Tuesday 22 November 2005

White Stuff Falling from the Sky

So it would seem that winters in Germany are in fact quite cold - more so than I am used to. In Melbourne I always considered myself quite resistant to cold - I guess I am about to find out just how resistant. Meanwhile I understand Melbourne is of course quite warm, and all my friends and family are doubtless having a wonderful time. Oh well, I guess I've made my bed...

I have begun preparing for the coming apocalyptic ice-age by purchasing a thick jacket for myself. It is quite large - this is so that I can wear it over my jumper and my existing jackets, in case that should prove necessary.

The photo shows a BMW as it was in the morning as I walked to work. Now, to my eyes this is quite unbelievable - who would buy a BMW and then leave it outside overnight for it to get snowed on? I suppose it indicates that beamers and mercs are just your standard cars in these parts.

In other news, my parents responded to my pleas for help and mailed me an EU-Australian power adapter - so now I am finally able to recharge my phone! This would be great, if only I had some kind of phone plan. To get that, however, I need to have my banking set up.

Which leads on to the next problem. My parents inform me that in my absence my Australian bank has been trying to contact me. It seems that some suspicious activity has been detected on my account. Now I don't mind betting that a sudden series of transactions originating in Franconia has attracted the vigilant gaze of the bank, but unfortunately it is somewhat hard to explain to them that it is I who is withdrawing this money from Germany, due to the not entirely coincidental fact that I am in Germany. However, hopefully this can all be straightened out. In the meantime, however, I fear to access my money, in case they decide to freeze my accounts.

Some more photos of the town are here.

Thursday 17 November 2005

Slightly Undercooked Bratwurst Completes Initiation

This is a further update about my progress in Germany. I've been getting on quite well - much better than I had anticipated, to be honest. I feel that by ordering a Bratwurst from the 'Ratskeller' for lunch, I have become fully attuned with the local culture and ethos.

The company has helped me set up my bank account - this was largely due to the tremendous efforts of the young German bank manager to overcome his own limited English, so that my English friend Matthew (who was also having his account set up) and I would not have to overcome our own language impairments.

I am now waiting for the key card and PIN to arrive, so that I can actually access my account. Of course it has nothing in it, so I will have to try to transfer a small sum from home to tide me over until payday, which comes but once a month in these parts. At that point, as the bank manager put it, 'All things are possible'.

My parents have responded to my adapter woes by sending me over an Australian power adapter - this should arrive soon apparently. With this and my bank account, I will have everything I need to fulfil my destiny and acquire a phone plan, allowing me unheard of powers of wireless telecommunication throughout the country.

I have started taking German lessons with some others from the company. The teacher speaks not much more English than I speak German, which as you can imagine makes communication difficult. The lessons are very basic - at the level of "Ich hei├če Michael" and the like, so the content is not too challenging, but it is good practice nevertheless.

I have ordered some audio tapes (actually audio on SD cards) to help me learn, but these won't arrive for several weeks. In the meantime I plan to write a small script to test me on my German vocab - this is what I did in school when studying for tests, and I found it quite helpful.

I apologize for the lack of photos - I have already been upbraided by several people over this. I will try to have a bit of a photo taking session - I guess I have never really been much of a photo person, but the site does need some more colour.

Generally I have learned my way around town quite a bit better. I at least know where the major shops are, so if nothing else I can buy myself food. I bought myself a copy of Civilization IV, but I have to play it on my work PC, since my laptop is not up to the task. Also the manual is in German, so I have to learn how to play the hard way.

Thursday 10 November 2005

Settling In

I have been in Germany for a little while now, and the initial shock has mostly worn off. I thought this would be a good time to recap my current situation, and give a frank and honest assessment of my ability to survive the harsh German winter.

The apartment is fine - I get along well with one of the housemates, who is from Denmark, and his girl friend, who is from Spain. I couldn't say whether I get on well with the other housemates - I see them so rarely as to make it quite a moot point. On the bright side, I guess that means I won't have any problems with them.

Gaining internet access will be problematic. There is no phone line, so DSL or dial-up connection is impossible. I don't think cable would be a goer, since that might involve some frowned-upon changes to the house. The only option is to use a super expensive GPRS connection, which I think is what one of the housemates is doing (although I never see him to ask him). I guess since I'm not paying rent, its not so unreasonable to pay a bit more for things I would be able to get more cheaply if I had my own apartment.

Speaking of getting my own apartment, I hear that the company is planning to move some time in the future to another city. I'm not sure exactly when, but it means that I might have to hold off on getting my own place for the time being, since I don't want to be uprooted as soon as I settle in. This might  mean that I will be unable to provide decent accommodation for the many boot-lickers who were planning to come visit me :)

Another problem I have is that I can't recharge my phone. My charger uses Australian power plugs, and I have been unable to find an appropriate adapter. I can use my other equipment, since I have a power cord that uses European power points, and which feeds into that common intermediate plug, whose name I should know but don't, which many portable devices use. Anyway that lets me use my laptop and recharge my camera. I looked for an adapter in the large electronics store across the road from Crytek, but was amazed to discover that they don't stock such things. I mean its the same adapter as for American devices, so you would think they would have that!

Once I can recharge my phone, I will have to sign up for a German phone plan. Currently my phone is basically useless, since it is just using Global Roaming, so anyone who calls me forces me to pay for an international call. I am holding off on both these things until I get a German bank account, which the company is helping me do tomorrow.

The company has also suggested a good place to get German lessons, so I and some other non-German speakers in the company are going to sign up for those tonight. I did of course study German in school, which means that I can quite often say what I want to say in German, but it turns out that I am a long way short of being able to understand the response. It would be OK if I were speaking to friends who understood my situation, but usually I end up speaking English to those people, since that is the official language of the company. So its only when I am speaking to shop keepers or something when I don't want to embarrass myself that I get tested.

Wednesday 9 November 2005

A Week in Bavaria

So, after claiming I would do it for many years, I have really gone and done it. That is, I have moved overseas to work. I have arrived here in wintry Bavaria in order to broaden my horizons, using as much German efficiency as possible.

To some this is joyous news, to others a trigger for despair (I would imagine most of the latter would be currently living in Germany). However, I'm here now, and I'm sure most of you are wondering, "How is a complete ninny like Smith ever hoping to survive in a foreign country?"

Well that is an astute question. The first step, of course, is to change my name to something more suitable. Therefore my name is now Michael Schmidtty von Schmidttelheim el Schmiddty von Schmiddteldorf. Note that the first name is the same as my current one, but it is pronounced in the German style.

So anyway I've been here almost a week now. I am staying in an apartment owned by the company, with 3 other people. The apartment is not far from the company - about 10 mins walk. This is fortunate, since I have no car or bike or any means of transportation other than the trusty runners I brought with me. The whole town is not large, so you can walk everywhere you need to go if you have time.

Buying items is a daunting challenge. It is OK if I can select the items and bring them to the cashier and simply hand over the cash. However it takes a fair bit of pluck to engage in some interactive purchase, such as often takes place when ordering food. However I usually end up with some kind of meal.

There is a better selection of shops than I had selected. There are some good department stores, quite a large electronics store and plenty of clothes shops. There are also many food vendors, and a seemingly disproportionate number of chemists. They seem to sell a wider range of goods than in Australia, so perhaps that's no surprise.

I don't have internet access at home, so I have to sneak some time at work to communicate with home. However, since I am still jet-lagged I am often waking up about 5:00am, so I have been coming to work early in order to email uninterrupted.

Anyway, this was just a brief hello. Hopefully I will remember to keep updating this blog, and furthermore I hope that not everyone has forgotten me! A few photos can be found here.