Moving to another country that is about 4,000 miles away with a 6 hour time zone change can be a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s to a country with a different language than home. Without the technology of today, I cannot imagine how challenging a move like this would have been 30 years, heck for that matter, 10 years ago. Technology has really helped us in our transition to Germany, and has definitely made the world a much smaller place!
As someone who has traveled for work for the better part of the last 15 years, electronic banking and the ability to see & pay any bill online has truly been wonderful. Since we still have expenses in the US (i.e., mortgage, credit cards, financial aid, etc), having the ability to see and pay these bills online is great. Also, if I need to send money to someone, I can send them a check direct from my online bank. And, with our German bank account, we can transfer funds between the accounts to wire money back-and-forth. There is a limit to the amount that you can wire at any time ($9,999 is the max because more than this, you trigger alerts, which are setup to prevent money laundering or terrorist funding).
Telephone / Cell Phone:
We made the leap from eliminating our home, landline phone since about 2003 and have only used cell phones. Back then, that was a VERY strange feeling, but the money saved has been nice. So, for us not having a landline phone in Germany has not been a big deal. Your US cellphone plan will not work in Germany, as you will have to register for the local carriers here (T-Mobile, Vodafone, or O2). Pricing of plans is almost on par with the US, just a little more expensive. The main difference is the rates are higher calling to/from a landline from/to cellphone.
Since we are experiences a lot of new things and need information, we needed to have smartphones connected to the internet. We chose to get iPhones because we are an Apple family, even though we both have work BlackBerrys (we can’t download apps to our BB, that’s why we wanted another phone). The cost of an iPhone here is about 800-1,000 euro (about $1,000 – $1300). One way to get the phones cheaper is to buy them unlocked (without a SIM Card) in the US and bring them into Germany. Doing this, you would save anywhere from $200 – $400 per phone. NOTE: the normal cost of an iPhone is lower, but this is because you then get the 2 year contract with the carrier that reduces the cost. If you priced an unlocked phone without a contract, it’s roughly the same price in US Dollars. We chose to buy our phones here in Germany and amortize the cost of the phone over 2 years because that was better from a cashflow standpoint. But, you definitely need a smartphone here.
Cell Phone Applications (Including MagicJack):
I like free apps, and there are so many out there that helps with our move. PhotoTranslator is an app where you can take a picture of text, and it translats it to English. There are text translation apps, as well as map apps and informational ones about various places in and around Europe. MagicJack app can be downloaded for free. With it, anyone in the US can call a toll free number, and then dial our MagicJack number to call us. And, we can call direct from the app too, as long as we are connected via a WiFi connection through the internet. So, my parents can call me free, I can call home free, and our data plan is unlimited so that is not impacted. You can pay to have a dedicated number and bypass calling a toll free number to initiate the call. However, with that being said, I am still testing this out to make sure everything is REALLY free! Trust but verify.
End of Part 1