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Charlie's Thoughts

Cost of Living in Munich

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

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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.


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.


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).


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.



Euro(€) Daily

Euro(€) Monthly

U.S.($) Daily

U.S.($) Monthly













City Transportation1.5451.87556.25
Travel to Other Cities1339016.25487.5

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!

Observations (Pt. 2)

07/18/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Life

Short little life update before I get to the observations. After running a hostel out of my apartment for the past week, things just settled down today. I had some catching up to do on life (I.E. I finished Season 3 of How I Met Your Mother) and some planning to do for next week (Prague!). This weekend was simply fantastic. It's always fun to check out your own city with other people.

The highlights of the weekend included Christopher Street Day, River Floats, and Malibu. Christopher Street Day is a LGBT celebration which takes place throughout Europe. You can read more at the link. Needless to say it was something quite different from the normal festivals I attend. River floating consisted of floating down the river in the Englischer Gardens. It starts at the surfing wave I posted pictures of earlier and runs through almost the entire gardens. The rivers actually moving quite fast, which makes it tons of fun albeit hard to get out :-P Grabbing the pedestrian bridges along the way is always fun as is attempting to out-swim the current (Hint: Not Possible). Lastly, I took some people to a Beach Bar last night which is actually located right behind my office. Despite the rain outside, it was warm, dry and sandy in the bar, which had a theme of Malibu...god bless them.

Over the past few weeks I've accumulated a few more observations I thought I'd share. So let's get on to those!

Public Barbecues / Meats
It seems that Public Barbecues are much more prevalent than in the U.S. Almost every park here provides the means to grill. As opposed to the U.S., these facilities seem to be more utilized in Germany. Last time I was here, I went out with some friends to the park for the night. We simply stopped at the store, picked up some meat and beer and spent the night at the park.

I'm not sure why people in the U.S. don't grill more. I suppose that back in East Lansing the only really "good" place to grill would be Patriarch Park, which is essentially a kids park and thus might not be as conducive to the adult / campfire atmosphere that surrounded my grillings. It's also not un-common here to have a group grill at one's kleingarden with friends. This is what I did during the Eurovision Song Contest and Germany Soccer game, and to this date remains one of my favorite nights in Germany.

Since Hamburgers are almost unheard of here, the meats (and condiments) usually differ a bit. The selection is, in fact, usually a bit wider than just bratwursts. The stores here often carry a large variety of grill (variety) packages or pre-marinated meats. Perhaps I just don't shop for meet much at home, but it seems that these pre-marinated meats are much more popular here. I actually use them frequently as my meat for dinner since it makes preparation much easier.

My brother is a picky eater. He won't eat leftovers, or really anything that hasn't been cooked in the last hour. So when he came to Germany, I think the fact that the milk wasn't refrigerated irked him. And I can empathize, coming from a family where we go through about a gallon of milk every other day, we almost always had 2-3 gallons on hand in the fridge. But here in Germany, the milk isn't refrigerated (Until you drink it). This really gets to me when I see people in the store here carrying around pallets of milk. Since they come in 1L boxes, it's understandable that one might need to buy more milk, but since they don't need to be kept in the fridge, people walk out of the store with 24L of milk at a time. Not so much a cultural observation, but just an oddity.

Keys, locks, doors and more
There's certain subtlties that a tourist might barely notice, but when you live here, you start to compare to "home". The differences are literally all around me. Let's start with the doors.

I don't know why, but I have yet to see a doorknob in Germany. They just don't exist. Instead everything is doorhandles. In fact, even the locks on the doors seem to be standard. No push pins, weird spinning knobs or other gizmos, just a standard deadbolt. I love this. I don't know why but it just seems I never have had to screw around with a door here.

Moreover, all the doors tend to have an overlapping flap on the end. This one's harder to explain, but let's try. Usually the "outside" of a door is different. Instead of being totally flush with the wall, as almost every door in America is, the outer side has a flap that runs the entire height of the door which overlaps the door frame. This means that there is usually no vertical hole where the door closes. I don't know what the logic is of this feature, but that's just how it is.

Locks on door are also slightly different. I swear they are upside down. In America, the flat side of the key goes in the bottom (or side) right? Well here the flat side goes in the top...weird. Just another one of those minor differences you notice.

Lastly, the windows. Instead of our two panes windows, which have a top half and a bottom half, German windows are almost always single-pane. Also, whereas on our windows one would generally open the bottom half, these windows have a totally different opening system since they are single pane. Usually directly on the pane (well on the border, there is another handle like you'd find on a door, but this handle turns to one of three positions, each of which has a different function. Up allows the window to open by tilting with a pivot at the bottom, essentially cracking the top. Side allows the windows to be swung open with a pivot to the side, effectively "opening" the window. Down locks it. I can't figure out if I like these windows more or less than the ones I'm used to...

Anyways, those are today's observations. Let me know what you think about all this non-sense! And look forward to some workplace observations later this week. Till then, have a great week!

No Pallo Italiano!

07/13/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Life, The World

So this weekend I took a whirlwind trip of Italy which included Rome, Florence, and Verona. I probably didn't get to do everything in the cities, but here's my travelogue from the weekend (At least what I can remember at the moment.

EDITORS NOTE: Photos can be found on facebook here. It's not a complete collection, and it's also missing all the processing I normally do. So the HDRs and panoramas I attempted will follow in another album.

Getting There
The plan was to take a train from the station by my office to Verona, then to take a short train to Padova, where I would stay Friday night. I planned to get in around 10, and get up early to head to Rome (A short 2 hours from Padova). However, I found out a few hours before my planned departure that the train wasn’t going to go past Innsbruck. After going to the station, I found that in fact the entire Italian transport system was on strike till 9PM.

In a state of panic, I frantically checked flights and alternative options. Luckily one of my co-workers pointed me to a cool site called: (Literally, passenger opportunities or something like that). The site is essentially the German ride sharing site which allows people to select where they are going from and where to. I was surprised to find a ton of options to Italy, and the closest I could get was Padova. So I called the guy and found myself in a cooper-mini with three strangers on the way to Italy.

Driving is certainly different than the train. There was traffic, radio, and other people to talk to. The driver was apparently from Rome, and the other two passengers from Spain and Munich. We managed to speak a combination of German, Italian, English, and Spanish along the way. As we wove through the mountains, radio stations faded in an out about once per song.

It was very apparent once we crossed into Italy. No sooner were we over the border, than I noticed the incredibly annoying comic-sansesque highway font. On the upside, it was about 15 minutes into the country that I saw my first Lamborghini…awesome.

The first region we traveled through in Italy was fascinating. There were still large mountains like in Austria, but now the side of these mountains was lined with vineyards. Literally everything that wasn’t stone or a house was filled with grapevines. The Italian explained that this was characteristic of the region. After 6 hours of driving, we ended up at Padova station.

I ended up with an hour long wait for the train (The first option was full from the strike), so I took a regional train. While I waited, I got my first taste of Italian food: McDonalds. Unfortunately this didn’t quite live up to the hype people always give Italian food, but unfortunately, it was my only choice as the station is in a fairly remote part of the city.

Upon arriving in Padova, I discovered that public transportation there stopped at 10PM. I also discovered that taxis of a minimum charge of about 7 Euros. Double whammy. Anyways, long story short, I slept, got up, and went to Rome. I arrived about noon and began my travels.

To say it was hot this weekend would be an understatement. I nearly died 6 times (twice per day), drank water at the rate of about 1L per hour, and am never going to be able to wear the four shirts I took with me again. (Side note: Wearing the Crew 180 shirt reminded me of how hot it was in Trinidad…I’m not sure which of the two was worse). Despite the heat, I managed to navigate myself off the train platform and to the appropriate bus to my hostel, which I was told was 4 stops away.

After vigorously counting bus stops, I disembarked to find myself in the middle of nowhere. As it turns out. Italians have sub-bus-stops. So when I passed University (the stop before my stop), there were actually still three more university stops to go. The hostel was actually fairly nice and after a quick 5 minute email check, I went out to go sight-seeing.

Having despaired in the bus system, I tried my luck with the subways. All the stops were listed, and there were only two lines which form an X in the city. The subways stations themselves are very dark and creepy, and the cars from one line are heavily graffitied and don’t announce stops. Despite this, I was headed to a park which was actually listed on the subway stop list, so it was fairly easy to find…the stop that is.

Turns out the park (which is listed under the stop) is actually an unmarked 3km walk down a street which does not have sidewalks. Along the way I met a dad-daughter pair who had similar mis-fortune. Turns out she lived in CT and studied in MI, so we chatted for awhile till we finally got to the place.

This road “Via Appia Antica”, is where a lot of the catacombs and other cool old things are. It’s also fairly far from the center of town, so it was my “try something no one else does” thing. I purchased an expensive tour of one of the catacombs which turned out to be really cool (that’s a pun, because they were neat, and literally much cooler than the 100 degree weather outside).

After wandering the area, I took the bus back for a Gelato break. Gelato is awesome.

After resting, I checked out a few out of the way sites which I wouldn’t be able to get to the following day. This meant Spanish Steps and another Plaza. They were both cool. Spanish steps were very very touristy. I walked down the road a bit and found the stores-I-could-never-afford street. Later I wandered to a fountain, Fonta-di-trevi. Around the corner, I stopped in at a restaurant which I hoped would serve me the famed Italian pasta I had heard so much about. I think the waiter was supposed to be off shift when I arrived, because the food arrived about 3 minutes after I ordered, and he is the only waiter in Europe who has ever given me the bill without being asked to (How rude). Turns out the 3 minutes were probably used to microwave the food, because it sucked. Major. Disappointed, I went to the hostel to rest.

I figured since I only had one night in Rome, I had to get my night photography in, so around 9 I started photographing the Colosseum and worked my way through a lot of the other central sites before heading back for the night.

A few things to be said in favor of Italy, the busses and subways were all about 50 degrees because they were air-conditioned, which was awesome. My hostels also had A/C, which was a lifesaver.

Sunday, I set out to finish what I had started. Starting again at the Colosseum (well kind of) I started knocking down the sites. It turns out the line for the Colosseum is 2-hours long, but since I had done my research, I walked 200 meters to Palatino (A big park of ruins basically) and purchased a ticket there in about 2 minutes. I wandered the park for about an hour (see pics) then headed to the Roman Forum. Unfortunately, all I could think about while wandering the Forum was that it reminded me of the Western Plaugelands…so I headed to the Colosseum. I literally laughed at all the people in line as I walked past a 2-hour line to the entrance. Best move ever.

The Colosseum was nice…not much to be said on that. I finished up there and worked my way over to the Pantheon. Like all other tourist sites ever, it was under construction. The inside however was just like ever picture you’ve ever seen. There’s the big hole where sun comes in, and it’s cool. (see pics). After this, I stopped at a random restaurant on the plaza where they offered a 12 euro drink, bread, pasta menu. I wasn’t expecting much after yesterday’s troubles, but this was literally the best pasta I’ve ever had. It was so, so, so good.

After eating this miraculous pasta and wringing out my shirt, I forged on to Piazza Navona, Castel S. Angelo and the Vatican. The Vatican was actually one of the coolest churches I’ve visited in Europe. I didn’t pay to go up to the top. But some of those popes have really pimped out tombs and the church is just fantasticly cool. The floor appears to have some sort of sun map whereby you can tell where the sun is currently setting in various cities based on where it is on the floor. (Sundials are still magical to me)

Unfortunately, it was time for a quick pizza dinner and a trip to Florence (Firenze).

I actually never took public transportation in Florence as everything was fairly close. I walked to my hostel to find that the power was out and the guy to give me my key wasn’t there. I called the guy to give me my key and while I waited managed to flip the circuit breaker and become the hero of every girl staying on the second floor. I then headed out to watch the evil Spanish soccer players beat the Netherlands (Deutschland Eurocup 2012!!!)

Monday in Florence was not entirely note-worthy. I basically toured all the sites quickly and took lots of pictures (see pictures). Florence is quite nice and I enjoyed being able to walk everywhere. After dinner a friend showed me what Limoncetta is (check it out), so that was fun. Eventually I headed back to the hostel and slept.

In the morning, I took two short trains to Verona. Since the last train left at 3, I decided to give myself a few hours in Verona. I managed to find the bus in fairly quickly and saw the outside of the Arena, Juliet’s House, and a few other areas. In comparison to the other places I visited, I was actually extremely charmed with Verona. Something about it felt more Italian than the other cities. Perhaps it was just because I was there for such a short period of time. In any case, it was a very enjoyable stop.

Finally, I headed back to the station and boarded by 5:30 hour train all the way back to Munich.

A few notes about my experiences, Italy is very hot. It is also very expensive. Despite being a total cheapo, I found most attractions to cost significantly more than comparable ones in Germany. I also lamented the lack of student prices.
I discovered along the way that certain Italian toilets don’t have seats. They apparently aren’t supposed to. I guess they are a distant cousin of the infamous squatting toilets of China. Almost as inconveniently, I discovered they use different plugs than the rest of Europe.

I’m still annoyed by people who can’t use cameras. This has to stop. So you know how when you buy a camera sometimes it makes that beeping noise when it focuses? You are supposed to turn it off. Not only should people not be using flashes in churches, but it’s even worse when that focusing sound keeps going off. I felt so bad because we were in a church with 5 people or so and a nun praying, and this one person walks up to the alter and keeps making the focus-beep sound. GAH! Stupid Americans.

…Or are they? I also was talking with a Scottish guy recently, and he informed me that as soon as he speaks English, people ask him if he’s American. He also claims he usually says yes, since he is particularly poorly behaved. So maybe it’s not us after all! Next time you’re in a foreign country. Behave terribly and blame Canada!

Anyways, that’s my weekends travels. It was altogether overwhelming, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten certain details, but perhaps those will follow in a second post!

iframe Plugin for CKEditor

07/05/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: Web

Thought I'd share a quick plugin I made for CKEditor in case anyone happens to be looking for one. The full post and code is at:

The plugin basically adds a dialog box to add/edit iframe elements in the WYSIWYG editor CKEditor. The source code is preserved while a placeholder object is displayed in normal mode. Hope someone finds it useful!

A (short) Guide to Yale YouTube

06/29/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: Web, College

Anyways, college is truly most excellent and always something new. I miss it a little bit. Yale really is an amazing place with amazing people. I've been working on some things for the fall already which reminded me of how much fun college is. Not the classes, of course, but everything else. Like having other people cook for you...Yeah, that's nice.

However, what's really important to know about Yale is how awesome our video production value is. What? You haven't seen one of the famous Yale videos? Here's a quick primer to Yale videos you have to know about.

College Musical

If High School Musical were good, it would be college musical. This is the "Pilot" of a 4 pt series which they dropped...because they are making it into a full-length movie this summer. Yay. Check this one out while you wait for the feature film, it's funny.

Sam Tsui
The same guys who did college musical later discovered that they could actually get famous if they became YouTube sensations by cloning themselves. People have been doing this for years, but not this well...

Gon Kiss Girls
If I could summarize my weekends at Yale into one music video. This would be it. This is Lonely Island meets JAW (The musical improv group at Yale). Very well done.

Admissions Video
What? People don't sing in your admissions video? Yeah, we're a little...different. Anyways, this is an entirely student produced film which is now our official video. As in the one they show high-schoolers when they come to visit...scary isn't it? But so awesome

That's an overview of the YouTube craze at Yale. What'll come next? Who knows. Perhaps I just love these videos because I know most of the people, but if you like them. Get on YouTube and check out some more! There's plenty of quirky videos and a capella songs for everyone!

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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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