Some popular myths about Germany

myths about germany

Have you ever wondered about “German Efficiency”? Have you heard that in Germany there is no speed limit? some of this things are total bollocks !! continue reading to find out more of these myths about Germany

“German Efficiency” – BUSTED

Before I moved in to Germany, I heard a lot about the “German Efficiency”, this one can be single-handedly the most common myth about Germany, let me tell you, Germans can be organized, clean, ecological, anything BUT efficient.

myths about germany

More frequently than not, they fall into the over-correctness, they have an excess of rules, street signs, laws, etc.. And don’t get me started with German Bureaucracy.

“In Germany there is no speed limit in the autobahn” – BUSTED

FALSE !!! This is another popular Myth about Germany. Sure there is no speed limit in SOME parts of the autobahn, but more regularly you will find that you switch from going without speed limit to 80 km/hr just in a few meters, and almost for sure there will be a speed camera ready to take you a nice picture and send you a fine home.

myths about germany

In some parts “without speed limit” you cant even run because of the traffic, or there is always a god forsaken construction work. I could drive way faster and more consistently in Texas with a speed limit of 60 -70 mph than in Germany.

“Germans are punctual” – TRUE

This point is weird, the Brits are the most famous about punctuality, but I can assure you that Germans are even more. If you ever invite a German to a party be sure to give him/her the right time because they will be there on the dot.

“Germany is a very technologically advanced country” – BUSTED

Germany is a country where you can’t use your credit card most of the times, you have to send most of the paperwork still by snail mail or fax … yeah you read that right FFFAAAAXXX who ever still uses that in this time and age??? If I have used a fax 2 times in my life is a lot !!

You will see that cellphone service is utter crap almost everywhere, they offer “LTE” and you barely get 3g if you are in luck, and forget about using internet inside the supermarket because most of the time cellphones have no signal.

In here adding the numbers “24” to website hostnames is still a thing, to make sure your customers understand that they can buy stuff 24 hrs online !! WOW !!  OK I can write another full post on this matter so moving on.

“Germans are cold and unfriendly” – BUSTED

When you become a friend with a German, it’s a friend for life !! no hold backs, they will support you and help you and the bond is strong. The reason of this misconception or myth about people in Germany being cold of unfriendly is unfounded.

The thing is that, to become part of that inner circle in a German’s life it’s a bit harder than in other cultures, but once you are there it’s hard to break that bond. I can tell you, my first 2 German friends I made 3 and a half years ago I met them in the airplane coming here, I hadn’t set foot in Germany and I had my first 2 German friends.

Most importantly, they are friends that I value and love a lot. And they are 2 of the nicest persons I’ve ever met.

“Everyone speaks English in Germany” – BUSTED

That couldn’t be more wrong, I would say most Germans chew English or more or less understand it, but more common than not, if your German friend doesn’t use the language for work they tend not to speak it fluently. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that they have all their media dubbed and translated to German.

 

“All Germans are blonde” – BUSTED

Yeah there are many blonde Germans, but that is not the norm, most Germans I know have brown hair or even black.

These are just some of the myths I can think of, subscribe to my newsletter for more posts like this.  To read more about my experience in Germany as an expat you can read my post about “Cultural differences between USA and Germany”

 

 

Nintendo Switch Review: Buy, wait or pass

Nintendo Switch

I got the new Nintendo Switch console at launch last Friday, I have been testing it the whole weekend, playing mostly The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild . (Only title worth it at launch in my opinion.)

For some time I have been disappointed with the console market, in general Sony and Microsoft just release crappy “cheap” PCs and the exclusives they offer are not so exclusive anymore.

The last Nintendo console I owned was the Nintendo 64, after that they seemed to focus way too much in younger audiences so I stayed away.

I decided to try out the Nintendo Switch as an option for a nice portable device and because of the 3rd party support they are promising, I got interested mostly in some JRPGs that are coming and the target audience seems more ad-oc to me now.

So here are the aspects I evaluated:

Tech Specs

It seems Nintendo finally decided to launch something that is not using 10 year old technology. You can find a list of the specs in Nintendo’s official site

The touch screen is multi-touch capacitive finally, it has 32 GB of internal storage and you can expand it with a micro-SD card, I have a Sandisk of 200GB and it works pretty well. You can buy one in Germany at Amazon.de

It has a pretty decent processor, not comparable with PS4 or Xbox but in the end it offers pretty good graphics, quick loading times and seamless transition from TV to portable.

Price

In Germany you can get a Nintendo Switch for around 330 EUR, I think it’s an affordable price for what the console promise to deliver. It’s worth it to give it a try but as an early adopter you will find yourself struggling to get titles to use your console.

Price Vs Quality parity, you get what you pay, good quality materials, and the box includes everything you need out of the box (minus a game) to have a fairly good use of the console.

Launch Titles

This is the Nintendo Switch weakest point, the release titles I found them lacking and uninteresting, I can tell you the only title that it’s really worth it is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I think this title will keep you entertained for something between 50-100 hrs, based on what I have played this weekend.

Other titles include 1 2 Switch which is just a glorified (and expensive) tech demo of features that I think no 3rd party will ever use in their games and you will only see them in random “wii like” Mario titles. Another one is Super Bomberman … more of the same “wii like” stuff among others. 

Features

The main selling point of this console is it’s ability to become portable in an instant. Well I can say that works perfectly, you can switch from TV to portable very easily.

The joy cons are another thing that they have been marketing a lot, while it may look like a nice idea on paper, in reality they are rubbish and I don’t see myself preferring them over the pro controller any time soon. Those controllers are another attempt of Nintendo to “Wii-fy”everything, they haven’t learned that most people don’t care about that. On the other hand, the hi resolution vibration it’s pretty neat. If you want to tech demo the joy cons just buy 1 2 Switch “game”, but it’s a waste of money in my opinion.

The kick-stand, why in hell Nintendo decided to design so poorly that kick-stand, it’s over me, but the thing is a piece of plastic so flimsy that I can see it breaking really easily, on top of doubling as the micro SD card cover, it provides very poor balance to the console so I wouldn’t rely on it to play while on the airplane as the commercial shows. It’s better if you buy a case that includes some sort of kick-stand or something.

The docking station, it feels cheap plastic, it’s merely a stand with an HDMI connector and some USB ports. Nothing special, it adds no processing power to the console whatsoever or any benefits.

Software, this I am really torn about, many people complained the lack of browser, and multimedia apps such as netflix, amazon prime video, etc.. I’m really not bothered by that, for those services I have a smartphone, a tablet, other consoles a PC, a smart TV etc.. for me it’s more important that a gaming device does one thing right and that is GAMING.

What really bothered me, it doesnt have a browser, fine I can live with it, but when I wanted to create my nintendo account it literally sent me a smart device or PC and gave me a web address. I mean, WTF !! it should include at least an applet or something to be able to register using the console.

Now, things that the software does right, the standby mode or sleep mode, its wonderfully made and does what you expect it to do, contrary to my PS4 that always crashes or something happens if you suspend a game. 

Loading times are really quick, as all the info is in a cartridge or internal memory, the loading is really almost not noticeable.

Battery Life

I bought this device, mainly as a mobile gaming machine, and the battery life it’s a total let down. The first problem is that the battery is just 4310 mAh, so by playing a game like Zelda it lasts around 3hrs. But that’s not the main issue, I’m used to carry powerbanks and cables around.

The main issue is that the thing requires an output of 15V and 2.4 A when most powerbanks, wall chargers, car chargers etc.. have 5V and 2.1  A that means that it would take more than 8 hrs to charge fully with those chargers, rendering useless for a long roadtrip or train trip or even an air flight, considering you spend in the airport a few hrs of downtime.

So if you want to charge your device you need the official charger which is a huge brick. On top of that it uses USB-C you need another cable.

 

Summary

The pros for this console are:

  • Portable Option to a home quality console
  • Quick loading times
  • Small and light
  • Inexpensive gadget
  • When played with the pro controller it’s pretty comfortable
  • Nice quality look and feel materials

The cons are:

  • The battery life and charging options can potentially be a hassle
  • the hideous hand cramping joy cons
  • The screen resolution on portable mode is not so great
  • Lack of accessories and good games at launch
  • The worst kick-stand to have ever been designed in history of videogames

All in all I think it’s a good purchase if you want an inexpensive console to spend some time with your kids, or keep them entertained on the go. For someone like me is yet to be seen if the battery/charging hassles will become a major problem or not. Other than that I am pretty happy with it.

 

 

Cultural Differences as an Expat in the USA and Germany Part 1

Have you ever wondered how many cultural differences you could find between USA and Germany, but living the expat experience in both countries? 

Here I will point out some of the cultural differences I found in these 2 countries, without the bias of having been born in any of the two.

The Food 

The very first thing you will notice, is the food variety between these 2 countries. Food is a very important part of a cultural heritage, therefore it’s one of the biggest things that will impact your life when moving to another country.

Food Cultural Differences

For taste, let me tell you, and that’s my personal opinion, I think USA has more variety of tastes, there are more choices over there than in Germany. On the other hand, food in Germany tends to be healthier, due to stricter regulations and sanitary measures. In the USA in the first month I gained around 10 Kg the same I lost in Germany in around 2 weeks. 

Credit Cards

I couldn’t believe it at first, I thought that credit cards were the same in all countries, or at least managed similarly.

Cultural Differences Credit cards

Not in Germany, in here the credit card is tied to your debit account, and by the end of the month they take the full balance you owe directly from there. In the USA, and in Mexico for that matter there is normally a minimum payment to keep your account current, and if you don’t clear the balance by the end of the month you pay whatever interest rate you got for your card. 

If you were to try to do that in Germany, you have to go to your bank branch and sit down with them to negotiate terms of payment, sign a 100 page contract and explain them all your life and reasons why you need financing. 

Cash

Believe it or not, cash is still a thing !! in Germany. If you ever come to Germany or move here, make sure you carry around enough cash, because in many, and I mean MANY places they just accept cash or Debit card. 

Cultural Differences Cash

In the USA I remember carrying a $100 USD bill with me “for emergencies” same I never had to use in 3 years. 

Renting a house or apartment

Ohh !! as the Cash and credit card matter, this is a point I can write (and will write) a full post about, but here are the main cultural differences.

In the USA you can have lease or rental contracts as short as weeks or a couple of months, in Germany the contracts are longer in general. The deposit in the USA is customary 1 month in advance, while in Germany is 3 months, plus until recently you had to pay the realtor’s fee as well, not the landlord (I think they changed that law recently, the land lord pays now, making rents higher).

cultural differences apartment
For Rent sign in front of new house

It’s hard to find an apartment with a freaking kitchen installed !!! or even light fixtures. The Germans have this BYOK (Bring your own kitchen) thing (I invented the acronym, its nothing official). 

Anyways, in general in the USA is way easier and cheaper to move around and relocate from one city to another, while in Germany you are more rooted. 

Customer Service

This one is easy, in USA most, if not all the culture is customer oriented, the customer is the focal point of any business.

cultural differences CS

In Germany, there is close to ZERO customer service, employees in general don’t give a damn about customers, so don’t expect that asking for a manager in a retail store will take you anywhere when you have a complaint. I can write another full post regarding this point as well. 

Transportation

In General Germany is way more expensive in terms of transportation than the USA. But the main cultural difference here is the way you use these means. 

While in the USA is fairly mandatory to get a car because public transportation is not as connected and distances are in general greater than in Germany. 

Cultural differences ubahn

As an example, Germany’s whole country area is 357,168 km2 while Texas the state alone has 696,241 km2 so one single state is almost twice the size of Germany. This means there is a lot less space for everything. The streets are narrow and small, cars tend to be smaller it makes having a very connected public transportation easier to achieve. 

Gas prices are a lot more expensive in Europe than USA, therefore many people prefers to use public transportation for daily commute and the car just for weekends or trips. 

Education System

This is a big one as well. In Germany the public schools tend to be better than private, and are totally free, while in the USA is the contrary, public schools are not so good as the private ones, but the latter are overly expensive. 

Education

In Germany the vocational studies (Ausbildung) are well accepted and you can make a good living from a vocation without a Univesity or College Degree. Germans have a course or specialized training for EVERYTHING !!! 

You want to be a supermarket cashier? cool ! you can, just take this course, get your certificate and apply for a job in Rewe or Globus or whatever. 

Also the German system may seem a bit more relaxed in the early years than the american system but later on it puts a lot of pressure on the students to excel. 

Doctors and Healthcare in general

One of the biggest cultural differences that shock me still nowadays are the Doctors and how the whole healthcare system works in Germany. 

Many argue that the american system is more expensive etc.. but the German social care is not cheap, you just don’t see it. Here they take almost half of my income in taxes and health care, while in the USA I had a bigger portion of my salary and I could decide which insurance to get. 

Doctors

I will dedicate also a full post for this point, but I would like to mention here, when you have a cold and go to the doctor in Germany, they send you home for a week at least, tell you to drink tea and rest. In the USA they give you a nuke of a pill or shot, has you feeling like crap for 1 day and the next day you are as good as new. If you ask me I prefer the latter. But on the other hand the paid sick days off work are well worth it. 

Supermarket shopping carts

This may sound stupid, but I have lived in Germany for 3 years and I still can’t understand who was the “genius” behind the shopping carts with 4 freaking rotating wheels. Here in Germany, (And most of Europe I assume) the shopping carts have the 4 free rotating wheels. 

Cart

That makes it a lot more complicated to steer the damn thing, even more when the cart is loaded, it seems irrelevant but its one of the things I most miss from America. 

 

 

Conclusion

There are much more cultural differences between these 2 countries, specially from the eyes of an expat, look out for the part 2 

Some tips and tools for International Job Hunting

International Job Hunting might seem like a daunting task at first. As an IT Professional, my skills are on demand in many countries and many industries, technology is available everywhere after all. 

Between that and my passion for the adventure that is living in different countries I have become quiet proficient in international job seeking. 

So here are some tips or tools you can use when doing international job hunting: 

1.- Write down a list of target countries

International job hunting

It’s very important to focus your search, and narrow it down to either 4 or 5 countries or a couple of regions. For example, your job search focus could be USA and Canada, or maybe Western Europe. You can check out my post about “Expat Criteria to Consider a Country as Relocation Destination”

 

2.- Modify your resume (CV) accordingly for the target country standards (And language perhaps)

When hunting for a job you gotta think “International”, Each country has different “unwritten rules” or etiquette. When seeking for a job, I suggest you research online how a sample CV looks like in such country. 

 3.- Networking

International Job hunting social media

It’s very important to start meeting potential employers and recruiters that work in your target countries. Nowadays the social networks have become very powerful tools for doing that. The network for excellence is Linkedin, but I also suggest looking into other more localized networks. For example in Germany they have Xing.com which is basically a linkedin but widely used in said country.

4.- Register in local versions of big job board sites 

A very good example is to register in monster.com for the USA, monster.co.uk for the UK, monster.de for Germany, and so on. This will put you in the radar of recruiters looking for people with your profile in your target countries.

international job hunting boards 

 5.- Write down a list of target industries and target companies 

This point is very important, for example; if you want to work in the financial industry it may be a good idea to look for jobs in Frankfurt, London, New York and so on. But if you are interested in Technology companies, maybe Dublin, California and Berlin are better options. 

Imagine a situation where you get a marketing job in Frankfurt where the Financial sector is blooming but you hate the financial industry.

When the time comes to make a career change or look for another job. It’s highly probable that most of the jobs will be in the financial industry.

So it’s a good idea to move to a place where the job offers are more in line with your desire.

6.- Apply directly in your target companies websites

international job hunting Tech companies

It seems repetitive and in many cases like a waste of time, but if you are really interested in a company, dedicate some time to polish the profile. That will make your life easier when applying to multiple positions in the same company. 

 

7.- This is a personal rule that I learned the hard way: “Never ever accept a job in another country or city before visiting it in person first” 

It’s harder to discern whether you will like to live in a place or not, if you have never been there. Also, I think it’s important to visit your future employer’s office in order to get a first hand impression of how the company works. 

 

Expat Criteria to Consider a Country as Relocation Destination

I have been an expat for 6 years now, and I’m in my 3rd country … and counting

Have you ever felt the need or curiosity to know how it would feel to live in another country? Many people has this in the back of their minds at some point of their lives, some are too afraid to make the jump.

Here I want to give you some pointers or criteria I have used in order to determine which country could be good for me and my family as an expat.

You will frequently find people telling you WHY not to relocate, or how horrible their experience has been in a foreign country, on the other hand you will find other telling you exactly the opposite.

Each experience is unique to every person and down here I will list a number of criteria which can potentially influence how good or bad your experience as expat could be:

1.- Language 

Expat language

This point is very important, if you don’t know the local language in your target country, your life as an expat can become a nightmare very quickly. If on the other hand, you don’t know it, but you have an interest in learning it, then there is no better way to learn a foreign language than immersing yourself in it. 

Also this impacts immensely the amount of job opportunities you will have in said country. As the possibility to make friends and having a healthy support system.

2.- Be aware of the local Culture and mostly cultural differences

Expat culture shock

Definitely one of the most enriching parts of being an expat is the cultural differences with your own.

Learning from another culture or how things are done differently in another country can blow open your mind. 

But be wary, it can be frustrating at times, and you should be mentally prepared for that. 

3.- Education system 

Expat education

This point is important if you are a parent or you are planning on relocating as a student. Some countries have better public systems than private and vice versa, some are cheaper or even free, some are expensive. 

 

4.- Visas / Residence permits / Work permits 

Expat visa

A big criteria you should consider before throwing yourself head first to this expat life is VISAS. There is no point in relocating to a country without a long term plan. Evaluate your options, for example: I have Spanish citizenship, so basically for me it’s way easier to move as expat to any European country, than let’s say USA, Canada or Australia. 

Even more when considering getting a job in a country that requires sponsorship can be a daunting and challenging task. 

5.- Job Market 

Expat job search

You have to sustain yourself somehow. So do some research beforehand on how is the economic situation of the country you want to move. Is your career on demand? or will you find a lot of local people competing with you for a job?

You can check more info on this in my post “Some tips and tools for International Job Hunting”

6.- Quality of life 

Expat quality of life

If you already know someone living in that country, ask them how expensive it is? how are the salary ranges in a target area where you would plan to live. Commute times to job centers. There are many tools online such as Glassdoor for the salary ranges, you can check real state sites to check on rent costs, etc.. 

7.- Public Safety 

How safe is the target country, that is of paramount importance for me, so I normally check news papers, crime reports, etc.. before making the decision to move. 

Expat safety

8.- Food 

It might sound stupid, but if you come from a country where the food is AWESOME, such as Mexico and you move to a country where the food options are not so good. Let me tell you, you will feel it after a while. 

Expat food

Also very important, how good are the health and sanitation laws in the country? are they feeding only transgenic stuff to the people? or they have natural high quality produce available? 

As an example, I moved from Mexico to USA and in less than a month I gained 10 Kg. When I moved to Germany from USA, I lost the same or more in just a couple of months. 

9.- Healthcare system 

Expat healthcare system

How good (and cheap or expensive) is the healthcare system of the target country, as an expat, to have a good healthcare insurance becomes of paramount importance.

Since most of the times you don’t have the same rights as the citizens of that country or simply you have not been paying taxes as long as they do, therefore it may be more expensive for you. 

10.- Distance from your home country

Expat travel

Depending on each person’s priorities or needs, but this may be an important factor, for instance, someone whose mom is sick may want to be a 2 hr flight away from home.

How frequently and therefore expensive can become if you plan to fly back for holidays every year ? or for friends and family to visit you.