Jamba! Abo – Abolish the Abo.

Jamba! Abo  –  Abolish the Abo.

I’m a distracted eater that’s for sure and it’s a bad habit I know. I have to watch, read or listen to something whilst I chow down.

Something a little unsavoury cropped up whilst I was eating lunch.

I was reading a forum post on mumsnet a parental forum when all of sudden an advert filled the browser on my phone.

I attempted to click off the advert and all of a sudden I get two SMS messages about a subscription I’d started.

At no point had I entered my phone number or was aware I was starting a subscription for mobile games, ringtones or other early 00’s throwbacks.

I was charged 4.99€ right away and this would renew until I cancelled.

This was concerning as I was due to travel to the UK the next morning and I could’ve done without a shady company giving themselves access to my phone details and billing.

The company is Jamba! or Jamster in some markets owned by freenet digital GmbH.

Based in Berlin it appears as though many have been hit by unwanted subscriptions including many cases of minors.

Asking around the office I’m not the only one to have been hit by this company.

I wanted to make sure they had no ability to take further payments as such I called Simyo my mobile provider to stop any company charging me through my phone bill.

For Simyo users you can send an e-mail to service@simyo.de from the e-mail address registered to your Simyo account.

This is what I sent:

Bitte um Einrichtung Drittanbietersperre für simyo-rufnummer (your phone number) LG (Your Name)

 

Next is to contact Jamba! and get your money back and the subscription stopped.

Jamba! support e-mail address appears to be info@support.jamba.net

This was my request:

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, 

durch eine SMS habe ich erfahren das ich ein Abo (Abonummer: Your phone number)

in Ihrem Hause abgeschlossen habe.

Da ich solche Dienste weder nutze oder je genutzt habe, ist es mir nicht

zu erklären wie dieses Abo zustande gekommen ist. Somit teile ich Ihnen

mit, dass ich Ihrer Aufforderung zur Zahlung nicht nachkommen werde, da

dieser rechtsgrundlos erfolgt.

Ich fordere Sie hiermit auf, Einzelheiten über das Zustanden kommen des

Abos zu zuschicken. Ich habe zu keiner Zeit einen kostenpflichtigen

Vertrag mit Ihnen abgeschlossen. Im Übrigen wäre ein angebliches

Vertragsverhältnis dem Gesamtcharakter nach als sittenwidrig anzusehen

und damit von Anfang an nichtig.

Vorsorglich fechte ich den vermeintlich abgeschlossenen Vertrag wegen

arglistiger Täuschung und wegen Irrtums an.

Rein vorsorglich mache ich von meinem Widerrufsrecht Gebrauch.

Ich fordere Sie auf, keine Abbuchungen von meiner Rufnummer zu tätigen.

Andersfalls werde ich die Einleitung rechtlicher Schritte gegen Sie

prüfen, um feststellen zu lassen, dass Ihnen keine Ansprüche gegen mich

zustehen.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

(Your Name)

A few days later I received a response asking for my bank details to make the refund.

Sure enough it arrived and that thus far has been the end of my dealings with Jamba!

Questions still remain of how they are able to continue such practices and how they obtained my phone number from the web browser on my phone.

If you’ve not yet experienced the sheer joy that the abo bring then I’d recommend contacting your provider to block any third parties from using your phone bill to facilitate third party billing.

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All About Your SCHUFA

All About Your SCHUFA

Onward with paperwork…a SCHUFA is a very detailed credit record much like those advertised by Experian in the UK.

Your SCHUFA will reflect your financial history and standing. That fine you left hoping it might go away or that unpaid bill may rear its ugly head on your SCHUFA.

It’s an important document that’s for sure and it will be one you’ll undoubtably need.

Much like the UK your credit history will be checked when taking out such post pay contracts such as one for a mobile phone or further down the line when you’d like credit from a bank.

Nowadays you’ll almost certainly need to hand it over to prospective landlords also.

How do I get my SCHUFA?

To get your credit report (SCHUFA Auskunft) you have a few options and it’s somewhat straight forward.

Legally you are entitled to one free report a year. There are lots of third parties and even SCHUFA Holding AG offering paid subscriptions for your credit records and much more.

To get your free report directly from the company responsible for holding credit records (SCHUFA Holding AG) you’ll need to head over to their website.

They have the request form in multiple languages here, English included.

*Make sure you don’t check the box “Alternative” this will start a subscription.*

You’ll need to print and post the form to SCHUFA Holding AG along with your passport and registration document if you’re a foreign national.

Mine took around 10 days to show up, if you’re in a rush you can head over to Postbank.

There you can obtain in branch with your ID and registration document a print out of your SCHUFA. This will leave you 24.95€ lighter in the pocket and this sum must be paid from a German bank account.

Now you’ll be able to see all of the agencies and companies that have left a mark on your SCHUFA.

Your score is given as a percentage. The whole point of your SCHUFA is to show to those who request it your ability to pay debt.

A sparkly fresh SCHUFA will carry 100% this reduced with bad debts and may also be reduced in proportion with how bad the debt is.

92% plus is a nice SCUFA score, drop a few points down to 85% like my friend and landlords won’t be thrilled.

If you’ve never had financial dealings in Germany apart from opening a basic bank account then don’t worry if your SCUFA informs you that they have no entires on your record.

Good debt can be beneficial for your record. Having credit and repaying it within the terms shows that you are perhaps responsible with finances.

SCHUFA does not take into account your income so even if your pull in serious cheddar every month don’t expect a sterling SCUFA if your financial history in Germany is otherwise iffy.

Leaving fines and over paid bills to blight your postbox and SCUFA will make things difficult in the future.

They will be visible on your record for 3 years but will show in some capacity for 6 years.

Treat the SCUFA with the respect that this potentially dangerous beast deserves for your benefit.

schufa-logo

 

PlayStation 4 – Remote Play.

My search for a new apartment continues, it’s not easy and it’s not fun.

What is fun for a is PlayStation.

Unfortunately due to the flat situation my PlayStation is sat under the bed while the only TV in the apartment is being shared with none gaming others.

As I love nothing more than an underwear clad PlayStation binge it’s a tricky situation.

I even considered buying a Vita I really did hit rock bottom. That is until the 3.5 update came into my life featuring Remote Play.

Remote Play facilitates gaming from a PC or Mac via local to remote connection to the PS4 console.

I was as sceptical as I was hopeful, so much rested on this working who would free London from those retched Blighters?

PlayStation hardwired under the bed and Mac connected by wifi I went all out by demanding the highest output of 720p (remember that?).

It worked…no really it worked really well. No noticeable lag even on online sessions and the quality not bad at all, for the most part.

There are times that for no reason the connection will drop making everything look like retro remake of Minecraft but it’s seldom.

As for internet remote, remote play it works but it demanding. Without having a high upload speed at home and download speed elsewhere forget it. Expect a laggy and pixelated mess if it even connects at all.

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Dead Island or Minecraft?

Brexit (or not to Brexit)

Brexit (or not to Brexit)

I tend to be somewhat apolitical. Whilst back in the UK there’s an unavoidable political topic in conversation and media alike, it is of course Brexit.

After much stick poking Cameron has caved to democracy and scheduled a referendum, something he once rejected back in 2012.

Us Brits are a loveable yet stubborn bunch. We rejected the Euro and drive on the other side of the road.

We like to distance ourself from Europe and not just by water.

Now we will voice our opinion, something else we like to do.

British media is churning out scaremongering babble from each camp it’s tiresome to spectate.

What isn’t tiresome is the truly interesting option poll results and how passionate the public has become.

For much time it has been neck and neck. The latest option poll (3-5 June) 43% wish to remain whilst 48% wish to leave as for the other 9% they’re still head scratching.

People really are passionate in their opinion of the EU.

I’m not going to even touch upon the positives and negatives of the EU, there’s already enough of that.

I do however believe that voting is important for both camps, democracy is at our foundation.

Fortunately not being in the UK for the vote doesn’t mean that your chance of voting is over.

Head over to the Government website and get cracking.

You can vote by proxy or post whichever suits you best.

I chose to vote by proxy and credit to the Government website it’s straight forward.

You’ll need to enter a few details including your national insurance number and they’ll e-mail you a form.

Simply print, sign and send the completed form by email to your respective local government e-mail address.

How will a possible Brexit impact us 2+ million expats in the EU you ask?

That’s something we simply don’t know…yet.

Perhaps one of the three could result from Brexit code red.

1.) Britain and the EU retain a certain reformed freedom of movement. This would be peachy for people like me and those wishing to travel, live and work within EU.

One of the major topics of Brexit is immigration and borders, we can’t have the best of both worlds.

2.) New agreements made with the EU resulting is a more restrictive “freedom” of movement.

3.) All ties are cut with the EU and no freedom of movement agreements in place. This would be unlikely for sure and not something I can see happening at all or anytime soon.

In a worse case scenario could it be Auf Wiedersehen Germany?

For those registered here almost certainly not. The Vienna Convention of 1969 protects those who have already excised their right to reside in another EU states can expect to keep it.

For those wishing to move post-Brexit could be in for more headaches and hoops to jump through.

Much like X-Factor we must wait for the public to cast their votes.

2016_EU_Referendum_Ballot_Paper

 

English Speaking Jobs in Berlin.

English Speaking Jobs in Berlin.

A question that I get asked a lot is “Can I find a job in Berlin without speaking German?”.

Indeed it’s a question that I asked myself many a time before moving here.

I firmly believe that learning German is an integral part to experiencing life here.

Being able to interact with and understand the world around you makes a world of difference.

I can however sympathise with those who speak little to no German.

I’ve worked with people who have recently arrived in Berlin or simply plan to move on to another country in the near future who needed an income.

Many would perhaps think of Berlin as a city crying out for workers, a power house of traditional and high tech industries.

Berlin however suffers from a high unemployment rate of 10.7% against a national average of 7.4% as of August 2015.

The truth is finding work is possible you do however have to be realistic in your expectations.

In my previous life I was self-employed, running a computer support company for 5 years.

I jumped into the job search open minded, I simply wanted an income so that I was’t reliant on my savings.

A casual online search lead me to a vacancy at a call centre tech support role and within two weeks of commencing my search I was employed.

The office language was English, our customers calling from the UK and even our keyboards being of a UK layout.

I have many non-German speaking friends here in Berlin many of which I met at work who have moved on to other English speaking jobs.

All of them however have been in the customer service or sales role.

The call centre gave me a steady income and introduced me to such eclectic and interesting colleagues who are now friends.

The big call centres tend to have a large staff turnover which can be viewed as good or bad.

Good because vacancies can be plentiful on the other hand bad because there’s a reason people are leaving.

Wages are generally low and the work mundane with high expectations for the compensation.

My tip if you land such a job is not to take it personally.

Use it as a foundation and as a motivation to learn German and develop you new life.

Berlin has an ever growing Start Up scene that can’t be ignored by English speaking job seekers.

Many offering alternative, interesting and hip ways in which to work.

A good friend of mine started working for a start up with a large investment behind it.

After an ever increasing recruitment drive the companies fortunes appeared to have changed as almost the whole UK market team was let go.

Whilst I don’t want to throw a downer on the Start Ups I believe that it’s important to remember that they can be volatile.

I needed to provide the following to my employers before I was able to sign my life away on paper:

1.) Registration document Anmeldung.

2.) Passport.

3.) Details of my German bank account.

4.) Proof of my health insurance coverage. This can be requested from your health insurance.

I will be expanding on finding work and how important it was for me in establishing a social life in Berlin.

I hope this brief post helps, please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions.

Master the U-Bahn

Master the U-Bahn

Sprawling under the streets of the city is the u-bahn and the 170 stations that it comprises of, you’ll know when you’re near one as the air takes on a dusty stillness and an unmistakable smell will lodge itself deep in your nasal cavities.

Beginning operation in 1902 it has had a history as colourful and interesting as Berlin itself. The u-bahn is much like veins of Berlin transporting over 1 million commuters, tourists and buskers every day.

On the face of it, it can be a little bewildering however with a few tips you’ll find yourself a competent navigator. You may, dare I say enjoy your journeys because despite the stuffy stations and being grossed out by gripping onto the support bars that are still hot a sweaty from the last passenger it’s a interesting part of Berlin.

Stations are marked with a large blue U, the logo for the u-bahn,

Berlin is spilt up in to three travel zones A,B and finally C. Maps of the zones are shown on the station platforms and on the many free maps you can pick up. A is the central areas of the city whereas C is the surrounding areas, much like many transit systems around the world.

Unlike many transit systems around Berlin is barrier free. Yep no turnstiles to check the validity of your ticket before allowing you to the platform.

It has been described as an “honour system”, riding without a ticket is known as riding black and it’s a contentious issue between some.

So why should I buy a day ticket for a tad under 7€, that buys me a currywurst and a beer with enough left over for more stereotypical food stuffs?

Well, plain clothed staff do conduct random checks and lack of a valid ticket results in a red face and a 60€ fine.

When I say random, I mean random. If I take the last three months I’ve been checked around 4 times twice was in the same day. When you take into account the frequency of my travel on the u-bahn and the amount of different lines I take that’s not a lot of checking of little white tickets.

But still if I was you I’d purchase a ticket so you don’t have to eye everyone up who enters the carriage to see if they look mean enough to be a conductor and because despite the many faults it’s a good transport system.

You’ve decided to buy a ticket? Well done! It’s pretty simple but there is a pitfall or two.

You can buy tickets at machines at most stations on the network these are usually yellow/white but sometimes red/blue at large stations, shops and from station kiosks. You may be approached by someone offering to sell you a ticket, it goes with(out) saying but don’t buy tickets from people who approach you. It’s amazing the amount of people I’ve seen buy tickets this way, it’s most probably an old ticket that has been rubbed to removed the old validation stamp. Possession of an altered ticket is a whole other headache generally treated more seriously than no ticket at all.

The machines are nice and simple to use, and menus offered in multiple languages.

Your tickets and change will be thrown out of the bottom on the machine, ticket in hand you’re ready go! Well nearly, the next stop is simple but it’s also been a costly 60€ oversight of many a poor soul.

Almost every ticket will need to be validated, tickets for longer periods such as monthly tickets are exempt from a validation stamp.

To validate your ticket you will need to insert it into a small box that will stamp the date, time and location on your ticket.

The validation machines are often located on the platforms, near ticket machines and the entrances to stations.

Pop the top of the ticket into the machine and ping, bang and you’re on your way.

 

Buy your ticket and validate it with these machines.

Phewww you haven’t even boarded the train yet and there’s so much to take in!

You’ve got a ticket and a destination now you need to know the connecty bit in the middle the point between A und B.

The u-bahn network spans across 10 lines serving 170 stations and growing. Fortunately it’s nice and simple to navigate. Yet a few tidbits of information and a few tips will make you hopping on and off easier, quicker and more relaxed.

If we take a typical station it will have one platform serving one route with a track on the left and one on the right, in the middle with be a small kiosk selling knives, nudie mags and other items that make for a great Tuesday night in.

Each track will run the same route in each direction. Information is shown on the electronic boards above the track which will display the time, route number and end station of that direction.

You’ll need to know which direction of the line you require, a quick and easy way to do this is to look for the white rectangular signs that are displayed around the platform area.

These signs show where you are marked in bold text and a list of all the stops between your location and the end station.

 map.jpg

So if we take the picture above we are at Alexanderplatz the route U8 will run in two different directions from the station we’re currently at. One will run to Wittenau and the other Hermannstraße. So if we want to go to Pankstraße we would take the train heading to Wittenau. Now that is simple but believe me it’s easy to miss, with that under your cap it’s time to delve deeper in to the signs around the station we will stay with the rectangular chap.

Next to many of the stations there’s information which shows us what connections the various stations have. We can see further u-bahn connections such as the U2 at Kottbusser Tor or the U7 at Hermannpplatz.

Connections to Buses are marked with a purple circle, S bahn with a green circle containing an “S”, Trams with a red square and orange squares mark the Metro tram. Even connections to airports are listed TXL being Tegel and SFX Schönefeld.

Another lesser known tidbit is the numbers on the right side these tell you how many minutes it will take from your location to the listed station. So from Alexanderplatz to Pankstraße should take around 9 minutes.

With that you hop courageously onto the train and begin your journey. After a sweaty, eventful few minutes you need to leave the station but which exit do you take….the one with the escalator looks tempting but the other has a döner stall that smells tempting and the stairs leading to it relinquishes you of the guilt of a 700 calorie snack.

 

Alex

Well some cleaver chappy has made it easy, simply look at the sign bearing the station name. Each exit tells you what awaits you when on each side. So if i wanted to take my new found confidence further I could get a connecting train on the U2 line then i’d take a right. However if i wanted instead to see the famous Fernsehturm (TV tower) I’d take a left. It also has a WC which is handy after all that Fanta, it really does taste different in Germany.

Maps, signs and communication with people!? Not for me you say, flashing your smart phone. Yes, yes smartphones are good, excellent in fact at getting you around but the old fashioned methods are worth knowing in case your battery runs out after taking all those selfies.

So apps, as you’d imagine there are lots of apps on all platforms to help you navigate your way around the whole transport network. I’ve used a number of these but now I only really use two on a daily basis. Both are free, come on I actually paid for my tickets.

The first is one is useful for tourists because it can function without using expensive data but remember to turn data off for the app otherwise it will use data and the video adverts will become costly.

It’s called “Berlin Subway BVG Map and Route Planner by mxData Limited. It has everything you need to navigate the S and U-bahn including an interactive map and routing it’s on the Apple App Store.

Next is the official BVG app again from the Apple App Store or Google Play store,

I’ve only used the iOS version but I’m assuming both platforms are similar.

Now this a little different it does require a internet connection in order for you to properly use the app.

The BVG app offers routing across the whole transport network of Berlin as sometimes it might be quicker to a bus and a tram rather than one u-bahn train for example. Also it will inform you of delays and important information that could hold you up.

Apart from excellent routing it offers maps, timetables and even allows you buy tickets.

The app stores of all major platforms have a whole host of apps that can help you get yourself around but just remember that data can be expensive so those with offline routing and maps could save yourself a few £€$’s.

Safety is important wherever you are and like the rest of Berlin, the u-bahn is a pretty safe place. I’ve never felt treated or had my moth eaten wallet picked from my trousers.

Despite the relaxed atmosphere Berlin does have some nasty people, nasty people who wouldn’t mind that wallet that’s sticking out of you pocket.

Buses, trains and the u-bahn do get busy and you might have people bump into you as you clammer on your way, the perfect cover for a pick pocket! Keep valuables tucked away in a zip pocket if possible. Take what you need for the day, leave excess cash, cards and passports safely at home or in a hotel safe.

Hold or wear bags in front of you in busy areas to avoid it becoming lighter. Stations do have CCTV and security personal or police are often visible in large stations to help stop things being stolen but common sense and being aware of your valuables are just as useful.

Now that was a journey in itself eh? Like the u-bahn it may have been a confusing even sweaty read but I’m sure that the time spent reading this will save you much more when you hit those mean old streets.

I’ll be covering more on getting around Berlin and other topics that I’m sure will be helpful and maybe even interesting. Meanwhile check me out on instagram and twitter and feel free to ask questions.

Registering in Berlin – The Anmeldung

Registering in Berlin – The Anmeldung

 

*This post was written over a year ago. Things are now much different in terms of requirements and waiting times.

As such take this as my experience not a guide on getting registered.

As of posting the wait for an appointment in the whole of Berlin is 2 months.*

The Anmeldung, the piece of paper than can open a few doors on the bureaucracy corridor.

So what is it? It’s a “registration” of where you live, this document although simple in form is an important foundation to getting things done in an organised fashion.

The Anmeldungbescheinigung or registration certificate that you receive will allow you to open a bank account, open a contract account (mobile phone, internet etc), obtain a tax number for employment amongst many other things.

It is also compulsory to register within 2 weeks of arriving in Berlin (often around a week in other parts of Germany) if you plan on spending more than 2 months in this fine city…..technically.

There are plenty of people who simply haven’t registered or have registered after the two week period, this may work for some having the status of I suppose a tourist but for those who wish to settle I’d recommend following the rules, like a good German in training.

The Process. (rather my process)

I have the benefit of having a German friend the benefits of which extend far from her dry humour, hatred of waiting and love of bio produce. My German is by no means fluent and you’ll come across many big and scary words that only Germany could engineer to be so complicated yet functional, almost beautiful.

If you have a German buddy bring them along for the ride as your translator it will make things easier for you and the Berlin official. There are paid services online that will assist you in registering in English should you require it.

Be prepared! As an EU citizen I needed the following;

My Passport

My good friend who lives in the property that I plan to be registered at. Usually a letter will suffice or if you rent your own apartment bring the agreement with you. If you bring a buddy they will need their passport or ID or at least mine did.

Patience, a lot of patience.

You will need to register at an office called a Bürgeramt in Berlin and many large cities. You can find details for these here. You have two options in getting everything in order at the Bürgeramt.

Turn up, take a ticket, wait, get DVT from sitting on a stiff plastic chair for hours and play it cool when after two hours your number is displayed and the room number to which you’ve been summoned.

Advice: Get there early! Yes breakfast is sacred in Germany but skip it if needed, even go before opening and wait pretend you’re in the queue for the latest iGadget.

We visited Tegel Bürgeramt about half an hour after opening and all the tickets for that day had been issued, same story for the nearest Bürgeramt from Tegel too.

If the Deli method of taking a ticket sounds uncivilised then you’ll need an appointment (Termin). You can book an appointment for Berlin on the government website click on “Termin Berlinweit Suchen”to search for available appointments throughout Berlin. Appointments seem to get booked out quickly, give yourself 1-2 weeks.

Appointment booked or ticket in hand you’re ready! The folks at the Bürgeramt will take your details and those of you residence and within 10 mins a rather bland Anmeldungbescheinigung will be yours.

Simple….right…..

Sure it wasn’t fun but you’ve followed procedures, done things correctly. This was the first tangible, official government stamped piece of paper that I’d received. It feels good doesn’t it? Much like that first £/€/$ your business makes, it represents the start of something exciting, slightly daunting but most of all hungry. After all you’ve gotten up early dare I say lost sleep over excitement, waiting outside the Bürgeramt but most of all you’ve missed breakfast.

Now you can strut home, drive black on BVG all the way home and make some toast out of stodgy square processed bread which German folk call toast and make yourself a nice warm cup of tea, but please you’re living in Germany now, don’t add milk.

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