Mistakes I Made: The Ins & Outs of Germany
Nadja Sayej

Cell_phones.JPGOnce you’re here you may never want to go home.

Don’t live like a tourist. Get a phone plan, and stop paying 3€ service charge on your Canadian bank card. This is what I learned the hard way.

You’re not alone. Most young Canadians who live and work in Germany don’t want to leave once they’re here. It can be hard, after all, to pick up and leave a life you’ve worked so hard at building – especially with all your new German friends. Heading home may be the last thing on your mind.

Here’s how to stabilize with the unsexy, practical details you need to cover between parties, work and getting around Germany. 


Within the first three months of landing in Germany, visit your local government’s office to register with the government – and give them your address. You’ll need to bring a friend who speaks German, your passport and proof of your home in Germany, a fill-in form from your roommate (if that’s whose name is on the lease) or your landlord will be fine. As much proof as possible will help you here. And arrive early. The last thing you want to do is arrive at the government office at 2 p.m., when I went to take a number I got #143. They closed at 4 p.m. I went back the next morning at 8 a.m., as I should have in the first place. They’ll give you a piece of paper signed with your name and address on it which you can use to get a library card and a German bank account (bank accounts are only given to residents of Germany). It is basically proof you are a resident here, not a tourist.

sparkasse.jpgBANK CARD

There are a number of banks in Germany, though the most popular ones are likely Deutsche Bank and Sparkasse. If you want to open a bank account in Germany, you can’t just show up at the bank and expect service. You have to make an appointment one week in advance and ask for an English speaking bank attendant. You can do online banking on Deutche Bank’s website in English, but their rate is 5€ per month while with Sparkasse, you pay 2.50€. Either way, if you’d like to cash a Canadian cheque with your German bank account, the processing fee is around $15 Canadian and it could take up to six weeks for you to get your money. If you continue to use your Canadian bank card in Germany, you will be charged roughly 3€ per transaction. Best to just get a German bank card, unless you like walking around with money on you at all times. Few places accept debit and credit in Berlin.

Media-markt.jpgCELL PHONE PLAN

Once you arrive in Germany, you’ll notice your Canadian cell phone does not work. I tried sending a text and it bounced back. My Toronto cell also said “emergency mode” and could not make any outgoing calls. At first, I went to Media Markt, a popular technology store chain in Germany, to buy a cell phone. The phone cost around 30€ and the SIM card cost 10€. I went pay-as-you-go for months, uploading 15€ credits to my phone every week or so, until another expat told me how cheap the phone plans are in Germany – roughly 10-15€ per month for unlimited texting and roughly 60 outgoing minutes. Gotta run. Getting a call…


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artstarstv.com_250px.jpg NADJA SAYEJ, host of ArtStars*, writes about art for artUS, Border Crossings, C magazine, Canadian Art, the Globe and Mail, the New York Times and was splashed the cover of Eye Weekly as “the next Jeanne Beker.” She was called “Center Stage in Toronto in an Art in America cover story. She is a columnist for enRoute and is busting her ass in Berlin, Germany, and surrounding countries. Follow the adventurous fun on Twitter or her ever-popular Facebook fanpage or even on LinkedIn, as well. 

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My experience in Germany has been invaluable. In addition to learning German and taking part in another culture, I have learned so much about myself. I am confident that I can thrive away from the comforts of home and that I am dynamic and flexible. This is exactly what today’s employers are looking for – giving me a competitive advantage in the working world.
Kate from British Columbia – working for an international not-for-profit organisation.