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Business Move // Student Move // Camping // Airport Fuhlsbüttel // Car // Movies/ Cinema // Tax

Business Move
Why worry? Why organise?! Your company will help - and take care of most of the formalities. In any case the organisation sending you here must have an exceptionally good taste in choosing this location for you to work :) That is my point of view, I also know people who couldn't wait to get away from here. It all comes down to, hhmmmm, feeling, I guess.

There are international schools in Hamburg, in case you are bringing your family. I definitely know of a French as well as Japanese School, however, I do not know up to which grade the Japanese School teaches. There is the International School in Altona, too.

Q: When you worked in Germany, you paid tax, health insurance, pension, all those things, right?
A: Yes.
Q: When you left Germany (or other countries where you worked before), did you get a refund for say, all the pension amounts you paid? Or the "Unemployment Insurance"? Does any country pay you anything back when you leave and work somewhere else?
A: I got a certificate :(
I think the way it works in Germany is that, if your home country is in the EU, they will pay you when you retire. If you come from outside the EU (US or Canada) they return your pension contributions to you when you leave. [Editor's note: the questioned person is Scottish]
"Unemployment insurance" and health insurance money: that's gone - you don't see that again unless you have a claim, like no job or need a doctor. However, this information is to be treated with care, to be on the safe side contact your tax advisor.

Student Move
Guessing that you will have already found somewhere to stay for the first couple of weeks, you will have to adjust to German bureaucracy and organise a few other things.
You need a bank account, but you should organise that after you enrolled at University/ Polytechnic, especially if you are 23 years or older (I think). A normal bank account is free for students and young people under a certain age - you can basically try any bank. Make sure you don't pay for the account. There might be fees for cards, credit cards etc., but basically all transactions concerning money wandering across your bank account - in whatever direction, plus or minus - should be free of charge. Plus is better, they charge high interest should you happen to be in debt.

When you enroll at University, you will have to pay a fee that is somewhere around 150 Euros. This is all you have to pay in fees for one semester. The fee includes a basic ticket for the use of all S-Bahn-trains/ subways and busses in the area which is called 'Greater Hamburg' - few exceptions, e.g. extra pay for express busses, don't really count. Anything else connected with your studies here, for instance books etc., is not covered. You will have a free email account at the Universitiy/ Fachhochschule.

Every person in Germany must have a health insurance. Health insurances for students are not expensive. It might be advisable, but it is not a must, to have a personal (US: public) liability insurance. Just in case you happen to run your friends brandnew mountainbike into the canal or else.

Camping/ Backpackers
That's a tough subject in my opinion. Germany has beautiful camp grounds - they can be found at the seaside, in the mountains I guess, or in the middle of nowhere. There are a few campgrounds and one Youth Hostel in Hamburg that are listed here (Youth Hostel = Jugendherberge) - it will take you about 20-45 minutes to get to the centre from there. I haven't seen any of those places personally, you will just have to try.

Backpackers, like those in the NZ/ Australian area, are somewhat unknown here. I mean, lots of people know about them, but this grand invention of Backpackers hasn't made its way to Germany. Probably because a wild amount of rules and regulations drowns any idea to open such a hostel (that is what Germans told me who run a Backpackers in NZ).

Another possibility to find inexpensive places to stay is to go to the area St. Pauli/ Reeperbahn etc. There should be inexpensive places/hotels to stay around there, but it might be a little loud - and in the daytime some of the streets are not in the prettiest shape. At night, when everybody goes out, it doesn't matter. You might not feel too happy about the area, that you have to find out by yourself. Should you not find anything else at all, give it a try.

Hamburg is not super friendly towards low-budget-travellers, that is indeed a handicap. Should somebody know more about camping/hostels here in Hamburg than I do, please share the experience with me. It's difficult to know those things when you have no need to look for them yourself.

Airport Fuhlsbüttel
Some people say they like the airport because it's so provincial and it gives you the feeling of landing in a village. Others, who live nearby, do not like it because it is more or less in the middle of town, loud and in some opinions dangerous. However, it was in the newspaper just now (June '99) that Fuhlsbüttel received two DIN ISO Quality certificates, which makes the Fuhlsbüttel airport one of the first in Germany to be certified (I hope I'm quoting this correctly).

I like the airport Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel a lot, it has a pretty Terminal no.4 with a superb design, and often enough you still have to take the bus to get to the plane :) It is not difficult at all to find your way. Basically there are four terminals: 1-4, of which only two are important: no. 4 and no. 1 (because there aren't a lot of airlines in the other terminals). It is highly likely that you will arrive at terminal no. 4 coming from other European cities or from within Germany on scheduled flights. Charter flights (holiday flights) leave from and arrive at terminal no.1, but I guess that is not interesting for you.

For some years now the area around the airport looks a bit of a mess, as they are trying to build new roads around the airport and a subway that goes directly to the airport. However, the whole situation is not chaotic. Other places in this world are chaotic. Not Fuhlsbüttel : )

When you fall out of the baggage claim, you either run into the person picking you up or you have several other possibilities to get into town. In any case, coming out of the baggage claim you already are on the correct level. Just walk through one of the doors to the outside and you can:
1. take a taxi or 2. take the airport bus, which is more expensive than the normal bus, but takes you directly to the central station (it says JASPER on the side of the bus) or you can
3. take the normal bus no. 110 which will take you to the subway station "Ohlsdorf", from where you take the train "S1" direction "Hauptbahnhof, Wedel" and get off at the central station ("Hauptbahnhof"), the Alster lake in the centre two stations further ("Jungfernstieg") or the Harbour another couple of stops ("Landungsbrücken"). Just tell the busdriver initially where you want to go, and he will give you the right ticket and fare. Around 4 Marks something to the centre.

That's about it. Hamburg might be a big place, but it is easy to get around. It is only a little confusing driving a car.

Fuel Prices as of 18.Jan.2003: Super Unleaded 1.13 (95 Oct) Euro/Litre, Normal Unleaded 1.11 Euro/L (91 Oct), Diesel 0.93 Euro/L (prices taken from any gas station)
Fuel in Germany is expensive. Compared to other areas in Germany, Hamburg, in general, is one of the priciest places to buy fuel. I have no idea why this is so, because all major Oil Companies have their German/ European Headoffice in Hamburg. That doesn't make any sense, somehow. It's already cheaper to buy fuel when you are 10 miles away from Hamburg.

A car in Germany must be insured and you have to pay a certain amount of tax per year, depending on what sort of car you drive. Without insurance there will be no number plate (registration plate), therefore no driving. There are more expensive and less expensive insurances, depending on what sort of incidents you want to cover, it is worth gathering a little information or asking colleagues for opinions to find a good, inexpensive insurance company. In case of driving a company car, don't worry, just drive and let your company do the rest :)

Concerning driving rules there is nothing much to say, except that there are certain streches on German Autobahns (highways) that do indeed have speed limits - not all Autobahns are free of speed limits. Furthermore, in cities and in the country you might find crossings without a single sign. In this case, always give priority to the right.

Especially in cities it can be worth watching out for cyclists and skaters, there are many of them in Hamburg. Hamburg has a lot of bike paths, however, bikers and bladers are also found on streets from time to time.

Movies/ Cinema
Movies in Germany are dubbed. Unlike Scandinavian Countries, the films are not shown in the original language version. That is also a reason why new releases hit the movie theatres in Germany about 3 months later than the original release date.

Few cinemas, special little theatres, show films in original language version (also other than English), mainly with subtitles. One well known cinema is the "Abaton" in the University area. Abaton shows films with subtitles, but also presents a greater variety of foreign movies. The "Grindel" theatre shows a selection of films in English, but films are on rarely more than a week.