Welcome to our new place – with pics!

I’m posting pictures of the new flat from when it was mostly empty. I don’t dare post pictures of how we’re living in it now, with all of our belongings in disarray and our visitor (my Mom!) sleeping on a mattress on living room floor. :mrgreen:

The specs are:

  • 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom (2 Zimmer)
  • 50 sq m (538 sq ft)
  • balcony
  • basement storage unit
  • ground floor, slightly raised (Hochparterre)

Rent: 500‚ā¨ (including all utilities)

Pics are below!

Germans don’t appear to favour open concept interior design, so another hallway awaits you as you open the door. ūüôā We like that our hallway is not so narrow, and has bends which makes it visually more interesting compared to a boring long tube.

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Bathroom is on the right. Yay it’s renovated! Plus it has a tub!!MAWI7778.resized

VOILA! Here is the kitchen!! Or the room that will eventually house the kitchen once we install it. (Yes this is normal in Germany.) We have since installed a modular kitchen that I will post later if I remember.

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Our living room with the previous tenants’ accent wall. We don’t love it, but the alternative was to have them rip it out (as per contract) and leaving us with a wall full of glue residue. Wall paper here is not just decorative btw. It’s the actual wall plaster.

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Our view into the courtyard where the doggies play! It’s also the entrance to our balcony.

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Our bedroom is off of the living room and is of a decent size.MAWI7786.resized

A view from the balcony and our car + trailer on moving day. So nice living on the ground floor. It took Martin and a friend to unload the full trailer in 15 minutes, while my Mom and I received everything from the balcony.MAWI7805.resized

So that’s our place!

Some friends and family were a bit shocked that we chose this flat, because they think it’s too small or not nice enough or something.

But we love it! It’s even fancy to us because it’s in better condition than other flats we’ve lived in, and we mainly chose it for location. We’re a few steps from the downtown strip, which makes it so convenient to get things done and to shop for food.

More importantly, we’ll finally get to enjoy ourselves, instead of being in a hectic in/out everyday. For the past 5 years, our apartment has felt like a locker meant to store our things, that we just happened to sleep in too.

This is the first time that we are both living and working in the same city together. Okay technically Martin works in the next city over, but it’s only a 20 min bike ride and he loves biking.

It hasn’t even been 2 weeks yet, but this simple life feels soooooooooo good.

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Optimizing our lives

Last week we moved into our new rental apartment in a town closer to Martin’s work.

Now instead of commuting for hours everyday in opposite directions, Martin is biking 20 minutes to the office and I will be working from home once I clear all this German paperwork!

Our quality of living has instantly improved.

I almost want to cry because this life is sooooo much better already!

We have a lot more time together and more energy to support our cancer-fighting lifestyle.

We will also save at least 300 EUR per month from less driving, less train usage, and lower rent!

All that will go towards our FIRE portfolio, which I’m very excited about. :mrgreen:

But even if moving increased our expenses (like if we had to move to a higher cost of living area to reduce our commutes), it would still be worth it to me. Life is just more peaceful now, and not like the candle is burning at both ends. It’s NICE!

As a side reflection, this recent move marks our 5th move in my 5 years of living in Germany. That right there is a snap shot of what it’s like to live abroad while trying to support our jobs. i.e it’s been stressful (and I didn’t even mention that we need to install and/or remove kitchens for every single move!!).

We just got internet connection at the new place this morning, so I’m planning to get back into the blogging mode soon. Maybe I will post some pictures of the mess that is our new apartment! ūüôā

Celebrating my 5 years in Germany

Just passed my 5 year anniversary for living in Germany!

*throws confetti*

Germany has given me so much.

Firstly, Martin is German!¬†We met in Toronto but I followed him here. ūüôā

I also¬†went¬†to grad school in Germany (essentially for free tuition-wise), and then went on to land good jobs in Germany. Soon I’ll launch into a (hopefully) lucrative freelancing career.

I am so grateful. I know I live a very privileged life.

It’s been very up and down for me in Germany. But instead of reflecting on my bumpy ride, I’m going to just appreciate how good I have it here.

There are so many people¬†Europe/Germany bound right now, who don’t have it as easy as I do.¬†After reading some¬†truly heart breaking stories,¬†I’m going to shut up. I¬†have nothing to¬†complain about anymore.

Thank you Germany, for accepting me in and for giving me all this opportunity. Thank you for giving me my husband!

To another fruitful 5 years, when we plan to FIRE! :mrgreen:

Yuppies in Toronto

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I love Toronto, my home town.

But it’s so bloody expensive there!

I read this recent¬†article about the cost of living in Toronto for young professionals, and it’s scary how accurate it is.¬†If Martin and I lived in Toronto (which was the original plan), we’d easily spend the quoted¬†$2.6K per month to live in a condo, with no car, for a single person. Since we are frugal though, I think we could pay attention and get by on¬†$3.5K for 2 people.

Martin and I don’t track our expenses, but we estimate that we spend about 1.7K EUR ($2.5K) per month living near D√ľsseldorf (one of the richest cities in Germany), and that includes living in a nice flat in a good area,¬†driving a BMW, travelling often, and buying local/organic/free trade¬†groceries. While we are more frugal than¬†everyone else we know around us, we are still embarrassed¬†to live¬†such¬†rich-yuppie¬†lifestyles and are trying to cut back.

And cut back we will once we move to Niederrhein.¬†Our expenses will drop to ~1.4K EUR ($2K) per month. Even that¬†sounds high to me, but¬†we probably do end up spending that much when we¬†spread our travel costs over the year. (I’m not including my new freelancing costs, or Martin’s alternative treatments)

If I stayed in Toronto, I would still find this FIRE lifestyle, but it would take me longer to save enough to FIRE.

Now I get to FIRE earlier (hopefully!), while living a much more interesting life. Not that people in Toronto don’t live interesting lives, but¬†after¬†spending my entire life there,¬†I was pretty bored with myself.¬†I wanted to see something new.

Then I came here and felt really out of place and wanted to go back! But that’s another story.

I would still love to spend time in Toronto when I FIRE, just cuz it always feels like *home*. If my freelancing career takes off, I may not even have to wait until I FIRE!

Using the good weather to speak German

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The weather here in central Europe is hotttt.¬†It’s 30+ degrees Celsius¬†(no air conditioning), and¬†I feel like I’m in a tropical country!

I love it. :mrgreen:

This feeling of *love* is something I’m totally reveling in, because¬†it’s not often that I love it here in Germany.

I try my best to,¬†but I find that I am happier when I acknowledge to myself that I just don’t like it here all that much.

The solution is to learn German.  Speaking German is essential to living happily in Germany. But living happily in Germany is essential to being able to learn German!

My expat friends who love it here have picked up the language so well. Whereas me and my expat¬†friends who don’t like it here are still struggling to *want to* have a conversation in German.

I’ve been living in Germany for almost 5 years now, so I¬†can speak some German. But I don’t like to. ūüėē If I mentally prepare for a situation beforehand, like going to the bank or the doctor or talking to a realtor, I can¬†have okay-conversations. But don’t socialize with me in German, or call me on the phone with German,¬†because I can’t do it unless I’m drunk.

And I don’t like to drink, so…!

Anyway, the point of this blog is to get me to harness this positive-energy from the good weather, to get myself to speak more German.

My goal is to speak German everyday. Even if it’s for 15 minutes.

This means speaking to not just my husband, but also my friends and coworkers. Who are all very willing, I just always put a stop to it. ūüėē

Mistakes I’ve made / things I’ve overlooked when moving to Germany

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While I was planning my move to Germany 4.5 years ago, I focussed more on the Germany parts rather than tying up lose ends in Canada.

Which has come to bite me in the @ss now.

That’s why when my dear friend recently asked me for advice on moving to Europe, I centred my advice almost entirely on finances. I didn’t mean to, it’s just that I overlooked so much before moving abroad and wanted to shield her from that.

Most of the advice I found online for moving to Germany for North Americans, were to: 1) leave electronics behind since the voltage is different in Europe; 2) bring peanut butter/baking soda/brown sugar/vanilla extract; 3) bring English books, and 4) LEARN GERMAN!

That list is only mildly important (asides from the Deutsch sprechen). This is the advice I wish I *had* followed before moving to Germany:

1. Set up passive income streams! Preferably from low maintenance dividend generating equities. It’s hard to earn a living in Germany as a fresh off the boat expat. Having passive income can’t hurt, and will help soothe the pressure of being unemployed abroad. Keep some cash for emergencies, but otherwise put that money to work!

2. Open RRSP and TFSA accounts with a discount online broker. For tax-sheltered, tax-free passive income, this is so important!!! Trying to organize this from abroad is so much more difficult, and possibly even illegal. So do it while you’re firmly on Canadian soil. Don’t put it off.

3. Then max out your RRSPs and TFSAs! Once you have #2 set up, max out everything. For various reasons, mainly attributed to laziness, I did not do this. I even closed my brokerage account. ūüė¶ Now it gets tricky because I may not be considered a Canadian resident anymore. While I’m allowed to max out for the years I lived in Canada, I don’t have the accounts set up in the first place and it’s illegal to open off-shore accounts. Boo! Don’t be like me. I had to write to the CRA to ask them to help me determine my residency status, and after months, am still waiting for their response. If the CRA determines I am still a resident, I may have to return to Canada to open my accounts – or at least pretend I’m there. If they’ve decided I’m not a Canadian resident, I won’t be able to open any accounts until I move back. ūüė¶

4. Understand the Canada-Germany tax treaty. This should probably be #1, but as I haven’t read it myself, I feel embarrassed advising other people do it first. I merely glanced at this treaty before moving abroad, and carelessly determined that I would only need to pay tax in either country, but not both. While in general this is the jist of the treaty, my interpretation is far too simplistic. The devil’s in the details!¬† Richard from Banks Germany has brought this treaty to my attention again, and I know it’s time to delve into it.

5. Make a list of tax-efficient or tax-free investments in both Canada and Germany. Another suggestion from Richard, and a very good one! Assume you will retire in either Canada or Germany, and go through the different scenarios from a tax/pension perspective. Mr. German and I will do this research over the next several weeks, and I’ll blog about it (don’t all rush here at once!). We need to inform our investment strategy so it isn’t overly tax-complicated.

While this list is for Canadians moving to Germany, it could be applied broadly to all expats. Moving abroad can be so stressful, and having financial problems/complications doesn’t help. It’s worth it to think about where you want to retire, to read the tax treaties if any, and to set financial structures up before you leave.

Also, use Skype to video chat with your Mom. ūüôā