Category: "Making Money"

Observations (Pt. 3)

10/17/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Life, Making Money, Travel

This is a tad belated, but I still wanted to share it with everyone. After working in Germany for 3 months this summer I noticed a lot of differences between my previous positions in America.

Shaking Hands
I was surprised about how often people shook hands. It wasn't so much about the hand-shaking itself, but rather the daily greetings. Everyday when you arrive in the office for the first time, etiquette dictates that you walk around to every co-worker in the department and greet them. Eventually I got more comfortable with the idea. Only a few people actually shook hands with everyone, lots of others did a mix of handshakes and greetings, so I settled into a comfortable mix.

This whole process was often repeated on the way to/from lunch with the Bavarian greeting "Mahlzeit". There's no direct translation, but it's basically a fit-all greeting which is usable around any meal. Awesome. Sidebar, two favorite Bavarian treats: Kaiserschmarrn (Basically mixed pancakes) and Dampfnudel. They eat those as main dishes!!!

Expletives (expect some)
I was a little surprised at the level of profanity in the workplace. There was a lot of shit going down. Sometimes a few other things were slipped in, but seemed like s*** was very commonplace especially in referring to anything that wasn't going terribly well. My feeling from the American workplace was that language like that would generally be restricted to 1-on-1 conversations with very intimate co-workers. Although perhaps I didn't get a good read on the context abroad.

Just to underscore the cultural differences, I felt like I had to spice up my slang with a few choice words there. In contrast, I had a visitor from Germany during high school and was surprised at how much they attempted to swear in English. It got to the point where I couldn't tell if they were actually angry or just trying to accentuate the slang with my friends and I. Swearing, like comedy, just seems to be one of those very nuanced cultural things. I suppose I'm lucky I was on the cautious side!

Work Ethic
Not just ethic, but environment as a whole. I walked in to my office before starting work, and wanted to clarify what the dress code was. They told me there wasn't one. Naturally, I was 90% sure I hadn't understood, but after further questioning, I was sure. OK, so there was no explicit dress code, but I figured I should still wear slacks and a polo. Nope. People were there in shorts, jeans, t-shirts, all kinds of things. Naturally that really sucked, because I had already lugged my entire dress wardrobe across the ocean.

Work hours were also totally lax. I did a pretty standard 8:30 - 5:30. But some people showed up around lunch, and other left around 2pm. There were a couple Fridays where I was literally the only person in the office from 2pm - 6pm. I had a fixed 35 hour work week, but with flex hours. So I often worked late so that I could skip days and go on 5-day trips to other countries.

I never counted anyone else's hours, and of course they get actual vacation days, but I swear only half of the office was there on any given day. This isn't just because of time off though. A large percentage of the people there were either part-time, or work students. I think there were about 6 work-study students, and usually only 2 came in per day (They are restricted to 20 hour weeks during school).

Unfortunately, work-study students made a good deal more cash than I did...which was weird. They also had hourly rates instead of a fixed-hour week, which would have been nice for flexibility. So know that if you go to do an "Internship" in Germany, that means "Praktikum"...you should check and see if they can hire you as a work student!

Anyways, just some office observation I made. Sorry it's been so long since my last post. School has been incredibly busy, but I'm hoping to at least sneak a few posts in every now and then. Happy Autumn!

Cost of Living in Munich

07/22/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Life, Making Money

Since it's everyone's dream to just go live somewhere for the summer, I thought I'd share some of the costs with you guys for reference. If you're interested in living somewhere in Western Europe, hopefully this little guide will give you a better idea of what you're looking at. If you don't like to read, you can skip down to the bottom for a summary table.

Background

Munich is supposedly the most expensive city in Germany to live in. The good news is that if you are living anywhere else, it might be a bit less. The bad news is, if you're living in Munich, it isn't, but that's ok because Munich is awesome.

There are a lot of little things one doesn't normally think about when budgeting. For instance, if you tip, restaurants in the U.S. suddenly get a bit more expensive. In Germany, Tipping is usually a much smaller around, generally rounding up to the next whole dollar or two. In addition, all the prices I'm giving include tax (6% or 19%!?!). Even though tax in the U.S. is much smaller, it can often artificially raise the comparative prices of things.

The duration of your stay can also dramatically affect how economical it is. There are tons of one-time costs which can make it hard to live independently for a short-period of time. For instance, upon arrival I had to get a Resident Permit (50 Euros) and a Strainer (15 Euros), plus you're gonna want a bike and a bunch of other one-time goodies...oh and a plane ticket. For this article, we won't count those one time costs.

Of course, there's also the big currency thing. I got a bit lucky with my exchange rate being about 1.25 to 1, which is the number I'm going to use for the article. Just so this bad boy is (short-term) future-proof. I'm also going to give the Euro cost.

Housing

When you first get to your city, you're going to want a place to live. While living on the street is free, it’s probably not the best way to go. Instead, you’re going to want an apartment. Now this is a very broad category of dwelling, but let’s assume you want to have a private bathroom and kitchen, but are willing to live with roommates. Also, let’s assume you are flexible on where in the city you live (Hint: Probably not on the main city square). Finally, we want a furnished apartment, since after all this is a temporary thing, right?

The costs can still vary widely based on tons of factors. I personally pay about 400 Euros per month for a single, studio apartment which is roughly 22 sq. m (I made that number up). On the other hand, one of my friends here just managed to find a 2 bedroom apartment for 600 Euros per month. It has a separate kitchen and bathroom plus came totally furnished with all the fixings. She couldn’t find anyone to rent with, and the people renting it were out of town, so she got a great apartment for 300€ (Just found the button) per month.

This isn’t normal. Others would pay twice as much for something similar. Not every apartment comes with internet either (mine doesn’t). In general though, I think you’ll find something you like for around 450€ per month after utilities, internet, and basic living supplies (4-ply toilet paper is dope).

Food

Next on that list of things you need to survive is food. The major decider here is if you eat out or cook for yourself. Since we made sure that our nice apartment had at least some food preparation method, we are going to say we cook basically every day. I’ll break it down by meal for you.

Breakfast: I eat cereal and milk. Simple. Eggs on the weekends. Cereal is about 3€ per bag, the nasty milk is around 1€ for 4 days of cereal worth, bags last about 4 day (convenient math!) so that’s 1€ per day for breakfast.

Lunch: I work at a company where I end up paying 1/3 the normal price for lunch. This often leads to me eating like I’m never going to eat again because hey, it’s cheap. A normal lunch for me is 2€, but we’ll say it’s 4€ for you…Maybe you learn to make a sandwich, or something and it get’s cheaper, but hey we’re estimating generously.

Dinner: Dinner is tougher because it depends a ton of what you eat. In general, I had a few baseline dishes which aren’t terribly elaborate but will give us a good priceline. Usually I can buy a 4€ pack of meet and use it for two days. In addition. I can buy 3€ worth of veggies and get that to go for 3 days. If I’m being elaborate, I make pasta or dishes which might have a few more ingredients, but generally, we can still make a nice dinner, after drinks and everything for around 5€ (again generous). That gives us about 10€ per day. If you want to eat out once or twice a week, it’ll end up around 12€ per day.

Love…kind of

I think they told us this was one of the things you needed to live in elementary school. Unfortunately, prostitution is illegal here. You might invest in language courses, or just bank on your cute accent to find love.

Along the way on your quest to find love, you first need to develop affection. Chances are that in Germany, that affection will be for beer and clubs or something. This can vary widely, but since this will end up seeming like a dis-proportionately large part of your budget we’re going the cheap out. Assuming you go out twice a week to somewhere with no cover. You’re probably going to want to consume a bit before you go. Luckily, you thought ahead and picked up your drinks at a grocery store (Good Job!). Therefore, if you are a sturdy male, you can probably get by on 5€ per outing. But no one actually does this. You’re going to get to the bar and try to buy yourself and a girl a drink (Only to later find out she speaks French…what a waste!). This will run you another 10€. Factoring this out over the days, we get about 4€ per day for entertainment (You also went to see Iron Man 2 last week, remember?)

Getting Around

Well truth be told, you’ll probably not be happy just living in the same city (actually station) forever, and eventually you’ll want to travel. So we’re gonna set you up with a month long pass on the city’s transportation system. Depending on how far out you live, it will cost more. If you’re studying or working as a student, you also get a discount. In any case, I live basically on the border of where one could ever want to go, and that costs about 45€ per month, which is 1.5€ per day.

As for those weekend trips, there’s so many things outside your city to see. Unfortunately these run a little bit more. We’ll use the small/large alternating approach and assume that you don’t have a Eurail pass (Stupid-head, you knew you should have gotten one!).

Anyways let’s say that once a month you take a big trip and a small trip. Small trips mean that they are overnight, but in your region, and thus could be done on regional trains or a Bayern-Pass. We are planning to go to Prague this weekend for instance, for 5 people to go there and back is only 20€. Since it’s just the three of you going however, I’m giving you 40€ travel costs. Of course the major problem is that you have to eat out and live somewhere. If you don’t couch surf (You should), it’s another 40€ for accommodations and 40€ for food.

Big trips will carry a little bit higher price since they are probably to another big, expensive city. To get there is going to be around 120€. 90€ hostels (three day trip), 60€ food.

Now we’ve just tacked on a cost of 120€ + 270€ for trips, adding 390€ per month or a whopping 13€ per day. Obviously, it’s expensive traveling. There are some ways to cut these costs down, I.E. Ride-Sharing, cooking at hostels, etc. But you didn’t come to Europe to make your own pasta in Italy. So quit being stingy.

What am I forgetting…?

There’s always random things that will need replacing as they wear out and I suppose some house supplies, but taking as a whole these are minimal costs. Clothes and shoes wear out in the U.S. too. But just because your around H&M more here, I’m allowing an extra 2€ per day in souvenir, shopping and flex money.

Summary:

 

Euro(€) Daily

Euro(€) Monthly

U.S.($) Daily

U.S.($) Monthly

Housing+Utilities

15

45018.75

562.50

Food

12

36015

450

Entertainment

4

1205

150

City Transportation1.5451.87556.25
Travel to Other Cities1339016.25487.5
Other2602.575
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total47.51,42559.3751,781.25

Clearly it costs a lot. I was pretty generous with my estimates, so I have no doubt that one could live quite comfortably in Europe for 40€ a day. Plus if you cut down on expensive travel by purchasing a Eurail pass or something, I'm sure one could make it cheaper still.

Of course another way to make it cheaper is to get a job. As I mentioned, my lunches are much cheaper and I have a Eurail pass, so my actual monthly budget is probably closer to 1,000€ per month, the fact that I also have a positive income (barely after taxes) also helps offset that cost.

Hopefully you found this little bit helpful or at least interesting. Keep in mind that Munich is more expensive than some other cities. A vast part of those costs are housing and food, so location can make a huge difference. If you live somewhere else, share your estimated costs for comparison!

What a Day

02/06/09 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Life, Photography, Making Money, Yale Daily News

As I went to bed this morning, I couldn't have predicted how nicely things would go today. As you already know, I took snowboarding pictures yesterday. What you may not know, is that I also did photos with the new football coach last week. Well good news, both stories ran today. So I have the Front Page Photo and Back Page Sports photo today. Furthermore, there is a full page color spread inside with snowboard photos. Needless to say this issue is one I will be saving hard copies of. What? You want to see them? Checka checka my Facebook album!

Of course Friday is Scene day. Scene is like the arts and pop culture section. There's a fun article about Yale in Pop Culture in today's issue that you should check out. There's actually a lot of very good articles in the paper today! From that same article comes a great summary of Yale from Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise”:

“Yale is November, crisp and energetic.”

So as I looked over the beautiful Yale Daily News today over a bowl of Chef Stu's own cream of wheat, a kid next to me struck up a conversation that went something like this:

Kid: "Oh so you know that photo that was in the YDN a few weeks ago? The one with the cop playing solitaire?"
Me: "Yeah..."
Kid: "So there's this site I visit called break.com, where they post a lot of funny videos and photos. So I saw it a couple days ago in one of their galleries."
Me: "Oh cool!"
Kid: "Yeah and they pay 25$ per photo, so that's kind of cool that someone sent it in."
Girl next to us who knows that it's my photo: "Uh oh, sounds like a lawsuit"

So Anyways, I wandered over to check out this site and found my little picture hidden in one of the galleries they posted. Apparently this site is legitimate even though their design sucks. Check out "Cops are Bored" here. I was quite surprised to find that I had 18 humbs-up ratings, and almost 150,000 views...WOW...that's a lot in only 2 DAYS, I love the internet. It amazes me how these things travel around. To put that in perspective, that's 100 times more than everytime, everyone has looked at every photo on my photo blog. So I sent an email to try to get the money, which probably won't happen, but it's very cool that it made it onto there anyways!

I also managed to not fail my German Quiz and successfully complete my CS Program this morning.

Things were on such a roll that I've decided to apply for internships today. I spotted one that stood out to me at EA (Electornic Arts). For people in the know, EA is the Google of video games. They make everything. The Red Alert Series, Battlefield Series, the Sims Series, Madden, NCAA, NHL, SSX, and the always successful Scrabble for Facebook. Anyways, longshot, but fun to think about.

To round out my day, there's a VQ show tonight. Our signboard is a purple unicorn impaling, which is awesome and relevant since it's our valentine's day show. Singles Free, Couples $5. Needless to say there will be many unhappy marriages tonight.

So that's my day so far...time to go finish it up! Finish might be a bad term, I'm going to make my day better the only way I know how...watching The Shawshank Redemption!

A collection of musings from my time at Yale along with some thoughts about my "Freshman year of life" in San Francisco.

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