Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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Just because you have a job doesn’t mean it’s all sorted…

Let’s talk about the employment agency shall we. We haven’t done that in a while…
So, as regular readers will know, I’m about to start a new job after a period of unemployment. The new job is some distance away from the town I’m living in (an hour on the slow train, about 25 minutes on the fast – but expensive train), but it’s a doable distance, the company seems great and it means no more dealing with the German employment agency – or so I thought…

After signing my contract I downloaded the change of circumstances form from the employment agency’s website, filled in the bit saying I’ve found a job and no longer need to be registered as unemployed and sent it off. A few days ago I received a letter from the employment agency – “since you now have a job and you will be getting paid at some point in September your benefits will now be cut off. Starting from 1st September 2009. If you think you’ll need help for time between us cutting off your benefits and when you actually receive your first months pay there is a loan, which you might be allowed, but only if you apply for it. ” Considering the last payment of my unemployment benefit (ALG II) was on 15th August and my first pay from work won’t be until the end of September I think I might just need that loan. I have worked it out and, despite being very careful, with the money that’s currently in my bank once I’ve paid September’s rent, the electric/gas bill, the internet/phone and bought two monthly tickets – one for the train to work and one for the tram from home to the train station – I am going to ahve about 40 euros left. That’s 40 euros for everything else I could possibly need… like food for example. And toilet roll. I can’t even afford the 6 euros it will cost to send my baby brother the books I bought him for his 3rd birthday. So I emailed the employment agency asking how to apply for the loan. Today I received this reply “I need to see your employment contract and proof from your employer of when your first wages are to be paid. Then we can decide whether or not to give you a loan“. Because obviously there couldn’t just be simple procedure. Now I need to find out whether they will accept a copy of my contract, because if not (which they probably won’t) I will have to go there in person and physically show them my contract. This will have to be done by Monday because I start work on Tuesday and will therefore not actually be in Karlsruhe at all during their office hours. Oh, and I have to somehow get proof of when I’m getting my wages from the new boss. The boss who told me when I signed the contract that she goes on holiday at the end of August and will still be away when I start work.
Oh what fun the next few weeks are going to be…


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More about the German employment agency. Because lately I seem to have a one track mind.

When you’re unemployed in Germany and you register yourself as such with the employment agency, at your first appointment with an advisor you have to sign an agreement. What the agreement says differs depending on your circumstances… they like to add bits, put in legal clauses, take bits away and generally change things. By the end of it you’re left with the vague feeling that you’ve just sold your soul to the devil for a bit of money and a lot of hassle.

In my case, because I have no savings and am therefore receiving the maximum amount of unemployment benefit, I had to agree that the job I want is not easy enough to find and therefore I should also be looking for other types of job as well. Because in my current circumstances I am clearly a burden on society and the employment agency needs to get rid of me as soon as possible.

Another part of the agreement says that I am required to apply for any jobs that the employment agency officially suggests to me as soon as possible, preferably within three days of receiving them. If I fail to do this my unemployment money will be cut by 30%… then by 60% and, after the third offence, taken off me completely.

This is why I spent most of this morning googling various combinations of the words “letter of application” and “secretary”. Except in German… so not actually those words at all. But you know what I mean.
It’s also why, if I don’t get the job I’m being interviewed for on Monday, I may very soon end up working as an office assistant somewhere in the Black Forest. But that’s ok… at least it’ll get me out of the house.


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Old people, students, mothers of young children and the unemployed

If you find yourself in a supermarket before 6pm on a weekday pretty much everyone you see will most likely fall into one of the above categories. Depending on what time you go one group may be more or less strongly represented – the morning is for old people, most students don’t emerge until after 12, and of course not everyone falls into one of those categories. A few people may be employees on their day off and you may find the odd self-employed person taking a break from whatever it is they do, but most people who go food shopping suring the day are either retired, mothers of young children (not being sexist but you really won’t see too many fathers), students or jobless.

I wonder how obvious it is which of the categories I fall into?


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Spoke too soon

Do me a favour will you… just go back to yesterday’s entry, read it again and imagine today’s date is over it.

Yes, it seems I spoke too soon yesterday. All that happened yesterday was I handed in one tiny little form (after filling in about 10) and was given another appointment with someone else for 9 o’clock this morning, where I finally got to hand in the rest of the forms and where my bank statements, wage slips, contract for my flat and a billion other documents were photocopied. The employment agency probably knows more about my life than I do now… but at least I may actually be getting some money out of it at some point.
All I have to do now is wait for the letter to arrive…


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Oh bureaucracy, how I hate thee

Today was employment agency day.
First I had an appointment at 9:30 am to hand in my application for unemployment benefit I (ALG I). I knew I wasn’t going to be entitled to it, but I had to hand in the application anyway because to apply for unemployment benefit II you have to show proof that I’m not entitled to unemployment benefit I. Complicated no? So the woman typed all my data into the computer, informed me that I’m not entitled to ALG I and printed out a letter of rejection to take along when I apply for ALG II. Then she told me where I have to go to do that… the town hall of all places?! After that I had my second appointment, with my advisor. She’s the one that’s supposed to help me look for jobs. That meeting went smoothly… she actually found even less positions than I did because they only check their own website and not every company advertises on there. So she printed out one measly little advert for me, printed out an agreement (which basically says they will publish my profile in their virtual job market and send me details of appropriate positions and I will continue to look and apply for jobs) then sent me on my way to the town hall. At the town hall I was asked a million and one questions, given a form to fill in and a huge list of things they need me to bring with me next time… a list which includes my bank statements from the last 3 months!  Then I was given an appointment with another advisor for next Tuesday. It’s exhausting stuff I’m telling you! I’m going to meet Jan for lunch now but after that I may need to lie down for a while to recover from all the forms, questions and traipsing around town.


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Welcome to the inside of my brain

Do you know, it’s just taken me over an hour to make a cup of tea. I kept switching on the kettle, forgetting I had then remembering again after the water had pretty much gone cold. I think that pretty much sums up my state of mind at the moment.

Anyway, the incredibly funny Jaywalker (whose blog Belgian Waffling you need to go and read RIGHT NOW) is asking people for diagrams of their brains. And since I have nothing better to do needed an excuse to stop job hunting before my head explodes I thought I would join in. And so I present to you my brain:

BRAIN (if the writing is too small to read let me know and I’ll provide a translation).

So, what do we learn from this exercise?

Clearly I am not panicking anywhere near enough about the unemployment situation… just look at that tiny little job hunting section. I actually think I expend more energy on feeling guilty about not looking for a job than I do trawling the internet hunting for somebody, anybody who is willing to employ me. Obviously I’m just not desperate enough yet.

It seems I am currently addicted to four things: books, the internets, junk food and cups of tea (since I’ve been stuck at home all day my poor kettle has been working overtime!). No wonder the poor boyfriend goes through periods of feeling neglected! At least the self-pity section isn’t too large… between blogging and rereading all my books I just don’t have time to worry about my lack of a social life!

That was actually kind of fun. If anyone else would like to do a brain I would love to see it!


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Back to reality with a bump

After 6 lovely days of wandering round Rome, having other people pay for stuff for me and not thinking about job hunting, the employment agency or my lack of income at all returning to the real world has been a bit of  a shock. Yesterday I kind of eased my way into it, spending most of the day catching up on people’s blogs,  sorting out photographs of Rome to put on Facebook and blogging about Roman sights. I did check the employment agency website for new vacancies (of which there weren’t any… well, there was one for a German-Russian translator but that’s no good to me really). But today it was back to job hunting in earnest. Back to checking out every vacancies website I’ve ever heard of. Back to Googling every combination of the words “translator” “native speaker” “jobs” “employment” and “Karlsruhe” I could possibly think of. And back to wondering how on Earth people cope with being stuck in the house all day long with nothing to do and no money.

The good news is I had a phone call this morning from a woman inviting me to an interview next Thursday. The interview is with a personnel recruitment service, so not actually for the job itself as such… I suppose an interview with the company that’s actually offering the position will come at some later stage, but it’s a start. Even if I don’t actually know for sure what exactly the job even is – all the advert told me is that I will be coming into contact with customers (gulp!) and need to speak English, enjoy languages and know how to use a PC. Oh, and I should bring with me “unlimited willingness to learn”. Umm, ok then…


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Apparantly it’s the end of the weekend…

I’m having a little trouble distinguishing between weekdays and weekends lately. When you’re home all day anyway the days tend to blend into each other, and when you have a boyfriend who goes into work on Saturdays anyway (although he did stay home for the holiday on Thursday) it gets really confusing. I knew today was Sunday though, because everything was closed.

So yesterday the boyfriend gave me 30 euros to buy a pair of shoes for Rome. I had to throw out my old flip-flops cos the straw bit at the bottom was coming unweaved and bits of it were stabbing the bottoms of my feet. Ouch! I also bought myself a new sun hat becuse I still had money left over and it was on sale for only €2.75. Bargain! Last night the two of us stayed at his place so we could stick some clothes in his washing machine this morning. Now everything I need for Rome is clean and by tomorrow it should be dry as well. Excellent.
On the way back to mine this evening we kept running into people from my ex student residence. First someone who used to live on 5th floor… he’s just started working and is now living close to where Jan lives. Next came a couple who used to live on my floor. They had their baby daughter with them. She’s almost seven months old now and getting so big… she’s even grown since I last saw her, in May. And she still has the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Then, while we were talking to those two, another girl from my floor came along. She’s still living in the residence and wanted to know if we would be at Parkplatzfest, the big outdoor residence party at the end of this month. We will be back from Rome by then so I told her we probably would. And apparantly before we ran into anyone Jan saw someone from 6th floor sitting outside a Cafe. All those student residence people in one little street. Clearly there are just too many of us!

So, that was my weekend. Tell me about yours :-)


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Information overload

The last few days have been spent slowly and painfully trying to gether information on unemployment benefit II and how to get started as a freelance translator in Germany.

As far as freelancing is concerned I am clear on only two things.
1) Before I start I have to get a tax number to put on my bills
2) Doing my taxes at the end of the year will suddenly become a lot more complicated, which is nice considering I haven’t done my taxes for last year yet because the forms confused me.

And the more I learn about unemployment benefit II the less I want to actually have to apply for it.
Apparantly I’m allowed to earn up to 100 euros on the side while claiming unemployment benefit II (or ALG II, which is what the Germans call it and which is soo much easier to type). Any more than 100 euros and they start taking bits of it off me. This counts for all other types of what they consider “income” as well. For example, if I were to get money back from the electricity company that would be income. And if I ever do actually get round to doing my taxes, which would result in my travel expenses being paid back, that too counts as income.

Also, if the boyfriend wants to give me money… to help with the rent for example, and the employment agency sees that money from him is going into my bank account they will assume that I have a partner who is able to support me financially and am lying about the fact that I live alone to try and get more benefits out of them. Either that or they’ll decide it must be “income” from a source that I didn’t bother to tell them about, in which case they will again take bits of it off me (if I’ve understood the German correctly I get 20% taken off me for any income between 100 and 800 euros). I’m not sure what they would do if someone gave me cash which I then went and paid into my bank account… probably drag me in to question about this cash that I apparantly had lying around but didn’t declare on their form (yes, one of the forms actually has a section for you to declare how much cash you have. Huh?!).

As if losing your job wasn’t bad enough without all these complications. I don’t remember having half as much trouble getting job seeker’s allowance in England (which I did between finishing uni and going to Austria, just to get a bit of money in my pocket for the summer).
My advice to you all… do not become unemployed in Germany. Unless you’ve been paying your unemployment insurance for more than a year, in which case you’ll get unemployment benefit I which by all accounts is much less complicated.

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