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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I have forms coming out of my ears!

Can you guess what I’ve been doing this weekend?
Yes, that’s right. Filling in forms for the employment agency. First there was the application for unemployment benefit I which they gave me last week. Then, since I’m probably not going to be entitled to that benefit anyway, I downloaded the form for unemployment benefit II… the subsistence allowance. Answered the million questions on the main application form… half of which Jan had to help me with because I did NOT understand them… and was then instructed to fill in three more forms. Aarggh! But less than a week after first going to the employment agency (and more than a week before I’ve even become officially unemployed) all the forms are filled in. But – you knew there was going to be a but didn’t you? – I can’t hand them in yet. I got in touch with the employment agency this morning and was given an appointment for 29th June. That’s 21 days away. 3 whole weeks! Why did I even bother being quick? Also, my other appointment with the employment agency (to discuss the possibility of going freelance) is also on 29th June. I now have one appointment at 9:30 am then a second appointment with a different person at 10 am. I just hope the first person is quick!

Oh well, back to job hunting I guess. At this rate I’ll have found a job before the unemployment people even get round to dealing with my application…

How about some good news for a change?

The essay I did for Text Linguistics last month has been returned to me.
I got 67%… subject to the approval of the exam board. A pass at Master’s level is 50%, and I can’t see the exam board reducing it by more than 17% even if they do change it. So I never have to do Text Linguistics again. Woo hoo! I would say this calls for a celebration but as I’m trying very hard not to spend any money I don’t actually have anything to celebrate with.

My other piece of news is that I’m going to Rome. My mum is taking my brother as a treat for finishing his A-Levels and she asked us to go along so we could have one last family holiday before little bro goes off to uni (my sister and her boyfriend are going too). It was all arranged over the weekend… all that remained was for me to ask about time off then we were going to book it. Then, on the day that I was supposed to ask for time off, I lost my job instead. This left me with lots of time on my hands… but made spending money on a holiday seem a little bit wrong. So I told my mum we couldn’t go. Then the boyfriend decided that he still does want to go… and offered to pay for me as well. So we booked it… and I am now torn between feeling excited and incredibly guilty. Also, next time I’m at the employment agency (which will be whenever I get the forms back from my boss) I’ll have to inform them that I plan to leave the country and get their permission. Yes, you read that right. People who are on unemployment benefit in Germany are allowed to leave their place of residence for a certain of number of days each year but have to ask the permission of the employment agency in advance. I’m hoping they’ll let me off if I tell them it was all booked before I knew I was going to be unemployed and cancelling it would only cost more. Keep your fingers crossed for me, ok.

Running around town trying to figure out who can help

I went to the IHK today – the Industrie- und Handelskammer. That would be the Chamber of Industry and Commerce to my non-German speaking readers. Why did I go there? Because my boss thought they could give me better information on going freelance than the employment agency. So I took myself off there only to be told the IHK isn’t responsible for people who want to work as freelancers… they can only help me if I want to set up a business (and if I want to do that I have to pay fees and taxes and deal with a thousand times more paperwork). Instead the woman there advised me to go the the translator’s association. So I headed off towards home – the Baden-Württemberg branch of the translator’s association just happens to be pretty much round the corner from where I live. Unfortunately it was already closed. But tomorrow I shall take myself there before 2pm and see if I can find anyone to help me.

And right now I’m off to the boyfriend’s place. He still has my CV on his computer from last time I was job hunting, so I’m off to update it, make it look pretty and stick it on a USB stick for transferral to my own computer. I’ve already seen one job that I can apply for (translating for a software company) so I’ll be getting on that first thing tomorrow…

I would also like to say a massive THANK YOU to all my bloggy friends who left such lovely, lovely comments on my last post. I will definitely keep you updated… along with the rest of the internets. Who knows, maybe the information will be useful for someone else in the future. I’m probably not the first foreigner in Germany who’s ever found themself in this situation and I sincerely doubt I shall be the last… especially if this recession continues.

Meet the latest victim of the financial crisis

I would love to say that I didn’t write once over the long weekend because I was having such a fantastic time doing wonderfully exciting things. Unfortunately, the truth is I was just too lazy. Shame really… at least then I’d have had some good news to offer you. As it is I guess we’ll just skip straight to the bad.

I arrived at work this morning only to be told my boss can no longer afford to continue paying me. The business has been doing fairly badly for a few months, we had already had a few crisis talks… and now things have reached a point where measures have to be taken… or in other words the most dispensable employee has to go. That would be me. Officially I still have a job until 15th June (two weeks notice you see) but won’t actually be going back to work (well maybe to drop something off but not going there to do any work), partly because.. well, there is no work. And partly because I still have lots of holiday to take.

So there you have it. I’ve been to the employment agency today. Got lots of forms to fill in, a form for my boss to fill in… and found out that because I haven’t been paying into the so-called “unemployment insurance” for a whole year (didn’t pay any at my first internship and have only been at this place for 10 months) I’m not entitled to Arbeitslosengeld I (unemployment benefit I… or the one where you get a bit more money) but instead will have to apply for Arbeitslosengeld II – unemployment benefit II. Also known as a subsistence allowance. Meaning they give you the amount the government claims is enough to live in (despite the fact that those who are receiving unemployment benefit II are officially below the poverty line!)

So it’s back to the drawing board… searching for non-existent jobs, trying to make my CV look interesting, (hopefully) being invited to job interviews.
Am also looking into the possibility of going freelance. I have an appointment to discuss it (and what I would have to do) with an adviser at the job centre on 29th June.

And until then? Well, I guess my days of defiant spending have now been ended for a while. I only hope I can afford to keep my flat…