WEBMU 2014 Location Proposals

We seem to be getting an earlier start on the Whiny Expat Blogger MeetUp planning this year. Matter of fact, there have already been several proposed locations in the Gathering Ideas thread. So far, the following places have been discussed:

  • Wine-regions (Rhine/Mosel area – click the squiggle on the map)
  • Hamburg (repeat?)
  • Nürnberg
  • Flensburg
  • Würzburg
  • Regensburg

Not all of the suggestions have local hosts, so if you know one of those places and feel like showing it off, let us know. We’re entertaining suggestions until March 15. Stop by the forums and tell us what you think!

Residence Permit Renewal in Regensburg

My trusty travel companion, who’s been with me on every flight and across every border, needs replacing. Of course I’m talking about my passport, not Sarah! (She is my FAVORITE travel companion, but truth be told, the passport has covered more miles with me than she has, owing to frequent business trips to Romania and occasional ones to other countries). Since it expires in March, and some countries won’t let you enter at the border if you’re in the six-months-to-expiration-window, I decided to renew somewhat early in a low-urgency period of the year. I was not happy about the discrepancies in the passport renewal process descriptions on the travel.state.gov sites (and as of this writing, they’re still there), and the unnecessary travel they caused me, but at least my new passport arrived quickly.

Getting a new passport, however, meant invalidating my current one, and my residence permit along with it. Fortunately, getting a new residence permit was not a big deal. Continue reading Residence Permit Renewal in Regensburg

Passport Renewal for American citizens abroad

It might be easier than travel.state.gov thinks to go through a passport renewal. I burnt up four solid hours in travel time today for nothing. I’ve calmed down quite a bit, but am still smoldering a little. Hopefully someone else won’t have to waste any of their time on this topic. Or Madam Secretary will give me a shout out. That would make things a little better, too. Continue reading Passport Renewal for American citizens abroad

I love it when a WEBMU comes together…

Are you interested in attending the expat blogger meetup that’s sweeping the BRD? Then it’s time to check in on the Whiny Expat Blogger MeetUp forums, where the planners are looking for input. If you’re an English language blogger living in Germany and you don’t have an account yet, go sign up already! We need a little input from you and have some more details on what’s in store, so check out the Friday side trip, who’s coming and Hotels threads.

If you’re on the fence about coming, a word of warning: there is a consumer electronics trade show taking place that same weekend in Berlin. As a result, accommodations are becoming scarce. So you might need to decide soon whether you’re going to attend in order to get a room or apartment. That’s addressed in more detail in the Hotels thread.

Any questions? Feel free to ask here or, better yet, in the forums. And I hope to see you all in Berlin!

Breaking News – good customer service (and secrets revealed) at the Zollamt!!1!

My mom sent me a package a couple of weeks ago that got snatched by the customs office (Zollamt). This isn’t the fault of the Deutsche Post – they have their issues, as does the USPS (see The Generic Nutty Bar Incident). It happens occasionally and is always a frustrating turn of events. The Zollamt is conveniently located (for truckers, their main customers) on the edge of town next to many scenic warehouses, staffed by delightfully indifferent (if not outright surly) customs officials and served by a bus that only comes once an hour. So it’s an ideal place to go and schlep an unwieldy package while on foot.

Like this, but without the style or charm.

Imagine my surprise at getting there and being helped by a civil, informative individual! We had to go through the typical dog-and-pony-show of opening the box and telling little stories about the contents (which were clearly listed in excruciating detail on the manifest), but the Sachbearbeiterin volunteered to tape it back up for me. Plus, she showed me the exact equations they use for assessing a custom charge. Then she let slip a tantalizing little factoid.

The limit for packages marked as gifts to be delivered customs-free is 45€!

I had no idea there was an actual rule about this. I figured the Zollamt snatched personal packages at random to put the fear of Ordnung into us. Now that I know, we will never receive a package with more than 45€ worth of goods in it. Because, as nice as the woman who helped me was, I’d like to avoid ever having to go out to the Zollamt again.

WEBMU 2012 Location Selection

Over on the new meetup board, some discussion is already happening about where this year’s WEBMU should take place. So far, Berlin is the only city in the running. Do you want to show off your adopted hometown? Propose a different location? Or just add more support to the Berlin team? Whatever your proclivity, visit

You should be able to use your login and password from the old board. If that doesn’t work, let us know. We’ll try to fix it.

No idea what we’re talking about? This link explains it all!

Choir Concert in Munich, December 4, 2011

I’ve never put this on the blog before, but I thought it might be fun to give it a try. Once.

I’m in a choir and we’re having a Christmas concert in Munich. It’s a pretty good group with a variety of musical abilities and an eclectic program of songs. There’s also an orchestra and Big Band doing instrumental pieces.

Wanna come?

If you’re going to be in Munich that day and have a couple of hours to kill, check out the details at the TT Orchestra & Singers website. The venue is somewhat small (fewer than 300 seats), so buying tickets ahead of time is probably a good idea. Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me directly through the ‘Contact’ link above.

Don’t go there…

I think everyone is familiar with this concept:

I can bag on my mom and you can bag on your mom. But under no circumstances can YOU bag on MY mom.

Lately I’m feeling that way about the U.S. and its international relations. I’m not super thrilled about everything they do, but I understand where the decisions are coming from (mostly), because I get who the players are and what motivates them. But when people from elsewhere spout off about how stupid and wrong the actions of the U.S. government are, I get very uncomfortable. I occasionally have to suppress the urge to shout, “Why don’t you stop talking out of your ass?” And if you’ve met me in person, you know just how out of character that is.

As TQE says, I’m an expatriate, not an ex-patriot. Anyone else experience patriotism flare-ups?

Bad news for expats buying wedding gifts from U.S. registries…

Our German credit card is generally no-muss, no-fuss. It has a nice, low balance and allows us to make big purchases (appliances, plane tickets, etc.) with little hassle. Until today, that is. My card was mysteriously declined as I tried to purchase a gift from a Bed, Bath & Beyond registry.

Whatever could be the problem? I went over the possibilities:
-I’ve purchased from them before; they had my information on file,
-I just paid off the card last month and
-the card is backed by a large, solvent German bank.

The nice customer service agent at BB&B assured me that my order number would remain in system for at least 24 hours, allowing me time to get to the bottom of this. So I called up BigBackingBank for some answers.

The man that helped me simply explained that BigBackingBank no longer clears purchases from BB&B.


This is bad. Out of the last 10 weddings with registries in the U.S. to which I’ve been invited, ALL of the brides and grooms had registered at BB&B. It’s often the registry with the widest variety of items at the most affordable prices. This is REAL bad.

Anybody have any idea what BB&B might have done to cheese off my BigBackingBank? Do they have a history of not playing nice with returns or refunds?