the first random voice on the internet to congratulate you. This is a collection of information I wish I had known upon learning of my future home. Plus a collection of random musings.

Oh, btw. You should probably get a more specific location indicator. Airbus has a giant area around Finkenwerder airport, but then there’s also a presence on Fuhlsbuttel airport, something near Wilhemsburg, something in Bahrengeld and then there’s the Stade site. Stade will most likely be referred to as Stade, but I’ve heard it referred to as part of Hamburg before and it would probably not do to have you think you’ll end up in Hamburg and then have to travel 60 km to the west everyday for work.
For simplicity’s sake I’ll assume you will work in Finkenwerder.

  • Location.

You will want to know where Finkenwerder is, although before you got here I’m pretty sure you’ve managed to at least google it. You want to know where Finkenwerder is just because you want to know where you can live.
If you look at Hamburg, Finkenwerder or Airbus on google maps you’ll see a dotted line where I put the red one below, this is a ferry line. You don’t have to live in Finkenwerder.

You don’t want to live in Finkenwerder unless you like your peace and quiet (and fresher fruit). For every other motivation north of the Elbe is pretty much better.

So, to see what areas in Hamburg you want to live in you should calculate travel distance from either Teufelsbruck, or Finkenwerder. If you have a car and plan to use it: Use whatever planning software you are used to and you should be fine. For public transport:
During rush hour any travel time with bus/car will take longer. Having a car capable 200 km/h may be awesome for touring the autobahn on weekends (it’s actually rather mediocre, go 250 and we’ll talk about it) but on Monday morning you will be passed by me on my little bicycle.
Besides owning a car and public transport I should mention this option. I have one of those, they’ve been useful.

Once you’ve figured out how the commute to Airbus will go from this place you have in mind you will want to know what kind of neighbours you will end up with. Hamburgers (You’ll have to get used to this not being the plural of Hamburger. And speaking of which, you’ll have to get used to Hamburger being a possessive noun) don’t see eye-to-eye about a lot of stuff. Like any great city there’s a great diversity in the population and some parts of Hamburgers’ souls can be gleaned through where they live. And what better way to introduce these places than by giving you the stereotypical view of the neighbourhood of which not a single word is exaggerated.
I won’t cover every single borough, but I’ll cover the few I’ve come to know.
Disclaimer: I don’t have kids, I don’t know the first thing about good international schools or whatever.

You can see the names of neighbourhoods below

Click me!
If you want to know relative rent prices you can check those here.
And perhaps you should take a look at this, but note it isn’t corrected per capita.

Blankenese, this is where the rich and the fabulous live (well, the rich anyway). House prices are higher, people are less tolerant of loud parties and there is a distinct lack of graffiti. You’re also on the west end of Hamburg, if you live near the station this isn’t too bad, but if it takes you a bus to get to the station you’ll have a fairly decent travel time for most social events. Also, has the highest density of tennis clubs in Hamburg.
Iserbrook, this is next to Blankenese and I used to live here, so not-so-wealthy but extra fabulous. 15 minute bicycle ride to Teufelsbruck, the #1 bus goes through there and there’s an S-bahn stop that has a train either direction every 20 minutes. There’s a tiny city centre where you can get most of the things you need. It’s a nice little town, close to a bunch of large parks and the city border. If you don’t mind living just a little bit too far west of the rest of the city or have your own transport this is a lovely place to live.
Othmarschen, Another place with large villas and free-standing houses It’s a nice place but mostly devoid of shops. Closer to the action than previously mentioned places and dead close to Teufelsbruck for rapid Airbus-commute. Lots of Airbus personnel lives here. Next to the Elbe tunnel for car access to the rest of the world. Also home to the only cricket club I know.
Ottensen, right next to Altona for excitement, transport, shops and more, but mostly residential itself. So good access, but little hassle.
Bahrenfeld, close to Altona for excitement but definitely a suburb for other things. Good connections to get pretty much anywhere in Hamburg IF you are close to a bus/S-bahn station. If you live further back that one bus line may be your only lifeline (if you don’t have a car). The redeveloped Alte Gaswerk is cool btw.
Altona, used to be a separate city so it has a full-on city center. This used to be a poor place to live with run-down houses, but then the artists came and made this in to a happening place, or so I’ve been told. House prices have been on the rise for a decade and it is hard to find a place to rent here. Lots of bars and restaurants, a big weekly market as well as a smaller one 3 days every week. There’s a shopping center in the middle of it as well. A transport hub for S-bahn, bus routes and rail traffic (for now) and departure point of the every-5-minute E86 shuttle to Teufelsbruck, this shuttle will be packed, wear deodorant. Bog help you finding a parking spot every day btw.
Sternschanze, where you will find the communists, anarchist, artists, students, counter-culture-ists and stuff. Especially now that they can’t afford Altona anymore. Really nice place, lots of action but can be loud and you will not want your car on the street on May 1st, because apparently labour day is all about blowing up other people’s cars and stuff. High number of bars, restaurants and the like. Good connections to public transport.
St. Pauli, the reeperbahn is here. If this doesn’t mean anything to you . . . don’t ask your father, you may not want to know what he did that one time on leave from the military. Lots of bars, clubs and “entertainment” venues (lets just assume I mean karaoke bars with that). Good connections to public transport. And if you don’t live in/next to a street with bars it is not that loud, though spillage of drunks may occur. Next to the Elbe.
Eimsbuttel, the student housing. Not entirely true of course, but it may seem like that, there’s certainly enough of them around. This may mean your neighbours are exactly as obnoxious as you used to be, how dare they! Lovely century old housing, big shopping streets cross through this area, it depends on where within the area you end up if you have everything you need close by. Lots of bus routes and U-bahn stations. S-bahn less so.
St. Georg, oh boy. I had a colleague living here. He lives in the dodgy end, didn’t feel safe late at night, had to carry groceries home 15 minutes. . . He left the country. Mostly because he got a better job in Toulouse though. There’s the dodgy end and the not-so dodgy end. The closer to the Alster you are, the better off. Next to the Alster end it’s really quite nice and you won’t be able to afford it. Go further away from the Alster and . . . well, it’ll be full of filthy foreigners like you (and me) and while I know the Reeperbahn has the official red light district . . . .
Stellingen, nice place but suburban. Close to the highway in places for quick access to Airbus via car and can have decent S-/U-bahn and bus connections. Close to the HSV stadium though.
Rotherbaum and Harvestehude, nice place. Direct access to the Aussenalster makes it expensive though. There is good shopping, good restaurants and parts of it have good public transport (other parts are really shit though, check). Also home of the former Jewish district, I understand.
Finkenwerder, it is certainly close. Finkenwerder used to be a fishing village close to Hamburg, that says it all tbh. It is really nice, quiet and you can get most basics here. It is also closer to Airbus than anywhere else in Hamburg. It is, on the other hand, a very, very long way away from the rest of the city. To take the road you need to go through the Elbe tunnel, which is a ways away (and usually congested) and the other option is the ferry (which is kinda cool btw). There are no bars and unless you like football your sporting options are rather slim as well. Also: No free wifi anywhere and no launderettes. Great place for a family I’ve been told though
Wilhelmsburg, this is an interesting place. It has for a long time been sort of an inbetweeny sort of place. In between Harburg, a city in its own right, and Hamburg. So it was a commute place. This changed some time ago though and there’s major (re)development plans being executed there. There’s a new mall, a new park, there’s a climbing hall, an outdoors centre (even though it’s in the city. I dunno what they’re doing there). It’s connected by the S3 line and the #1 highway. I don’t really know anyone that lives there but it seems like you could do worse, especially considering the price. This place is still cheaper than any other place I’ve mentioned with the possible exception of Finkenwerder.
A friend of mine that lives in Harburg says it’s just like Harburg, but with more gun violence. So there’s that.
Harburg, that’s an “r” there. Until recently not part of Hamburg and connected to it by S-bahn and autobahn only. Separated by large swaths of Industrial harbour. It therefore has everything on its own. Bars, restaurants, theatre, cinemas etc. It has it all. Yet, everyone I know that lived there left it for north of the Elbe. Direct bus connection to Airbus, 30 minutes.
Other places, there’s a number of other nice places in Hamburg. Wandsbek is nice, so is Barmbek. I wouldn’t mind living in Eppendorf and Winterhude. But all of them are so bloody far away from Airbus though. I have a colleague that lives there and he spends 1.5 hours every morning going to work. And again 1.5 hours getting home.

When you’ve decided where to move: Check out this site for getting a parking spot free for your moving van.
Now that you live somewhere: Check when your garbage gets picked up.

  • Taxation

Your moving costs are tax-deductible. Keep your airplane ticket, the receipt of the moving company and the cost of the vet for your dog. And your optical aids won’t be covered by your insurance but it is tax deductible. At the end of the year you’ll . . . . well, I don’t know how tax-deductible works here, but that will certainly happen. Contacting a tax adviser now to ask what kind of receipts you should be saving is probably worth it.

Anyway, tax. You’ll pay a lot of it. Considering the current state of America, I’d say paying high tax over low tax would seem preferable. Considering the state of Dubai there’s probably something to be said for no tax at all. Perhaps both are poor comparisons. Some of the tax you’ll feel justified in, others perhaps not so much. On your registration you will be asked to indicate your religious affiliation. Germany will automatically tax you to support your church. I can only assume this law led to an enormous boost in atheist numbers here.

Notable tax:
GEZ, this is a sort of tax on electronic appliances done by a private organization which possibly acts for the government. You must pay this. This might fund GEMA, which you will learn to hate, and the dubbing of any TV shows you might have liked to German so you don’t want to watch it on TV. So yeeh!

There are three main ways of doing your yearly income taxes:
a. Do It Yourself. German tax code is written in German (bank German actually, see glossary) and most of the resources to help you with this are in German. Also, the German taxation services are prohibited to help you. They can answer yes/no questions on validity, but are not allowed to give you further hints/tips/tricks/advice.
There’s a program by the taxation services to fill out your taxes, but there’s also a 3rd party program called WISO that gives tips and tricks. Also, it explains what the different fields mean, if you’ve ever filled out anything government related you will see the value in this. This program is tax deductible.
b. Tax hobby clubs, because nothing spells hobby like taxes. Like-minded people helping each other and trying to minimize taxation. These clubs are more likely to have someone that actually understands this than your family does and if you end up doing something illegal you can at least share the blame.
c. Hire a professional, it may just be worth it if you’re not going to be here all that long. It’ll definitely be worth it if you have money generated in some other country.

  • Paperwork.

Have you read Kafka’s The trial?
Never mind, not important.
Paperwork is a big thing here. Everything is registered here, same as where you came from I assume, they just do it . . . better.
It can be useful though. I moved and didn’t tell my insurance provider, they just found me.
Useful, or scary. Your choice.
– In order to register with the state you will need an address, a contract, a passport and about an hour out of your way to visit the einwohnermeldambt of your city district. Fill out a form (in bank-German), answer questions about why you filled it out incorrectly, pay €10,- processing fee and you’re done.
– Then, you have to register yourself with the financial authorities, for this you require an address, a signed contract, a bank account and (depending on where you are) some more time to go to a different place and you are done. As of 01-01-2012 you don’t have to do this step anymore as you will automatically get registered after doing the previous step. On 30-01-2012 I did step 1, and then 3 days later I did step 2 anyway because the automated system for step 2 was not online yet. So . . . that. It is now 2015. This system should work . . . .
If you are not an EU-citizen, there may be more.

Importing your stuff
Depending on where you come from this can be an enormous pain in the ass. If you come from somewhere in (Schengen) Europe, just pack shit in a car and drive it (or have it driven). If you’re having stuff flown/shipped . . . paperwork.
Does this mean anything to you?

No? Have a professional do this. Really, you don’t want to figure this out. You can save a bit of money doing this yourself, but it will take you hours finding out what you need to bring, who to give it to, what to do beforehand, etc. Then you have to spend the hours actually doing it. Oh, and if you could translate all relevant paperwork to German please.
Just google “International relocation services”, possibly including your current country of residence.

Yes? OK, good. Have fun.
Just as a side note: I was asked for proof that I had lived in the EU before . . . because . . . because . . . I’m not entirely sure why actually, certainly it must be possible for non-EU citizens to bring in personal property tax free? The passport I carry, signed by the mayor of the European town I was living in at the time (which is not one of the 5 places allowed to generate passports for people that don’t live in their city), was not valid.
Read the customs website ( for more details, they have an English option.

Some of it. You may want to mix and match. My girlfriend worked in shipping so the sending of stuff was easy. Hiring an agent from the company receiving the goods (They generally have/know/employ people like that) to take care of all the paperwork and deliver it home would have been the optimal solution. Of course, we didn’t do that second step. Spent a good 2 hours in a zoll office filling out paperwork in triplicate instead.

You must be prepared to show receipts to prove the age of all your imported personal goods are over 6 months old regardless of your chosen method. If your personal effects are younger than this you will have to pay import tax. This rule does not apply to your new socks. Despite it being checked in our case. No, I am not joking.

Is that all? Hell no, I had to indicate my salary to register for a pre-paid sim card. Paperwork is the shit man, they love it here.

  • Insurance.

Germany requires you to be insured. And insurance may envelop more than what you initially think.
Health Insurance
You can get this through government sponsored programs, or private health insurance. Either way, this one is mandatory. I’ll let you google this for yourself for greater detail, but unless you are fabulously wealthy and single the government plan is better. And if you are not wealthy (independant of fabulousness) and earn less than EUR 48,600.- gross per year you can’t even choose private insurance. Airbus, or whoever you work for will recommend one, otherwise feel free to browse the list at the bottom of this paragraph.
Dental. There’s insurance for it of course and they have this neat thing where you can get a discount on your next checkup if you had no cavities on your previous visit. Apparently this can run to 90%. I am over 30 years old, never had a cavity and wouldn’t know the validity of this claim.
Or third party insurance. This one is mandatory for your car. It is recommended for yourself (plus partner) and you will raise eyebrows if you  mention living in Germany without it to your new colleagues. They are about 35 euros per year and if you accidentally scratch anyone’s car/vase/carpet in the next 10 years you will probably consider this well spent.
If you have a dog, hundenhaftpflichtversiecherung is recommended. (Compound nouns, Germans love them
I can’t remember the last time I fucked someone’s stuff up for more than €20,- but then again, I was a student until recently and my friends’ stuff was 3rd hand IKEA. Now, my friends own houses worth over €250.000,-
Go here for a list of other popular insurances
And here for a list of providers. Some are regional.


  • Housing.

So, you know where you want to live, you know what you’re willing to pay. . . . now what.
First off, let me go in to the different kinds of housing you may find. There is a Wohngemeinshaft (WG), a sort of student living. 1 house, multiple people have a personal room but share bathroom, kitchen etc. Affordable, sometimes temporary and of course very dependent on your housemates for living pleasure. Additional pro/con is that it could be furnished. If you come to Hamburg without baggage it may be preferable to have this for a few months while you save up for the IKEA trip that will furnish 2.5 rooms.
Miete, the German for rent. This comes in two main subdivisions. Private and not-private. There is more of the latter, just because renting out housing is a company thing, not a personal thing anymore. Problem with this is these companies seem to think it is OK to ask for 2.38 months (yes, that specific) of rent for their trouble. You will pay €2k+ for their listing the house on a website and showing you around. Plus side is that you’re unlikely to get strange landlords (although one that is utterly uninterested in anything but your money is possible of course).
With Privates you get more chance at quirky landlords (which doesn’t have to be a bad thing) and the number of private listings that are scams is quite numerous (If the listing sounds too good to be true, it is. If they mention living abroad and an escrow-esque service, you are being scammed) but you have a chance to have a more personal relationship with your neighbours/landlord and save 2k while you’re at it.
Buying, yeah that’s well beyond my knowledge base. Find some other poor blogger to help you out with that. I’m assuming it involves bank German and more money than I will make in the next 3 years. Besides, you won’t want to do that for your first place in this city.
Others, there are other options of course.
Hotels, hardly sustainable in the long run, but certainly an option for a bit.
Pensions, a bit more sustainable.
Friends. Pffffff, like you have friends . . .
Couch surfing, hardly a long term plan, but who knows.

Where to find:

  1. There is an in-Airbus e-bay/craigslist sort of thing where people offer pets, golfclubs and houses called annoncen. You’ll need an Airbus ip for access to it unfortunately, but maybe your future colleagues can help you.
  2. Airbus also has someone working here that puts all housing offers communicated to Airbus in an excel sheet, ask for this person and the excel sheet to those same future colleagues, if they do not know who this person is, leave an email in the comments and I might provide the name. I am NOT putting this person’s name on the internet.
  3. The internet. The internet includes such sites as:[]=1359179&PHPSESSID=c953496ed9481d43aa20fddc1a5f6828
    For my first pension:
    Other pensions:

Some additional notes:
You can change your electricity supplier, the standard one is among the most expensive options. Check for other suppliers. Check out different options here, also their standard plans seem to think you keep a 1200 W home entertainment system on full blast the entire day, you may want to lowball your estimated use. Also: If you’re keeping your current amount of electricity-using-thingies, get a readout of what your current use is. If things continue as they are I will use some 25% of what I’m paying for (my plan allows me to get the difference back, if you are very certain of your use you can get a fixed amount plan for a reduced price, but you will pay a lot extra if you overshoot your allowance).


  • Electronics.

By which I mean telephone, internet etc.
First off, Germany is in Europe, therefore: European plugs. 220-240V 50-60 Hz. Grounding done by way of the two clampy-thingies on the side, not the 3rd plug inverted like the French have.

Convert/adapt where appropriate.

Telephone, same thing as pretty much everywhere. There are pre-paid phones/SIMs available and for a plan you need to show you actually live here. Price optimalisation depends heavily on your usage, of course. Do not call abroad with a pre-paid and do not call too little with a plan and you should be good. As with most other countries you have the main brands (T-mobile, O2, whatnot) which are expensive, but (presumably) reliable, and the price-fighters. Price-fighters are the little cheap companies which have a primary presence on the internet. You’ll get what they’re offering, so be sure to read the fine print. That big €20,-/month thing comes with a data/call limit and you will pay through your nose beyond that. Flat rate internet, see glossary, often comes in a separate package. Hell, phone and plan often come in separate packages. The reason I’m not carrying the Samsung Galaxy III is because I’m a cheapskate, not because my doctor recommends I stay away from reddit at least 8 hours every waking day.
German mobile data is the most expensive in the EU. Well, Hungary is worse. And just Hungary. Bulgaria has cheaper mobile data. So does Poland. I don’t know which country in Europe you expect to be electronically backward, but unless it is Hungary, mobile data will be cheaper. It’s fucking stupid.
Useful websites include:
And of course all the normal providers .de

Oh, and there’s like land lines and stuff. I got mine for free with my internet (I’d rather have gotten internet cheaper). They have funny plugs, so if your plug is non-exchangeable on your handset you’re kind of screwed (although I assume there’s adapters somewhere). For plugs, locate a Hardware stores.
It will come with a fax line connection btw. Because . . . . I don’t know, but my landlord asks for my water/power usage numbers by fax. Probably because . . . ah hell, I don’t know.
This blog post is written in 2015. I thought I should mention that.

Internet, backstory required. In 2004 (or smthg) I moved on campus. I had a 1 Gbit/s connection. After that I’ve lived in Korea and Japan, both countries known for not being behind on technology and both featuring kids that refuse to leave their rooms and internet. Germany has 2!, count them two!, 100 mbit/s Internet Service Providers (ISP). 1 of them offers its services in Hamburg. It was like moving back among savages. Don’t get me wrong, 16 mbit/sec is high speed for “normal” people. I am normal, in many, many respects I am a completely normal human being. But 16 mbit/sec . . . are you FUCKING KIDDING ME? And don’t give me that “poor children in Africa line”, they should be happy just to get fed!

Anyway, if you need connected internet I recommend checking the different offers out at: or any of the other comparison sites I’ve mentioned so far that include Internet option. Notice that the dropdown on the speed option doesn’t always include 100 mbit/sec. Because Germany.
Some speeds require a specific connection, if you live in Hamburg this line should be available in your neighbourhood although possibly not in your old-ass house. If you live in the surrounding villages you may be limited in your choice. Most websites come with a check to see if that connection is installed. But be warned: my provider reported no problems when I moved. They were wrong.
As with the telephone providers: read the fine print. This is good advice for anything that has fine print, btw.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself at your current location temporarily, you may want to check out the internet sticks. These are USB sticks you connect to your computer that will let you utilize the 3G/4G LTE system much as smart phones do (if you have a smart phone and internet plan, connect it to your computer via USB key and use that). All of them will get you internet functionality. Don’t look for more, you can’t stream TV on this, or download your regular allowance of porn. E-mail, facebook and housing websites, that is all you will get from this. Flatrate, see glossary.
These come within a plan (do NOT get these, they are NOT worth it unless you truly will be without a home for decent internet for 24 months) or on a month-by-month pre-paid thing. Also, don’t get the day-by-day plans, it will not come out cheaper. If you are a heavy user, multiple internet sticks/internet-SIMs are recommended over the high volume ones.
Internet-stick providers include places like LIDL/ALDI for extra cheapness btw.

GEMA, your youtube will be blocked because the German music body thingamawhatsits has not been able to agree the amount of money that has to be paid to the artists/studios and therefore they block stuff instead ensuring German artists get nothing instead.
As far as I can tell none of the German artists are happy with this, nor are any German citizens. There’s a bunch of bureaucrats happy with that somewhere. Who knows.
They block more than just youtube, enjoy finding out which of your sites don’t work here.

Side note: Some German ISPs will tell the governing body if you download/upload something questionable. Alternatively there are private detectives that “freelance” for the music companies if your ISP does not report pirating. Not everyone will get in trouble, but there’s a far higher percentage of people here who get in trouble over this than in other countries I’ve lived. As in “I know of 2 people that have had to deal with this”, instead of: “I know of 3 people that have this friend whose brother’s mother got in trouble”.
I know 9. I shit you not.

TV, it’s in German. All of it. All of it is in German. They go through some effort with this, having the same voice actor portray the same actor to have continuity, but at the end of the day half the jokes don’t translate and it feels really, really weird. There’s some satellite options of course and there is Sky. Also, there’s digital television which doesn’t come with different language tracks at all. Because Germany.
Yipie Yah Yei Schweinebacke!

Netflix is here though. Thank. Fucking. God. Amazon prime works as well.
There’s German streaming sites as well but last time I checked their Original language selection is seriously lacking.

  • Bank account

You will need one. But it comes with something of note. When you have a certain bank and you want to access your money, but don’t have access to an ATM of that bank you will have to pay a fee.
Now, I don’t know how this worked when you grew up, but we had this. Every time you went to bank A, while belonging to bank B you paid 25-50 cents (depending on year) for the transaction fee. This was phased out about a decade ago.
In Germany highest I’ve ever been asked to pay here is €5.95.
Lowest I’ve ever been asked to pay is €1.50
I had to pay €4.99 at an ATM that explicitly stated they would not charge addition fees.
Basically, German banks are backwards assholes and I’ve had to fight down the urge to inflict physical damage to bank directors repeatedly.
Then again, these fees may be the only reason Greece is still around.

You will want to pick your bank carefully.

Physical proximity
Picking your bank on physical proximity may not be too useful. Most banks are open ‘till 4 three days a week and half of ‘em don’t open at all on Saturdays. Unless you come with a stay-at-home spouse, proximity may not be the best variable to choose by.

You may want to pick based on alliance.
To increase people’s access to money all the banks of Germany work together in Alliances. Just not with everyone else. So depending on your bank you will need to memorize a list of, say, 5 banks where withdrawing money will not cost you the equivalent of those 2 coffees you were going to buy with the cash. This list gets longer if you plan to go abroad.
Alliances are (probably amongst others)
and anything that ends in Sparkasse

You may want to pick on interest rates.
In which case you should just check all the banks’ websites and compare for instance here.
Right now interest rates are very, very, very low.
If you have large savings or plan to get large savings you should look further into long term investment plans.

You can pick on convenience
Get a bank account with a VISA credit card (No, not mastercard. They hate those here). With a VISA card you can withdraw money from pretty much every ATM without cost. NOTE: Only other banks, you will pay a fee for using your bank’s credit card at your own bank’s ATMs with some banks. Because reasons.
Every account comes with an EC card with which you can pay in pretty much any German store and use the ATM of any bank in their alliance. Next to that you have a VISA card which you can use on pretty much all other ATMs with no extra charge. So: Screw alliances, use any bank you want (as I understand it there are 1.5% of ATMs in Germany where the combination of the two cards still won’t work compared with 40% of the ATMS you can use for any given alliance).

Now, almost every bank offers a credit card, and most of those allow you to withdraw money from most other banks, but for most you have to “upgrade” your bank membership (by which I mean, you have to pay more per month) or just simply pay for the privilege. Haspa, for instance, requires 6 euro per month membership, 30 euro a year to upgrade to silver and then another 20 euros per year for the credit card.

Airbus has a Hamburger Sparkasse on-site where you can walk in and ask questions and Commerzbank offers free upgrade to a creditcard (a mastercard, hah) when you tell em you work for Airbus. There may be others that do the same. But if you work for a subcontractor this doesn’t help you.

You can pick on national pride
Sure, why not. There’s a couple of foreign banks here. They suffer from all the things discussed above, but the service is likely to be in a language you understand. Then again, my bank doesn’t do that.

Using your (Non-credit) card abroad has the same limitations as any other country. You’ll likely pay a minimum fee to use it and there is a % cost based on exchange rates. The specific numbers may be different than your home country.
Interesting note: It is often cheaper to withdraw money using an EC card abroad (but in the EU) than it is to use it in a non-Alliance bank within Germany. It’s fucking ridiculous.

Cash/card culture. This isn’t so much the cash culture as, for instance, Japan used to be. Your EC-karte will be accepted in almost any store (although some stores require a minimum spending). Restaurants and bars, however, don’t nearly have complete coverage. A lot of them don’t accept credit cards though.
On the other side I’ve been able to take a bill home from my dog sitter and wire him the money instead of paying cash on pickup.
You should probably some small amount of cash with you anywhere.

No one has ever heard of the  “See ID” thing here.

  • Social Interaction

If you want to do this through a hobby you are free to google “Football club Hamburg”, where Football is replaced by cricket(we have this), Frisbee, chess, or the hobby of your choice. Certainly the fastest way to make some friends with whom you share at least one interest. There are a number of meetup groups for foreigners outside of that. Internation, E-tisch, toytown, and probably many others all have opportunities to meet up. And I think there’s a fair few country specific groups as well. Your colleagues will come from all over, they’ll help.

And ask after Gen-A (Generation Airbus). Which is a collection of young(ish) people at Airbus that get together to do things.

  • Food

There’s a whole variety of restaurants for you to visit, some of them even run by nationals of the nations whose cuisine they claim to represent. German cuisine, in the meantime, loves its kartoffeln, bread and meat. Seriously, if you come from a rice country like I did you will gain 5 kg before you know it just from all the starch.
Hamburg is a harbour town and you can tell, there’s a lot of fish restaurants. Oddly enough, there’s hardly any places that sell fish for you to buy.
German meat is generally pig, not beef.
Wurst. Germany loves its wursts. Important note, you are above the weisswurstequator so your sausages will be red, unlike the Bavarian white sausages. The Hamburger sausage of choice is the currywurst. The currywurst, it is said, was invented by a young hamburger fraulein who hid a downed American bomber pilot in her basement during (and after, because one wouldn’t want ones prisoner/guest to leave just because the war ended, does one?) the war. Without being allowed to get foodstamps for her guest she had to improvise, and one fatefull fall down stairs mixed ketchup and curry to the now-famous sauce in which one bathes curry-wurst. This story is told by Uwe Timm, the same Uwe Timm who confesses to having made the entire thing up. The curry-wurst finds its roots in Berlin.
There’s a couple more Hamburg specific dishes like labskaus, Brathering, Matjes or rote grutz which I won’t spoil for you. Just try them. Schwarzsauer is the local blood pudding equivalent though, you probably deserve a warning for that.
The beer thing, well I’ve done wurst and kartoffeln so I should mention this. I’m afraid this is the wrong region. They make beer, but it’s not a local passion. Local beers are OK(I’m not including Astra in that statement). Holsten brewerie does have an annual festival to make up for it though. My favourite widely available beer is Duckstein. There are some interesting places though if you like other beers.
Hamburg being surrounded by apple fields there’s a few ciders here as well.
There’s been a burger restaurant revolution of sort in Hamburg over the last 2 years and they’re spouting up everywhere. Most of them are quite good.
There’s also a street food culture with food trucks and festivals.
For vegetarians: BratKartoffeln means fried potatoes, and this is ALWAYS (well, not always) done with onions and bacon. I thought I’d mention it.
There’s a fair amount of veggie friendly options, all the bigger supermarkets carry fake-meats, there’s lots of “turkish” and asian stores around for your base ingredients and pretty much all the kebab places (and there’s a lot of them) make falafel too.

  • Weather:

Well, I might as well mention it.
Some people, and by some people I mean my wife, complain about the temperature. It’s pretty far north and the it’s a sea climate so it’s often not-warm in the summer. There’s plenty of days where you can walk around in just a t-shirt in the summer, although the 9 month season of ice-cream shop queues is just Hamburgers being silly. Hamburgers celebrate every ray of sunshine that graces their city (coz there’s not a lot of them). It’s also very mild in the winter.
Other people, and I’m still talking about my wife, complain about daylight. Northern location means that in the winter for about 2-3 months you will go to work in the dark and come home after sundown. It kinda sucks.
Yet more other people, and I’m not talking about my wife for once, complain about the rain. Now, it’s often overcast but surprisingly it doesn’t rain as much as some other places in Germany. Still pretty wet though. Umbrellas are not as much in use here as rain comes paired with wind here, so if you get one; invest.

  • Glossary:

Bank German, this is the kind of German used in official documents by banks, the government and a few other players. This kind of German relates to whatever your home country uses when it wants to give you a headache with paperwork. Unless you are Japanese, because I imagine 敬語 is a lot worse. My colleagues certainly have had to pool resources to interpret my bank application. I had 3 colleagues go over my rental agreement, because two couldn’t understand enough of it. And my colleagues are rocket scientists, as will yours be. Lawyers as colleagues would probably have been more useful.

EC karte, this stand for Electronic cash (originally EuroCheck) and is the German version of the debit card. All of them have the magnetic stripe, but most of them have been fitted with the chip as well. While there is cooperation with Maestro etc. there are places where they won’t accept your card if it doesn’t say EC (or has the logo). Considering it is neigh impossible to get a bank account here and not get an EC card this is probably not the most important entry here.
This card will be asked for by name in stores. Not bank karte, EC karte.

Flat rate: You will pay this per month, no exceptions. This also means: Go beyond X MegaByte per month and we will throttle your connection to 64 kbit/sec (Where X depends on your ISP, and so will 64 kbit/s. I know of one provider where 64kbit/s is being generous).
XXXMbit/s or kbit/s this always means “up to XXX Mbit/s”, never “exactly XXX Mbit/s all the time”. Just imagine what that means for when you are throttled.

Reading aids in Japan

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

If you are like me you spend quite a bit of time with your nose in a book.
Or perhaps an e-reader of some sort.
Maybe you read articles on the internet instead.

I don’t care too much about what I’m reading. It used to have to contain either elves, dragons or space-ships or I wouldn’t be interested. But over the years I’ve developed a taste in a wide range in what I read.

I just finished Waiting by Ha Jin which has no elves, dragons or space-ships in it and I appreciated it nevertheless.
I’ve opened up Merchants of doubt, which was recommended by Elon Musk (not personally) and is non-fiction, a genre that generally has a pretty major lack of elves and dragons (although space ships do feature occasionally).
I’m reading Vermillion with my wife, but while it has talking bears, leopard seals an undead there has not been any elves, dragons and spaceships so far and that has been a huge disappointment in an otherwise fine novel.
I’m waiting for my lovely wife to finish Raising steam already so I can GET MY FUCKING FIX OF DRAGONS AND WIZARDS ALREADY.

At the same time I have some of the best of 2014 on my phone just in case I find myself too far away from a book. Although there’s generally one or two in my bag at any one time.

I have a problem these days though. My commute just got shorter.
Well great, you say. Less time to get to- and from work is excellent, right?
But I do part of my reading on my commute and the 3 minute ferry ride I have now just doesn’t afford the time to get into a passage the way my 7 minute ferry had. And now I only walk 2 minutes to the office after the ferry instead of the 5 previously.
Obviously, I have some first world problems.

But do you ever get like that where you don’t want to put down a book?
I took a morning off a couple of months ago because I came to the conclusion of a series and I needed to read those last 100 pages RIGHT NOW! (I was re-reading Harry Potter, I think :P)

What I’ve done all this ranting for, I guess, is merely to say:

I miss these

In Japan you had these lovely textured yellow lines run down the street.
I don’t have a lot of problems navigating streets while reading a book, but crowds do take a fair bit of concentration.
These things though, these things made it so much nicer.
I could walk from the Yoyogi station to my language school in 15 minutes and never take my eyes away from my book.
It was awesome.
Just stay aware of the bright yellow road stretching out in front of you, the texture under your feet and the flow of your narrative.

They’re for blind people btw.
So if you do find yourself enjoying a book down the streets of Tokyo and someone comes the other way, get off the damn track.

Writing prompt “Do you still believe in God?” said the Creature to the astronaut.

Friday, May 29th, 2015

“Euhm . . . hi”. Smooth Johnny, real smooth. I know there’s a protocol for this sort of thing but right now I really can’t remember the damn thing.

I extend my hand “John Lindgren” I state, breaking out into a performance smile “of euhm . . . Earth” I follow up rather weakly.

“Hello commander Lindgren” it says in very passable English. The being standing on my dash measured about 20 cm, was covered in green scales with bright feathers at several extremities, 6 of which appeared to be arms/legs and appeared to be of . . . the reptile kingdom? It had appeared there some 20 seconds after the giant Sphere appeared off my port bow.

It walks up and its tiny paw grabs my hand and shakes it. “I am known as” and he lets out a hissed sound sorta like “Raaaah”.

“You euhm . . . Earth as in the 3rd planet in this solar system. It’s just a name we gave it, it’s a lot more than just earth. It actually has a mostly iron core” SHUT. UP. You blathering idiot.

“Yes, we know, thank you.” He walked around the dash a bit looking around. “Nice ship” He pushed his head through the top of it for a second and pulled back out “semi-conductors, liquid crystal and a fair bit of copper.” His head went sort of up and down which in a human might have been an indicator of agreement, but who knows what it would mean to a . . . Raaaah. “Oh, this is a projection btw. No harm will come to your machine”

He stopped his pacing and faced me again. “You’ve come a long way”

Should I be patching this through to Earth? I pressed a button and opened a channel. “Euhm yeah. This is my . . . 3rd time around so that’d be about 2 million kilometers.” I answered the thing. “If that’s what you were asking”. “Guys, you should take a look at some of the feeds of the cockpit. And if you can see off the port bow there is something there that will blow your mind.” Jezus. Readings had just come in, that thing had a 21.5 km radius.

It tilted its head.

“Sorry, I opened a channel to Earth to document this.” Its head tilted further. “You don’t mind, do you?”

There was a sound coming from the back of its throat. “Hmmmm, I suppose not. I had hoped to talk to you in private first, but we were prepared for this happening eventually. We did approach you on the other side of your satellite for a reason though.”
“Hello Earth” it spoke into thin air. “I see you have an artificial satellite to bounce that signal off.” It looked at me again. “Impressive.”

“Well, commander. You’ve prospered it seems. Worked your way out of the dirt, developed a high enough technology to travel here.”
“Tell me, do you still believe in god?”

“I euhm . . .” Wait, what? Damnit, the protocol didn’t mention anything about this. It just had some standard phrases or something and you were supposed to smile. NO, DON’T SMILE. Showing teeth is like the universal sign for aggression.
I immediately toned down on the stupid grin that has been on my face for the last minute or so and fold my lips over any teeth I might have been showing. “No, not really. My grandparents were . . . Christian of some sort I think . . .” I trailed off rather lamely.

“Not you personally” countered the thing. “I meant your kind in general”

“I think most of us believe in something or other. A third of the population believes in the Abrahamic god of some denomination or other and there’s Hinduism and some other polytheistic ones . . . I guess. But more and more people are coming about to a more rational standpoint.” Its head started swaying from side to side. “How about some help over there, not trained for this” I hissed in the microphone meant for home.

“Hmmmm, well, we have been gone a long time”

. . . .

The brain froze. It just. WHAT?

“Well, we’re back now. Here to make things right. Sorry it took so long. Politics”                it held 2 of its front appendages apart and if it was human that would definitely have been a shrug.

“You were . . .” I tried. “You are . . .“ I moved my arms about trying to make up for the lack of articulation.

“GOD?” It spoke

“You’re Jesus?” It tilted its head again “I mean Yahweh, Allah or, or, or thingy that third one?” Earth was coming in now, questions were coming through, but I had a hard time hearing them. There may be a Protocol written somewhere about how to deal with aliens that I don’t remember, but I know that if God talks to your face you pay the fuck attention.

“Oh no. I don’t know about those.” It rested itself on its rear 4 appendages and pressed 2 others together in such a way that the little digits touched.

“Right, same deal as last time. One chosen people and they get the might to enslave the rest of the world. One guy to talk to, less hassle for us you see.”

“70% of the proceeds and resources go to us, of course. Not to mention first picks among virgins.”

He broke out into a smile, with little projected teeth blinking broadly in the LED light.

“And since we like you we’ll give your kingdom first bid.”


This writing prompt showed up over a week ago here:

I wrote it fairly soon, but ended up not posting it because I was distracted with other things. Since you don’t get karma on these things if you post it a lot later I thought I might as well post it here instead. Feel free to read other entries in the link above.