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Category: Expat Life

How To Fit In In Kreuzberg and Neukölln

I thought I’d share with you why I sometimes fantasize about moving to the country or at least Charlottenburg with this goofy video. Here are some visuals for what I describe in the video (I literally just had to walk down my block to find these things and I didn’t include every picture I made of the evidence…) Here’s a slime covered piece of furniture, now beautifully decorated with old pizza boxes. Hurrah! Wow, what a nice new touch. Instead of cabinets or dressers without drawers, why not provide a drawer without a cabinet or a dresser? Brilliant! Yes, this…

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An Expat By Any Other Name

What does it mean to be an expat? That’s a question I mull over a lot. Besides the fact that I’ve been an (American) expat for nearly 20 years now, one of the reasons I think about this is because I’ve seen a real shift in what being an expat even means. Berlin has had a start-up tech scene boom for a while now which brings in people from all over the world who live and work in the city in an English-speaking bubble. The companies offer German classes between team building yoga flow and chill time at the onsite…

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You May Kiss The Ring

So I told the ladies in my writing group last night that I’m married to a German Count and the inevitable happened: “Wait, are you serious? You’re married to a Count?” I told them, as I always tell anyone when this comes up, “It’s really not as impressive as it sounds.” German aristocrats were stripped of their official status after the war, but they were allowed to keep their titles as part of their name. “It’s just a fancy name, nothing else.” As usual, they didn’t believe me. “So does this mean your two daughters are countesses?” “Well, yeah. Officially…

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Take Me Out To The Ball Game, Mother F’er!

My soon-to-be published story “Forgotten Dreams” is set in Berlin. In the feedback I got on Sixfold, one woman asked, “Why are all the Germans in the story so mean?” I told my husband and we both had a good laugh. If you ever spend any time in Berlin, you’ll quickly learn this is a city where strangers live to yell at strangers. Although there might be several reasons why this happens, the main reasons why a native Berliner might hit you with a hefty bout of Berliner Schnauze is because a) you aren’t following the rules, or b) you were…

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Ode To O-Strasse

It’s funny how so much of my life has been defined by streets I eventually grew out of. The first one was Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, which I wrote about here. In a nutshell, I’m about twenty years too old for Telegraph Avenue, and a lot of it has been taken over by chains anyway. I still think Moe’s is one of the best used bookstores ever, but Cody’s is long gone.  I also doubt very much I could stomach a slice of pizza from either Blondie’s or Fat Slice. Another street that once meant the world to me was…

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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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