I really enjoy the peace now

My name is Rouba, I am half Palestinian and half Syrian and I’m 21 years old. I was actually studying law in Syria but because of the war I couldn’t continue, I was in my first year at the University… I wanted to come to Germany because the German government cares about the freedom and there are very good, well-known universities…
When I was a little kid my mother came to visit Germany and she told me how charming it was! My father is a doctor and he had a scholarship to study medicine in Germany because he was one of the best students in Tishreen University of Lattakia but he could not make it…

How did you come to Germany?

We came to Germany from Libya. It was a very dangerous journey but we wanted to escape the war and my parents wanted us to be safe and to live as normal young girls (I mean me and my sister). It took 8 days to arrive here.

What are the difficulties you are facing now?

First of all, it was very hard to apply for a visa simply because we are half Palestinians and half Syrians so actually we are stateless because our mom could not give us the Syrian nationality for political reasons…

The most difficult thing right now is that I’m here since 10 month and I still have not got a decision on my Asylum case ;-(  I still cannot study German. In November 2015 the German government decided that all refugees who are from Syria, Iraq and another two countries can start learning German in any school… but we could not start studying because we are stateless even though we are from Syria and we possess Syrian passports and all our papers are from the Syrian government.

And yet another difficult thing is that we were transferred to a small village where there are no people of our age, no buses after 17 p.m., there’s absolutely nothing  to do. The transportation is very expensive and we can’t do anything about it! We felt so alone and we are terrible missing our parents ;-(

We are often depressed that we are in a safe place and our parents are not and that we can’t live together…The idea that something happens to them is killing us inside ;-(

Is there anything you like in Germany so far?

I really enjoy the peace and beautiful nature!

What are your hopes for the future?

My hopes are to be with my parents again very soon. Such a simple thing turned into my dream! I also would like to get a very good education and be a successful person!
And of course I hope the war will be stopped…

One day you live a happy normal life, the next day it’s all gone. It could happen to anyone, only when you are in “exile”, you find out that the life you have is not to be taken for granted! At the end I would like to thank all of you who try to turn this exile into home and help us to start a new life here.


25 years in Italy

I’m Martin Gani, a British journalist/travel writer/photographer/English teacher/translator/editor of Cypriot descent married to a Swiss/Italian national. To date I’ve published over 300 articles accompanied by some 400 of my photos in periodicals around the world as well as 10 e-books including a collection of celebrity interviews.

What brings you to Italy?

I was invited by Italian friends, my future wife among them, I’d met in London, after spending a week in Como by the eponymous, famed lake, I decided to move there. Thirty years on I’m still here. A few years ago I published an e-book, 25 Years in Italy (also translated into Italian) giving an account of my life and travels here.

How do you like your life in Italy?

I love it most of the time, can’t stand the bureaucracy, then again neither do Italians themselves.

Do you feel integrated into the Italian society? 

Yes, as an EU national I’ve never felt discriminated against, people find my British/Cypriot background fascinating. Giving priority to learning Italian asap and speaking it well within a few years has certainly helped.

How does Italy fit into your success?

I hold a Bsc degree from London University in Biological Sciences and worked as a technician in a London hospital before moving to Italy, I did the same job also in Italy during the first year of my stay but soon realised there were more opportunities in teaching English, I did a TEFL course and began teaching full time, enjoying it and earning good money, in London I would have continued working as a technician. Mid-1990s I did a course of journalism and began contributing to the British weekly, The European, as well as a number of travel, culture, and inflight magazines, most of my writing, naturally, focused on Italy.

What would you like to “import” from Italy to your home country?

Dolce vita, in Italy there’s more to life than fierce competition, working long hours, building a career, and a meal is more than just feeding yourself.

I don’t want to generalise this though, in Northen Italy in particular, people work hard, careers are important. I’d also import artistic, architectural sensitivity, emphasis on aesthetics, craftsmanship in all fields, and the concept of ‘bello’.

Does Italy seem multicultural to you? 

Over the three decades I’ve lived here, Italy has become increasingly multi-cultural but unlike UK immigrant population hasn’t had time to assimilate properly yet, Italian legislation hasn’t helped either, obtaining Italian nationality is very difficult, even somebody born in Italy doesn’t automatically become Italian citizen, someone of Italian descent living in Argentina, and perhaps never even been to Italy, can obtain Italian citizenship faster.

What is the first thing you do when you go back to your home country?

When I return to London, I check out The National Gallery, and British Museum, no queues, no admission fee, when I return to Cyprus, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, I meet up with friends, walk down memory lane, and always end up in a restaurant.

Advice to a new expat who is thinking of moving to Italy?

Learn Italian, otherwise you’ll never fit in.

If you’re a mother-tongue English speaker (or just as competent), you have a good chance of finding a teaching job. Generally prepare to be patient, bureaucracy will seem unbearable at times but things are sorted out, gradually, and remember Italians themselves go through just as much bureaucracy, you’re not being discriminated against. If you like, or quite rightly, expect, neat queues, and disciplined drivers, Italy is not for you. Healthcare is universal, and high quality, no worries there.

I like everything about this country!

Hi, I am Gabriela, from Bulgaria, currently living in Milan. Actually the “currently” lasts since the far-off days of 2004. My biggest passion is to travel, so sometimes I might be out of town for a month, or two or six.

Why Italy?

I started learning Italian when I was 11 so Italy has always been the most obvious choice (big thanks to my parents who made this possible). I came to Milan to continue my education and liked it so much that I stayed long after I graduated. I am still here also because of my boyfriend who is from Milan 😉

Likes/dislikes about Italy and the Italians?

I like everything about this country. I enjoy living the Italian clichés every day, like having a breakfast at the bar with a cup of cappuccino and a croissant, riding a Vespa around the city, meeting with friends over a gelato after dinner, etc. 

If I have to name one thing that I dislike about Italians, it is their narrow-mindedness. Sometimes they could be very adverse to trying new things, like foreign cuisines, for instance. They believe that theirs is the best in the world so anything else is just a waste of time.

Do you feel yourself integrated in Italy?

Italians are very friendly and helpful, especially when you speak their language. I have felt at home since the first day. Even more after Bulgaria became part of the European Union in 2007 and it wasn’t necessary anymore to queue in front of the Questura in order to get my permit of stay. 

How does Italy fit into your success? if you were back home would you be doing the same things?

If I wasn’t in Italy I don’t believe I would be doing what I do now. Before I came here fashion was not at all on my radar. I actually studied economics and was dreaming of the corporate consulting world. Only after five years of full immersion in the glitzy Milanese life my interest about the fashion industry started to grow until it became the main goal for my career. I believe that only three other countries could give me the opportunities and inspiration that I have here (USA, UK & France) but Italy is without doubt my favorite.

Could you tell us a few words about your blog?

The blog was another thing I had never imagined I could have. The impulse to start it came while I was getting my hair done in one very unusual place in Bangkok. I suddenly wanted more people to know about it and other interesting places I was discovering. The initial name was “secrebangkok” but I changed because I didn’t want to limit it to just one city. Now I write about my travels, cool eateries and boutiques in the cities I visit, a glimpse into the local fashion and street style from Bangkok, Milan and soon Yangon.

What brought you to Bangkok and what were the highlights of your life in Bangkok?

I wasn’t feeling like I was fulfilling the purpose of my life at my job. I decided to give a little twist to my routine and change my ambiance, Bangkok was amazing beyong words. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, except the rats occasionally crossing my way. I learned some Thai which allowed me to have a major exposure to the local way of life. The best part was all the people that I met and with whom I am still in contact on a regular basis.

What is the the first thing you do when you go back to your home country Bulgaria?

Eat as much Bulgarian food as I can. And if there is space in the luggage I always take a couple of goat cheese packages back with me.

Advice to a new expat who is thinking of moving to Italy?

To learn Italian as soon as possible, to travel extensively and explore the country inside out.

I hope it will open many doors to me!

Hallo! I am Ahmad Budeir, 27 years old, dentist (graduated from the University in 2013) and of Palestinian – Syrian origin. My family relocated from Palestine in 1948 so originally I come from Palestine, but I was born and grew up in Damascus, Syria. Damascus is the capital and the second-largest city in Syria after Aleppo. Damascus is commonly known in Syria as Al-Sham or as the City of Jasmine. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major cultural and religious center of the Levant.

My favourite hobbies are playing football (I am supporting FC Barcelona and Germany’s national football team “Mannschaft” ;-), swimming, playstation games, watching TV & cinema, traveling ( I have visited United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Turkey and now Europe).  I also enjoy being physically active, and spend a lot of time playing sports.. I don’t find time to do it now though…

What brought you to Germany?

…hard circumstances in Syria…

How do you like your life here?

I’m very proud of the civil society that I found in Germany and it’s achievements in the field of dentistry! I would like to pursue another Degree in dental sciences in a well known university in Europe. In my opinion, tuition fees and living costs in general are reasonable.
The education system in Germany is the best. I hope it will open many doors to me. I know that living and studying abroad is not easy, but I have enough motivation to succeed, work hard and gain a degree!

What difficulties do you face right now?

Missing something or somebody is the worst thing I have in Germany ;-(  I miss my parents and brothers! I haven’t seen them since 3 years. I wish to go back soon to my home country and my family. I also miss just walking on the streets of Damascus visiting all the places I love in Syria with the my family and friends.

Another thing… it is not so easy to learn the German language,  it needs a lot of time, effort and enough connection with the community.

I hope the war in Syria ends soon, so that I can go back to live together with my family and work as a dentist.

A long and difficult journey to Germany

My name is Hassan Abbas and I am 31 years old. I am a Syrian refugee in Germany. I am a dentist and a specialist in Oral and Maxillofacial surgery.

My original destination was not Germany, but Luxembourg. I wanted to travel to Luxembourg because I have a good level of the French language (in addition to English), but going to Luxembourg and applying for Asylum there was a mistake I made. I had fingerprints taken in Hungary and there was no chance for me to be recognized as a refugee there, but I wasn’t sure about that back then, eventually my application was rejected and the Luxembourgish authorities wanted to deport me back to Hungary. Going back to Hungary was not an option for me after the horrible treatment I had there, so I basically ran away from Luxembourg towards Germany because I knew that Germany doesn’t apply Dublin’s regulations so strictly, even though that was before the decision of suspending Dublin for Syrians in Germany. Obviously, Germany is a perfect country to start a new life after one loses home, but initially I just wanted to shorten the period required for integration by choosing a country where I am familiar with its official language (I mean Luxembourg).

How did you reach Europe?

My journey to Europe was so long and so difficult because I started this journey in February, last winter. The weather was cold, all borders were closed, especially the Macedonian border. I left Turkey to Greece in February 2015 by boat. My companions and I were arrested by the coast guards and then discharged from captivation a few days later. I stayed in Greece for almost two weeks and then continued my way to Macedonia. Again, I was arrested by the police and led to a detention centre known as Gazibaba.

The detention circumstances were extremely horrendous and appalling. We had to stay behind bars and walls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we could only hardly see the sky from behind bars!

I was captivated for twelve days and then finally got released. After that I headed towards Serbia. I stayed there for a few days and then I continued my way to Hungary in the 30th of March 2015 right after crossing the Hungarian borders, at dawn, the police arrested me and led me to the police department.


I was put into a prison cell like a criminal.

It was a small cell filled with more than 40 people. I found it deeply impossible to sleep, or just to even lay down. For lunch, they would give us a small piece of dry bread. This was the only nutrition they had given us in two days!

The next day a police officer spoke to us. He told us that if we wanted to get out of prison, we had to give our fingerprints and sign an asylum request and if one refuses to comply, they would stay in prison for two months and would then be deported back to Serbia. At that time I was exhausted, hungry and desperate. I had no choice but comply with the officer’s request. After that I was released from prison. I went directly to Budapest and decided to leave Hungary and never come back under any circumstances. I continued my journey through Austria and Germany and finally reached my first destination, Luxembourg on the 4th of April 2015, and after more than three months of waiting my application being rejected as I mentioned earlier, so I left Luxembourg to Germany in the 20th of July and applied for asylum. Thankfully, I benefited from the decision that was taken in August about suspending Dublin’s regulations for Syrians, I have gotten the recognition decision as a refugee here in Germany in the 11th of December 2015!

What was the most difficult experience for you so far in this journey?

The most difficult experience was the state of anxiety I lived in during the first month here before suspending Dublin’s regulations for Syrians, actually Dublin was a true nightmare for me, especially after the devastation I went through on my way here. I forgot to mention that the cost price for my journey has cost me around 5000 €! Almost half of this money I had to borrow from friends of mine.

What is it that you enjoy here?

What I really enjoy doing in Germany is that I started to make new friends. Very nice and helpful friends. I also enjoy getting to know the German culture better. I started to learn German as well. All my life I wanted to meet people from different cultures and make international friendships.


Anything you wish to add?

I have left my parents and one brother in Syria, my wish is to be reunited with them as soon as possible, either by bringing them here somehow, or by visiting them in Syria if the war is over. I also hope that I start to work soon and get back to the normal life, so that I become independent again.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the group of volunteers working here in Bad Frankenhausen to help the refugees, meeting these wonderful people and working with them was the most pleasing and touching experience I had in Germany so far. I was astonished when I saw the effort these volunteers are making to provide a better life for my people, indeed Germany should be proud of them.

Thank you very much!

The concept of nation state needs an overhaul

There are certain realities in the world we just have to deal with. I don’t think there is any viable alternative to having pluralist diverse societies.
‘Multiculturalism’ is just a word, a word we place too much importance on. There is a heated debate in Germany on whether German society is multicultural or not. I don’t like this debate, because it implies that diversity and openness are optional. But what would be the alternative to multiculturalism? Monoethnic, German-only, white-only society or what? In fact, there is no alternative to multiculturalism in today’s world. I think that people have to understand that economic wellbeing is the other side of the coin: you cannot prosper economically if you do not open up society to immigration, to information flows, to different cultural influences. What all the global crises have taught us, is that we’re all in the same boat on this planet and that the nation state is maybe a concept that needs an overhaul, that needs to be done away with because it stands in the way of common solutions.

Less discipline and more creativity

The general rule for all aspects of German society – Ordnung muss sein – shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Sometimes less discipline and more creativity ought to be considered. Just picture the life in Germany afterwards.

Edvard Lammervo: “My first role was in a Christmas play as Santa Claus in elementary school…”

My name is Edvard Lammervo and I am a 35 year oldish man from Finland. I grew up in a small city of Salo and after high school got drawn towards bigger cities and more and more into acting. I ended up living in Helsinki for ten years, where I was also studying performing arts in the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. I’ve been mostly working as an actor in very various projects, sometimes also as a writer or a director. Now I’ve been living in Berlin since August 2013. For long my favourite colour used to be blue, then I had an intense season for red in my twenties. Nowadays it’s more difficult to say.

What brings you to Berlin?

In the Spring of 2011 I wanted to leave Finland for a while to concentrate on my writing project – and simply to explore some more world. I ended up here without knowing much about the city nor having many contacts. Well, I fell in love with Berlin immediately and soon with some fine Berliners. I spent here three random, surprising and colourful months (also actually writing well), and wanted definitely to come back to give life here a proper chance.

How do you like your life in Germany as to compare with Finland?

Not so surprisingly no matter where you live you always bring yourself with you. So even though there were some issues I wanted to leave behind me to Finland, I found myself creating them pretty soon here again. But it has been also a good laboratory to become more aware of them and to make some better choices. Naturally there’s been quite some challenges when building one’s life in a foreign country when having to learn a new language and to deal with it in job hunting, bureaucracy and every day life. But anyway I find Berlin a very cozy and inspiring city for me. Compared to Finland there’s more space to be all sides of myself. In Finland I probably wouldn’t go jogging in a park wearing a bear mask (I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt too). I also very much enjoy simply wandering around the huge city and observing the surprising sights and diverse faces of life. Very concretely here I also have much more different cultures around me and friends from various countries. That’s been very enriching. Though of course I also do miss my family in Finland, good friends and the beautiful language. And sauna, as having at least some stereotypical Finnish blood in my veins 😉

Have you always wanted to become an actor?

As a kid I remember wanting to become a movie director. I watched a lot of films and I enjoyed writing stories and creating new worlds. At some point during the school years I forgot this passion when believing more rational vision offered by the society, but finally it took over and I started seriously heading for an acting career.

How did you start your acting career?

My first role was in a Christmas play of the lower elementary school. Everyone in the class had to participate and most of the boys were starring as Christmas gnomes who had to perform a dancing scene with fairies, the girls. Since I was so shy to interact with the girls I somehow fought myself to the role of Santa Claus, who didn’t have to join the dance. Santa Claus did have some more appearance and lines though, so I consider that as my first acting achievement.

In the upper elementary school I joined a drama class where the pupils wrote and performed a little play together. It was a very rewarding experience and the teacher was especially encouraging. I joined an amateur theatre group for the first time, then started getting into it more and more. My older cousins were also very inspiring role models creating their crazy short films, already when I was still a kid. As a teenager we also started to make some short films together as well, with my friends with a video camera I bought. After high school I didn’t have clear ideas about my future, only theatre and film worlds seemed more appealing. Around the age of 22 I ended up attending one year of theatre studies in Lahti (still in Finland). That intense year of full-time acting made it clear for me that that’s the path I want to follow.

How does Germany fit into your career as an actor? If you were in Finland would it be any different?

Well, career-wise it hasn’t been the smartest move, since in Finland I was able to work in my own language and I had already build a vast network. I imagine I would have more work there. My wish is that I could visit Finland every now and then for work, even for a bit longer periods of time. Though in Berlin there’s also different kind of possibilities, especially as I’m also interested to explore more the field of performance art. Here’s a lot going on and seems like often more spontaneously, as in Finland projects sometimes tend to get buried under too much planning and preparing when trying to do the things “right”.

What have been your favourite role to play and why?

There’s been so many and so different kind… But one of my favourites was in 2007 when I was doing my internship in a small independent theatre, KokoTeatteri, in Helsinki. In the play Riihiukko (based on Estonian folktales) I had a couple of roles: an old, tiny lady (being the youngest and biggest person in the acting ensemble, as well as a man) and a strange, deamonish, puppet-like creature summoned from house objects. Both roles were extremely physical and I got to transform myself into whole new beings.

Another one and totally different kind of role from my favourites is a recent role in our web series Das Apartment, as Lenni. He’s a Finnish guy living in Berlin, in his unique, world hugging and often weird seeming world. It’s been very much a pleasure to dive into to that alternative, playful reality he’s living in – or to call that reality out of myself. Also there’s been quite some freedom creating the character with the director Reinaldo Pinto Almeida, the costume designers, as well as with the other actors. There’s been space for improvisation and to slip in also my own strange jokes into Lenni’s world, and that’s been very much fun.

What projects are you currently working on right now?

At the moment I’m mostly occupied with the role of a postman, since there’s not always enough actual acting jobs. Also I wanted to explore some normal(?) working life for a change after so many years as a freelance artist. Anyway I’m working on some projects too. I’m acting regularly with our improvisation theatre group ComedySportz Berlin. We have live shows in English pretty much every week. I’m also attending a short film project Queue from Jupiter von Bastarden, as well as searching for a funding for another one with few friends. Last year I also wrote and directed a short film, A sandwich that could understand speech, that I’m trying to push to some festivals. I also have a couple of writing projects in development that I’m hoping to get through in Finland.

What does the year 2016 look like for you?

That’s what I’m curious to see myself too. There’s always been quite a bunch of unexpected twists on my path – and Berlin especially seems to be a good place for them – so I try to stay open and see what directions there could be for me. Of course, I also want to stick to the great people I’ve already met here and keep on working with them, as well as pushing forward the projects that are already on a move. We’ve got the first full season of Das Apartment now wrapped up with six episodes and I really hope there will be possibilities (a.k.a. money) to continue to the second season. I’d also like go back working as a dancing bear every now and then.

 Photo credits: Päivi Seppänen


They should be punished…full stop!

It’s terrible what happened in Cologne during the New Year celebrations! I am Syrian myself, I came to Germany many years ago though….long before the so-called “refugee crisis”. I’ve been telling my German and European friends and colleagues to watch out for the refugees and this welcome culture…. It is indeed amazing how people in Germany have been helping refugees but you can’t expect them to be all “GOOD”! I’ve learnt that tolerance is a European value, but common sense should prevail…and those people who committed crimes should be punished… full stop!

I watched 14 years of my life falling apart in a couple of months…

My name is Issam, I’m Syrian from the city of Aleppo. I am 38 years old. I am married and have 2 magnificent kids: my daughter Maryam, 7 years old and my son Kamal, 5 years old. When I was 20 I left my homeland searching for a better future and I settled in Dubai. After 12 years of life as an expatriate I finally decided to return to my homeland in 2010 having made all the dreams and aspirations in building a prosperous future and a happy family formation, taking the advantage of experience gained from different worlds  and cultures that I had lived and worked with, so I established a company for Auto Spare Parts specialized in Mercedes Benz. That was actually my profession for the last 12 years in Dubai, then I expanded my business to industrial machinery of Jacquard Textile and that was a profession of my family for years, so I constructed a Textile Factory located in Aleppo, Syria.

Everything seemed to be just perfect for me, a happy family and good business until the civil war started in my country in 2012. Everything I worked for, all my dreams and future plans for my kids were there, so I tried very hard to stay in my city as much as I could until we couldn’t handle the situation any more. My neighborhood turned into a battle field, my auto spare parts company was looted.

My textile factory was hit by air strikes several times, I watched 14 years of my life and hard work falling apart in a couple of months.


One day my wife wanted to punish my daughter Maryam because she was yelling all day long, the little girl stood up against her mother and said: ” Wait, wait don’t shout at me or punish me. I am still a baby girl. I am in deep depression because I am not supposed to hear bumping voices all day or seeing bullets falling in our backyard or watching blood of other children in our neighbourhood. I am supposed to play outside with other kids and go to kindergarten.” My wife calmed down, hugged Maryam and they cried together. I was listening to the conversation and for a moment I felt desperate and helpless in front of my kids.

Earlier in 2014 I headed with my family to Turkey leaving everything behind… and from Turkey I tried many times to come back to Dubai, but the Visa to the UAE or other gulf countries was very hard or almost impossible to get for Syrians. I tried to find job with my profession in Turkey, but the Turkish language was a big barrier for me. In summer 2015 I decided to migrate to Europe after I lost any hope to come back to Syria…

Why Germany?

There are many reasons! One of them is professional, I used to work with German cars and spare parts and I am very good at my profession. I thought finding a job with my profession would be possible. In Germany I also have some old friends and colleagues I used to work with when I was in Dubai. The second main reason was my kids’ will. They wanted to live in Germany because I used to read them some children stories about kids from Germany…  For sure, the financial reason was not the reason that pushed me to come to Germany.


How did you reach Germany?

I think my journey was quite easy comparing to others. I decided to make this journey on my own because I couldn’t bear to be exposed to any kind of risk to my family. The journey started in Turkey to Greece by boat, everybody knows that  😉 and I think that was the hardest part of the entire journey. Then from Greece to Germany by road crossing 3 or 4 other countries, sometimes walking, sometimes by car… it took me about 25 days from Turkey to reach Germany! During the journey I saw a lot of desperation in people’s eyes and I also saw ambition that drove them to progress… my worst moments were to see women and children but I saw humanity with the help of some young volunteers… However,

those 25 days seemed like long 25 years…

Those days are unforgettable, believe me. They definitely changed me to a better person.

What are the main difficulties you are facing right now in Germany?

The main challenge I am facing now is being far from my family for almost 8 months. Another difficulty is finding a suitable job. I got my residence permit to stay here for 3 years, I am now trying my best and spending most of my time learning the German language! I have not registered to any language course just yet…. I am learning by myself with the help of some books for beginners or through youtube lessons! It’s really helpful 😉

Finding a flat in a big city like Düsseldorf is a huge challenge! I am in Düsseldorf since last October and until now I couldn’t find a flat to rent. Every time I contact flat owners or real estate companies, they refuse… they don’t accept refugees as a tenant, they are giving me many excuses and I pretty much understand them!

What is it that you like in Germany?

I like the nature here, it is just fabulous, especially for taking pictures, which is one of my favourite hobbies beside reading historical books.

History teaches us a lot about our present.

What are plans for the future?

My main concern now is finding a job so I can bring my family here and live together all with dignity and feel that I am a productive person in the German community. To educate my children is also a huge goal I am looking to achieve! Only education can insure them a bright future!

Is there anything you would like to share with us?

The respect of values, concepts, habits and traditions of the German society contributes effectively to the integration process of new arrivals and helps them to integrate faster in Germany and removes all the fears, concerns and suspicion between the German community and the new arrivals. It’s only one word RESPECT , but it requires a lot of acts.

Finally, I would like to thank all German people and social organizations in all German states and cities for the hard work they are doing.

We really appreciate that great effort and we hope one day we can return the favour to all of you!

What do you mean, not all men sit down to pee?

I am Niklas, a 27 year old German, currently studying and living in Copenhagen. I’ve spent more than 2 years building new ventures and in my spare time I have a fable for surfing, art and chocolate.

How and where did you get the idea for your book “German Men sit down to Pee“?

Working with expats that were living in Germany, I realised how little they knew about Germany and how they were often surprised by us Germans and how things work around here. There are those typical clichés that we are punctual, rule-obedient and so on and while living or traveling in Germany you realize that these clichés definitely have some truth to them. But you also realize that there is so much more to discover beyond these clichés. My co-workers were often surprised, shocked, frustrated and enlightened and being around them I was able to discover Germany from an outsider’s perspective – it allowed me to see things from a new perspective that I always thought were completely normal. For example: having 5 different insurance policies when you’re in your mid-twenties seemed to be the most normal thing in the world for me!

What is the main scope of the book?

It started as a collection of funny facts about Germans. At the beginning the collection was just for myself on a little notepad. But I kept finding new things to add. At some point there was so much information there that I thought I should share this information with somebody else. In spring 2015 I met with and spoke to James, who was living in Berlin at the time. He really liked the idea and I asked him if he’d like to be a co-author. As an expat himself, James also brought with him his perspective on Germany and of course his Irish humour, which has made a huge difference to the book. I thought the stuff I was writing was very funny, but then I saw what James could make from it.

Why do you think our international readers should read it? 😉

Berlin and many other German cities are becoming more and more international as people come here for work, love, or just to see our old houses, beer and sausages. And mostGerman Men Sit Down-211x300 people really like it here as well. But there’s a lot more to German culture than just beer and sausages. “German Men Sit Down To Pee …” is a collection of those differences with sprinklings of German-Irish humour as well. If you are moving to Germany or just have a general interest in German culture this book will not only present the clichés but take you on a deep dive into “German-ness” giving you explanations as to why we are the way we are. I’m obviously biased but I think the book is very insightful and entertaining and offers some great insights into the modern German mindset and culture.

Why would a German write a “critical” piece on the Germans?

I would not call the book a critical piece, even though some people might think so from the title and the way it is written. It is a self-ironic book that contrasts the cliché that we are such serious and un-funny fellas. And, as you will find in the book, it is actually very German to be critical of everything, including yourself. In the book we have tried to highlight both the upsides and the downsides to everything. There is definitely a lot that is really great in Germany and of course – as well as in every country – things that could be better.

Could you give us your favourite part/quote from the book? 

There are a few little parts that I like such as how important it is to know whether to address people formally with “Sie” or informally with “Du”. Even for us Germans this is incredibly tough to get right, as some people get offended if you don’t address them properly and see this as a sign of disrespect. Others are offended if you do address them formally, as they don’t want to be perceived as stiff and old. So the chapter does not come short in pointing out how ridiculously complicated etiquette in Germany can be at times. Another chapter I really like is the one about Germans idolising Scandinavia. I am a pretty hard case myself. And James did not come short of really rubbing that chapter in my face.

So why do German men sit to pee? 😉

For us Germans the question is more the other way around: What do you mean, not all men sit down to pee? That’s something that really comes to a surprise for many Germans. At least if you are at somebody’s home where it’s considered rude to pee while standing. So, I won’t spoil too much but there are even court decisions about this topic and little electronic gadgets that will remind you to sit down when taking a wee. You can say a lot about Germans but you can’t say that we aren’t witty and well-organised when it comes to enforcing rules!

What does 2016 hold for you?

We are currently working on getting the print version of the book out, which will have illustrations in it as well. Our designer Bruno, who goes by the name Mantraste, did an amazing job on the cover and we would love to have him illustrate the rest of the book as well. Besides the book, I am currently doing my Master’s degree and am quite busy with that. However, I always try to achieve three larger goals per year (how very German of me!). Last year was writing a book, doing my master and starting my own business, which I am still working on. I have not finally decided what those three things will be for next year, but maybe writing a new book. This time not about Germans however.

The Dscherman

I am from Bavaria, so Germany didn’t seem so far (laughs – ed.). No, it’s just the fact that I am from here, so I know a lot of stuff you practically can’t know as a foreigner. For example: In 1998 1. FC Kaiserslautern won the Bundesliga, after qualifying for it the year before, no team has ever done that before or after. I can remember that being a big thing when I was a child, if you didn’t grow up here it is pretty though to come up with something like that.

How was the idea of The Dscherman born?

I have a pretty international circle of friends, from Iran to Malawi, from the United States to Russia. When we are hanging out, you always come up with stuff like: “Did you know if Germans say 1 – A, they mean that something went really well?” All the stuff that seems so clear for a German, but for others it might be something completely new. So I figured: Why not packing it all in a Twitter-Account and see how many people would like it… and so far a lot of people seem to like it.

Website: Oh, yeah, the website (laughs – ed.). To be honest, when I started I had thousands of ideas, and I figured the content would be enough to fill a magazine-like website. As it turned out, it was more time consuming that I thought, so I stopped the “project website”. But it is funny that you’re asking, because I just started to plan a new concept for it, unfortunately it is to early to talk about it now. But I´ll keep you updated!

How many people are working on the Dscherman?

Right now, it is mainly me working on it, but I constantly get help from befriended journalists. For example, Ida Reihani, a journalist from Iran, did a movie-review of “Wo ist Fred?”, a movie from the time when Till Schweiger was more laughing about himself than others about him. The problem is again time. I would like to do more, but at the moment I rather want to do one good Twitter Channel than a half-baked website, Youtube-Account and so on…

Why do you think our readers should look at your Twitter channel? 

To have fun! That is my priority number one. Of course, first and foremost I want to present people things that amaze them. Why are there no shops open on Sunday? Why do people pay taxes for being catholic or protestant? Why is “New Year” not called “New Year” in Germany? That doesn’t mean though that I only want to show the bright Germany. In times when some Germans are burning down refugee homes or women getting raped in Cologne, I also want to communicate that.

I think it’s also something that defines us as Germans, that we are not trying to cover up the bad sides of our country.

Anything else you wish to add?

Yes, tell your readers to come over (laughs – ed.)! Thank you for having me!

France was the obvious location

Hi! I’m Molly, a Texan (without a Texan accent, except for the occasional y’all) currently living in Paris. I was originally in marketing before deciding to follow my passion for baking by enrolling in the 9 month Pastry program at the Cordon Bleu, in where else, Paris! After completing the program I had a 3 month stage at a wonderful patisserie in the Republique area called La Fabrique a Gateaux. With the end of my visa nearing, I left to go back to the States where I worked for another amazing pastry shop in Dallas called Bisous Bisous Patisserie for almost a year on the macaron station. I was plotting my return to France as well which happened this past summer with a month long stay in Paris to help open a Mexican restaurant and then a trip to the south of France to help at Chateau de Gudanes. While I was in Paris, I found my current job at an English speaking culinary school. My life revolves around all things food, but I also love yoga, traveling, and of course spending time with my super cute dog, Peanut!

Why France?

Oh my why not! When I first decided that I would take the jump to study pastry, France was the obvious location. I had visited Paris for two weeks while I was in college and completely fell in love with the city, culture, language, and of course… the FOOD. It is such a foodcentric culture with 3 hour dinners, Sundays dedicated to getting together with friends and family to share a meal, and even laws requiring a certain amount of boulangeries to stay open at a time. I absolutely love it!

Likes/dislikes about France and the French?

Likes: Cheese, pastries, bread, pretty much any French food item, the little French expressions like up! or tak! tak! tak! and of course ooo la la… a smile creeps onto my face whenever I hear any of those. The packaging in France – there is such care taken to beautifully wrapping each item, whether it be a pastry, or piece of cooking equipment. You don’t find this in all stores, but most of the older ones still take the time to make those little purchases look wonderful.

Dislikes (that’s an easy one): French bureaucracy.

Has your life style changed since you moved to France? If yes, how?

My lifestyle has changed quite a bit since I moved to France. I walk… a lot. At least an hour or more each day to and from work and then on any errands or rendezvous I have. I like to think it keeps the extra pounds off that I’d be accumulating from my increased intake in butter and sugar. I also find myself eating a lot more fresh fruits and veg than I do in the States and not snacking quite so much. The produce tastes unbelievable, even the eggs, so maybe that’s why. I also won’t turn down an espresso after a meal!


What is the the first thing you do when you go back to your home country?

Besides saying hello to my family and my dog, Peanut…. I’m off to my favorite Mexican restaurant for multiple rounds of margaritas, chips and queso and chicken enchiladas!

Does France seem multicultural? please elaborate…

From my experience, yes and no! I spend most of my time in Paris which is, like any big city, a huge melting pot for all sorts of different cultures where food from all over the world is celebrated! Currently Mexican restaurants are the new thing along with an obsession with Brooklyn New York. I was in a teeny tiny town this summer and even though 80-90 percent of the population was French, I found them extremely welcoming of visitors (and residents!) from other parts of the world. It still was a typical sleepy French town though, which you would expect from a town with just the essential shops, with not really too much influence from other cultures.

Do you feel yourself integrated? what does it mean anyway 😉

I would see integrated as being comfortable in your surroundings – not stressing about a trip to the bank to make a simple deposit, or having trouble finding a doctor. I’m not quite there yet, and feel as though it would take years to feel integrated into the French culture, but I don’t think foreigners would ever be 100% fully integrated ever in their stay here. I’m always going to look American (I have that way about me) and it’s also being ok with that because it’s where you come from.

Could you tell me a few words about your blog?

It’s kinda funny but I actually started my blog years ago as a way to get around my absolutely horrible memory. I’d post my favorite recipes and then return to the site time after time when I needed one. Now it’s evolved to stories of travel and daily life in France, with of course a food focus and recipes here and there.

Advice to a new expat who is thinking of moving to France? 😉

It is a lot of hard work to make the move to France unless you have a big company behind you helping with all of the steps. I honestly think it’s France’s way of weeding out people haha! I would highly highly recommend doing as much research as possible before making the move. For my first move to France as a student, I had a whole filing system with information on getting a cell phone in France, going through the visa process, finding an apartment, and so many more subjects. One of my friends here once told me if you find yourself saying “well it should be as easy as…”, it never is. You’ll also find that you make incredible friends when you move abroad that have similar mindsets as you. Those people are the ones you lean on the most because you’re out of your comfort zone and something as easy as going to the post office can turn into a day long expedition and let’s be honest, it’s always good having someone to vent too when the going gets rough!

Can’t we make this world a better place for everyone?

Around one hundred people (mostly Syrian, Afghan refugees and a lot of journalists) demonstrated yesterday in Cologne in front of the main train station to condemn racism, violence against women, sexism and war. Saturday’s demonstration was organised on Facebook and initially estimated 500-1000 people to turn out for the rally, however fewer people showed up. Roses were distributed to all women present at the rally as a symbol of peace, few songs were played by a Syrian refugee and some of the demonstrators took to the stage to express their condemn to what happened during the New Year’s Eve… As one Syrian refugee said to me: “I don’t want people to be afraid of me. I don’t want them to look at me as a criminal. I’m just a normal human being. I’m here to say “NO” to war, racism and sexism.”

Check out our picture gallery and tell us what you think!


A student in Germany

My name is Pasqualina and I am 27 years old. I originally come from a small town in the province of Salerno, Italy. I studied Comparative Literature and Culture, along with the German, Hungarian and other languages…

One of the reasons that prompted me to stay in Germany was work. In Italy it is very difficult to find employment nowadays, especially if you come from the humanities field.  In Göttingen, where I reside now, I started a PhD program, which is not funded by any scholarship. To be a student in Germany means that you can actually afford the tuition fees (they are a lot less than in Italy) and that you have access to a lot of services.

Read the full interview in Italian here.

The perfect combination

Hello! In my old life I was a City lawyer, living the corporate dream in London.  Having studied law for five years, and undertaken on-the-job training for another two, a legal career was the obvious career choice (um, I didn’t know what else to do…). And London life was a good life! Culture, bars, clubs… London’s got it all! Alpine Papa and I made the most of what the Big Smog had to offer, before moving out to the suburbs to start a family.

Fast forward a few years and now Alpine Papa and I live with our three kids in the French Alps. I love walking and skiing and cycling. And eating chocolate. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Why France?

We started to discover that London’s not got it all after all… Mountains, trees, nature and snow are all distinctly lacking. On holiday on the South of France one year, under the influence of never-ending sunshine and lunchtime beers, we made a pact: next time we had a baby we would take a ‘gap year’ in France. I’d take a year off work and we’d get out of London.  I’m English but Alpine Papa is French, and was feeling a little bit homesick I think (it’s a scientific fact that there is only so long a Frenchman can live apart from boulangeries, cheap wine and mindlessly pointless and infuriating bureaucracy before fading away to nothing, and Alpine Papa was fast reaching this limit).  Moving to France would be a new adventure for me, and a return home for him. The perfect combination.

Nine months later Alpine Girl was born.

Six weeks after that we found ourselves living in a tiny village in the French Alps, in a genuine wooden chalet Heidi would have been proud of.  Life couldn’t have been any more different if we’d moved to the moon.

And the gap-year never ended!  Three-and-a-half years later we’re still here, having properly given up London life and a career in law to make the most of everything the Alps have to offer (cheese, wine and, um, cheese…).  We’re here to stay!

Likes/dislikes about France and the French?

What’s not to like about a country where you are never more then five kilometres away from a cake shop, where entirely quaffable wine costs less than five euros a bottle, and where the work ethic is such that no one bats an eyelid at having up to five public holidays just in May? Cheap car insurance, fantastic family tax-breaks, traffic-free motorways, free school for all from the age of two-and-a-half? That’s the boring stuff ticked off.  Ski resorts, never-ending walks, and some of the best cycling in the world right on our doorstep? Yep. Breathtaking views, culinary delicacies to die for, and some of the world’s best cinematographic geniuses? Yes indeed. I could go on. For a long time (I’ve not even mentioned the CHEESE!!). But I won’t.

The bad stuff? I find that the longer I’m here the less I notice.  The mindlessly pointless and infuriating bureaucracy I think I’ve mentioned (I usually do within about three seconds of telling people about our new life in France…). Even married to a real-life native I find it almost impossible to deal with sometimes, and threaten to leave ‘this stupid country’ on an almost monthly basis (usually just after receiving yet another letter from the Social Security office requesting yet more documents I have ALREADY SENT, DAMMIT!!! Ahem. Sorry.) Coming from a country where everyone apologises all the time (especially when it’s not their fault), where everyone has been taught from birth how to queue, and where customer service actually exists, I found it hard to integrate myself in a country where none of this comes naturally to any of the locals. (I soon got over that, though, and can now bump into people and push into queues like a true pro).

I will never get used to dog poo everywhere, though. Ever.

Has your life style changed since you moved to France? If yes, how?

Totally.  In pretty much every way.

Outdoor life for us in London meant a glass of wine in the back garden, or an hour-long trip in the car to find some vaguely green and pleasant land. Now we are walking in the mountains most weekends in the summer, and skiing them all winter. I’ve taken up cycling, and have entered the 2016 Etape du Tour (where ‘normal’ people ride a mountain stage of the Tour de France two weeks before the pros do it) – if I pull it off it will be a downright amazing feat for a previously plump Alpine Mummy who cried the first time she cycled up a (very small) Alpine hill…

The kids go to the local village school, where they are one of 15 in their class, not one of 35. They learn about nature and community and can identify seven different types of animal dung, and Alpine Boy says his favourite thing ever is milk straight from a cow.

I’ve given up a promising career for all of this, and now work as an Office Manager for a law firm in Geneva. Sometimes I wonder if we made the right decision (when I’m signing off another order for paper clips instead of preparing an exciting case for court), but a quick look out the window at Mont Blanc usually sorts that.  Being able to spend more time with my three screaming snotty children is worth the slight loss of professional pride and development (and hey, paper clips are important, right…?!)

What is the the first thing you do when you go back to your home country?

Go to Boots. And buy Dairy Milk. Before heading to a pub for fish and chips. Bliss.

Does France seem multicultural? please elaborate…

Not in my hidden quarter of Haute Savoie… Everyone is white. Everyone. We take the kids on day trips to Geneva for doses of multiculturalism, in the hope that they don’t grow up as local savages (albeit ones able to identify seven different types of animal dung).  Weirdly though there are English-speakers everywhere – we’re not the only ones to have been lured away from the UK by chalets, croissants and cheese, it seems.

Do you feel yourself integrated? What does it mean anyway 😉

I did. I wasn’t working, and so I was there for the school run each day, the heart of village life. I was shy and awkward in French, but was soon accepted (even though no one ever did understand my ‘unique’ sense of English humor…). Then I got a job in Geneva, moved to another village, and am no longer to be found hanging round the school gates with the other mums. Thanks to play dates and birthday parties we are getting there, but it will take a bit of time.

Could you tell me a few words about your blog Alpine Mummy? 

My blog is excellent. You should all read it.
It started a lighthearted look at our decision to give up London life and move with our two kids to a chalet in the middle of nowhere. France (and more particularly, mountain life) was new and weird, and I blogged about the lot.  As we’ve got used to our new life, and as our family has grown, the blog seems to concentrate on how chaotic life is with three kids, and how living in the mountains by no means makes things easy…

Please remember, it is ALL true…!

Have you ever experienced any cases of discrimination/racism in France?

No, despite my previous comments about living in a white white world.  I feel a bit of the odd one out, sometimes, but I think that’s more because my family can’t be traced back three generations in the same village, rather than because I’m English.  I’m as foreign as the neighbours, who have come here from Normandie.  But I don’t get discriminated against.

Advice to a new expat who is thinking of moving to France? 😉

Do it! The biggest and best decision we ever made. No regrets.

Russian-French Designer: from Chanel to anaplast

Notes from France…

It’s obvious that food for a true Frenchman is everything. It’s his/her God ;-). The French can spend long hours having their dinner and enjoying all sorts of wines and cheese. Perhaps, the only nation that can tell you the exact “race” of any wine ;-). It’s not a secret that some products have disappeared from Russian shops ‘cause of strained relations with Europe. The French wonder how the poor Russians would live without “excellent French cheeses and wines”. Oh, easily! The majority of Russians haven’t ever tasted them. But when in Russia the French eat our pelmeny washing them down with local beer and taking local cheese after them, and feel in seventh heaven. Are we really so poor?

Another particular thing in France is using an enormous number of cutleries that makes a meal so much ceremonial. Being an ordinary Russian woman from the country, you feel quite uncomfortable. But mother wit is of great help here. You simply watch and do the same operations! Cute, isn’t it? 😉

About emigrants: It’ s quite easy to integrate in France if you are far away from Paris and Lyons which are the most troublesome places. Otherwise you risk becoming a victim of discrimination there. The French are ready to give you a helping hand in learning their native language and getting any education in their country. The problem is that you have to study.

About the sense of humour: Oh, it’s really specific. Those who don’t live near or communicate with them simply don’t understand that the French like to laugh on themselves. Our world is not perfect, and the people living in it are with their own small weaknesses. Their sense of humour is a peculiar and unique feature. Misunderstanding leads to such tragedies as at Charlie Hebdo’s residence on 7 January 2015. Innocent people were killed for sharing their good mood with others. Sorry to say, such things often happen nowadays and not only in this country.

About jewelry: Here the majority of the French share Coco Chanel’s point of view that jewelries made of precious metals and stones can wear only members of royal families. The last know-how to wear them in such a way as not to be vulgar or showing lack of grace. That is some kind of a sign of responsibility and social status. And, for sure, it doesn’t mean that it’s enough to be simply a housewife with a rich and prosperous businessman as a husband. You should be an individuality yourself who does something to this society. That’s why Mademoiselle preferred to refashion jewels adding some gems. In the contemporary world there are a great number of non-ferrous alloys to suit every taste.

About anaplast: Going crazy about a new tendency when you let the surgeon cut your body and change it to your taste or do some injections. Especially, it’s widely spread among Russian housewives and businesswomen. They start visiting such clinics at the age of 25 and even abroad! Unbelievable!!! And if we compare two ladies with and without plastic surgery, the one with it will look too much artificial at the age of 45-50. Well, it’s not so popular in Europe as natural beauty is much more valuable. Why not to use creams and massages? It’s much safer anyway ;-).

About little black dress: The greatest invention of all that Chanel made. It’s absolutely unique and always trendy ;-). Moreover, it doesn’t matter how old you are or what your nationality is. If you are a woman it’s a must-have. The only problem is to find such a dressmaker that will be able to create a perfect one for you. This dress will be acclaimed both by Frenchmen and Russian men.

by Anastasia

Greetings of the season

During this Holiday Season 😉 actually  more than ever, our thoughts turn  to those who have made our Multicoolty growth and progress possible.

Thank You and Best Wishes for the Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

P.S. we are on a short break enjoying our families and other countries and continents 😉

We did not choose Germany, work in Germany chose us!

My name is Marija Mihailovic, I am Master of Science Architecture (I work as Architect for 12 years). I come from Serbia, but I lived 13 years in Moscow, so on question where i coming from, i can give you an answer – from everywhere 🙂 Hobbies – cooking, meeting new people, traveling, making home decoration!

Why Germany?

It is interesting question, we did not choose Germany, work in Germany chose us 🙂

How do you like your life in Germany?

To be honest, my life in Germany is very boring 🙁 in comparison to other cities where I had lived, Cologne is a city that is after 20:00 does not have any life. If you don’t work, you can not find any content type of hobby, where you go to meet some people and spend 2-3 hours, like photography, crochet etc. For example, in Moscow you can walk around the city, you will always meet  some people on the streets, have a coffee with a stranger, you have a ballet, hundreds of museums, every week something new is happening, city is always alive!

Has your life style changed since you moved to Germany? If yes, how?

Yes, it has changed, we began to spend more time at home and we don’t like it 🙁

What is the the first thing you do when you go back to your home country?

See your friends, go outside, have a good time and eat a decent cake 🙂

Does Germany seem multicultural to you?

No, I think Germany is not a multicultural country. I think that Germany can be compared with the countries, which have similar lifestyles (like Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Norway), but not with Moscow and Serbia 🙂

Do you feel yourself integrated? What does it mean anyway …

O yes, famous German word – integration. I have my own theory about integration, which of course does not match the German interpretation. What, how and why, me, person who lives for 15 years in one of the biggest and richest cities in the world, is a Master of Science Architecture (I have studied in one of the most prestigious colleges of architecture in the world), I have to attend integration courses in Germany? Seriously?! And some guys from Canada, America, Australia have no problems with the integration in German (no integration courses for them)….most of these people will never learn the German language…

What is very important to understand for people in Germany is that someone guy conducting the integration course is going to tell you something important, but the people themselves in Germany must be open to accept the foreigners, and if i don’t speak Deutch good enough, you need to help me or to try to explain to me in English! Don’t look at me like I am an idiot if I don’t speak German!

Can a multicultural society exist?

Yes, and the right example for this is Canada. It was built on this principle.

Have you ever experienced any cases of discrimination/racism here or in other countries where you have lived?

Yes, discrimination and in Germany, especially during doctors’ appointments!

Advice to a new expat in Germany?

The sausages are excellent and try the waffles as well 🙂

It has been a great year, with an amazing team and I am quite happy to start a fresh one!

My name is Reinaldo Pinto Almeida. Born and raised in Lisbon. I studied Philosophy in Lisbon and later at Paris IV having completed my studies in 2007 with a degree from the Universidade de Lisboa.  Then I moved to Mumbai, India where I stayed before moving to Berlin in October 2008 where I am currently residing. I work as a freelance filmmaker in various departments and study at the Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf (formerly known as HFF). Along with my fellow Producer Urs Kind we formed the Almeida/Kind Gbr Production. In my spare time I perform improvised theatre with CSZ Berlin. I have also worked with some long form Improvisation groups.

What brought you to Berlin?

I grew up speaking German in Portugal. Both my parents are from India, but my parents mother tongues are English and Portuguese. My mother for some reason had switched to German before I was born. My elder sisters say that my mom used to speak English with us, but I have no recollection of that.

However, that made me very fluent in German nobody really suspects that I didn’t grow  up in Germany. Oddly enough when I speak English people tend to say I am Canadian. 😉 Especially at Improv shows.  I guess that doesn’t really explain why I came to Berlin, but it might point out why I stayed. I do remember thinking either London, Paris or Berlin. It ended being Berlin. That is pretty much a fact.

Could you tell me more about your web series Das Apartment

The main idea was to do something within this expanding expat scene, which tends to speak English, regardless of whether it is their native language or not. Also having new actors appear in the series was a crucial element. So the structure of a flatshare is one where we can either take a deeper look into their personal lines of conflict within the apartment. And also, we can go outside so to say and illustrate sides of Berlin (like the start up office in Episode 2).
The Actors Nicole Ratjen, Edvard Lammervo and Mathieu Pelletier are people whom I have know for a while now. We do improvise together. And the best thing is they are all trained actors with various background. Nicole has been doing a lot of clown work after hang trained at LeCoq, in Paris.  Edvard already had a lot of camera-time in Finland, and Mathieu has been on stages in Spain, France, on a boat in the US and now works in a children’s theatre.

How did you come up with the idea?

It had dwelled my mind to go back to some fictional work after having done Sushila by the Sea and Erosion which are documentaries. And I had already worked with Mathieu Pelletier and we had an ongoing conversation that we should work together again. So after looking at Nikki Ratjen’s and Edvard Lammervo’s showreels I just dropped them an email, and we had a coffee in Oranienstraße.

The idea of doing a web series is attractive because you get to tell the stories you want to tell, showcase your work and get to have a lot of artistic freedom. Urs Kind jumped on board because he just loved the idea of working for the web. Using lean production structures and finding new content for the over-saturated web is also a huge challenge that he embraced. One of our Editors, Jannis Greff, who did the biggest share of Episodes came on board very early as well. I am just pointing that out because many people assume editing is something to keep in the back of your head for after the shoot. And Johannes Greisle our DoP was quite spontaneous and enthusiastic when I talked about it over a cup of coffee.

I think in almost every step  you could throw in the word coffee, and it will fit in

Are you an actor yourself?

I’ve done my share of acting in theatre back in Portugal and I have worked mainly as an Improvisor in Berlin and improvisation feels closer to writing than acting to be perfectly honest.

Although I have appeared in some cameo moments, I focus on directing. Nicole had me preform in one of her own projects. But I haven’t seen a rough cut so I can’t even say how I feel about being in front of the camera..

How long does it take to produce one episode of the Das Apartment?

So the time span is a very relative thing. If we include the initial impulse and the idea I had in December 2014  to the last upload which will be January 2016. It is a little bit over a year for the series first season. I need to point out that Urs found out about the YourTurn Competition for which we shot the first Episode in March. And that’s how we got to fund our first season. By winning the first prize and 25000€ in May 2015. Yeah when I put it out there, that sum of money feels like a big chunk. However if you want to achieve a minimum of quality that chunk shrinks down extremely fast. So we shot 5 episodes with that amount and we have an extra experimental feature with 360º technology that we shot at the Youtube Space.

For a Normal 7minute episode and depending if we have a location change we shoot for about two days. Edit it in roughly 4-5 days. And the sound editing and grading take 2 more days. Again these are just rough estimates. Sometimes in the writing process you write for two days and discard the whole episode. So the time spent in development isn’t as easy to track. It is hard to say whether an idea occurred whilst cycling through the city or the moment you sit at your desk.

How does Germany fit into the success of Das Apartment?

Germany, Berlin and the German language are a huge factor for Das Apartment. Even if the series is predominantly in English, that is a big side of Berlin nowadays. A couple of years ago the English speaking scene was tiny. You would go to Comedy in Sin open mic nights and know quite a few people over there. Now it has exploded. And that is great. You see, a lot of what we do is dwell in a hybrid culture. People bring something from their corner of the earth and get to confront it with the Berliner Expat lifestyle like Chris and his Urban Gardening. He meets other people, other expats like him for the same purpose, but they have almost opposite points of view on their common goal.  And Das Apartment is a lot about that. Seeing how people fit in, how they want to or don’t even care about their integration. Lenni, for example, is a result of the freedom that people feel in Berlin. And whether that freedom is still real or if it is already something digested from the past doesn’t matter. I sometimes wonder how das Apartment comes across to people who haven’t been to Kreuzberg, Mitte, Neukölln and Wedding in the last years. I think that Rachel as a character is the one who is not as attached to the city as the other two. Also because she is driven by her professional ambitions, and yes that is what is also happening to this city. It has become a ground for investments, mostly start-ups, but not only.

What does 2016 look like for you Reinaldo and for Das Apartment?

We are coming out with a new Episode in January. So we are definitely going to be more attractive for those binge watchers out there. Apart form that we need to find new ways of financing the new season. Urs and I are sitting on that with some urgency. Apart from that I am working on a documentary about South-Asian identities. And also on a film which is very much the opposite of Das Apartment, namely a drama about loss.

It has been a great year, with an amazing team and I am quite happy to start a fresh one.

Filmography as a Director

Das Apartment – Writer/Director Co-Producer, 7 Episodes 2015 Yourturn Prize (1st)

Erosion – Director – Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF  2014

Sushila By The Sea – Director, HFF-Potsdam 2014 Dok.fest Munich 2015 (Megaherz Nominee) 

The Promise – Direction and Production- Barcelona Human Rights Festival 2012


Russian mentality discloses in me more and more…

When and where did you come to Russia?

It happened in distant 80ies when migrants streamed in Russia from Vietnam. My parents were among them. And in a decade I came into the world.

Where did you spend your childhood?

I was lucky to spend my childhood in two different countries. Until five I lived in Russia. A lot of  happy moments are associated with this period in my life. Russian winter evenings were especially memorable: playing snowballs and building snow forts with friends, ice-running and skating… I can’t remember them without a smile. 🙂

From six till eleven I lived and studied in Vietnam. And it’s absolutely another world where climate, people and mentality differs from Russian ones. It would be very rude of me to compare where it was better.

What are you occupied with now?

I am a student at Kirov Lyceum of Economics and Law. It’s one of the best and the most difficult places to study at in our city. Our school life is rich not only in huge number of classes but also in important spectacular extracurricular activities. It moulds every pupil’s character and forms a peculiar vision of the world.

How do your classmate, teachers and other students treat you?

My classmates are wonderful, kind and responsive people. We get on very well with one another. Nobody has ever offended me at school. Moreover, I have never been a victim of any kind of discrimination in Russia. I must say I was lucky to find this educational institution. Members of our Lyceum are one big happy family. By the way, Europeans come to study at our school under the auspices of the cultural exchange program.

Is there anything peculiar in education or people relationship in Russia and Vietnam?

As I’ve studied in Vietnam before, I am going to compare educational systems of these countries.

So, in Russia children spend eleven years at school while in Vietnam their studies last for twelve years. I was very much surprised at this fact (the surprise was pleasant enough). It was some kind of a discovery to find out that after nine years at school students can either enter a college or even find a job and continue their studies. In Vietnam they don’t do such things because if you give up studies they say you have lack of money to continue your education. I also like that in Russia there are a lot of special schools with profound study of one or even several subjects. I consider it to be a great plus and a peculiarity in education. I wish there would be such schools in Vietnam! 😉

As for relations between people in Russia they are very much to be desired. People only care for their own life, and they try not to pay any attention to other people. And Russians’ attitude to foreigners is a theme of a special issue. Of course, not all of them are the same. There are quite a lot of kind and responsive people to whom it will be normal to give you a helping hand. And I dare say that people in Russia are becoming better and better changing their attitude towards foreigners, first of all.

Are you going to come back to your homeland or, perhaps, stay here? 

I’ m going to come back to Vietnam. And not because I can’t live happily in Russia, but my heart just aches for home… From time to time I go to Vietnam, but sometimes longing for family and old friends gives me no peace.

Do you feel yourself a part of Russia?

Oh yes! I feel myself a part of this huge country, and Russian mentality discloses in me more and more often. 😉

What are your plans for the future? How do you fancy yourself?

Well, I fancy myself as the Russian ambassador to Vietnam or a Minister for Foreign Affairs in Vietnam. I’d like to improve international relations and intercultural communications between my homeland and my motherland that has raised me 😉

Building bridges

My name is Mai Ahmed Daader, I am Egyptian from Cairo, I graduated from the faculty of Commerce/Business  Administration. My hobbies are reading, writing, and I love all kinds of arts and creativity. I came to Germany 8 years ago right after I got married to my husband who had been working in Germany since almost 12 years as Electro- Technical Engineer.

How do you like your life in Germany?

Ever since I moved to Germany I fell in love with it 😉 

Has your life style changed since you moved to Germany? If yes, how?

I came to Germany right after getting married, so I started my life in Germany with a new social status and a new culture, different country, language, atmosphere…. I had to build everything from the beginning, my new life with my husband, learning German from scratch, and socializing with people and trying to make new friends for me and my children after I became mother.

What is the the first thing you do when you go back to your home country? 😉

First thing that i do is walking in Cairo’s streets and watching the Egyptians, visiting all the places that I love in Egypt with the company of my family and friends. And of course eating oriental food. 😉 And trying to let my children know more about Egypt as they were born in Germany.


Does Germany seem multicultural to you? 

Yes it is! I Never thought that I would meet all those nationalities…

Have you ever experienced any cases of discrimination here?

I have my own philosophy in this matter, I believe that it depends on the Person himself, if  the person is open to others and doesn’t focus on negativity and doesn’t think a lot about discrimination and things like that, it actually doesn’t come his way, it is like the Force of Attraction 😉 You know, it is impossible to be liked by everyone even if you live in your own country! What if we are talking about the East and the West. We have to admit that people of different cultures are not well educated about each other and this ignorance builds walls, we have to try building bridges instead, whenever we get a chance!

I know it is easier said than done and it requires a lot of patience and trying to go over your Ego, but the results are wonderful!!!

Advice to a new expat in Germany? 😉

Never give up while learning the German Language, it is only a matter of time!

Second advice is to try to always be open and socialize with people.

Third advice is specially for expats who are often victims of stereotypes, please be yourself, and don’t feel that you are always judged, have self-confidence, and be friendly and open.

You can make it work!

I come from Moscow (no, I was not born there 😉 ), where I had a  successful career in a big international company. I got married to my great German husband 😉 and moved to Hamburg when I was 27 years old.

When I came here I found myself in some sort of  a “stupor”! I graduated with honours from a very good University in Russia, I speak excellent English and I had years of work experience in a large company in Russia…. what a disappointment came when for two years I was not able to find a job ;-(

Then I realized that probably I did not have enough knowledge of German and so it began from morning till night 14 consecutive months to master my German.  Again, CVs, some interviews and again no results.

Honestly, we began to think to go back to Moscow, in the hope that my husband would find a job there….but his Russian is terrible… At that point, I had an idea to get a Master’s Degree to improve my chances of getting a job! After I successfully completed MBA, new job search started…. A few months of silence….again a feeling of “stupor”.  Again and again, sending out resumes, often no interviews. The result is zero.

After about 9 months from my graduation (!!!) I did manage somehow to find a nice job….. where there are almost NO Germans, only international colleagues and managers! And of course I am over the clouds now. Well, the story is you can make it work, if you are very determined person… and only if you are patient and have a couple of years to “waste” 😉