Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hello from Free Wifi Somewhere in Birmingham

Our last days in Germany were very rough.  Our landlord and his Makler were such epic assholes to us on our last day that at the time I could not imagine ever feeling unangry again. The upshot was that although we spent enough time and money on cleaning and painting to make our last week pretty damn miserable - and as regards the painting I find this rage-inducingly unfair - we still will end up losing most of our deposit because the Makler, using a special flaw-finding lamp, found our paint job to be unsatisfactory.  Although I can imagine living in Germany again in some ways, when it comes to renting, I know I can just not possibly ever go back based on their ridiculous tenancy requirements and what utter assholes they were to us about it in the end.  Unbelievable.  I can feel my blood pressure going up more about the full story later when I'm a few more days removed from the trauma.

We finally found ourselves free of the apartment at the end of Tuesday and spent our last night at a friend's in Heidelberg, then flew to Birmingham on Wednesday morning.  Our entry visas were stamped at immigration and we headed straight to the estate agent's office, where we signed our new lease. It's only for 6 months, although we were hoping for 12, but it included NO madness involving painting. It is similar to a US lease in that "fair wear and tear" is considered the responsibility of the property owner.  Our apartment is very close to the office so we just walked around the corner with our new old-fashioned-looking keys and were home.

In the front garden there were freshly-planted narcissus, rosemary, and tiny tree-looking things.  The apartment was shiny and smelled of paint.  Sweet, sweet, landlord-applied paint. The kitchen, with 3.5x as much counter space as our old one and a grown-up fridge.  On a little table in the living room (the apartment came furnished) was a welcome card from the landlords along with a bottle of wine and a flowering plant.  About a week previous we'd asked if they could remove one of the supplied beds so we could move our own in, and they had done it without giving us any crap.  Our things will arrive in one week, until then we're sleeping on the guest bed.

The rest of the day was filled with doing what was just necessary - getting blankets and pillows for the bed, food at the grocery store, a couple of bowls.  We had already brought a few things - a couple of knives, spoons, forks, plates, and towels - in our luggage.  We also checked out the local tiny co-op shop, which is connected to a bakery/baking school and has fresh baked goods.  The hot-cross buns were delicious!  (I will add links later, but I'm in a bit of a hurry at the moment.) 

Then there was the adventure of trying to figure out the apartment.  I needed to do a little laundry since we'd given our German machine away a few days before moving and packed up some of the dirty laundry in our luggage.  The washer turned out to be a combined washer-dryer and I accidentally set it to dry. What a weird machine!  We tried all the keys in all the apartment's zillion locks - there are two keys for each door to the outside and keys in all the windows.  The boiler and heat were are the biggest problem right now - we have not been able to figure out the system for keeping the radiators running.  It may have to do with leftover timer presets on the boiler.  There are many other manuals left in the apartment for us, but not for the boiler, and we've never actually had to deal with one before.  Meanwhile, our apartment is really cold.  We haven't been able to get it over 15'C and that's when we're doing well.  The shower knobs were also a little challenging but finally we got them going.  The flusher is one of those British ones that seems to have to be let go at just the right time.  Thankfully, the bathroom has a mixer tap! 

Today we've been setting things up - a bank account, first of all.  It was easy.  We went in, showed them our passports and tenancy agreement, and they set up an account for us.  Then we set up internet and TV (although we don't have a TV yet).  We went with Virgin as it came recommended.  This was also extremely easy.  Alas, no one at our address has used Virgin before, so it will take 12 days because someone has to come wire it up.  A new SIM card for my phone from O2 - haven't figured out where/if we'll get phone contracts yet. Still traumatized on that front, too, since in Germany we thought we'd gotten a rolling contract and instead got one with an end date.  They are disastrous because even if you leave the country you have to pay fees up to the end of the contract that nearly meet the cost of continuing your account.

Now, a bit of stuff that needs to be done online at a free wifi spot.  Next, some more shopping - trash cans, drain traps, etc.  I need to contact the GEZ-equivalent here (TV licencing) because there were already multiple cranky letters in our mail slot when we arrived about our address' lack of registration. We also still need to set up the paying of council tax, water, gas, and electricity. Luckily all these things are already on, we just need to change the accounts.  The estate agent took care of the meter-readings.  (That was not taken care of by anybody when we moved in to Germany, which resulted in a lot of disaster a few months after the move.)

It's a bit stressful thinking about how we're bleeding money right now on this move.  D's new job will pay up to a certain amount for moving expenses, but I think we already used it up just on movers, plane tickets, and the cost of our apartment-searching week.  Which was totally worth it when we had a home to go to almost immediately off the plane.  But, it will all calm down in a bit, I hope, and we can focus more on just enjoying life here instead of constantly paying to set it up! :)


  1. You have a wonderfully immediate and punchy style of writing. I could almost think you were devising this disaster to entertain us.

  2. I am sorry that this a...hole landlord made your last days in Germany so awful. I would not agree to anything and still ask for the money. I send you a link (it is in German, but I would look at it and find a legal way to get the landlords ass kicked !!!) Hopefully you can do that. Have a nice start in th UK.
    Frank from My strange Nativeland.


  4. I would also offer you help with your Internet-contract if you want. I fought the vodafone-Bastards and won. It took some time but I did not give up. Let me know if you want to do that.

  5. @Franky - D signed on the repairs they wanted us to pay for, so I'm not sure we'd have an out now. The lease required Schoenheitsreparaturen at certain intervals depending on the room.


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