Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cultural Differences

We've now moved in to our apartment in Pullach, which is a nice 90 square meter apartment with 2 toilets. Our landlords, even though they didn't advertise it as a fully furnished apartment, furnished it with enough stuff that we're not really going to have to buy much. Even silverware was already in the apartment. This is quite different from the usual apartment move-in experience from what others tell me --- I'm told that usually the kitchen is completely bereft of appliances (we even have a microwave and a dishwasher and fridge). We even have a fold out guest bed in the living room/dining area. (Hint: if you want to visit, come in July/August, nobody seems to want to come to Munich during that period --- by contrast, September/October's pretty much booked up, and by all accounts November's pretty miserable)

The move-in was not without hassle though. First, I had to register with the city when we moved in. Yes, Germany is a police state. When I mentioned this to my colleagues, one of them asked, "What, you don't have to register when you move?" "No, you might want to tell your bank, but if you don't update the address on your driver's license nobody cares --- it's more inconvenient for you to renew, and that's it." "But how would the police know where to find you?" Not that it's really hard for the police to really find you if they want to in the US, but it's definitely a different attitude.

Then I had to supply a deposit (3 months rent is standard in Germany). There's a standard method for doing this in Germany, which is to setup an escrow account and you and the landlord have joint rights over it. That cost 15 Euros to setup. But my landlord didn't want it done that way, because she had a previous bad experience. So I had to undo all that, and give her cash, which is questionable, but I have a receipt for it. I figure that these are people with keys to our apartment --- if we don't trust them, we have no business living there anyway.

Utilities are expensive --- for our apartment, it is estimated at 250 Euros a month (for water, electricity, common area maintenance, and cable TV, which came with the apartment whether we wanted it or not --- but we got a TV along with our mostly furnished apartment, so that's not bad). I guess that's why everyone seems more environmentally conscious in Europe --- the costs are setup so that you will think before you buy an energy inefficient washing machine.

One glitch about the move in was that our landlady didn't want to share her washing machine with us, so we're having to buy our own. Apparently, it's not unusual for renters to stay in one place for years at a time in Germany, so apparently this is quite normal. I've found a used one, and hopefully it will work well enough for me to sell it when I leave.

DSL was a hassle --- because we didn't want to sign a 2 year contract, the company hit us with all the activation fees, and didn't supply basics like a DSL modem. It took me quite a while to set it all up, but now I have internet at home. (Yes, that's why posting has been light)

I will confirm this: my bike commute is easily the prettiest I've ever had. The area around here is beautifully green, and the German lifestyle is definitely one I could get used to. It's not a bad way to live, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to do so --- so far, it's been the best combination of Asia and the US I have experienced, though the costs are definitely way up there, and of course, the taxes would be insanely high if I were to stay past November. There are other issues (the weather isn't California perfect, and I've had 3 flat tires in the last 2 days from glass on the bike path), but all in all, it's definitely worth the experience.
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