Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ah Bureaucracy....

I've been stressing for a couple weeks, trying to get all my paperwork together for my new job. Our "Aufenthaltserlaubnis" (residence permission) expired the 11th of February. We went in to reapply on the 1st, and were told that we should've come MUCH earlier. She issued us a temporary visa until the end of April while Ryan's work permit was reviewed.

Two weeks later I was offered a job, on the condition that I had residence permission, to start at the beginning of March. So the last few weeks I've been calling and calling the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners' office) only to find out that no one knows anything about the progress of our visas. Then today my boss called because she's nervous that none of my paperwork is done yet. I explained the situation and she recommended persistence.

So I called again, and spoke to the woman who's in charge of our case. After giving a myriad of personal information a light went on.
"Kat-a-reen-a Sh-tr-ah-n-guh. Didn't you call yesterday?!"
"Uh, maybe a few days ago."
"Yes, and I told you it will take perhaps 4 weeks."
"Uh, yes, well the thing is..."
"Call back in a few weeks."
"I will call you again next week." Silence.
"Wait a minute. Your husband is R-oo-an Sh-tr-an-guh? Yes. Your papers are ready."

So the squeaky wheel triumphs again. I can pick up my job offer letter tonight, and if all the stars align, I can go in tomorrow and get my Aufenthaltserlaubnis and Arbeitserlaubnis (work permission) all in one go. No, that's probably completely unrealistic. But cross your fingers for me anyway!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fasching 2010

Even more festive than Germany's beautiful Christmas markets is Fasching. This is known as the "fifth season" in the Rhein/Main region (the region where the Rhein River and Main River meet, a.k.a. here). Last year our friends, Simon and Sarah, introduced us to German Mardi Gras; and this year we decided to pass on our limited knowledge to our friends, Justin and Marisa.

Cologne is the most famous town for Fasching, but we'd also heard that Mainz, which is much closer, knows how to throw down. So we bought some costumes and hopped on the train to Mainz.

It did not disappoint. Everyone was decked out in various bizarre costumes. Ryan found a costume called "Mexican" at Woolworth's and thought it bizarre enough to buy, but there were actually a lot of "Mexicans" at the brewery party we went to. I dressed as a strawberry. There was a costume contest, first prize went to a group of animal/cave people. (Fasching costumes are much less literal than Halloween costumes.)
Ryan, Marisa, and Justin also enjoyed some "beer towers" delivered to our table. They each contained 3 liters. I stuck to girly drinks.

Fasching parties always include crazy German music, very silly dancing, and bizarre costumes. But this year I'm learning they also involve mildly disturbing cake men.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is this what America is doing while I'm gone?

The other week I heard this hilarious interview on BBC: Its about a grocery store in the UK banning people in pajamas. And when I listened I'll admit I felt a bit superior.

But today I saw this on the blogosphere, and nearly had a nervous breakdown. PAJAMA JEANS!!!?????!!!! WTF???!!!!???? I especially got a kick out of their "European Styling." During all my living/traveling on the continent, I have never seen a woman enter a grocery store in pajamas, sweatpants, or workout clothes. (The UK is another story)

Ryan and I played a game once in Paris. It was called "spot the American." And it was depressingly easy. Lots of women I know wish they could look like a sophisticated French woman. Let me give a hint. Step one: pajamas are for sleeping. When you wake up, put on other pants.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


By the way, I've ended my German lessons for the time being and will start a NEW JOB in March. I will be teaching English to bankers.

I will miss my German classes, not only have I made friends, but at least once every class I laughed so hard that I couldn't breathe. But don't worry, I'm sure the cultural mishaps will continue to provide me with plenty of things to write about.

The Single Most Annoying Expat Conversation...

"You know what I like? British comedy."
"Me too! Most Americans really don't get it, you know."
"Yes, most Americans don't understand irony."

I feel like I overhear this conversation about once a week. And like saying the same word over and over again, it has lost all meaning for me.

When Americans abroad get together, there are certain coded phrases put out. When Bush was in office, it was always a political disclaimer. Since he's gone I've noticed a sharp rise in the "British comedy" conversation. Its a way of identifying others in your clique, I guess. Maybe Americans watching British comedy are a minority in the US, but among expats they are definitely the majority.

The more I hear this conversation, the more I question it. Yes, I think on average British TV is more interesting than American network TV, but I'm not sure its inherently intellectually superior. Like Monty Python. Its funny because its absurd and bizarre. Even children laugh at silly things. That doesn't make it a bad TV show, but it also doesn't make you Albert Einstein for getting it.

"The Colbert Report" is the most satirical and ironic TV show I can think of, and while I did know a kid who liked it because "its like 'The Daily Show' except for conservatives" I'd say most Americans get it.

Frankly, I'm tired of these sorts of coded conversations. Maybe next time I'll just ask, "what's irony?"