Sunday, August 17, 2014

Berlin Diaries: Media consumption - a step backward

Recently I had to pay my first rent. There is concept of cold (kaltmiete) and warm rent (warmmiete). Cold rent means that tenant has to pay for heating costs and some other charges himself. Since mine is later one, I thought I only had to pay total rent amount quoted.

 I saw some other charges too. Electricity is not included in it, which is fine. But there is  fee called GEZ amounting €17.98 per month. I asked a local friend what this charge was. She said it's fee I have to pay for TV, even though I don't own any TV or have any connection for that matter. I got bit of a shock there and decided to do bit of research.

Turns out it's a fee every household (flat) has to pay for public broadcasting every month. This fee was initially for public radios and TVs, and people have to pay separately because somehow government won't use tax money for that purpose. Some years ago, only those who subscribed paid for it. Then they started broadcasting over internet as well, and since every household would have internet connection - they made the monthly flat fee required for everybody. 

There is worse than that. Every time when I try to play my favorite song - Wind of Change by Scorpions I get this message.

Yes, Wind of Change and most of popular songs are blocked in Germany. There is an organization called GEMA which collects all fees from public broadcasting and distributes to artists or production company. Then there came internet, and internet is public. Since everything that is put on internet is 'public broadcasting' GEMA wants a flat fee from any website which does so, including Youtube. As far as I understand, Youtube has agreed to pay percentage of ads revenue - but GEMA wants a flat money. The thing I don't understand is why GEMA is after Youtube, because above song was put on Youtube by Scorpions, the band themselves for free. 

There are many good things in Federal Republic, but media consumption is not one of them. It's hard to digest the fact that my favorite song is blocked. For me this is step backward - remember, I lived in India before I moved here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Berlin Diaries: Summer

So I arrived in Berlin :) It's been few weeks already. My previous two visits to Europe was in winter and spring. But, Summer it seems is just great. 

Temperature is hanging around 20-30° Celsius. City looks very green, with many parks. It's rains every two or three days - light rain, compared to monsoon back home. Most of the days it's bright sunny, with cool breeze whole day. There is nice river Spree which flows through center of city. My office is just behind the river, which I very much like it. I am living in a society apartment and travel by public transport all the time, so far people seem very friendly (who said Germans are unfriendly?). Berlin streets are full of graffiti, in some cases more than expected. 

I have already been to most of popular tourist spots in Berlin in my last visit. So, I won't be much fond of visiting them again. What really excites me are small details, streets, people, parks etc. I have been trying different foods. I love sausages, and eat them all the time. Berlin has significant Turkish and Vietnamese population. I tried Falafel on first day. That was disaster, I could not even eat half of it even though I was hungry. I guess there are different types of falafel - I can't remember which one I ordered. Anyways, since then it's been no go for Turkish foods for a while(definitely want to try all of them sometime later)

Seems Berlin is quite cosmopolitan. I want to learn Deutsch, too bad that everyone speaks English with me. It doesn't seem that easy, especially pronunciation. I can't even pronounce word 'Deutsch'. How do people pronounce it? I have bookmarked this link to practice it :D I believe understanding basic written Deutsch should not be problem after some time though. My tax papers don't come in English, so I need to be able to understand them.

Deutschland has it's own keyboard layout, because there are four more characters in Deutsch than English. Keyboard was major hurdle at work for me. I tried to adapt to it for about a week. At the end, I found it too annoying for having to search for right keys instead of writing code. So had to order QUERTY keyboard.

While the type of work I do hasn't changed much - writing software for fun and profit, I am very excited to be in this city. Ich bin ein Berliner :)