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About kapokanadensis

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  • Location Stuttgart
  • Nationality Canadian
  • Hometown Peterborough
  • Gender Male
  • Year of birth 1979
  • Interests Lots of stuff, nature, everything plants, woodworking, car and home repair, badminton, cycling, squash, darts, road trips, hiking, films, reading....

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  1. Experience with friend finding apps?

    Hi everyone,   has anyone had experience using friend finding apps?  Not the romantic (or other...) type, just the kind where you find like-minded people to hang out with.  My sister suggested Bumble - anything else?    
  2. Insect friendly gardens

    No, they don't.  Animals are pretty good at knowing what is good to eat and what not, they'll figure it out.    Most plants are toxic, it's one of the ways they deal with not being able to run away from things that want to eat them.  Once you go down that rabbit hole, forget about ivy, elderberries, boxwood, euonymus, tomatoes, potatoes, nicotianas, chrysanthemums, cherries, yews, rhubarb... the list goes on and on.   Don't worry about toxic plants.  Just these guys which are actually dangerous to small kids:  Foxglove (Digitalis), Monkshood (Aconitum) and Angel's Trumpet (Datura), and you're good.        
  3. Insect friendly gardens

    Insect diversity is increased with flowering-plant diversity.   Allow some naturally occurring plants to remain, plant in or seed in more diversity, ensuring a staggered bloom over as long a period as possible.  More species of plants means more species-specialists, which means more generalist predators and so on.   When planting, use species not cultivars.  Cultivars are genetic clones of each other, and often don't have much value for wildlife.  A good way to tell is how it is sold.  Is it Liatris spicata or Liatris spicata 'Kobold'?  That 'Kobold' name in quotes after the genus and species names is a specific cultivar, often patented.   And please don't get too worried about sectioning off areas because of bees - that's a bit overkill.  Just leave them alone and you'll be fine, they don't want to sting you.  Kids get stung (mine multiple times a year), and they learn, or not, depending.  The alternative is to wrap them in bubble-wrap and never let them out of their rooms.  You can't kid-proof nature.      
  4.   Good luck with everything.  Even if you do get into Karlsruhe, it's better one partner commutes for a while rather than both forever.  Besides, there are regular train connections between Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, way faster, cheaper and less stressful than driving.  
  5. A question for all you long-timers:

    It definitely depends on your personal situation.   For me I can't seem to help getting irritated more and more by the tiny annoyances here.  I know, I really shouldn't - take yoga to mellow out or something.  What started me off on this topic today though was the reaction I got from a customer's neighbour, when I politely asked them to park their car elsewhere on Friday so that we could do some tree maintenance overhead.  Of course, this was a gigantic deal as it always seems to be.  Anything where you put effort into make someone else's life easier, especially a neighbour's (gasp!), is just not cool among the locals it seems.  This may just be a Stuttgart thing though.     An alarming realisation hit me though this spring when my son and I randomly discovered 'Heavy Rescue 401' on Netflix Germany.  It's generally terrible, but we boys enjoyed it for the machinery.  The shocker was that it made me nostalgic for the 401!  That is not a good sign - the very worst thing in Canada outside the Oilsands inspiring feelings of homesickness...  
  6. A question for all you long-timers:

    Hi Everyone,   I'm coming up on the 10th year of my 3-year Germany plan, and was wondering how you other long-time expats here feel about your situation.   Which direction are your feelings of home trending?  Has Germany become your home, or do you still see yourself returning to your home country at some point?    
  7. Gardening

    Hi,   @jubinjohn was on the right track with a climber for that position.  Any tree or large shrub will want to get big, that's their dream in life.     If you need something to not take up space at ground level, but then stop and form a canopy at 2 m in shade, your only reasonable option is a vine trained on a support built or bought to the shape you desire.  Why not climbing hydrangea?  They are super pretty and can handle deep shade, plus aren't that fast growing.  Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) has really nice flowers, so does Wisteria.  Both can handle a bit of shade, but both once established will take over the neighbourhood if you're not paying attention.  They need to be pruned back three or more times a year.     Sometimes awkward spaces don't lend themselves to plants - what about a sun sail or a pergola?        
  8. Does anyone know which kind of plant this is?

    Hi there,   those look like maple seedlings to me, probably Manitoba maple (Acer negundo).  Often the first real leaves (not seed leaves) look quite different to what you would expect from a maple.  If they are Manitoba maples please destroy them, they are classified as invasives in Germany.        
  9. Hi,   Do you mean the Möhringen that is directly adjacent to Stuttgart?  If you're considering commuting from Pforzheim to there, just know you're setting your husband up for a world of pain.  Traffic in the region is a serious pain in the rear end, so for your quality of life you should be as close to work as possible.  If your husband works in Möhringen, and you could work/study in Stuttgart, then live in Möhringen, or somewhere on the U- or S-Bahn net so you can leave your car at home most days.   Stuttgart (and Möhringen) is not affordable, but you have to weigh the time, vehicle and especially health costs against higher rents - it really does make more sense to be closer in.  Stuttgart is fine, not particularly friendly or beautiful, but way nicer than Pforzheim, which is super ugly.  Putting down roots in Schwabenland takes time - a LOT of time.  My guess is that it's easier in Stuttgart than in smaller centres due to the more cosmopolitan nature of the place.     As far as bilingual Kitas go - that isn't really a huge deal, a nice to have, not a deal-breaker.  We dropped our kids with minimal German into the local Kindergarten - at that age they pick up language super fast, and there were no troubles.  If you're looking to stay here, your kids should be immersed in the language from the beginning.  Send them to the closest kindergarten to where you live, so you can walk them over.  This is a big deal - their friends should be local so you can easily make play dates, otherwise you're committing to be taxi-mom for essentially ever.   So - the slogan is:  Friends don't let friends commute!  Commuting is stupid, avoid if possible.  
  10. Häcksler - Garden shredder

    Do not buy a chipper/shredder from a Baumarkt, they just aren't worth it, especially the electric ones.  You might get through one fresh twig at a time s-l-o-w-l-y, and it might do perennial stems for you too, but anything bigger just forget it.  I've got a Jansen 13 hp gas chipper - it's loud and stinky but goes through up to 10 cm thick branches - 2100 €, it's the cheapest decent chipper you can buy.  Anything less is a waste of money.  If that's too big, do what the others have suggested - rent one when you need it.  Most residential garden owners don't need one, do the odd dump run instead by borrowing your neighbour's trailer or filling up your kombi cargo space, municipal dumps let private garden owners dump for free.    
  11. Debt - Ratenzahlung

    They won't go for a Ratenzahlung.  That requires flexibility, compassion and lateral thinking, not going to happen.   Call them up directly, explain that you don't have the money right now but can get it within two weeks.  Immediate payment is unreasonable.  I know, I know this is Germany, but still.  If they're sticklers, they'll have to go through the Mahnprozess anyways, which gives you a bit of time (might affect your Schufa score).  Let them do that if they insist, but get on the ball right away getting that money together.   In order of preference:   take it out of your savings account or collapse some of your accessible retirement investments   or borrow it from friends or family   or go to your bank and try to get a credit card or a line of credit or a loan.   or apply for a credit online.  I did one through creditcheck24, worked out well.   or If none of those work, take out a high-interest loan from Auxmoney, they are not at all picky about who they lend to.  Make sure you have the option for Sonderzahlungen though, and make that debt disappear as fast as possible - expect to pay at least 15% interest.   I take it you have a job?  Should be no problem getting a loan.    
  12. Robot lawnmower

    @Gambatte This thing is going to run nearly every day in all kinds of weather, and hopefully for years to come.  Buy a quality product.  I install Husqvarna for my customers and have had nothing but good experiences with them.  They last.  Gardena is owned by Husqvarna and uses the same system if you can get it cheaper.   Look at it this way - how much do you earn per hour at your job?  How many hours a year do you spend mowing your lawn - including setting up and cleaning up?  Is your free time worth more or less than your work time to you?  You'll find that even a more expensive quality device will pay for itself in a year or two, not to mention the better condition of your lawn which brings aesthetic benefits too.        
  13. Moving to Stuttgart, big mistake, boring ?

    Here's my take on Stuttgart, I've been here for 10 years now:   I still don't love it.   It still hasn't grown on me.   It is in my opinion a compromise location, not a dream destination.  You're here because it makes sense, not because you always wanted to be here.   It's fine.  It's better than Mannheim.   Not better than Heidelberg, or Tübingen, or Freiburg, or Ulm or Schwäbisch Gmünd...maybe not even better than Heilbronn - and that's just in BW.  Berlin?  no contest - stay there!         
  14. Robot lawnmower

    Professional landscaper here weighing in:   Do it.  Totally worth the money, and you can install it yourself if you're halfway handy.  You get way better lawn results because it suits the grass plant's biology better than mowing it yourself on the round tuit plan.   I recommend this to all of my customers - the results speak for themselves.  
  15. German equivalents of the 401(k) retirement plan

    Going to refresh this old, old topic because I've been doing a bit of research on this theme lately, and it's making me angry.  I so very much wish that there was an RRSP equivalent here, but there just isn't.   As a self-employed person you have a bunch of crap options.  Please correct me if I'm mistaken or have missed something.  Maybe someone out there has some different    Privatrentenversicherung - pension through a private insurer.  They offer you a minimum payout per month or lump sum, is tax deductible.  I've read the fine-print, it is difficult to transfer benefits or capital in the case of death, and guaranteed returns are very, very low, less than 1%.  You need to trust the insurance company (and - HA!) that they will honour a greater return according to the investments made.  Restrictive, fishy, lots of fine print favouring the insurance company and not you, the investor. Riesterrenten - available for self-employed, and tax deductible to a point, but not eligible for the attractive Staatzuschusse available to employees.  In my case if I were an employee, those would amount to 1650 € a year, making this a must-do.  Again, restrictive, non-transferable, capital non-inheritable. Rüruprenten - available for self-employed, also tax deductible.  Not inheritable, can never be paid out, must trust in the investments of whatever company you sign on with.  Like everything in Germany - very restrictive.   Voluntarily paying into the Staatliche RV - nobody with any sense would do this - guaranteed negative returns due to the nature of the state pension system (pension contributions are immediately paid out to recipients, not invested) and the demographic trends of Germany (old and getting older fast), and once signed in impossible to cancel again.    Investing on your own terms - buying stocks and bonds according to your capacity to save.  Comes out of after-tax income, is taxed as it grows, and when you sell it too.  But, it's yours to control and leave behind.  This is what RRSPs in Canada are, except that they're tax-deductible.  This is what I do here, because it is the only sensible option to me, despite the multiple tax drawbacks. It seriously annoys me that this should be so difficult.  I've been here for 10 years and I really should be used to the complicated nature of everything here, but it still surprises me.