Archive

Archive for February, 2011

Fees, Freebies and Feierabend.

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

By Thursday last week I was really running out of Euros, so I figured I’d leave work early and go to try to get a bank account. I’d been avoiding this until I’d learnt a little more German, just in case I had to try to do the whole thing without someone who spoke English. Fortunately the German part of the conversation only got as far as me saying I needed to set up an account but don’t speak much German, and the lady saying she’d go find her college who speaks English. He spoke it very well too, struggling only to pronounce the word ‘synchronisation’, which isn’t the easiest.

The Sparkasse bank (Yes, it's a 'k', and yes, I cut this image out of an earlier one)

The Sparkasse bank (Yes, it's a 'k', and yes, I cut this image out of an earlier one)

About an hour later I had a bank account (2.50€ / month) from which I’ll be able to pay things etc, either online or at the machines in the bank (0.20€/transaction) or by actually going into the bank (0.50€) and will get statements (1.00€). Oh, but I can’t use the website until I’ve got my card (4.00€) and the little secure ID machine (12.00€). They were kind enough to let me have such a low cost current account only because I’ll be getting a reasonable amount coming in each month. They do a free account, but then you pay 0.20€ for each and every transaction ever.

For comparison, in the past 12 years I’ve been with HSBC in the UK (who have been brilliant and helpful throughout, btw), I’ve not had a single charge (other than some tiny interest), despite being nearly £2000 overdrawn for some of that time. Obviously there is something different about banking here.

Fortunately, they did change my remaining travelers cheques, although this took 4 people about 30mins including getting the computing guy down from upstairs. Meanwhile, as the security shutters were all closing and amid the conversation there were repeated mentions of ‘feierabend’, which is the name for the time they are supposed to go home. Well, I’m very sorry (no I’m not), but it’s your stupid system which requires all this time. The banks in Munich and Spain managed it within about 10 minutes.

Anyway, eventually I got home and later found a spare 50€ note I’d been keeping back. Oh well, it’s done now.

Advertisements
Categories: language

Cycles

February 22, 2011 1 comment
'Packages' - a word none of the English speakers here know.

'Packages' - a word none of the English speakers here know.

At the end of last week I was carefully watching (i.e. constantly refreshing) the tracking page for my parcels, which went from Devon, to Bristol, to Gatwick, to the Netherlands and then to somewhere in mid Germany. On Friday they came all the way to our front door… and went back to mid Germany, because no one answered it. I phoned them on the weekend and instructed them to try to make it here before mid-day, because the office will be open. On Monday they managed this, and got here at 9am. This was however, pointless, because they delivered it my work (which I gave as a backup address) instead.

 

Bike. It has more than 3 gears and everything!

Bike. It has more than 3 gears and everything!

So, this morning I (with the help of our secretary) wheeled the two huge boxes around IPP, up the freight lifts and into my office, where I later reconstructed my bike. The contents of the 50kg box of stuff will to be very gradually carted home over the next few weeks.

Tonight I investigated the laundry room. It is down in the basement of the IBZ and contains only two washing machines – one of which is broken. The building is very old, but the basement has been made all modern and practical, which gives it the look of a particular part of a computer game called Monkey Island. So for those of you who have a clue what I’m gibbering on about, here it is:

Categories: Uncategorized

It gets thermic in Greifswald!

February 20, 2011 4 comments

Today, it was sunny for the first time since I’ve been here. It was also a little bit thermic so I’ve been sitting here looking up the local gliding club in between learning more German.

Sun!

Sun!

Thermals (kind of)

Thermals (kind of)

 
Categories: Uncategorized

Trig, Tea, Talk and the Town.

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment
Maths and tea

Maths and tea

With most of the admin done, I’m starting to get to grips with the theory of the system I’m eventually going to be designing and building. So far this has just involved a lot trigonometry but at least my life has now returned to some kind of normality and once again consists of a lot of maths and a lot of tea.

I was also invited along to a cafe in Greifswald on Thursday night with a lot of the students (and possibly just younger people) at IPP. There were about twenty of us in the end and apparently they don’t manage to congregate on this scale very often. A lot of us were the internationals from the IBZ building where I live, but there were a few from Spain, a girl from Chille, an American, a few from others places and of course a few of the natives.

Cafe Humboldt

Cafe Humboldt

Everyone was chatting in, and about, a few different languages and towards the end I was talking to a some people seriously into LARP. As much as I’d rather spend my free time flying, it does sounds like they have a lot of fun.  Also, the food was good, which is reassuring since I was beginning to worry about the food here. The canteen at work leaves a lot to be desired. It makes the Culham canteen in Oxford look like an up-market restaurant.

Today (Saturday), I’ve had a wander around the town center. There are plenty of different shops, a few of which are the same as the shops in England. I bought a nice little coffee maker so can take ‘achieve decent coffee’ off my list of milestones.

Greifswald town centre.

Greifswald town centre.

Categories: food, language, work

Conversation Islands

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

It can be quite strange sitting at lunch on a table full of people speaking a language you don’t understand, but I’ve found a fun game to play. I know enough now to pick out the about 2 words from every other sentence so the game is then to try to work out exactly how the topic gets between each little island of insight. Today’s example:

Something about playing football (in present tense) –> “How much does AUG cost” (a fusion reactor) –> something about the police.

All in about 8 sentences, any ideas?

View from my office

View from my office

I had a meeting today to discuss my project so I now actually have some things to get started with. I may explain the project in a bit more detail in specific posts later on.

I’ve also been looking at the German banks today, in order to get a current account out here. For some reason, many of them charge you, something of order 4€/month and the few that do free accounts make it out to be a novel thing. Why should I pay them to lend them my money? I’m going to have to think about this one carefully though, to avoid incurring huge charges if I ever want to transfer large chunks of my wages back to the UK. Suggestions/advice is welcome!

In other news… it snowed a bit today and it still very cold and windy. I also met two other English speakers trying to get into the IBZ where they keep all of us international types. Someone had bolted the main door. I took a photo to see around the door and then it took a bit of maneuvering to free it.

Doorfail

Doorfail

Categories: language Tags:

Block registration

February 15, 2011 1 comment

Instead of going to the institute this morning, I went to a big concrete block on the edge of town. This is a kind of civil registration that everyone has to do here, even the Germans. They operate on a system where you press a button to get a ticket and wait for your number on the big screen, something nice and efficient and fair which we seem to reserve only for some deli counters in the UK.

Fortunately, one of the secretaries that normally deals with this came with me to translate and mediate so I am now registered, have a tax card and all sorts of other weird German documents. They seem to happy here to let their government hold lots of information about them. I explained to her that we don’t do this because we don’t trust our government with things like that in the UK.

sehr weiße Eier

sehr weiße Eier

Picked up some more shopping on the way home, including these eggs, which are disturbingly white for some reason. All of the eggs in the shop were like this but I’ve jet to wotk out if that’s a German thing or just that shop. The saucepan in that photo is boiling potatoes, since there is no microwave in this kitchen. Incase you were wondering, the efforts in that photo resulted in this one:

Achieved food

Achieved food

Categories: food, Uncategorized

Proper tea successfully achieved.

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Today I started early and figured out the Greifswald buses, although I had to walk the last bit of the way to work and discovered it’s very cold up here at the moment. Never mind, I have borrowed a bike until mine arrives from England so can leave a little later tomorrow.

Not many bus routes

Not many bus routes

Weird bike

Weird bike

 

Today was very much like one of those orienteering/treasure hunts as it consisted of following the room numbers on the initiation checklist, getting signatures from each person. Many spoke good English, many spoke a little and some none at all, to keep things interesting. The jobs including registering in their little library, obtaining office keys and security pass and of course getting and signing the contact (in German, so also scanning, OCR-ing, translating and eventually understanding it). It is now almost all complete.

My office

My office

I discovered I’m more able than I thought to string the appropriate German words together to get an idea across, although I understand almost nothing of what is said back. Translating the lunch menu is still a little hard. Today I had some kind of pork (Schweinefleisch) potatoes (Kartoffeln) and red cabbage (Rotkohl), all of which I knew but I also had a little help from the others in the office. Everyone around you speaks English to each other, which is very nice of them, but they do switch back into German when they are having a detailed discussion, so I sit there and see if I can work anything out from the occasional German word I recognise and all of the English terms for the equipment and the science that floating amongst them.

The final good thing is that I now have some bits of food in the house and some decent milk so can finally have a proper cup of tea!

Categories: Uncategorized