Friday, November 21, 2014

What it means to work abroad

A few days ago, I stumbled upon an article on The Local's website. According to this article I'm not the only qualified immigrant coming to Germany for a piece of the cake. Plenty of us find ourselves in the same situation. We move to a country with a 5.1% unemployment rate (lower than Canada 6.5%), we make a few friends to network, start looking for jobs and realize through the application process that if you don't speak German, your options are very limited.

As a native French speaker I pick up English at a very young age and consider myself lucky to be able to fluently discuss in both languages. Europe is different! The proximity between all of the countries is the cause of a cluster of languages. International companies are looking for people who speak Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Dutch and the list goes on.

Certain skill sets override the language requirements. I've see a lot of engineering and computer science jobs which require only English. Makes me think about a change of career path sometimes.

As far as I'm concerned, I still have to improve my German skills to be able to pierce through the Communications and Marketing field. I've been actively searching for a position in PR firms, Communications Agencies, bigger companies such as Yahoo, Amazon and a few local craft beer companies (everybody has a dream right?)

I'm currently looking at the job market and the internship dilemma. Stay tuned for my next post.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mistaken for an illegal immigrant

It's Friday, 9 am Munich time and the phone rings. It's the police... They have been informed by the city of Munich that I was residing here illegally and we have to be at the police station in 2 hours.

Here's what happened, my girlfriend and I were visiting friends and family in Canada for a few weeks and then returned to a bunch of mail, including a letter from the city of Munich stating that I was residing in the country as an illegal immigrant. I was surprised by the fact that I was even able to get "IN" the country. If this was an actual fact, I imagine the border/passport control would've stopped me.

In due course, I mail them a copy of my passport and visa, issued by the Federal Republic of Germany, expecting this issue to be resolved. Not more than a week later I get a copy of that same letter in the mail, thinking this might be an automated system it's possible they didn't sort through the pile and found my innocence plea.

And that's how we get to the Friday 9 am phone call, merely 2 days after that letter was sent for the second time, they had already sent the same letter to the police station. The officer in charge of my file was very calm and sympathetic to my cause. He offered his contact information after verifying my legitimacy and told me to refer any further inquiry on my status to him. He proceeded to explain to us how the city of Munich has a central database and they should have access to my visa information but, you know, sometimes... what can you do?

What should've happened was when I signed up for my residency permit for the city of Munich, they should've asked me how long I planned on staying or if I had a certain type of work or travel visa and then put that information in the system. Or take a minute and look in their system before sending off this chain mail of accusations.

After more than 6 months in the country, what happened for them to suddenly notice that I had become an illegal immigrant? A tourist visa is 90 days, so after 3 months I would've expected a notice but it's been more than 180 days and they expect you to resolve this in a matter of days! After several ins and outs from Germany to top it off and I have never been questioned about my visa or multiple entries or residency issues whatsoever.

I thought that going through the trouble of getting the visa before-hand was already enough that you wouldn't have to prove again and again that you're a legit immigrant. There also has to be a better way than sending scary letters telling people that their status is illegal, a little tact would've been much appreciated. So from this point of view whether it's Canadian bureaucracy or German bureaucracy, systems will have flaws.

To most of you, Germany is known for their work ethics and efficiency. I have yet to see this.

This and Neuschwanstein.

For Canadians looking for visa info for Germany this site is very useful: 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Germany vs Brazil

When they announced that Neymar and Silva were not going to be playing against Germany, I immediately took Monday the 14th off. Everyone around the world expected a "good game" and if you're German it was definitely something! After 4 goals we started getting congratulation messages from friends and family but also got a load of memes, funny videos and surprising pics. Here's a few:


The timing of this video is priceless!

And of course I saved the best for last, this one goes out to my "Canadiens" friends... when you see it.

A few stats for you:

Thomas Mueller Becomes 2nd Player to Score 5 Goals at Consecutive World Cups

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Spare change?

Coming from North America, I'm used to putting every single thing on my credit card, gotta get some points! A 2$ cup of coffee a 90 cents pack of gum, plastic is the way to go. In Germany they have a saying "cash is king", the only place they ask you if you want to pay with a card (bank/debit card) is at the grocery store. They even have those preloaded visa cards where you have to put money on it before you can spend that money which is a little weird to me. Debt is not something the Germans are interested in, it seems to be working for them.

I can't get used to paying with cash, I made baby steps and now I always have some bills in my wallet in case I need to buy something on the go but I still haven't been able to get used to spending the change. My wallet, for one, won't let me fit all these coins in it... what should a man do, go back to wearing a fanny pack?

Not only do I have a problem with change but here they have this system where you pay a deposit for your mug/glass and they give you a token. Bring the glass and the token back and you get your deposit, clearly I didn't grasp that concept and now I'm stuck with some lovely fluorescent tokens from different biergartens or clubs.

I also learned that by law you can purchase an item with up to 50 coins and the cashier has to accept the payment... time to go buy myself a beer or two.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

This won’t fit in the status update box...

My 6 month internship is coming to an end in July and the next part of my first year in Munich is about to get a spin. For those who follow me on BeerFeed you’re aware of my mini trips to Bamberg and most recently Köln. We have a long weekend in Amsterdam just before we head home to Canada for a few weeks. The good thing about working in Germany is definitely the amount of holidays you get.

Morale is up and I don’t really feel homesick, I miss the casual hangouts with good friends and I used to miss hoppy beers but I recently found some niche stores that have more hops than I can dream of. I’m slowly getting used to the daily life and it’s not so different than the life in Canada. I got to meet some really nice people from around the world (mostly Europe), my geography is getting slightly better and so is my Deutsch.

I’m signing up for some intensive Deutsch courses over the months of September and October. After several comments about how difficult it is to work full-time and then go to class for 3 hours in the evening to learn a new language, I decided it was in my best interest to take morning classes and focus on learning Deutsch without any other distractions for two months.

So far, I was offered to be on a television show, I've made some friends from the four corners of the planet, I've traveled to 2 countries I've never been before and I learned a whole lot about beer. Until my next status update I welcome your questions and comments.

Ambassador Mat 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The History of the World Cup: Canadian Edition

In the coming days eBay and Amazon will see their profits rise from the purchase of football jerseys all over the world. Employers will see more and more employees with saggy eyes reeking of booze from last night's victory. For a Canadian living in Munich I'm being asked the same question over and over "Who are you going to cheer for?" Clearly not Canada is my answer. This pushed me to learn a bit more about the Canadian's place in the history of the prestigious, world unifying tournament.

The year was 1986, Mexico

Canada made their way to Group C with the Soviet Union, France and Hungary. This was the only year Canada ever participated in the World Cup. Although they didn't manage to score a single goal, they held the French until the end and Mike Sweeney got a red card, one can only assume he apologized for this.

Sweeney was sent off in the second game against Hungary,[4] making him the only Canadian player ever to be dismissed at a World Cup Finals tournament.

Special mentions

Diego Maradona from Argentina got himself 5 goals and the Golden Ball that year, Argentina won.

Also Sons of Andrew and band out of Edmonton, Alberta made a song dedicated to the unique Canadian squad.

There's a documentary on Canadian Journey to the World cup on Youtube called:
The Journey - 1986 Canada Soccer Documentary (pretty interesting, TSN)

If you're a collector, these are the ones you're looking for:

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Weekend Beer Haul (Franconia's Franky's)

First and foremost here's the beer haul from this weekend:

They have these store's named Orterer, Franky's and Fristo where they usually sell anything that comes in a bottle. The problem is there's no way of telling which brands they carry. The outcome is that "kid in a candystore feeling". I got my friend a case of gluten free beer and a mixed variety for me. Have you ever heard of these?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Munich Monster Bash 2014

Here's a fun one, you know that guy at the concert that's constantly pulling out his state of the art iPhone 4 or Samsung Galaxy to take very high quality pictures from 50 ft away? He's the same guy who's scrambling to take a video of the "new" song or "song we've never played before" from that obscure band and post that masterpiece on Youtube.

I chose to be that guy just to show you that we sort of lost the feeling of what going to a show is all about, the event, the excitement, the exclusivity of it is tossed by the shitty pics and videos that will be archived in our phone and never shown to anyone.

The concert was on a Saturday starting early in the afternoon and like any other concerts it took way too long to get our wristbands and we missed the first band all together.

If you want to check out the place:


 Here's a few from the pit, you can't get any closer but if you've ever been in a mosh pit, you know that no image stabilizer in the world will make these pics look good!

 And a bonus picture from this guy wearing some Mute gear (Québec is present in Munich).

Ignite video here.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Good, The Bad and the Different: Die Musik

The Good

For starters, Spotify is available in Germany and I've been enjoying the hell out of it, it's interface is similar to iTunes and it's free, with occasional ads. The paid version gives you no ads and an unlimited amount of music across several devices for an annual price tag of 120$.

The Bad

Can't torrent, whether you're a firm believer in file sharing or an advocate of copyright protection in Germany you no torrent! A handful of law firms are partnering up with ISPs all over Germany and are sending out letters threatening to fine you for life. Settle or fight it, you will have to fork out some Euros to resolve that piece of mail.

The quality of the internets in some areas are very low quality, if your building is not equipped with fiber optic you're stuck on DSL along with all of your neighbors and their neighbors. Static and interference prevail! Streaming movies and tv shows is a painful activity for most, we have better luck with music files which require less resources but not without interruptions.

If you read my article on GEMA you already know that a fair amount of Youtube videos are blocked as well.

The Different

The best and most reliable source is still the cd player! We own one and I use it! This piece has likely lost 90% of it's original monetary value but in my heart it will forever remain a loyal friend.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Beer art

I've been working on this for a bit, I've always been a fan of Augustiner so I thought I've redo the bottle cap logo from scratch and switch some colors around to fit with some of their labels. Let me know what you think.

(Click on image. See big big size.)
Is there another color you'd like to see? What's your favorite beer label/logo?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A post about mypole [sic] maypole!

Spring has finally arrived in Bavaria, the birds and the beers, love is in the air, flowers are blooming and soon will come the time to erect some poles. No joke!

I've been asking around about those tall blue and white poles all over town which seem to be associated to beer gardens and no one was really able to give me a proper explanation.


They're called maypoles or in Deutsch Maibaum, which literally translates to May tree. Which reminds me of a funny saying the Germans have: "Mal bist du der Hund, mal bist du der Baum." Sometimes you're the dog, sometimes you're the tree.

Back to the poles! Erection date is usually May 1st and believed to come from Germanic pagan traditions, they're also thought to symbolize the return of summer and growth of vegetation. There's a mention on Wikipedia of phallic symbolism for those of you who thought I was immature. Which I am but erections are nothing to joke about.

(insert Viagra ad banner here)

The signs added to the pole represent the different trades represented in the region. This tradition is also practiced in the Scandinavian countries, the UK, Ireland, Italy and some parts of the States.

If you're interested in learning more about poles or if you have pole related articles you'd like to share first check out this neat Bavarian website.

Check out my blog regularly as I will be posting pictures of poles pre and post (no pun intended) May 1st.
If you want to help me collect poles, send me your local poles via @valleem on Twitter or @coasterbox on Instagram.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014... Let's call it "The Big Day"

Today is the Reinheitsgebot's 498th birthday, in 1516 the beer was only allowed to be produced using water, malt and hops and the purity law stands to this day. Today we celebrate the German National Beer Day. Here are a few interesting facts I managed to find about the Germans and the culture of beer.


When you raise your glass up high and exchange Prosts with your drinking partners always look them in the eyes, otherwise common belief in Germany is that you will have 7 years of bad sex.

The Nation's Favourite

The top five beers in Germany this year are "apparently":

1-Oettinger (discount beer similar to Coors Light, I was told only construction workers drink that one)
2-Krombacher (Official sponsor of the Bundesliga)
3-Bitburger (sold 3.86 million hectoliter, also distributed worldwide)
4-Warsteiner (If you have a beer on a Lufthansa flight that'll be a Warsteiner)
5-Veltins (Also known for the Veltins Arena home of FC Shalke 04)

Anyone else think that this shouldn't be called Nation's Favourite but perhaps Nation's Most Lucrative?

Warum Weisse?

The Weißbier is one of the most known beer type associated to Germany. They have mastered the crafting, the pour, the glass, the head and even the toast. You should always toast a weißbier with the bottom of the glass in oder to shake the sediments from the bottom of your glass toward the top and release the additional flavor into the beer.

A beer a day

It would take you 13 years to taste every German beer at a rate of 1 per day. Bavaria alone is said to have 4000 types of beers.

Was ist das?

Those are beer nails, produced by those ingenious German students, the beer nails were added to their school books to prevent them from directly lying on wet bar tables.

You'll find more interesting facts in this article from a great source of information for the expat in you and a mild source of humor for foreigners. 

But that's not all, FC Bayern Munchen... playing in the Champion's League tonight against Real Madrid, this makes National Beer Day even more exciting, could we ask for more? I don't think so!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I’m religious… again.

I was filling out my new employee form at work and noticed a mandatory “Religion” field. I’m far from being a regular when it comes to religion or religious practice but for the sake of the paycheck I wrote in Catholic. Moments after returning my form to human resources I was summoned in their office only to be told that if I didn't put any religion I wouldn't have to pay the “Religion Tax”.

They have such a thing

On an intern budget I thought the few Euros a month I would save would be great to I left the field blank. A few days later I received a letter from the city of Munich including a form which I had to fill out for my residency. Sure enough the “Religion” field had miraculously manifested itself on that form as well. This time I only had the choice between a bunch of abbreviations each representing a religion. I asked my girlfriend if any of the abbreviations stood for “NO RELIGION”. It was then explained to me that if I wanted to get married in a church (“I” being “WE” and “WE” being a common consensus where one has a veto) along with every other services churches might provide (baptism, confirmation, funeral, etc.) I would have to pay the tax.

Death and taxes

The two things in life one can’t avoid… and mail, if you live in Germany. This week I received a welcoming pamphlet, full-sized, colored pamphlet from my church. Now I know where my church taxes are going. I've heard from a few that this tax is sort of bogus and I don’t see how the church would refuse a “lump sum” or some sort of monetary agreement in order to get married in church. More on that in a post-marital blog entry.

St. Anna im Lehel, Munich

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


They found me! I got a letter in the mail today from the GEZ they want my money, my hard earned fun-sized Euro money. Lucky for me, the girlfriend is already contributing to the GEZ regime so I don't have to, but they still try to getcha!

The GEZ is sort of the television and radio police, it used to be if you owned a tv, computer or radio (including car radio) you would be subject to pay 17,03 Euros monthly. Since 2013 everyone pays, too many people pretended not to have a television and, well, it's 2014 c'mon!

The Germans pay 17,98 Euros for tv and radio stations which are deemed essential, sort of a tax for the right to information. First you buy a television, then most people won't get many channels unless your building offers cable in the price of your rent. The other option is to buy an antenna or some cheaper satellite receptor thing... yeah that! Even then when it's bad weather outside or to many wifis running around the house the reception is often terrible.

What's cool about the car radio is that every now and then you'll get traffic status and accident reports based on your location. It can get annoying if you're listening to a really good cd and just before the solo this guy with a thick German accent comes on just to tell you that the A9 is congested (stau).

I'll be working on an article about how much mail Germans get, this is getting ridiculous, stay tuned and if you meet someone today and have nothing to say to them, why not tell them about my blog and how I write funny anecdotes on my experiences in Germany, because sharing is caring!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

To work or not to work, that is a good question!

For all the curious souls who wonder when the next civic holiday is I present to you an interesting map of the civic holiday for Germany. Most holidays are related to religious events and some are specific to regions of the country, an extensive list can be found here.

If we do a little math... my accountant friends will likely request an edit of this article. Either way if we count an average of 12 civic holidays and take into consideration the fact that most stores, shops and offices are closed on Sundays, that most people have some sort of two day weekend during a week and that the average working German is given 30 days of vacation every year...

An average working German only works 219 days per year.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The GEMA, loading... or not!

Basically the GEMA is the copyright police. If you watch a lot of Youtube videos and you live in Germany a fair percentage of your search results will result in this:

I read that even Psy's Gagnam Style video was not legit in Germany... and he still got the most views of all time on Youtube! It is now accessible for all you Germans that missed it, you probably missed a lot of other stuff too! I was made aware of proxies such as Prox Mate that will bypass the blocked media and play it for you on Youtube, Last FM, Spotify, Groove Shark and all the other popular streaming sites/apps. Didn't find too much info on the legality of using such proxies but someone's certainly working on it! Use at your own risk.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Different

The Good:

In Germany, you can drink alcohol pretty much anywhere you can think of. You can have a beer on your way to a bar or a party no more pre-binge drinking at a friends place before going out. Road beers are the way to go. You can drink on the street, in a park or garden even in the car (as long as you're not driving or biking). Until recently you could drink in the tram and bahn (subway), it's still tolerated from what I understand but we should try to be discreet about it. You can also leave your empties on the ground next to a trash can for easy pick up by homeless people.

The Bad:

You can spill beer in your girlfriend's car because for some reason VW doesn't make the coasters big enough for a regular sized 50cl bottle of beer... and that makes her sad! (Tip: green onions seem to mask the smell of spilt beer in a car.) Take note that as much fun as have a few drink on a long road trip this will certainly add a few stops to... um... take a piss.

The Different:

Those who know me know I love beer, why else would I move to Germany? Oh yeah, maybe one other reason. Although I live in the indisputable beer heaven region of the world the Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law) makes it difficult to find beers similar to IPAs and high IBU beers. I have barely scratched the surface of hefeweizen, dunkel and in this moment "stark bier", a strong beer made especially for lent. It would be nice to be able to get a taste of home every now and then. Wish me luck on finding a Hoser bar otherwise I'll have to make my way back to Belgium for a bitter taste.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Let me tell you a thing about kitchens...

In Germany when you rent an apartment, it is likely to be empty, as in, without a kitchen. Not only will you not have a fridge, you won't have an oven, a sink, cupboards, or a dishwasher! So the dilemma is, should you buy a really expensive kitchen and bring it with you OR try to sell it when you move.

The problem is that it all depends on the person moving in to your apartment. They will either already have a kitchen which means you have to remove/unmount/unscrew/move your kitchen and try to make it fit in your new apartment which might not be the same size as your previous apartment.

They might want you to leave the kitchen there and they will offer you part of what you paid for, which is less trouble than moving it but you lose some money off of the initial price.

And if you do manage to sell it, it means you'll either have to buy the kitchen that is already in your new apartment (if you are being offered by the previous tenants) or by a new kitchen and move it/mount it/ and screw it!

We chose the later and I hope it's the last kitchen I'll ever buy. We got a good price for the whole thing but had to spend an incredible amount of time at, you guessed it, IKEA! After being told it would take 3 hours to process our order we decided to come back during the week, couple of days later it was delivered and the mounting began.

On another note, if you buy your kitchen anywhere else, you're likely to wait 4 to 8 weeks for your kitchen to be delivered.

We had a lot of help with fixing the cupboards to the walls and cutting the counter and I can't thank the ones involved enough for all their time and expertise!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My beef with Bell

Time to leave the country and of course I'm one of those suckers who's stuck in that 3 year Bell cellphone contract with limitless clauses. I have an iPhone 4, the price was modestly reduced by signing a 3 year contract (way back when).

First things first, this iPhone is locked to Bell, in order to unlock it and make it available to run on on a  European SIM cart I would have to pay the cancellation fee to cancel my current contract 300$ + Canadian dollars and a 50$ fee to have it unlocked so it can be used overseas.

I decided instead to buy a used unlocked iPhone 4 (I like that model) on eBay for 300$ and sell mine to my dad along with the contract. To my surprise Bell told me that when I signed the contract I signed up for mandatory Internet usage (because it is a smartphone) so I "had" to have an Internet bundle which goes for around 55$/month. Obviously I had the caller ID and voicemail added for 12$/month (which is stupid because these are the most important features which everybody wants!)

= 75,71$/month (approximately)

The only thing I could do to reduce my cellphone plan was to remove the caller ID and the voicemail and save that 12$/month. My contract ends on the 4th of May 2014, so I asked them to cancel my contract on the 4th of May, that way my dad can benefit from choosing whichever provide he sees fit.

Bell's "Mohamed", told me that I should call 30 days before the end of my contract to cancel. Unfortunately Mohamed, I won't be in the country at that time, could you put a note on my file to terminate my contract on May 4th? You already know the date right? No? Oh, the earliest I can terminate my contract without any penalty is 60 days before the end? Still not going to be in the country at that time...

The only reasonable solution was to put my dad's name on the account so he could call in 60-30 days before the end of the contract and "negotiate"  his termination or renewal of the contract which involves loyalty (bullshit) points.

In the hope that everyone will forget to call ahead of time and make it a pain in the ass to simply "NOT RENEW" a contract which has technically ended, Bell is shit!

I'm moving to Germany where I'll be paying around 20$ CAN per month for the same service.

PS: Maybe Mohamed has two "m"s sorry bro you've been nice and helpful.

Monday, January 27, 2014

My last week in Canada

Empty my office - CHECK

Work and travel visa - CHECK
One way ticket to Munich - CHECK

One last ride on the Rideau Canal - CHECK

5 days left to wonder how my life is going to change over the weekend. I'm leaving my very comfortable job on Friday to fly to my new home for a year, Munich. I've had about a month to plan where to store my bed and other things I won't bring. I'm sure I made some friends happy leaving them responsible for my music collection and instruments.

I'm bringing my "Goldie" with me. I would have to pay 100$ for an extra checked bag but I got a nice on-board size suitcase as a gift for my birthday! In which the rest of my life will be crammed for a few hours. :-\

I'm landing in Munich on Saturday and have Sunday to rest but Monday is already the new routine kicking in and I'm starting my new job at Ciao!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

About Reddit

For those of you who already know about reddit and its up vote system you might find this post a little bland. If you're new to reddit you probably spent a few nights catching up on missed memes and redundant inside jokes that are exclusive to specific subreddits. Well I guess I'm the type of person who made it through the junk and managed to filter my way through the "funny", the "AnimalAdvice" and the "Gentlemanboners" to eventually get myself a job abroad.

I like to teach myself and learn thing on my own. By trying, exploring and occasionally failing, I managed to be very efficient in finding the answer to almost anything. Now, what happens when I can't find the answer... well I tell myself I'm certainly not the only one asking myself that question, usually a little google search or a well placed post on reddit will get the necessary players involved to get the information I need.

When I planned on moving to Munich I wasn't lining up a job, I was going there to immerse myself in Deutsch courses and do some volunteer work to setup a network until I can speak enough German to be considered for employment. 

I had already registered for Deutsch courses at the Deutsch Akademie and changed my location on linkedin to Munich so I would get emails about job opportunities.

But surfing at the right place and the right time brought me straight to that reddit post. One week later I had an interview. I was told I would hear from the human resources department after the holidays. To my surprise I was sent a job offer by email, I quickly accepted and offered to visit my new workplace and meet my new team in person.

It's a great feeling to be offered a job in a country that isn't yours. I haven't set a foot out the door yet and I've managed to setup a modest employment for at least the first six months abroad. To all redditors, I know some of you have been lurking and avoided making a profile but reddit can also lead you to a great network of like-minded people and maybe a future job.