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Kategorie: Expat Life

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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Help Her, She’s Poor

Have I ever told you how much I fucking love Germany? As I watch my country be ripped apart by unbridled neo-liberal heartlessness, cynicism turned reality and sometimes downright unhinged psychosis—and yes, this makes me angry, but mostly it just breaks my heart—I appreciate my adopted country Germany all the more. Germany’s social welfare system already gave me free university. It gave me Elterngeld (parents‘ money) the two years I stayed home when my daughters were small. It gave me affordable, full-time childcare which was absolutely free once my daughters turned three. It gives me 364 euros a month Kindergeld…

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Winter, Du Nervst!

As the great German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Oh, winter in Berlin, the cruelest of all seasons! If I were but a bear, nestled in my darkest cave, slumbering from November until the very Ides of April.” Ok, so Goethe didn’t really say that. But if he had, he’d be so right. One winter in Berlin is enough to transform even the most cheerful Pollyanna into a Ms. Gloomy Wednesday for a good five months. SAD is a real thing, my friends. Oh yes, indeed, it is. But before you roll your eyes and blame my Berlin…

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