Tuesday, 8 April 2014

So we had a car accident...

One of my biggest fear while living in Germany is having a car accident. Apart from the risk of physical injury to the drivers and passengers, there is also the hassel of dealing with the bureaucracy that is the German car insurance system.

I won't go into the details of the actual accident as it is not relevant to what I want to write about.

Coming from Australia, I am accustomed to the way it worked there. When an accident occurs, the drivers would exchange their details (including the details of insurance providers), and then we proceed to the mechanics to get the quotes for the repair work. After submitting the quotes to the insurance company, they would sort the details between themselves. If it is your fault, you pay the access and the insurance company pay the rest.

In Germany, things are a little bit different. It all comes down to the person who is at fault. When the police attended our accident, they advise us that all we have to do for repairing our car is to take our car the mechanic and tell the mechanic the insurance company of the at fault driver, that is it.

Having said that, there are a few things that we did that made it a little easier to deal with.


  • Always call the police and get a police report. For an accident with no injury, the police will tell you that they don't need to be present. However, having a police report provides concrete proof who is the at fault driver and a clear description of what happened during the accident.
  • Exchange the details with the other driver. Make sure that you get as much verifiable details as you can, including their driver's license details, their phone number and their address.
  • Go to see a mechanic as soon as you can to start the paper work.
  • Take photos of the accident scene. Use the camera on your mobile phone.

However, drive safely and avoid accident as best as you can. The disruption to your daily life is just not worth it.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Back on the wagon

Wow, it has been almost 12 months since my last entry into this blog. I must say that I miss the art of writing something. It has been a really long 12 months, with other items with higher priorities taking my attention.


Well, I will try to keep a schedule of one post per week, to be published each Sunday. I think have theme worked out for each week, that would help me focus on what to write.

In a rotating basis, I will write on four themes

  1. Family living in Germany
  2. Side income
  3. Children and kinder
  4. Living under the influence of Asperger's syndrome
The first article will be family living in Germany.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Our trip to Berlin and its technical musuem

It has become a bit of an Easter tradition for our family. It started during our first Easter in Germany at 2010 when we visited the Schwarzwald in the south. This year, we visited Berlin. 


As usual, we have left the hotel booking rather late, we booked it about 4 days in advance. (A mental note to myself, book it further in advance!) At one point, it was not looking very good that we may not be able get some hotel room. As mentioned during the "hop-on, hop off" bus tour, some 1 million tourist visits Berlin the Easter period. If that is to be believe, then I had some competition for those last remaining beds.

My family and I had an amazing time in Berlin. The late wintery conditions also provide some chilly mornings. It snowed quite heavily on the second day we arrived. 

While in Berlin, we visited a number of the attractions. For the children, we visited the German Technical Museum and the Natural Museum. The German Technical Museum is is a hit for the children. It had a big selection of trains engines and carriages on show. 

We took the train to the Technical Museum. Upon approaching the museum, we saw an amazing site of a plane on top of it.

This is a little bit like the Speyer Technical museum. However, this technical museum is full of everything technical. 

There were several items in the technical museum that was directly related to the world wars. The first one was an enigma machine, and the other was a carriage used in the holocaust.

The enigma machine is the real deal. The holocaust carriage, I am not so sure about. Let me know if you know one otherwise. As  step into the carriage and looked around, I can sense the sadness and futility of it all during the war years.  The holocaust carriage gave me plenty of things in life to appreciate. 


There were many trains in the museum. The children were able to climb into most of the cabin. They were having a really excited time.

It took us about 2 hours to go through the whole museum, however most of that 2 hours were visiting the train section.

One of the best part of the visiting Berlin was a chance to soak into its dramatic history in the last 20 years. I shall do a post about this.

All in all, it was a great trip, and we want to visit it again in the next few years.





Friday, 25 January 2013

Another observation about my lack of German language

When I shifted to Germany in the middle of 2009, one of the fears was how my lack of German was going to shape my life. During my research of the German cultural, the lack of folks speaking English was a surprise as I understood that English was taught to the majority of students, and that was from the start of their schooling.


As I approach my fourth anniversary of shifting to Germany, I have just one of the most disappointing experience that is a result of my lack of German. My son's started his primary schooling this year. Every four to five months, the parents of students of the class and the teachers have a get-together to discuss the situation class in the class, major activities coming up and discussion of other potential activities.

Firstly, I was really surprise that this meeting was mostly attended by mums. My son's class has 26 students in it, and only two dads attended the meeting. There was me and another dad. The rest were mums.

Secondly, I was also amazed on the topics being discussed. It ranged from the classroom events, topics being taught, new topics being introduced, sports etc. It was almost setting the curriculum via the parenting community.

Back to my lack of German. The moment that really emphasis that I am lacking is when the group of parents and the teachers laugh together about some discussion point, whereas we just sat there without any laughing expression on our faces. I guess that the only expression was bewilderment and, perhaps, a little bit of confusion.

The other moment was I had difficulty is articulating any questions that I had in such a way that would make sense in German, and also to understand the answer. I just was not able to do it.

I starting to get an insight to how my parents (especially my mum) felt when my family moved to Australia with little command of the English language.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hacking the Tchibo coffee capsule

Many months ago, we bought a Tchibo coffee machine. It uses a similar exactly the same concept as the Nespresso coffee machine. You pop a capsule that contains the grounded coffee into the machine, put a cup under the nozzle, press the button and voila, a steaming cup of coffee is there for you in about 1-2 minutes.


We have been using ours for about 12 months, trying out the various coffee that Tchibo sells. Occasionally, Tchibo would sell a new selection of coffees for a limited period of time. These new selection of coffee is also sold a slightly more price. Regular coffee capsule cost 2.99EUR, but a new selection is priced around 3.50EUR.

One of the catch is that the capsule is not interchangable with capsules from other coffee machines, such as Delonghi or Nestles.

The hacker sense kicked in and had to try to get something going. After a couple of false starts, I got something that is workable and produce reasonable coffee.

The following some simple steps that I have used to reused the capsules again.


The first thing you need to do is to get a capsule that you already have used and open it up with a sharp knife. I used a pairing knife with a sharp point. Carefully, I pierced at an area just inside the lips of the capsule and work the knife around the edge. I used a gentle sawing motion as I move around. The plastic top came away quite easily.

Once the top is removed, the capsule needs to be dissembled and cleaned. Be careful to do the dissembling over a sink as the used coffee could spilled out. It could get quite messy. With in the capsule, there are two plastic filters. The top plastic filter can be lifted out to exposed the used coffee grounds. The used coffee grounds need to be removed. At the bottom of the capsule, there is a filter there. This also needs to be taken out for cleaning.

When the two filters and the capsule itself is cleaned, it can be assembled. Began by inserting the bottom filter back into the capsule. Now the usage of the coffee is next. Besure to fill as much coffee as you can fit in. I have used a small tool to jam the coffee grounds into the capsule. I have found that the flavour and the aroma is better as well when grounds is tightly packed. The top filter can also be placed on top.

Prepare a piece of aluminium foil that is big enough to cover the top of the capsule. The piece of foil need to be folded over the edge of the capsule to form a tight seal. Depending upon the strength of your foil, care need to be taken not to tear any part of the foil. Doing so may caused some of the coffee grounds to escape from the capsule and it end up in your drink.

Placed the completed capsule that has covered by the aluminium foil into your Tchibo and press the button. It will take some effort to get the combination right, but the flexibility it gives you will be fantastic.

Enjoy!

  



Monday, 3 September 2012

Scratching our itch

We started our project a few weeks ago that we hope will have some success. The project is really to scratch our own itch, and since we felt that it could be a useful service, others may want to use it as well.


The itch is the language barrier that we face when starting out in Germany. I think that it would be the same if the country was in France or Sweden. We just haven't got a good enough grasp of the language, and at my age, picking up the language is going to be difficult.

The further itch is to not just speak it, but also to read it. In particular, a document of some sort. The Germans love their document and everything have to be in order.

My initial scratcher began with my colleagues, then our neighbours when we were more familiar with them, but mostly it fell into Google Translate. As bad as it is, it did provide me with some information that act upon. Sometimes, getting Google Translate to make sense is a real battle. It is also tiresome having to type the document into it.

So my idea is to provide a service for a quick, off the cuff translation to be given. It will need to be returned within 48 hours, and it needs to be cheap. 

The technicality of it is for the document to photographed with the camera of a smart phone. The photo is then emailed to a specific address. Within 48hours, the translated document is returned.

I have just launched the beta program. check it out at launch.48translate.com and sign up to get a life time discount. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Schuletüte and all that kind of great stuff, part 1

23rd of August is a special in our family. Our eldest son Albert begins the next phase of his life. Today is the first day for his primary school. Well, it is officially the first day, but his first full day is tomorrow. However, lets see about today.

Albert was extremely excited to start his next phase. I think he is also very nervous and eager to venture out into the unknown.

The day started at 6am. That is the usual time for the family, but the kids just sprang out of bed. Usually, we had to coax them out of bed and to start getting ready for the day. Today, we did not have to do much coaxing.

Today, Albert received a schuletüte, or a school bag. This contain special treats for him so that he remembers the day.


After breakfast, we visited the town where the school is located, Witzhelden. It is a nice quaint town about 9 km from our town. We were in a bit of rush as we had to drop Albert's younger brother to Kindergarten. 

The day starts at 8.10am at the local Church. As we arrived at about 8am, any car parks close to church were taken. So we parked close to the school and walk back to the church. Our first thought was that we are going to be late as everything is punctual in Germany. There were about three other families walking towards the church as well, so we just followed them to church and hope that know the time better than us.

The church service was fantastic. Although, it was conducted in German, I was able to get the gist of the service. Basically, the father blessed the children for their schooling career.

After the service, everyone walked back to the school for an assembly in the school hall. The second year students also arrived to do some performances to celebrate this special event. This is nice as it sets the scene for the interaction between the various years of the school.

The principal also made some announcements about the upcoming school year and help explained the performances. All the parents, including us, were very proud of their children starting their schooling as their names were announced.

Albert got a taste of class later in the morning. He had a one hour class session with his teacher. 

While Albert was in the class, the school served out a selection of pretzels, champagne and juice, brotchen and ham and salami. It gave a chance for the parents to mingle. Unfortunately, we kept to ourselves. Our dreaded language and the German social barrier popped up.

This morning, Albert and his classmates were made to feel very special. It is surely a day for him and his classmates to remember.