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Posted by on Sep 11, 2012 in Articles | 0 comments

Checklist for Germany

Posted by Melissa Wimbish (Click here for the full article)

I heart a checklist. When I think about the times in my life that were the most organized and manageable, it absolutely coincides with the very “checklist-heavy” periods of my life. They just inspire initiative with the swooshing of every task!

So, when I typed, “moving to germany” in my search engine that may or may not be Google :), I was overjoyed to see a checklist near the top of the list. It’s one step toward not being completely overwhelmed by the idea. The big sell: They have a section for pets, too!!!!!!!!!

Please leave a comment if you have anything to add to this list! The more singer-related, the better, but we’ll take it all!

  • Get 10 passport photos made ASAP. You will need:
    • two for your passport (if you don’t have a passport already)
    • two for the German consulate (for your 30-day VISA, which you file for LONG BEFORE you get to Germany)
    • three for your permanent German VISA, which you or your company will file for when you get to Germany
    • the rest for needs as they arise: if you need a student ID, if you need to apply for a visa to visit another country outside of Europe, etc.Of course you can get more made when you get to Germany, but your first months will be crazed, and you probably won’t have time. So save yourself a big headache and get 10 passport photos made ASAP, BEFORE you go to the country.
  • Confirm with your employer in Germany or the university where you will study in Germany that they will help you with your visa needs, and what kind of visa you will receive (both type and for how long). If they won’t, or if their support will be limited, then go to the website for the German embassy in the USAand read the visa requirements and process carefully, and follow the directions precisely .
  • Find the website of the nearest German consulate to you in the USA (for instance, mine was in Houston, Texas, because I lived in Austin), and read the visa application information carefully. Don’t trust the visa application form on the website to be the latest, however, unless you call the consulate first and confirm that it is, indeed, the latest, proper form.
  • Ask your employer or the university where you will study in Germany when they will send information about your employment or university registration/studies to the German consulate nearest you; it should happen at least once month before your departure from the USA. Confirm with them when they actually do this. Your German employer or university MUST do this for you to get an extended visa! Have your employer or the university in Germany copy you on any material they send the consulate, and tell the employer or university to send you confirmation that the information has been sent (and, again, if you are looking for a job in Germany, I CAN’T HELP YOU so don’t email me and ask for help).
  • Go to the nearest German consulate in person three weeks before you go to Germany and after your employer or university in Germany confirms to you that they have sent your information to the consulate. If you cannot go in-person, call the consulate and get EXACTLY the right information on how to proceed (don’t rely on their web site information). You will need to give them two passport photos, a look at your actual passport, and a processing fee (so take cash, in small bills — they won’t take checks or credit cards, and have trouble making change). Make sure your employer or university has given the consulate information about your employment or studies BEFORE you contact the consulate!!
  • Tell every person you know that you are moving to Germany — co-workers, friends, family, neighbors. You never know where it will lead. I have met many friends-of-friends here because I let so many people know I was moving here (and it’s how I found a completely furnished apartment — the rarest of rare things — in Bonn, a mile from where I worked, before I even arrived here).
  • Explore on the Internet as much as you can about the town you will be moving to, and the towns nearest it. I found so many great resources online that helped me know what to do before I came to Germany, and to know what to do once I arrived. PLEASE, before you write me with a question, read through these sites first.
  • Buy a detailed travel book or two about Germany as well; I strongly recommend Lonely Planet Germany. The web is great, and as noted above, you should use it, but even the most reliable and durable and lightweight laptop or PDA just isn’t as durable and reliable as a paper BOOK when you are traveling. PLEASE, before you write me with a question, buy and read Lonely Planet Germany (or whatever detailed travel book you go with) FIRST. It will give you information on electrical plug-ins, safety, holidays, customs, and on and on and on. My Lonely Planet Germany saved my life oh-so-many times. Now, even my German husband uses it when we go somewhere in-country.
  • Buy a “how to speak German” CD set, and start listening to them ASAP. Learning even just five or 10 basic words and phrases before you arrive will help you SO MUCH (“thank you,” “please,” “excuse me/I’m sorry,” “where is…,” “do you have…”, “My German is not good,” etc.). Also, buy a small German phrase book that you can carry around with you easily (Berlitz and Lonely Planet have terrific pocket-sized phrase books), AND a German-English/English-German dictionary. Even if you will be on short-term assignment and don’t plan on really learning the language, you will need these things (I took my dictionary with me to museums, for instance, to help with descriptions; or to stores if I’m was looking for something specific).I did not listen to my “how to speak German” CDs before I moved, and I deeply, deeply regret it. People are so much nicer and helpful to you in Germany if you know even just those five aforementioned phrases in German. I could have made my life so much easier if I’d listened to them even 20 minutes a day for the two weeks before I left.
  • Keep a mailing address in the USA, even if you are selling your house. Ask your parents, siblings or a really close friend if they would be willing to be your “permanent” address in the U.S. and periodically receive mail for you. I kept a P.O. Box back in Texas, which a friend maintained for me; she forwarded my mail from there, deposited checks for me, let local officials know that, no, I could not serve on jury duty, etc. You must have someone in the USA doing these things for you.
  • Keep a USA bank account or credit union account open. If your current bank or credit union doesn’t allow online banking, look for another bank or credit union and transfer your money to a new account. Online banking is SUCH a blessing for people living abroad… you will need it to pay any bills you have back in the USA (storage, insurance, credit card, etc.).
  • Keep a USA credit card open. Charge things to it occasionally and pay it off quickly. This will keep your credit score high. If you close all your accounts, don’t be surprised when you move back to the USA and can’t get a car loan, home loan, credit card, etc.
  • Clothes: if you are only taking a few bags, however large, then concentrate on taking winter clothes (sweaters, thick socks, etc.), and anything that works well in the rain. Take shoes you like to walk in and don’t mind getting wet. Leave the t-shirts and sweatshirts with ads and slogans and logos on them at home (well, take a *few*), unless you really, really want to broadcast you are from the USA at all times, or won’t have enough clothes to wear otherwise. Plain t-shirts and sweatshirts are a much better idea. I found Germans to rarely dress as casually as Americans, and as I like to blend in, I tried to do the same. I bought my summer clothes in Germany after I moved.
  • Pack one of those all-in-one tools, like a screw driver that comes with six different heads and could fit in your purse. Take a swiss army knife too. These two items will come in very handy as you put together furniture and open boxes. But remember that these must be in your CHECKED luggage (cargo), NOT in your carry-on luggage. Yes, you can buy such in Germany, but you will be so happy to have such right away, without having to go track such down in your first days in the country.
  • Your priority upon getting to Germany is going to be finding a place to live. If you can make any kind of arrangements beforehand, GO FOR IT — such as a friend in Germany sending you a list of apartments to look at, and contact information for these apartments, before you arrive. Your best bet: going to Germany a month or even TWO before you actually move there and finding a place to live.Apartment search companies in Germany are very expensive. It’s rare to see “for rent” signs in windows in Germany. And apartments usually come completely unfurnished (no kitchen cabinets, no stove, no closets, sometimes no floor). So budget plenty of time and money to deal with this.
  • If you are an avid or even occasionally reader, take plenty of reading material in your native language, and make arrangements for English-language books to be sent to you from friends in the U.S. if the local German train station book store doesn’t have a good selection of English books (the larger the train station, the better the English book selection) and you don’t know how to order English books from Some bookstores carry English books, as do some Oxfam stores. Many bookstores will order specific titles for you, in English. Or you can go the e-book route, of course.
  • Even if you have a TV, the only English-language station you will get is probably CNN International (and BBC International if you are lucky; and MSNBC if you are REALLY lucky). Look into cable packages after you arrive, for more English-language selections (especially if NCAA basketball is important to you). And if you bring DVDs, remember that you have to have a special DVD player to play American DVDs (region 1), so take one of your USA DVDS to the store with you here in Germany and test any machine you want to buy BEFORE you buy.
  • More than likely, you are going to end up with a completely unfurnished apartment. In addition to trying to buy a kitchen, I strongly suggest you buy a TV soon after you arrive. Particularly if you are going to Germany alone, or will be alone for long periods of time while your spouse is at work. It will go a long way at keeping loneliness at bay. Make sure the video player plays US videotapes, and the DVD player plays region 1 DVDs.
  • Get a map of your city as soon as possible. Any hotel should be able to provide this to you. If not, then go to the nearest tourist information center, train station or bookstore. Get one that shows bus and train lines. If you can find one that shows bike paths (usually available in bike shops), all the better.
  • Find a German friend who will call Deutsche Telecom for you to make arrangements for your phone service, or find the nearest Deutsche Telecom office and go for an in-person visit (you will be able to find someone who speaks English this way, and get better service). And don’t even think you are going to have a home phone, let alone home ISP connection, anytime in the first two-four weeks you are there. Maybe not even the first month. Deutsche Telecom is slower than molasses in February. You do have other phone and ISP options besides Deutsche Telecom in Germany, but if you don’t speak the language, you may have a very hard time with them.
  • Leave your electronics at home. Sell them or give them away or put them in storage. Buy your electronics here (lamps, CD players, cell phone, etc.). It’s cheaper and easier — the electrical currents and plugs are all different here. The only electronic devices I could advise bringing are your laptop computer, your portable hard drive, a new digital camera or an MP3 portable player if you already own such.
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