Leben in Deutschland Questions

In order to apply for permanent residency and/or citizenship here in Germany, you have to take the “Life in Germany” test.  For residency, I believe you need to answer 15 out of 33 questions correctly, and for citizenship you need to answers 17 questions correctly.  Assuming you have a fair knowledge of German and you’ve reviewed the information, it’s pretty easy.

30 questions are pulled from a 300 question catalog over German politics, history, and culture.  The last 3 questions are pulled from a 10 question list that relate specifically to the state the tester lives in.  All of the questions are available here for practice purposes – though going through the whole list numbs your brain.

I found the political questions the most difficult, as I had a tendency to jumble up the different offices a bit.  The German government follows a three branch system as the United States does, so I at least had something I already knew about to compare to.  I found the history section fairly easy, as it focused on 1933 to now, and American history classes loooove World War II and the Cold War.  I had learned most of what was covered already.  The culture section focused mostly on day to day life and laws, which seemed pretty intuitive to me, but might have been more tricky if I came from a culture that was completely different.

Some of the questions were pretty easy – and some were comical.  I went back through my giant printout of question and pulled them out and translated them for your enjoyment. Others who come from a different background might not find these as funny as I do, but I feel that a lot of people who read this will find some amusement from it.

8. What is not stated in the constitution of Germany?
a. Human dignity is inviolable.
b. Everyone should have the same amount of money.
c. Everyone can speak their minds.
d. All are equal before the law.

Unfortunately the answer is B.  The government does not ensure that everyone has the same amount of money.  This could be considered a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much money you already have.

137. Which court in Germany is responsible for conflicts in the work-world?
a. The family court
b. The criminal court
c. The work court
d. The district court

It almost feels like a trick.  It would be too simple if the work court was responsible for work conflicts. Thankfully the Germans are very straightforward and c is correct.

226. Which is the flag of the European Union?

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

Flag_of_Europe.svg

Flag_of_the_United_Nations.svg

652px-Flag_of_CEFTA.svg

The US wishes the first was the answer! (or not… probably not)  I actually had to take a picture of the last flag from my test paper and reverse google image search it to figure out what it is even for.  It is the flag of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) – thanks Google!

245. Who can not live together as a couple in Germany?

a. Hans (20 years old) and Marie (19 years old)
b. Tom (20 years old) and Klaus (45 years old)
c. Sofie (35 years old) and Lisa (40 years old)
d. Anne (13 years old) and Tim (25 years old)

Oh my lord, Tim is so creepy.

251. If someone beats a child in Germany…
a. that’s no one’s business.
b. that is only the family’s business.
c. they can not be punished for it.
d. they can be punished for it.

This is one of the ones that I’m sure will have different opinions based on cultural differences.  For me, I find all of the answers besides d completely absurd, but I suppose it isn’t like that everywhere.

267. A young woman in Germany, 22 years old, lives together with her boyfriend. The woman’s parents disapprove, because they do not like her boyfriend. What can the parents do?
a. They must respect the decision of their adult daughter.
b. They have the right to take their daughter back to their house.
c. They can go to the police and show them the daughter.
d. They look for another man for the daughter.

Another cultural one.  The parents could do a few of those things, but they would run into some problems with b and d – and get laughed at by the Polizei for c.

276. What should you do if you are mistreated by your contact person in a German office?
a. I can do nothing.
b. I have to put up with the treatment.
c. I threaten the person.
d. I can complain to the office supervisor.

I think this one is here just so that immigrants know that they don’t have to put up with being mistreated when they jump through all their bureaucratic hoops.  This one is funny to me because I didn’t actually know the German word for threaten at the time (drohen), so I had a bit of a shock when I looked it up.

If you are preparing for this test, don’t be too scared!  While I haven’t actually received my results yet, I found it way easier than the language test, and I passed that one!

Bahn Etiquette – Public Transportation #2

As I’m using public transportation more and more in Germany, I’ve decided to trying to write more about it.  Hopefully these sections are fairly practical for any readers hoping to use this wonderful service (when they aren’t striking…)

Today I wanted to tackle public transportation etiquette – or at least three tips that I can think of right now.

1. Be prepared before you arrive.   Like I said in my previous post about public transportation, if you are late, there will be someone who doesn’t know what they are doing using the ticket machine in front of you.  The converse of this is that, if you are at the ticket machine with no idea what to do, there will be someone late waiting on you.

The best way to combat this is to know exactly what you need before you arrive.  You can plan your route on Deutsche Bahn’s website and it will tell you the name of the ticket you need and how much it costs.  This will speed along the process. There will still be a bit of a learning curve with the machine itself, but if you give yourself a bit of extra time everything should be fine.

Also someone who looks like they know what they’re looking for is much less annoying than someone staring blankly at the screen.  And English is available – just look for the British flag.

2. Find a proper seat.

Most of the regional trains (my specialty) have most of their seats set up in groups of four.

image

It is totally fine to sit here alone. Single travelers will grab these sections and then as the train fills, other single travelers or couples will then sit in the row across from them. When two single travellers share one of these sections they generally sit diagonal from each other – as it allows for maximum leg space. Your bag can go onto the seat next to you to deter creepers ignoring the sit across rule, but you should move it to your lap or to the overhead rack if seating becomes scarce.

image

Seats with two spots follow a similar pattern. Sit near the window if alone and don’t sit next to someone if there are other seats available.

There is also commonly a section with fold down seats.

image

These seats suck, so they usually fill up last. They are meant for travellers with bikes, strollers, or wheelchairs (under the seats are some straps that can be used to secure things, but I have yet to see someone use them). If someone with one of those three things comes toward those seats, make room for them.

On crowded trains, you may need to stand. That’s life. If you cannot stand for whatever reason, there should be seats near the door indicated for this purpose. If people are seated there, ask politely if you can sit. If they don’t need the spot, they are supposed to give it up.

3. Don’t block the doors

This is a should, but not always a reality. If you do this, you will be making the world a better place.

Let people off the train first. The train cannot leave if the doors are open. You will not get anywhere faster by pushing past people trying to get off.

If the train is crowded and you are standing in the doorway and cannot move back to allow others off and on get off the train. Again, it will not leave while the doors are open. Get off with the people leaving and get back on with the people boarding. Easy peasy.

For the most part, the train experience runs fairly smoothly (when the trains and run – looking at you, Bahnstreik). Just be polite and self-aware, and things are better for everyone.

Public Transportation Part #1

By User:Wiki-observer (User:Wiki-observer) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
By User:Wiki-observer (User:Wiki-observer) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Because I don’t have my own car (as explained here), I frequently have to rely on public transportation when I need to get somewhere while the Verlobter is working.  Thankfully trains and buses are much more common here than in America, and for the most part I can get where I need to go rather easily, even if it takes longer than driving.

The German transportation system isn’t without it’s quirks, though.  Deutsche Bahn, the national train company, is one of the most un-German organizations ever.  Trains are regularly late, usually only by around five minutes or so, but when you have a tight connection, those five minutes can be a bit nerve-wracking.

So far, I’ve been lucky to avoid any major delays.  It is very important to arrive on time, though, because if you are running late, the train definitely will not be delayed and you will run into the Murphey’s Law of Train Station Ticket Machine.  Sorry for the long name of the law, I just made it up right now, but it is an observable phenomenon at all German train stations.  Either outside, or immediately inside the doors of a train station, you will find a number of ticket booths.  The actually number is unimportant.  No matter how many there are, if you are running late, they will all be in use.  If you have plenty of time, all will be open.

By Flominator (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Flominator (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I don’t even know what is going on on the machine to the left, but the one on the right is what I encounter the most often.  Instructions are available in five or six languages, but if you are running late, the person you choose to wait behind will inevitably have difficulty understanding what is happening on their touch screen.  If you choose to switch to a different line, the person will suddenly figure out what they are doing, but someone will swoop in to take your place before you can switch back.  They’re like grocery store lines, but somehow more frustrating.

These ticket machines take cash and card, but will only dispense change – so keep that in mind when you pay for a 3€ ticket with a 20€ bill.  This is not restricted to Germany; in St. Louis, the Metrolink machines will give you back golden dollars, which is way worse than getting a handful of 2€ coins.  You can use 1€ and 2€ coins in vending machines and cashiers won’t look at you like you have three heads when you pay with them.  They just make your wallet/pocket heavy, and that’s annoying, but at least you can easily get rid of them.

Expat Tips

1. Be flexible
There will inevitably be something that does not work out quite as planned. I naively expected to dive into work right away, but it turned out that my basic school German was not good enough, even for teaching English. My original plan was to get steady work and then work on my German – that plan had to be reversed.
There could be problems with visas or living situations. The previous owner of our apartment kept asking for more time to move out. The Verlobter purchased the place in the spring with the promise that the previous owners would be out by September, so we were not terribly flexible on that.
You can’t anticipate what will go wrong, but you should probably anticipate that something will. Prepare for many deep breaths and looking on the bright side.

Sometimes you drop an unopened jar of off-brand Nutella on the ground.  Sometimes the punches are hard, but you have to roll with them.
Sometimes you drop an unopened jar of off-brand Nutella on the ground. Sometimes the punches are hard, but you have to roll with them.

2. Find a translator
If you are not fluent in the language of your new country, I would highly advise finding someone who is who will accompany you to important offices to help you wade through bureaucracy. Germans are the masters of setting up legal hoops for everyone to jump through. Conversational German is not enough here to understand everything. And even if the employees there know your native language, they will be reluctant to use it, presumably to avoid liability for translation errors.
There were some occasions where the Verlobter could not come with me to the dreaded Ausländerbehörde (foreigners’ office). Our alternative was to have my mother-in-law come with me instead, try to explain what she could (we got along fairly well with a mix of broken German and broken English) and then call the Verlobter to have him translate the rest.

image

3. Learn the language
Clearly the above point isn’t needed when you are fluent in the language. I’ve found, though, that trying to learned a language in a bubble is incredibly difficult. I tried to brush up on my German before I moved by using Duolingo, but it was difficult to keep myself motivated because I didn’t need it yet. I’m also not very good at holding myself accountable for goals, so Duolingo easily fell on the back burner.
The best thing for me was having a class. If you can find a class before you move, I highly suggest it, but if you can’t, try to look for on soon after you move.
Where I live, places can fill up fast. I was fortunate enough to be able to slide into an open spot halfway through an intensive course, which I only could have done because I already knew some German.
It’s really easy to become lazy as an English speaker here, but I’ve found Germans to be the most encouraging, especially older ones. They’ll praise even the most feeble attempts, and it’s a big ego boost.

Itchy Feet by Malachi Ray Rempen describes this perfectly. http://www.itchyfeetcomic.com/
Itchy Feet by Malachi Ray Rempen describes this perfectly. http://www.itchyfeetcomic.com/

4. Walk around by yourself
When I’m with the Verlobter, it’s really easy to let him do all of the talking. I think it’s important to go out by yourself when possible and put yourself in situations where you have to use what you know of the language. Browse markets, go pick up bread, go to the gym once a week by yourself. Do something to get out of your English bubble a little.
And when you’re alone, you’ll notice more about your new country. Ask the Verlobter, I love to talk. So when I’m in the city center with someone, I’m not probably chatting with them instead of paying attention to those around me. I’ve made so many more observations just from my journey to and from my German class than I would have with someone with me.

image

5. Pack light
Your new country will have things, I promise. I’m a habitual overpacker, but moving overseas twice (once for a five-month internship and once permanently) has taught me a few things.
You don’t need that many clothes. Unless you’re a major minimalist when it comes to your wardrobe, you probably shouldn’t bring everything with you. I did a major purge before I left and still had too much. I left some winter clothes behind because I was coming back for a wedding in two months. I figured I could bring another load over then, and I cleared out a bunch more stuff then.
Unless you are in the military or your job is helping you with your move, the shipment of any household stuff might cost more than it’s worth. The most cost efficient “shipping” I found was paying for an extra suitcase. There are bulk shipping option available, but the cheaper they are, the slower they are, and the further you live from a port, the less convenient they get.
If you can swing it, I would suggest selling off your old stuff and hitting up Ikea once you arrive.
Also, if you have friends or relatives willing to store stuff for you, plan out bringing things over in stages. Like I said, I didn’t bring my winter clothes over initially because I knew I’d visit my parents again before winter. This wait time can help you part with your things more easily as well. That pair of heels that hasn’t fit in your suitcase the past two visits can probably go to a thrift store.

image

Driver’s Licenses are Expensive

Maybe it’s because there are much higher standards of safety here.  Or maybe it’s because it isn’t that hard to survive here without a car.  I never drive anymore.  The Verlobter has a car, but he needs it for work, so I make do with a bike and public transport.

I do have a German license, though.  I’m lucky that I come from Missouri (how many people have said that ever?).  Because I had a Missouri Driver’s License, I only needed to take the German theory test, which was available in English.  I was able to skip the most expensive part – driving school.  Like many Americans, I’ve never had formal driving lessons, so maybe it isn’t good that I got to skip them.

Starting from scratch, a German driver’s license can cost you around $2,500 – $3,000.  I got away with around $150.  This is more than I’ve paid in America for three learner’s permits, an adult license, a duplicate license, and a renewal.

The German test is a bit crazy as well.  Each question can have multiple right answers and you have to select all of them.  You have to analyze videos and pictures.  There is a complex point system and you have to score about 90%.

Do not enhance!
Image by me

I passed it on my first try.  😀  Which is good, because it costs 90€ a pop to take the stupid thing.

There is just one little problem, though.  Because I only had to take the theory test, I was able to slide through without learning to drive a stick.

If you aren’t familiar with driving in the USA, most people drive exclusively automatics.  In fact, I know more than one person who has a car with manual transmission because other people cannot drive it and it keeps people from trying to borrow it.  It also makes it harder to steal, no joke.

That doesn’t really work here, though.  Automatics are not commonly driven here and there is no way I’d be able to convince the Verlobter to coddle me and switch to one.   He’s tried to teach me (video evidence below), but I’ve been quite successful at avoiding driving altogether.  I suppose I’ll eventually have to learn, but today is not that day.

Switching from Fahrenheit to Celsius

Celsius is definitely not a weird German thing.  The US is weird for using Fahrenheit.  Celsius is nice, even, and logical.  Fahrenheit is, like almost all other units of measure in the US, outdated and absolutely crazy.  But when you grow up with it, you get used to it.  I have a feel for Fahrenheit (and for miles, feet, inches, etc.) and, while I am still having trouble adjusting to the metric system when it comes to measuring distances, I now have a “feel” for Celsius.

It is incredibly weird, though, because while I know what a certain degree in Celsius feels like, I can’t easily translate it into a number for Fahrenheit and vice versa.  If my mom wants to know what the weather is like here, I have to look it up in Fahrenheit, because even though I’ve been outside and looked up the temperature on my phone in Celsius, my brain will not let me convert it.  The same thing occurs when my in-laws ask what the weather will be like when they go to America in the summer.  I’ve been there.  I’ve felt the heat.  I know the number in Fahrenheit.  But my brain refuses to figure it out.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I want to download this directly into my brain!

Part of me wants to insist that my American relatives get with the rest of the world and just use Celsius, but I have a weird sentimental attachment to the Fahrenheit system.  It sounds way more impressive when I talk about 100+ degree days in the summer than when I talk about getting heat exhaustion at 40 degrees.

I just want my brain to be able to do both, but “feelings” are too vague to help it and the math is too complicated to convert the numbers.

[°F] = [°C] × 95 + 32

[°C] = ([°F] − 32) × 59

Seriously, what is this?  9/5?  That’s just ridiculous?

Gott sei dank for smartphones.