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COM

"A different language is a different vision of life" (Federico Fellini))

Welcome to COM, the absolutely unofficial SUSE “Cultural Onboarding Maxfeld” blog

(mfe) This blog is the result of a great hackweek project at SUSE, but still : This is not in any way affiliated with SUSE. It’s the unofficial Cultural Onboarding Maxfeld blog from some interculturally interested SUSE employees in Nürnberg, Maxfeldstraße, the headquarter of Germany’s greatest Open Source company.

During Hackweek (some private innovation time off SUSE grants its employees in development twice a year) some of us started this blog, and we got an amazing feedback: On a temporary wordpress site more than fifteen people contributed and wrote 20 blog items on the first days. Also a big thanks to the SUSE HR ladies who helped with this!

We are currently refining the strategy, thinking of and discussing about categories and place to put this, but we invite all of you to contribute. There is an Etherpad where we collect ideas, a mailing list com@suse.de will be set up for both direct help for newcomers with questions and to spot or solve funny situations that might make great blog posts.

Thus remember the SUSE dogmas: “Have a lot of fun!” and “Whoever does something, is right.” – contribute!

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Featured post

Cool facts about Germany

<mfe>Nice Picture. Though the selection of facts is interesting.

10 Tips for travelling in Germany 

<mfe> This (turn off Javascript or your adblocker) article from Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in german only) is indeed very helpful for travellers in Germany.

IMG_20170308_092554

Or did you know that your ICE train reservation expires after 15 minutes if you don’t claim your seat within that time? When is it okay to have guests in your hotel room?

They collected ten interesting things that also many Germany may not have known. I didn’t know about many of them. 🙂

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/reise/reise-tipps-weggegangen-platz-gefangen-1.3488098

The COM Mailinglist “welcome-at-suse.de” has been established!

<mfe> This morning we managed to get the mailing list for the COM project approved by infra. Sounds weird, but we are happy to have the “welcome@suse.de” address for our mailing list now. I have already invited some 20 of you that have signalled interest in this little Hackweek project, and I hope we will keep this going. 🙂 If you want to subscribe, go to: http://mailman.suse.de/mailman/listinfo/welcome, and we are happy to have you on board. Next item on my list is the IRC channel and cleaning up the Etherpad of ideas.

CU tonight at 5 in the event arena, or later, at our new hire’s dinner or anywhere in Nuremberg city!

The COM mailing list in mailman...

Germany’s obsession with snow clearing

So imagine you’re lying in bed only to be rudely awakened at 6:00am by a loud scraping noise from outside your window. You get out of bed and poke your head around the curtains to see what it is, only to find your neighbour is outside on the pavement with a snow shovel clearing the way for pedestrians only for the short 5 metre section in front of his house. Weirdo!

In Britain, when it snowed, the council are responsible for clearing the snow. So we used to watch the elderly slip and fall and break a hip in front of our house. And out of an act of kindness, we would maybe invite them into our houses and offer them to use our phone to call for an ambulance, while we would then go into the kitchen to make them a nice cup of tea.

ACHTUNG! Don’t think the same rules apply here!

In fact *YOU* are liable if someone slips on the ice in front of your house. Even if you don’t own the house that you live in. You’ll need to check with your landlord.

By German Law, everyone is responsible to keep the pavement in front of their house clear of snow and ice between the hours of 7am and 8pm, which of course means shovelling, salting and gritting the pavement before 7am.

By the way, you’re also responsible for it while you are away on vacation. So if you happen to be on a skiing holiday in the Alps when it snows in front of your house, then you should have better organised something with your neighbour to clear it for you in your absence.

Alternatively you could pay money for the Winterdienst (the snow clearance service) to come and clear it for you instead.

streugutbehaelter-uaszisszraIn recent years, the Nürnberg Stadt has cut back on its spending for Winterdienst, which means that grit is no longer readily available at the end of every street corner as it used to be. So quite often, you will find that you will have to travel a few streets to find a grit box and when you do it’s quite often empty…

You can purchase salt from places like Obi, for example, who also provide a variety of snow shovels at extortionate costs…

 

Wintergrillen!

Yes, it means having a barbecue in the snow and, yes, it sounds completely mad, but just do it !!!

So the next time it snows, make sure that you are well stocked up with charcoal, starter fluid, matches, fresh meat and sausages (or vegetarian equivalents), some beer and perhaps some Glühwein. Then at short notice, call up some of your friends, invite some of your neighbours, wrap up warm and go for it.

Thinking about getting German citizenship?

If you have been living in Germany for a while and are thinking about giving up your passport and getting a German citizenship, then you might want to read up on this:

Be­com­ing a Ger­man cit­i­zen by nat­u­ral­iza­tion (Federal Ministry of the Interior)

The main requirements are that you need adequate German skills, can support yourself financially, have health insurance and have no criminal record. However for most people, you won’t be considered unless you have been living in Germany for at least 8 years.

It’s different of course if you happen to be married to a German national.

Normally you would have to sit a German language test and also a German naturalization test (Einbürgerungstest). The language test is usually pitched at the B1.2 standard level. The naturalization test is however quite difficult and not many natives can answer many of the questions. It involves a lot of tricky questions regarding the different states of Germany, the German government, the democratic process and the basic constitutional rights that every German citizen is entitled to. Apparently a 33% pass rate is sufficient. Both tests cost money, so in total you will probably have to pay out about 400€ with an additional 100€ for the actual passport (please don’t hold me to these prices, I just can’t remember off the top of my head).

Both tests are held locally in Nürnberg and the Volkshochschule/Bildungszentrum is responsible for holding them. They also offer mock exams, if you want to get the practice in beforehand.

There are also some Android apps available for testing yourself with German Einbürgerung facts, so download it and start working on it 🙂

If you are British and would like to become naturalized, you have the opportunity to hold dual-citizenship with the UK, provided that your application is approved before the Brexit.

If you decide to go ahead, good luck! There are other people in SUSE who also decided to become German citizens and you may wish to ask their advice first.

Five Things to Do in Nuremberg

After you’ve visited all the places highlighted in tourist books and brochures, there are still plenty of interesting things to do in Nuremberg. Here is my personal top five.

Even if your German is not up to scratch, you ought to drop by the Schmitt & Hahn newsstand at the Nuremberg Central Station. This store offers probably the best selection of magazines for every topic imaginable: from Raspberry Pi and photography to knitting and vintage tractors. There is also a limited selection of foreign magazines and books.

While you are at the Central Station, drop by the VGN ticket office and buy a monthly card for public transportation. While there are several options to choose from, the Solo31 card is probably your best bet. This non-transferable card (i.e. it can only be used by you) is valid for all public transportation in Nuremberg, Fürth, and Stein. Don’t forget to bring a photo with you. Alternatively, you can order the card online at shop.vgn.de

Once you have the card, try the U-Bahn roulette game. Get off at a random U-Bahn station and explore the surrounding area. There is no better way to experience Nuremberg (or any other city for that matter) by “getting lost” in it.

Try Knusperecke at Der Beck
Try Knusperecke at Der Beck

Hungry? No matter where in the city you are, chances are there is a Der Beck bakery nearby. Here, you’ll find a variety of lunch options and a decent selection of pastries. There are two things you ought to try there: Quarkschnecke and Knusperecke. The latter is in high demand, though, so you have to be there early in order to get one. Also, anything with the word laugen in it is pretty good, too. Some Der Beck bakeries also serve breakfast, so you don’t have to miss the most important meal of the day no matter what. If you find yourself visiting Der Beck on a regular basis, consider asking the staff for a Der Beck card. Use it every time you buy something there to collect points. Once you have enough points you can get a discount for your next purchase or a free cup of coffee. See also San Francisco Coffee Company, Vinzenz Murr and other brands.

If you crave entertainment, give Cinecitta a try. This impressive complex houses a cinema along with several eateries and bars. More importantly, some movies are shown in the original language with German subtitles — a real boon if you are not keen on the whole dubbing thing. Also, one of the bars in Cinecitta serves excellent cocktails at reasonable prices.

BONUS

There are also a couple of places for book lovers. Die Buchhandlung Jakob, or just Jakob, is a quiet and cozy place that offers an excellent selection of books on a wide range of topics: photo books, travel guides, crime fiction, and much, much more. Not far from Jakob, you’ll find Jokers that sells books at deep discounts.

Found something? Don’t keep it!

(mfe) This article on Spiegel Online reminded me of a discussion we recently had. I was told that in the USA there is no such (legal) concept of “Finderlohn” (finder’s reward) the way we have it here in Germany. I wonder if this is true – please comment. People told me “finder’s keeper” is a common US phrase, meaning: Whoever finds stuff, may keep it. Under the term of “homesteading” this even applies to empty houses – look up “squatters”. And if you plan to buy a house in the states be sure to not leave it alone for too long.

German paragraphs regulate Finder’s Rewards

In Germany there is – as so often even a legal paragraph (and a whole legal concept “Fundrecht”) that tells us how to handle lost and found items: §§971 BGB defines who has to and how much finder’s reward has to be paid. So if you happen to find a wallet e.g. on a street in Germany, better be careful: you might commit an offence by simply keeping it. You are supposed to return it to a local “Fundamt or Fundbüro” (They even offer online search for lost and returned items!) or any similar office of the authority where you found it – on trains that might be the conductor or on a bus or tram the driver (The Deutsche Bahn even runs its own service ). Simply keeping precious things you found might bring you in trouble, it’s considered fraud. However, if nobody comes to pick up the lost item from the Fundamt, you may be allowed to keep it after some months of waiting. In the meantime, you could think of visiting one of the regular auctions that happen at the Fundamt. Yes, there you can buy lost items that nobody (owner nor finder) claimed within the legal period.

Fighting for Rewards – or not

In the story from Munich, a woman did not even want the hundreds of Euro reward that she would be supposed to get. I guess in the US this seems to be handled differently: In 2010 US rapper Ryan Leslie lost his laptop. His video announcing one million reward for the lost device went viral, because first he tried to find his laptop bag via Youtube, then he refused to pay finder’s reward he had promised, and in the end a court had to sentence him to pay the reward he promised – which he responded to in a Youtube video as well.

What is a Betriebsrat?

A Betriebsrat is often referred to in English as a works council or a workers council, which consists of a group of employees, who are democratically elected by the workforce to officially act as representatives on their behalf on all matters concerning workers’ rights.

Normally the Betriebsrat works very closely with the Human Resources department particularly on employee issues or new company wide policies. In all cases the Betriebsrat has to discuss whether the company has acted lawfully in a matter and ethically. If a decision needs to be made, then the Betriebsrat would normally take a vote.

If you are working at SUSE, you might be interested to know that the SUSE Betriebsrat was formally required to approve your employment before you began at SUSE. Why? You may ask. Well, that’s because the members of the Betriebsrat have to ensure that each person who was interviewed for the job was not unfairly discriminated against. So the fact that you have a job here at SUSE means that you won that job fairly-and-squarely and on your own merit.

The Betriebsrat is also concerned when new software is used inside the company where users are expected to open accounts by giving some of their personal information. In Germany, the data protection policies are probably the most strictest in the world and so the Betriebsrat has to be extremely cautious to allow the use of software that might have the potential of causing personal data to be illegally exploited. This could have a heavy consequence on the company, particularly if the company is seen to condone the use of a software tool, where the data might be stored – let’s say for example – in a large data centre somewhere in the U.S. where data protection laws are quite relaxed.

Sometimes there are no easy solutions to problems, so the Betriebsrat has to work with the local management to come up with the best outcome for the employees without compromising the business too much. This is known as codetermination (that is “co-determination” and *not* “code-termination” if you’re wondering).

What happens if the company runs into financial problems and has to lay workers off. Then the Betriebsrat normally steps in and would initiate  procedures in an attempt to protect as many individuals’ jobs as possible. One such mechanism is Kurzarbeit, where your current salary is partially subsidized by the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (the government’s unemployment office). What’s the advantage of this? For you, getting a new job isn’t always easy once you have been laid off, so it’s good to be able to keep your job, even though you might asked to stop working for a period of time. For the company, they don’t really want to lay anyone off and they certainly don’t want to have to recruit new inexperienced and untrained people at great expense to replace you once business gets better again. So it’s a win-win situation when it works.

There are many other laws that the Betriebsrat has to make sure are upheld in the work place and so the Betriebsrat often act as a think-tank on solving long and short term issues that affect everyone.

If you are interested to know a little more about your own rights in the German workplace, you might want to take a look at the Works Constitutional Act, which has been fortunately translated into English and published online:

https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_betrvg/index.html

I hope this might help.

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