Monday, April 26, 2010

What a funny day!

Germans mix up the word funny and fun pretty often. They often describe things as 'funny' which comes across as 'strange or ironic', when they intend to use it as 'fun' as in 'having a good time'.

This is a common German-speaking-English error that I've noticed over the last six months since I've been working as a freelance English teacher. While still a newbie in many ways, I'm starting to get the hang of it. Being a freelance English teacher has its pros and cons like any profession but having an interest in language and culture, it was a perfect fit for me at least having just come to Germany and without much knowledge of the German language. Below is a list of some pros and cons I thought of relating to this profession. There's definitely more (in both pro and con), but these are the ones that came to mind when writing the lists this morning.


* Working with interesting people from all different fields

* Getting to discuss topics related to language, culture, globalization and life!

* Flexible working schedule

* Being responsible for your own time and managing your own lessons

* The pay isn't bad when you are actually working

* Watching your students' confidence levels increase as the course progresses

* Getting to be an ambassador to your country in an indirect way--if students have a positive experience with you, they will think (more) positively about your country


* Flexible means being available when the student has time. Students also cancel a lot, so you not only have to be flexible, but also forgiving, even if they call to cancel while you're sitting on the train.

* You don't get paid for all the hours you put into preparation--and in the beginning, that's a big chunk of time.

* Depending on the company's policy, sometimes the teacher has to travel to the student's home or workplace, and travel time adds up, especially when your only choice is public transportation.

* Being freelance means you are commissioned to students for a certain period of time, say 40 teaching hours, which means when that's over you are out of work again until a new commission comes along or the student renews his contract. Luckily--since October, I've only been getting busier, so I haven't really had any "downtime" without students since I started working.

* Monthly income can fluctuate a lot (!) due to last minute cancellations or students going away on vacation, etc.

Feel free to add if you can think of any ;).
Until next post.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Truth About Germany

This video series is pretty funny. If you like it there are a bunch more available on Youtube. Enjoy!

The Truth About Germany: Money

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two times a charm?

My second attempt to visit Italy this year turned out phenomenally better than last time. I returned virus free! Well--with the exception of a little cold I got probably from a cougher on the airplane.

I started my journey in Bari Friday morning and worked my way up to Rome, spending three and a half wonderful days with my dad and my brother and with relatives I haven't seen in years and relatives I only met for the first time. Below are a few pictures :).

Monday, April 5, 2010

To the Döner Kebap

This post is dedicated to the delicious Döner, one of the most popular fast food choices by young Germans everywhere.

Döner has an impressive average sales of 2.5 billion Euros yearly and the industry here in Germany employs 60,000 people in 15,000 shops around the country.

Like a gyro, but with a modified sauce (no Tzaziki here), its a sandwich originally made with lamb meat (although in Germany its popular with puten or turkey meat) with various vegetables in fluffy bread with a mayo-ey type sauce.

At first, I was reluctant to give in--as I didn't think anything good or healthy could come from such a large wad of meat being roasted on an open pit all day long (see picture below)--but since going public with my preference for the Turkish sandwich, I haven't looked back.

Thank you Döner for your existence.

Friday, April 2, 2010

So you wanna go abroad?

If you've ever wanted to live or work abroad for an extended period, one of the bigger concerns to deal with is how you will support yourself once there. What I've discovered though is, "where there's a will, there's a way" (to put that cliche to good use) and so I've accumulated here some advice or unique options that allow you to travel with minimal costs or better yet--even get paid! This post is dedicated to all the would-be travelers out there, itching to explore this great big world, but can't for financial reasons.

English Camps. The English language is in high demand these days and it isn’t only by business men. Lots of families are willing to pay good money to send their kids to an English camp for the summer to spend time improving their English language skills. While there are plenty of opportunities to teach to adults, these jobs are scarce in summer and usually require longer than a two or three month commitment, however English Camps for kids take place everywhere and they are hiring native English speakers just like you to spend time playing games, singing songs and speaking English with kids from other countries! England, Germany, France and Spain are just some of the places you can go while working at an English camp. It’s all just a Google away. You can search through Google directly or check out websites like Be creative with your web searches and your bound to find a camp in the place you want to go to. Just be leery, as someone who's spent two summers doing just this, make sure you do your research before hand. There are some really good employers and some really not so good employers out there, so try to find out before hand the experience of people who've worked with these camps in previous summers.

Au-pairing. Many a college student knows that waiting tables isn’t the only way to make money. Baby-sitting is just as lucrative an option, for wherever there are kids, there are parents willing to pay someone to take them off their hands for a few hours. So if you like kids and have experience baby-sitting, why not do it abroad? This is a great option for anyone who is open to learning about a culture from the inside out. Forget just seeing the tourist attractions, you will eat, sleep and live with a local family who will give you more than a quick history lesson and couple snap shots of over-crowded tourist destinations. In addition, it’s a great opportunity to brush up on your language skills. You can choose to do it for one or two months or as much as a year, as long as both parties are satisfied with the arrangements. While the payment ranges from fair (60-70 Euros a week) to pretty damn good (300 GBP per week), it is standard for an au pair family to provide you with room and board, plus basic necessities (laundry facilities, internet, etc.). A good au pair family recognizes that you are there not only to watch their kids but to experience their country, so they often try to arrange your weekly schedule so that you have plenty of free time to explore. is a great website to use to find an au-pair family that matches your needs. You can search by country or city and if you choose to fill out a profile, au-pair families can contact you directly if they are interested in having you. The website is free to use.

Volunteer Work. For those of you who aren’t keen on working with kids all summer, don’t despair. There’s an option here for you too. There are people willing to host you if you’re willing to volunteer your time and physical efforts in return—it might be in construction, gardening, farming or just helping around a house or stable. A great website to find potential matches in the country of your choice is You can search for free, but to gain access to the contact information you need to pay a small fee. But the payoff is worth it for the access you gain to thousands of locations and willing hosts and hostesses. You can commit for a week, two weeks or two months, it’s up to you. It’s a great way to see the world, often in locations that are “off the beaten path” and experience the same closeness of a cultural exchange as au-pairing—just without the kids.

Some last thoughts. When making arrangements with future employers, au-pair families or Help X-Change hosts, don’t be afraid to ask for references from their side as well. You can ask for e-mail addresses or contact information from people that have worked with them in the past and get their honest opinion about how it was living and working with these people or a particular organization. The last thing you want is to have a miserable summer because you ended up working for someone who didn’t hold up their share of the bargain. Also, when deciding on a destination, you might want to weigh out the benefits of going to a country with a weaker currency versus a country that will pay you with a stronger currency. So while things will be more expensive there, you might be able to bring home more money then you left with. Several years ago, I spent a summer working at a language camp in the UK, and while the pay was miserable for my UK colleagues, I found that it worked quite nicely in my favor, coming to around 12-13$ per hour, which isn’t bad for a summer job that allowed me to travel all over England.

Good luck on your search and happy travels.