Apr 8, 2014

Getting a job in Germany

Here's an article I wrote for The Explorer with my inputs for spouses/ dependents/ students and who ever comes to Germany without an offer and has to do the job search in Germany

Much has been said about the sacrifices of the trailing spouse. I agree with all of them. No questions asked. And I also agree it is none of our fault as the trailing spouse that Germany made it tough to integrate. For a trailing spouse, it is the toughest thing to come to terms with the career left behind. I faced this problem when I moved to Germany last summer. I was confident of get- ting back to work just like I had in the other first world countries I had moved to in the past. But I was terribly wrong. For starters I was thrown an Integration Course to complete in the first year which I had no interest for. But after my five stages if grief, I decided to move on with life after all. The suggestions I have for spouses moving to Germany and wanting to go back to work:

Job pays bills! It makes you feel worthy!
1. Learn German. There is no substitute, sorry! Everyone who starts gets somewhere. I have known people who land a job in their field right after a A1 and some who struggle all the way to C1. It is how you snap the language and use it.

2. Complete the integration course if that’s a mandate. The reason is simple. You learn not only German but also get updated with current affairs, government policies, social and basic rights of a German resident. You are in a position to tell a prospective employer why you need Sozialversicherung  (insurance) if they happen to not cover you.

3. Get acquainted with the Agentur für Arbeit. The job center is not just for hopeless immigrants who aim to live off unemployment benefits. The Agentur gave me a reference which I used in my interviews. You can have your educational qualification recognized by the Agentur, which makes a great difference to employers. Unless you interview for an American corporate, most German compa- nies are very old school and stick to the German education system they understand. A reference from Agentur fur Arbeit can work in your favor in building credibility.

4. Format that CV. It is not called resume here. It might even be called bio data like in the olden days but that’s how it is. Sometimes it is easier to accept a system without fighting it too much. For a long time I had my CV in English and in an international format. Two big mistakes. It needs to be in German. So get professional help to translate. And it needs to follow the only format. There is no scope for creativity in your CV format and it won’t be appreciated either . So might as well get the German format and be done.

5. Coming to professional help, I was referred to BFZ, a professional training institute by Agentur für Arbeit. These guys helped me format my CV, write worthwhile cover letters and send applications (which btw, still go out in an old fashioned folder with copies of all your certificates). They gave me industry contacts and referrals for my field as well. This is what you need when it comes to credibility.

6. Offer free Praktikum. It is a German thing that companies test you with either a probationary work day or an internship after they interview you. Mostly both are unpaid. But I encourage you to go for it if it is ever offered to you. And probably even offer a free Praktikum in your cover letter, if you feel you are well out of an internship stage in your career, it doesn’t matter. Still offer it for a day or week. 

Mar 15, 2014

What to do on cloudy days in Amsterdam...

So I got myself a new digital SLR and have been using it capture the newly sprung up season, that is spring! But every once in a while, Amsterdam experiences its signature weather. Cloudy and Windy, so to say. I am all about life. It can't really pull down my spirits unless the cloudy, windy pushes people out of the city. And that won't happen. This is a city of vibrance. The people are all over the city at all times of the day and there is life! That's what I like the most.

I walked from Oud-Zuid, where I am presently staying into the Leidseplein area. I did not even have to go all the way to museum quarter or Rembrantplein to get the prettiness. Canals and water and life around it., the tradational Dutch thing! A country of trade and globalization, yeah...

Mar 5, 2014

Love on the balcony

Ever time I see a red brick building and a filigree worked balcony, my brain goes into a romantic elevation and refuses to come out of there for as long as it can.

Those French windows amused me so much that i had to click each time I saw one and instagram it. Even as the French windows have lived their life and been famous all around, I feel this modern-medieval style of architecture has a charm that shouts "home". 

Toulouse, the city I visited last weekend, is in the French Pyrenees region, a probable variation to our own Alps. This felt like a beautiful revelation of centuries of petite culture woven around authenticity.

And what more? Toulouse has canals. Like Amsterdam. 
Why canals I ask. 
But I am ready to face the answer that is Midi river. The region is Midi-Pyrenees. Pyrenees region located around the Midi river. I got it! And the back waters are all into the city as canals. I have recently come to understand that canals and boats are a lower cost of living than to get a house or apartment on rent. 

Feb 24, 2014

Local Art scene in Barcelona

Barcelona is a one great place for aspiring new age artists. It doesn't quite have the same old world charm like Amsterdam or Rome when it comes to art. But the ambiance is new world and young with the art scene. Major artists of the city are themselves from the 19-20th century. Picasso and Gaudi. 
Last night I walked by Gaudi's discordia buildings. I just loved the tile mosaic and the style of the random buildings asymmetric and out of place. 

Evolving Styles of Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso is himself a 20th century new age artist. I loved the whole cubism and bright color idea ofPicasso. It seems to have lived on and rubbed off on the aspiring artists who come to Barcelona to make to big as artist.

The present day art scene on La Rambla is about impressionist, neo-impressionist artists. Some of them make these glass-painting-like artworks on plastic and paper. The mosaic effect is stark and bright colors win out. They make a lovely take home souvenir if you want a glass painting and Christian look around. 
Some of these also use ceramic paint. So it is not just staining paper, also 3D effect. Again, it had me at the first sight. Something about these 3D and bright colored contemporary paintings gets my attention and immediate affinity. I can't put a finger on it but it has got to be the presence of red-orange hues :-)

Another set of artists I admired on La Rambla was the African sand textured art. The designs are also African here.

Personally, I saw a lot of artists and I my own judgemental way I felt they are mostly mass reproducing artworks in an original or old-master style. But at te end of the day they are making mass copies of artwork of Barcelona city scape or Gaudi/Picasso-styled remakes for tourist consumption and to make their living. It is an observation that I don't disprove of. Yet t haunts me of the artist who can just sit back and paint the cityscape of Barcelona. Do I applaud him of his photographic memorybf the city and talent to make a beautiful work of art? Or do I overlook it as a skilled artist who just reproduces one artwork after another? It confuses me and yet leaves me in awe...

Feb 12, 2014

4 Ways to Travel Low cost in Europe

Before I forget all these wonderful websites I found for lowcost road trips, let me get them here.

1. Meinfernbus.de  - It is a bus service from Germany to the neighbouring countries and to major cities in Germany. Tickets start from €10 for a 3 hour ride and it is totally worth. The ride might be half to one hour longer than superfast trains. But at that price, I guess you can spend an hour in a bus.

2. Flixbus.de - Another bus service. If the route is not on Meinfernbus, then it is here. These buses are not super well connected to all small towns in Europe, just the major cities and drop-offs at major points. But if you need a ride to a major airport like Frankfurt International, this is a good and cheap ride, especially when your air ticket does not have the rail-and-fly offer.

3. Carpooling.com - I love it since I took a 15€ ride to Cologne in record time, booking it one day in advance. And I have great regards for carpooling.com because I know the founder personally. Look out for ADAC and verified accounts. And check the country specific versions for in-country travel and also neighbouring country travel. And no breaks until passengers agree.

4. Blablacar.de - Another carpooling website. I have not yet used this but will do soon. Also, I saw the cross-country rides are more easily listed here than carpooling.com. For instance to the Netherlands or to Czech Republic from German cities, I find some listings here when the buses are full. Check it out.