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The Low-Stress Holiday Dinner Party

merry ChristmasThe holidays are here; time for an endless stream of food, fun, family and friends. Only this year, it's your turn to host the big holiday party. That's right, after a few seasons of skirting by with a side dish and a bottle of glühwein, you're up for the main event. So, where to start? What do those symbols on your oven mean again?

Don't let the stress of hosting a large event keep you from doing it! With a bit (well, a lot) of preparation, and a touch of planning, you'll make hosting a holiday dinner party look like a piece of cake... or pie (yum).

The following is a guideline to running a smooth holiday dinner party. Again, this is only a guideline, take what you read and feel free to adjust it, so that it works for you! 

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Dogs in Germany. What you need to know…

Germany is actually a very pet friendly country; you'll see pets in Germany everywhere, the outdoor barn cat, the dog on the train or bus, in the car, at the mall, or the park, and even in many restaurants (where you can often find the waiter will bring your dog a water bowl as well).  If you're lucky you might even see someone walking around downtown with a friendly pet rat or parrot on their shoulder. However, dogs, in particular, are very welcome in Germany, and they are allowed in most German businesses, aside from the grocery store, and in almost any public space. Dogs are also allowed in parks (but for health and safety reasons they are not allowed on playgrounds) and on all public transportation*. Still there are a few important rules to follow when you have a dog in Germany.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Driving on the Autobahn

Germany`s Transportation Innovation

If there`s one thing Germany is famous for, it`s the autobahn. Started in 1929, it now spans more than 12,950 km or 8,047 miles across the country, even crossing into Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, The Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, and France (but always watch for tolls when crossing into other countries). Really there are few places that can`t be reached using one of the world`s most famous highways - and the autobahn can offer you a fun, fast, and at many times scenic roadway to your destination. So feel free to hit the highway, go on that amazing road trip you`ve always dreamed about! Germany offers you a wonderful four seasons and plenty to do - but before you go, here are a few important facts - and busted myths - about driving on the German autobahn.

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My experience with the VAT Form in Germany

The Value Added Tax (Vat) in Germany is 19% and included in the marked prices of all merchandise or on the menu items in a restaurant. So you can deduct almost 20% when using a VAT form. Since the VAT form cost a fee, I always figured it was most useful to use on anything costing more than 100 Euro - to me that made the fee and trip to the VAT Office worthwhile. We always kept a VAT form stored in the glove department of our car, so we could have one available when we needed it. It´s important to note that there is a different form needed for items over 2,500 Euro.

A lot of stores let you collect the receipts and do a VAT Form run every three months, Lidl, the grocery store is a good example. Just be careful to designate a VAT Form for each of these stores, because the issue date of the VAT form has to be before the date of the first receipt from that store. I always used a page protector to help me keep each VAT form and the collection of receipts for each store and put a note on my calendar when to turn it in - time flies away!

You can also only have a certain amount of outstanding VAT Forms - the VAT Office is very strict, but also very helpful. So make sure you keep track of all used VAT forms and turn them in on time. If you lose a VAT form, let the VAT office know right away so they can help you get it sorted. But with very little effort real money can be saved especially if you are thinking about purchasing larger items such as cars, furniture, electronics, etc.

As not all German employees know how to use the VAT form it helps if you learn how to fill it out, be sure to pay attention to which copy you keep, which copy the store keeps and which copy you are meant to turn in to the VAT office. Store owners are more likely to accept the form if you know how it works.

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6 Things You Need to Know Before Eating Out In Germany

6 Things You Need to Know Before Eating Out In GermanyGermany has a great food culture, I mean German food is amazing, so you don't want to miss out and while the concept for most restaurants is basically the same (sit down and have a meal) there are a few cultural differences to keep in mind when eating at a German restaurant, or even a Chinese or Italian  restaurant here in Germany. So next time you feel like going out, keep these 6 important tips in mind.

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