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Category: Expat Life

Charlottenburg, Ich Hab’ Dich Gern

An old expat friend of mine had this theory that the part of Berlin you first move to is where you eventually return if the city becomes your permanent home, not just a year-or-two passing through until you go back to where you come from or, if you’re a millenial, move on to Barcelona or Lima or Koh Tao or wherever your little digital nomad heart takes you. (Sometimes I envy the selbstverständlich free roaming spirit of millenials, but that’s probably just me being your run-of-the-mill angsty GenXer). I’d say her theory works somewhat in practice, at least when it comes…

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With Love From A Berkeley Girl

About a year and a half ago I wrote the following personal essay and started sending it out to see if I could get it published somewhere. It has since been rejected ten times and I stopped sending it out a while ago, just letting it sit for a bit. I re-read the piece today and realized the first six pages had to go. It was a lot of backstory about my parents, my upbringing (or lack thereof), which might be vaguely interesting for someone to read who doesn’t know me, but the real story only took off on page…

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The Mittenwalder Boys and X-Berg Schooling

When American friends and family come to visit me, the first thing they always say about my street Mittenwalder Strasse is: Wow, there’s a lot of graffiti here. They always say “a lot of graffiti” like it means something, and the something it means isn’t good. For the most part, I don’t really notice the graffiti and I don’t think it means much of anything, at least not anymore. What I do notice is our street isn’t particularly beautiful, but then again, what is beautiful in Berlin other than the woods, a couple hundred Treppenhäuser in Charlottenburg and maybe Prenzlauer…

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Citizenship Based Taxation and FATCA, i.e. the Bane of My Existence

So I just filed my US tax return and now I need stiff drink to recover. I made this little video earlier today to complain about it to the world. I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m just whining in the video, because citizenship based taxation (CBT) and FATCA are actually serious problems for many Americans and green card holders abroad. Thanks to FATCA, a lot of ordinary American expats can’t get a mortgage or business loan; in some cases, they can’t even open a simple bank account in the country where they live and work. Although many countries have…

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E tu Germania?

Maybe it was naive, but I really thought Germany would stay immune to the rot of right-wing populism that keeps rearing its ugly head these days. When I first moved to the country, I was amazed at how well they had dealt with the evils of their past. A culture of remembrance whose credo was “never again” was present everywhere; Germans carried the burden of their crimes and fostered critical thinking, sometimes to the point of being slightly annoying (isn’t there any irrational subjectivity in this country, I’d wonder, occassionally even missing my father’s Republican rants…) Sure, Germany still had…

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EFL 2: How I Learned My Brain Is Asian

I taught English as a Foreign Language here in Berlin for over 15 years. Although I am admittedly a bit of a grammar nerd, the main reason I stuck with it so long is it’s a job where you spend a great deal of your time talking to people and hearing their stories and, of course, get paid for it. What could be better than that? (I earn my keep these days more from translating and writing, but I mainly do the work in my favorite cafe so I at least have the semblance of being connected to other people…)…

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Museum Nerd At The Gemäldegalerie

My husband is always teasing me about what a major museum nerd I am. No matter where we are, even if the nearest museum only showcases rusty farm equipment labeled with fly-specked signs, I still want to go. What’s more, I will also be excited the whole time I’m there, reading the faded lettering, learning all about the fascinating differences between ridge and moldboard plows. Of course, Berlin has some of the best museums in the world, which means a treasure trove for museum nerd moi. Luckily I’ve also done a good job brain washing my children into liking museums,…

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Fermata Moment

In our teens and early 20s my sister and I were inseparable, Siamese twins born two years apart. “Do you guys ever do anything separately?”, people asked us at Chabot Community College, half judgey, half in awe. “No,” we told them. “Never ever.” We both worked at Waldenbooks, both went to Chabot, shared a car and lived at home, at least in separate rooms. When we got off work we sped down Crow Canyon Road all the way to San Ramon, dissed it for the plastic suburb it was, then turned around and drove back home. What else was there to do? We…

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The Secret To Eternal Youth

My grandmother on my mother’s side turned 90 last year and for whatever reason, she never went gray. A mere decade away from becoming a centernarian, her hair is the same light brown it always was. Still a natural brunette at 66, my mom inherited the same genetic anomaly. I was keeping my fingers crossed the same would be true for me, but then a spider web of gray started cropping up at my hairline in my late 30s, which I now dye away every couple of months. A streak of gray might be ok in my 50s, but in…

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