So here’s where I’ll be staying the rest of this month: Wiesbaden. One of the oldest in Germany, this spa town dates way back to Roman times. I’ve lived here for two months now – renting from a German, Matthias, as he does an internship in Berlin. I chose Wiesbaden as I wanted to stay roughly in the centre-west – close to many other places I’m planning to visit. It’s also much quieter and less expensive than Frankfurt, which is of course far more commercial (though only about 45 minutes on the S-Bahn away).
For flatmates, I’ve been lucky too. Sharing with three Germans (Teresa, Masala, and Lucas) as they study and work here, it really feels like I’m properly amongst the local lifestyle and culture. In an almost stereotypical way too, we’re really organised and tidy – summed up by the magnetic whiteboard in the kitchen for our cleaning rota (Putzplan). But still, a nice, clean yet laid-back place. With the exception of Lucas, who wants to practise his English, we’re basically always speaking German now.
Out and about too, I felt early on that I’d be happy to stay for a few months. Lucas showed me around and in the centre, the street layout is quite complicated, with many narrow lanes and alleys that go in all different directions. But further east, it actually reminded me of Glasgow a bit – in that like the West End there, you have the park with museums and art galleries all together on the edge of town. The popular baths, casino and theatre are out there too.
Just by chance, a lot’s been going on while I’m here. As the demo above was part of, there were local elections last month. Also earlier was the street carnival, an established German tradition now. Though it was just luck that I knew about it (a flatmate walked into the kitchen in a Ghostbusters costume one morning), it was a great atmosphere and the warmest, sunniest day of the year so far.
Tools & Tips
I’ve found these really helped with decisions and spending while abroad (and no I’m not just being a stingy Scottish person again). And of course most tools are available as an App on Android and Apple too.
- How To Germany – Online resource full of information for just about all aspects of life in Germany.
- Numbeo – Easily check basic costs and other statistics of life in cities all over the world. Another great feature is you can choose two cities and make a head-to-head comparison.
- Caxton Fx – A free Mastercard or VISA that you can basically use like a bank card for foreign currency when abroad (I have the Mastercard). Simply choose the foreign currency of choice (Euros in my case) then on the website or App, load funds fee-free from your home bank card. It’s a minimum £50 ( about €60) at a time, but the card is valid for two years. They also offer a bank transfer service.
- Transferwise – A great bank transfer service for international payments. I use this for major things like rent etc. to beat bank fees which are often >£25 ( €30). Also use this link for a free transfer up to £500!
- Mr Money Mustache – All sorts of money tips which I’m learning from all the time – hilarious blog too.
- XE – Reliable, up-to-date exchange rates for currencies all over the world.
- German account – If staying for an extended period, it can also be helpful to set up an account at a local bank, as many of my friends did. Other recommendations were VR-Bank, Deutsche Bank and Sparkasse as their ATMs and branches are all over most towns and cities. The most convenient are those that give you an ‘EC-Card’ – their name for a bank card you can use for online payments as well as at the cash machine (‘Geldautomat’).
- German Health insurance (‘Krankenversicherung’) – Easy for me as I have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which I just need to show whenever I need a Certificate of Health Insurance (‘Versicherungsbescheinigung’). Recommended companies were Techniker Krankenkasse and AOK.
The park, just a 10 minute walk away, is also great for getting a walk first thing in the morning – straight after or even before breakfast/exercise/stretching etc. And except to take photos for this article, I very often have no need to take anything else out – including my phone and wallet. This is really liberating in itself, helping me avoid screens and other distractions for an hour or so after waking – which really clears my mind before jumping into e-mails and other tasks needing done that day.