Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Strange Ways

So.. I realize this is a typically American way of thinking, but I am bothered by all the expenses here that are "automatically deducted" from your bank account. Even though we had online banking in the States and I prefer to do business that way, it seems somehow more logical to me to be in control of where my money goes. This means, *I* would prefer to receive a paper bill and then tell my bank to cut a check to pay it. Either that, or for recurring bills authorize automatic deductions for various bills, mortgage, etc. This seems familiar to me. It seems really invasive that in Germany often to establish any sort of account with a company (rental contract, mobile phone, car registration, insurance, various taxes, etc.) you need to provide your personal bank account information so they can automatically deduct it from your account and send you a paper bill after the fact. This I don't like. Perhaps it's because I'm so cynical about the U.S. government having so much personal information on me and then not exactly providing a ton of services for said taxes and personal information. Here, I realize that the government gives you so much more, but it still seems completely invasive to be able to tap into my account at any given point and deduct money, particularly when it appears to be most businesses and not just monthly or annual government fees and taxes that are deducted.

Gerrit and I spent the morning playing in Francoise's house, while Gerard took care of getting insurance, registration, and license plates for the car we bought yesterday. Gerard was able to take care of getting the insurance right in Garching, which will cost the two of us approximately 400 Euro per year. The car registration and plates took a bit longer, with a whole series of steps that needed to be completed in a certain order (how very German). He first had to go to the Rathaus (city government office) to register us with the village where we will be renting, so we are now official residents of Neufahrn. Gerard was then told he had to go to the Rathaus in Freising (the major city nearby that claims Neufahrn) to register the car and get plates made.

In Freising, Gerard had to provide AND LEAVE IN THEIR POSSESSION the following documents: residency paperwork, insurance, car ownership, emissions report, and passport. In turn, Gerard was handed an ATM-like card that was taken to a special machine which took 35 Euro from him and spat out a receipt with our license plate number printed on it. This receipt only paid for the plate number but not the plates themselves. Gerard took the receipt showing the number to the license plate shop across the street and paid 26 Euro, and our plates were made on the spot. Once the plates were made, he had to return to the registration office to collect all his papers and receive official stamps for the license plates. Finally, he retrieved Gerrit and me so we could all pick up our new car together. Here are a few photos of this escapade.

This reminds me of a giant die cut machine at school.
Steph standing next to the original sized Mini-Cooper.
When you look at this picture, remember that our Toyota Picnic (left)
still pales in comparison to the size of most U.S. family cars.

Apparently there was a Wal-Mart here, and anyone who knows me knows I have an addiction to the Target/Wal-Mart type store. Wal-Mart closed but was either bought out or merged with a local chain of similar stores here called Real. Obviously, when I discovered this I insisted we check it out. There is a place called Euroindustripark, which houses a great many large retail stores, including Metro (a Costco type thing), Staples, Toys R Us, and Real, among a few others. There is an U-Bahn stop nearby and apparently a Real bus that picks people up from the train station and drives them right into the center. I had been wanting to get a few warmer clothes for Gerrit and me. I realize that everyone currently living here may not think it's cold just yet, but even with me being 8 months pregnant I am not outfitted for such weather. It's been 13 degrees celcius here the last few days (about 56 degrees fahrenheit) and rainy, which for me is chilly. I was able to get Gerrit a few things at the Real but didn't really look around for me. Oh well, that just means another visit in store for me at some point.
After our mini Real shopping trip, we decided to have dinner back in Freising. Neufahrn is in between Munich and Freising (actually a wee bit closer to Freising). I wanted to check out Freising as it is a larger town that may have some activities for me and the boys if I don't want to head all the way into Munich. I think for anything major Munich is still the way to go, but on a much smaller scale there may be a few things to do in Freising. Whereas the population is Neufarhn is about 15,000 people, the population in Freising is just over 48,000. (For comparison, Munich proper has a population of 1.3 million.) Freising is one of the oldest settlements in Bavaria. Saint Corbinian settled there in 724 and was famous for ordering a bear to carry his luggage over the Alps after it had killed his packhorse. The bear is still the symbol of the city, and you can find them all over the place decorated in different ways. It reminds me a lot of the decorated dairy cow statues you see in Chicago and various other major U.S. cities.
Old Town FreisingGetting loved on by Gerrit at dinner. He melts my heart!

Tomorrow we visit one of the Munich hospitals. Hopefully I can meet some of the midwives and the doctor. If I feel comfortable there, we will register for the birth. We also sign our lease and pay the associated outrageous fees to get into the house (8,000 Euro, which covers the 3 months rent as deposit, plus 2 1/2 months rent as the rental agent's fee, plus the first month's rent). That doesn't even include utilities yet. Hopefully, ESO deposited Gerard's "installation grant" into our bank account today.

So things are continuing to progress for us in a positive direction at this point, and we haven't hit any major milestones along the way... yet. I'll keep my fingers crossed that things continue to go smoothly from here on. It may be hard to imagine, but we still have many things yet to do.
Mommy typing a blog entry while Gerrit watches Nemo on DVD.


At September 11, 2007 at 11:31 PM , Blogger Cathie Jane said...

hey steph. i mised 3 days & it took me an hour to catch up!! but I feel like I'm there with you, so it's good. Do the autobans still have the signs with the 2 guys driving that say "Riesen nicht razen" (sp?) They were so funny.


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