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Category: Expat Life

Not One, But Two

So here’s the thing: Germany has the reputation for being a very organized and efficient country. This is true to a certain extent, but mostly what the country does best is makes things unnecessarily (and sometimes mind-bogglingly) complicated. Granted, American bureaucracy is also a pain in the ass, but for the most part, you can avoid its nastier sides, at least if you’re a citizen. But bureaucracy penetrates every part of German culture, not just governmental offices. You can always tell a fresh off the boat expat because they will always say things like, “Wait, why do I need that…

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The Nightmare That Is FATCA

Spread the word, people! p.s. Not quite sure why I’m looking over to the side at the beginning of the video. I think I thought that’s where the camera hole was. p.p.s. I forget to mention that FATCA (and citizenship based taxation) also affects ‘accidental Americans’, i.e. foreigners born in the United States because their parents were working there, etc. In many cases, these people never lived in the US, most likely have never had an American passport and maybe don’t even know that New York City is not in California (something I heard a lot from EFL students over…

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The Streets Where I’ve Lived

This month marks the 20th anniversary of my life in Berlin. In another six years, I’ll have lived here longer than I ever lived in the US. Hard to believe, but it’s true. All this has gotten me nostalgic for all the streets where I’ve lived since I moved to this city. Here’s a little run-down: Krampnitzer Weg (I never officially lived here, but it was my entrance into the city) In 1995, I worked two jobs at Southland Mall in Hayward: one full-time at Waldenbooks and one part-time at Happy Donuts in the food court.  I worked these crazy…

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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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