Tag Archives: Germany

The Heron


You know you live in a wholesome place when you bump into a grey heron at the employment agency on a sunny December afternoon in Upper Bavaria… and a handful of people stop their errands simply to watch and congregate.

All of this on December 1st, the National Day of Romania.

It was very calm, for a very long time. Slowly and quietly, I got within 10 feet of it. It explored me with inquisitive eyes, then it took flight and settled on the opposite bank of the rivulet. What splendor!

It’s like my two identities are finally at peace with each other… 🙂

#birdwatching #herons #wildlife #industriallandscapes #nature #sunnyafternoon #specialmoments

The Days

The Days

Remember these days

these brief days

when we walked in groups of one

we gave thanks to the ones who toiled

and our lives touched each other even though our hands didn’t.


Remember these days

these brief days

when daddy was no longer at work (yay!)

because people mattered more

than production:

we discovered we had lungs (so fragile)

and the air became breathable.


Remember these days

these brief days

with the deafening chants of birds, their speeches, their courtships, their pleas

finally audible,

and how we watched them build nests from our dining room window,

the whole family gathered around the table for once,

the playgrounds locked, quiet,

the streets devoid of the screams of neglected children;

the strange intimacy.


Remember these days,

these brief days

when we looked at each other with fear and awe

and doubt and hope and kindness

– but we looked! –

and were on the verge of rediscovering



A book and a stroll meant the world to us,

we sang on balconies

while deer with unnatural eyes and glistening antlers

wandered into Nara and took the empty metro nowhere.


Remember these days

these brief days

when the trees stood erect and reached into the sky while the stock markets fell

(not the other way around)

when the river exhaled a soft haze at dawn before the buzz began,

the buzz of a thousand and one insects.


Remember the days

when the engines of destruction stood still for a minute

while food continued to grow out of the dark soil

and we were afloat in the poetry of necessity.


Remember these days

for they will not last forever

and maybe, one day, who knows,

they shall be missed.


Copyright A. Sepi 2020. All rights reserved




All things German


Well, maybe not all of them. But a few. What on Earth is the deal with this weather in July? To paraphrase an old Romanian joke, of the 4 seasons typical of this latitude, Germany only has 3: rain and… more rain. 🙂

I realize this is subjective. From my window, I can see people in T-shirts as busy as a beaver in the pouring rain. Let me explain my problem. We don’t do squat in the rain. Where I come from, a south-western Romanian city with a rather Mediterranean weather pattern, the winters are short and wet (with the occasional bout of ass-freezing temperatures, -15 Centigrade and so on), but the summers are long and dry and sun-soaked. July is called “the month of the oven” – that’s how unbearably hot it can get. When it rains, people just stay inside, bundle up, and wait for it to go away. Unless it’s the usual bubbling summer rain that lasts for 20 minutes… That’s why I could never grasp the concept of “dauergrau” and why I was so confused by the institution of the “Matsch-Hose” and the “Gummistiefel”. Why would anybody need those? What?! You mean you want to take my kids out in this weather?!…

Whenever it rains, my Timisoara gene kicks in and I cannot get myself to do anything that involves going outside. Not to mention that I do not take off my winter jacket until it’s at least 25 degrees Celsius. To the horror of small children playing barefoot in 18 degree weather. I no longer buy any dresses, it’s too cold for me to wear them. To my dismay, I discovered that I no longer own any sandals, either. I only wear them when I travel south (or south-east) and it simply does not pay off to keep closet space occupied. 🙂

So, people, if you’re reading this, could we, maybe, please, make some kind of unanimous mental effort to dispel the clouds? Otherwise I am going to keep writing blogs, tweets and Facebook posts until the rain lets up. That’s a threat! 🙂

But now, in all fairness to Germany, my lovely second home, I would like to end with another Romanian joke my father used to tell me when I was a child:

“Soccer is a game played by two teams of 11 players each, for a period of 90 or 120 minutes, and in which Germany always wins.”

Go, go Germany, on Friday, against France! I bet you have nice weather in Bahia, where you are. Which is probably why you’re not completely focused on the ball, either ;-). Tststs… Where would this country be if it had nice weather and warm sand beaches all year round? Who on Earth would still be working?

What’s up with the German labor market?


News and interesting statistics about Europe’s strongest economy.

Munich - voted Germany's best city and no. 4 worldwide

Munich – voted Germany’s best city and no. 4 worldwide
Foto: Armand Csordas

As most of Southern and Eastern Europe as well as Great Britain struggle with a double-dip recession and the German economy continues to flourish, many in the beleaguered EU states are packing their bags for the Bundesrepublik.

According to Spiegel Online, half a million people immigrated to Germany in the first 9 months of 2012 alone; roughly 90,000 of those were Romanians (second only to the Poles). Most of these people came here looking for work, and most of them are highly qualified – just one of the ways Germany has capitalized on the financial crisis. They have filled vacancies and driven up rents. Many more are preparing to come so let’s have a look at what the German labor market has to offer.

Probably the most useful resources for foreigners looking for jobs in Germany are the labor market and salary reports published by leading employment agencies and career websites, such as StepStone or Manpower. Here is some interesting data in brief.

Top 5 best paid university degrees (average gross yearly salary in 2012, not taking into account number of years of work experience):

  1. Medicine – € 68,903 
  2. Law – € 60,792
  3. Engineering – € 59,912
  4. Business information systems – € 57, 764
  5. Natural sciences (biology, chemistry, pharmacy, physics) – € 57,292 (source: StepStone Gehaltreport 2012)

The top industries in terms of pay are, in order, consulting, banking, chemistry and oil industry, aviation, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, consumption goods, automotive and machinery, medical technology.

Expect below average pay checks in hospitality (€ 32,228 gross p.a.), agriculture, marketing and advertising (€ 39,040 gross p.a.), small trade, public services, education, retail.

Another interesting fact is the difference in pay between man and women. Women will earn, on average, 14,000 euros less per year than their male counterparts. University graduates earn on average 36% more than people with vocational training or trade school. By far the highest salaries are paid by companies with over 1000 employees.

There are also dire differences across regions. The southern states (Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) are much better off than north-eastern states (former East Germany). Bavaria leads the pack with an average gross income of around 53,000 euros p.a., closely followed by Baden-Württemberg, Hessen and Hamburg. Apparently, the best-paying  jobs in the nation are to be found in these states. Red lanterns are Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Thüringen and Brandenburg, with 34,000-38,000 euros p.a.

(Note: These are all gross pretax salaries, without bonuses. For high-demand professions, and especially for positions with management responsibilities, add about 11% in bonuses. To arrive at the actual after-tax amount, subtract approximately 1/3 of the total; subtract more if you are single.)

A recent report by Manpower sees the situation on the German labour market as stable; the vast majority of companies (86%) declare they will not hire additional people in the second quarter of 2013, 8 percent want to hire more people, and 4 percent think they will have to lay people off. Manpower’s prediction is that most jobs in the next quarter will be created in the Finance and Insurance industry. StepStone continues to focus on the IT industry, on engineering and on finance and controlling, where the deficit of skilled labor remains a problem. Large deficits have been noted for geriatric care and health professions as well, especially as a result of poor demographics. The prognosis is gloomy – over 200,000 vacancies in German hospitals and hospices by the year 2020.

Another reason to worry comes from the weak demand for German industrial goods in Europe. Aktiv, a business magazine with a print run of over 1,000,000 copies available via subscription only, warns that not all is rosy in Germany. In its latest issue (16 March 2013) it claims rough waters may be ahead for the metal processing and electronics industry. BMW, for instance, anticipates a very difficult European climate for the next 5 years, with low sales and little recovery in sight.

How long the German miracle can last, and to what extent orders from the BRICS (particularly China) can compensate the sluggish markets in Europe, remains to be seen.

Engines of the world


I don’t know if this means I’m getting old or I have just been pushed into insanity by two sweet nagging children, but the world used to be so much quieter when I was little.

The days seemed fuller, too, although I cannot imagine what we could have filled them with. No TV, no Internet, no fun parks, no twenty zillion kiddie attractions to choose from. Oh, wait, I remember. I used to play with my one doll and my red doll buggy. I used to saunter through the courtyard of our building, waiting for other kids to come out and play, and in the meantime discover all sorts of dark corners, insects and holes in the ground. I used to help my grandma hoe and water her flowers, pick the sour cherries or the strawberries. I used to watch her iron those gigantic bed sheets while listening to the radio and chewing on a pancake, or I used to help her bake pretzels. In June – no sooner! – we would head down to the open-air marketplace (the farmers’ market) to buy the first ripe tomatoes, and if I was good (and most of the time I was), I would get 5 lei to buy myself a bunch of the year’s first cherries from the gipsy women who sold them squatting down on street corners. Then I would hang cherries around both my ears and pretend they’re classy earrings… And we used to stand in line. We always stood in line. I guess that killed a lot of time. We stood in line for bread, every morning, for meat, a couple of times a month, for lemons and oranges, once a year. It’s not that my grandmother was sadistic or anything, but you had to bring as many people as possible to the counter – the food was rationed and you only got a certain “per capita” amount. So I stood in lines with her. Not that it bothered me. It was the thing to do. You got to meet all sorts of other kids there, better dressed, poorly dressed, it didn’t matter. We played in shabby alleyways while the line slowly snaked forward. And then there was the constant chatter. People were lining up buildings, corners, shop windows, spilling into the street outside, like a living contour made up of gray little ants. Buildings draped in human chatter. You heard the latest gossip, the latest joke against the regime, with the usual hidden double meaning – you were around people, fighting with them, fraternizing with them. People.

Now, all you hear is the buzz of roads and the roars of engines. The Germans are all about engines. There is at least one machine for every type of human endeavor, a machine that lets people just stand there, looking lost and superfluous and so ephemeral. The machine is eternal. You don’t sweep, or dust, or wipe anymore. Instead, there is a loud machine doing that for you, while you are breathing in its poisonous fumes. People have become nothing more than the overseers of the machines. Fill up the tank, make sure it only cuts what it’s supposed to. No wonder everybody’s looking sad. Not even sad, though. Just devoid of emotion. Always active, always in motion, yet so pointless. We are becoming pointless.

I miss my old Romanian countryside. We would listen to grasshoppers and turn over boulders in the streams and the grasses and herbs and wild flowers raised their intertwined heads meter-high and smiled into the sun. And somehow, things made sense. In the evenings, when the cows came home, all you did hear were the bells around their necks, and people greeting and wooden gates being opened and closed and the milk was so warm, even if it did have a little hair and a little cow dung when it was first milked. The women used to filter it and boil it right away and it tasted like flowers, too. The cream was thick and they would bake those huge breads in their earth ovens that were just like cake, no, even better, they tasted like fresh, fluffy orthodox Eucharist bread…  Yeah, I miss that. I even miss the rust and the grit. Because you cannot fake rust and grit. Rust and grit are real. And in this world where you don’t know what to believe anymore, because every smile and every affection and every perfect cobblestone feels fake, I believe in that rust and that grit. Just find a nice place in the sun and smell the grasses and talk to a person with coarse hands, and feel alive. That used to be all you needed. Our summer vacations? We would hoard and save gas for months before going anywhere (gas was rationed too). Then we would pack up everything we needed, including food – cooked and raw – and toilet paper  – there were hardly any stores, and packaged snacks had not yet been invented, and off we went. We’d stop here and there, put up a tent, stare at the scenery, breathe. Not do anything, but watch and breathe and maybe dream a little. We would dream up our perfect little world, just the three of us: my mother, my father and I. And then, when we reached the seaside, we got all touristy and ate out and visited the colourful fairs, and frolicked in the sea, and lay in the sun. That was all. Sand castles, mini-golf, inflatable balls, nothing more.  And yet it felt good, so good, that I am even to this day trying to reproduce that feeling.

Joy came so easy back then when we had so little. We were happy for every little thing.

When I first emigrated, I was shocked at how active the Germans were during their holidays. The local attractions didn’t suffice. They had to have activities, too. We were used to much more contemplative vacations. Backpack and boots and climbing the mountain with small steps. They wanted adrenaline, extreme sports, fast and furious. It all seemed like work to me, but that is how the Germans like their vacations. They have to tick boxes. They have to do things. We were so happy just being.  Besides, life itself was an extreme sport. We just looked for inner peace.

Eating bean soup and looking at the night sky, not even counting the stars, but bathing in them. And being free inside, free to rejoice, free to not compare, free to not think about what else we could have, or should have, but instead free to simply be. So much freer than we are today… You don’t need engines to have wings.