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Schakaline

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Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« on: 22.01.2015, 04:33:21 »

Hi there!

This is the old Eurofurence Essentials thread from four years ago (boy, time flies) - now collated into a single document and updated in parts for easy digestion.

This is going to be a very long post, but give it a read.
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Hello, everybody!

Because the board's currently in hibernation, let's spice up things a bit with a list of pitfalls and other fun things going wrong that happened to people and (unless you read this thread, of course) may be happening to YOU, too.

Yes, it's time for
Eurofurence Essentials

(or: Things You Should've Found Out By Yourself, But Were Too Lazy To.)

In this thread, I will ramble endlessly about things that may seem ever so obvious to a large part of our attendance, but may quirk a brow with people from strange countries. This isn't going to be an one-sided lecture though, so feel free to chime in if you've got fun facts that you learned the hard way.

Today's Lesson is about money.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade or so, it should be known as a fact that Germany uses the euro. That makes life for anyone from the Eurozone much easier in the first place, however, this advantage comes with a few strings attached.

  • Credit and debit cards:
    Generally speaking, credit card acceptance in Germany is not universal. While most hotels, high street stores and many restaurants will take your Mastercard or Visa, you'll be hard pressed to find a supermarket or smaller shop taking your card. It is always best to ask in advance. If you have a Maestro card however, you'll be better off, as Maestro is nearly universally available through the German girocard system.

  • Cash machines:
    Unlike other countries (yes, I'm looking at you, Britain), German cash machines are easily identified by the old Eurocheque "ec" sign (if you don't know what that is, ask your parents) and there generally are plenty around. Fees, however, may vary. For banks based in the Eurozone, cash withdrawals usually yield a fee between €0 and €5, much higher for accounts held in a different currency.

    Cash machines are now required to show the cost of the transaction in advance, but it might be worth checking with your bank in advance how much that foreign withdrawal will cost you, or you might be in for a nasty surprise.

  • Cash:

    Always accepted, however, still not without its pitfalls. The easiest way to identify yourself as a tourist is to wave those large, green 100 euro bills around. While they're still money, most retailers don't like them that much, and paying for your coffee with that is the best way to make enemies.
    As for the really large denominations, the 200 and 500 euro bills, just don't. Many shops, especially petrol stations, flat out refuse to take these notes (which, by the way, is perfectly legal) and you'll end up having to come up with alternative methods of payment.

    A good measure for filling your pockets is about €10 in coins (you'll end up with more of these anyways) and whatever amount of money you desire in denominations up to 50 euro, which coincidentally is usually the largest note cash machines will dispense.


Now that we've got the basics dealt with, some insider location tips:

While there's only a few cash machines in the vicinity of the Estrel, central Berlin generally is plastered with them. However, just don't use the nearest one - sometimes, simply planning ahead a bit saves you a lot of money. For example, if I used the Berliner Sparkasse machine inside the hotel, I'd be charged 5 EUR for it - but if I use the Sparda machine down at the railway station, it's completely free.

Many of the local shops don't take credit cards. Some people learned that the hard way. :) They usually DO take Maestro/Girocard, however.

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Get your copybooks out, as this lesson will be about:
Essential Documents

Some travel documents speak for themselves, like your passport or drivers licence. However, there are a few you might noth have thought of - this is the minimum you should carry.
  • First off, your passport or ID card.

    Certainly the most important document to leave home with, as not only will you have a hard time entering the country, but you'll also find it a bit difficult, if not impossible, to be admitted to Eurofurence without proper ID.
    We need to remind people again and again that if you're from another country you should remember that passports can take a few weeks to order, and you should check well in advance whether your passport is still valid and whether you need a visa. Don't believe me? There seriously are people who found out two weeks prior to EF that they... like, need a passport to travel. Durr.

    Even if you're from the Schengen zone, and hence in possession of a proper ID card, make sure your ID doesn't expire until you're back home. It'll make your life easier at the border.

    A word on taking your ID with you, too - there is the common myth that in Germany there is an obligation to carry ID. While this is not technically true, there's a number of good reasons to have your identity documents at hand, though.
    German law has a provision that everybody needs to be in possession of a valid identity document. This means, you have to own one, but you don't need to take it along with you. However, should you be questioned by the police or be under the suspicion of a crime, they can detain you for up to 12 hours if your identity cannot be established (§163c StPO for those who won't believe me ::)) On-the-spot checks can and do happen, especially around railway stations, so unless you fancy being escorted back to the hotel room to retrieve your passport, you should always carry (official government) documents on your person to prove who you are. And quite honestly, this also depends on your nationality. They'll probably check a Frenchman less thoroughly than a Russian.

  • Secondly, the European Health Insurance Card

    The European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC for short, is a scheme that allows you to receive treatment in whatever country of the EEA you travel to as if you were a citizen of that country. It's the replacement to the old European insurance form E111 and found on most countries' social security or sickness fund cards by now. However, some countries are notorious for not handing out EHICs by default, two of the more notorious examples being the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. If you don't own an EHIC yet, don't worry, you can order them for free from your national health care provider.

    In the case of treatment in Germany, medical coverage under the EHIC scheme includes basic care, hospital treatment if neccessary and dental treatment that cannot be postponed until you are back in your home country. A copayment of usually EUR 10 will apply as well.

    The European Commission has more information about the EHIC.

  • Which leads us straight to travel insurance.

    In case you're from a non-EEA country, travel insurance should definitely be one of your top priorities - a simple thing such as a sprained ankle or a night of too many intoxicating beverages (*ahem*) can easily ring up a four-figure bill. Even that medicine you need urgently but forgot on the kitchen table might be enough to nuke your travel budget into orbit when you have to pay it all by yourself, plus the doctor who prescribes it.

    Still, even if you're covered under EHIC regulations, travel insurance may be worth considering. While EHIC covers basic medical care, it won't foot the bill for anything that may happen as a result of that treatment, such as forcing you to extend your stay in Germany, or even getting you on a medevac plane back to your own country if you've decided to take a jump into the lobby from the 7th floor. That's what travel insurance is good for, essentially. Of course, there are a lot of hooks and strings attached, so you should see what comes with the respective plans the insurance companies offer in your country. Generally speaking though, premiums for travel insurance are so low that they offset the cost of just one flight that has to be rebooked by a margin of 1:10 at least.

  • The last item for today, individual documents.

    A bit of a gray area, as every person has different needs. For many people, this will probably mean their driving licence. It doesn't end there however - a good general advice is to take documents with you for everything that needs to be functioning or could get you into trouble. For example, if you rely on eyeglasses, it doesn't hurt carrying that little card stating their strength, in case you need a replacement fast. Likewise, if you have any potentially harmful disease, like diabetes or coeliac disease, there's multilingual cards available that you can hand to waitstaff if you're unfamiliar with the language. Make a personal assessment of these things before you leave, and act accordingly.

And a word of personal advice, leave the unimportant stuff at home. Empty out your wallet before you travel, and leave behind the things you're unlikely to use while away. Having to go through a full-scale replacement of every card and pass you carry in your wallet isn't something you want to go through. I got pickpocketed on the Budapest metro back in 2005, and I was -very- fortunate to have my important documents in a concealed bag under my clothing, so all I lost was a bit of loose change and about 50 euros, but didn't ruin my holiday at least.

Now that you've got your money and passport ready, stay tuned - next time we're going to start packing bags!

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Here we go again; time's passed and EF's rearing its ugly head again - oh noes!

So, let's head over to chapter 3 quickly:

Packing Your Bags

Easily the most underestimated bit of the whole preparation, many try to postpone this to the very last minute. However, if you consider a few things way ahead of time, you're going to save yourself a lot of hassle.
  • Weight restrictions
    The most limiting factor often is the overall weight of your baggage. Most inner-European flights allow a total gross weight of no more than 20 kilograms, 32 kg if you're flying internationally. While this restriction is non-existent in case you're using a train, you should always remember that you may end up having to carry your bag up and down stairs at some point in your journey, so try to travel as lightly as possible.
    It also helps reducing the overall number of items - one large bag is usually easier to handle than two medium-sized ones.

  • Packing what you need
    The absolute minimum (and it is a shame this has to be mentioned so explicitly) is one pair of clean underwear, one pair of socks and one clean shirt per day EACH. Beyond that, it's up to your personal lifestyle; a fursuiter will probably need a lot more fresh underwear than someone who's put on static display in the Dealers Room all day.  ;)
    Beyond the basic items of clothing, you should pack according to the expected weather. Whilst daytime temperatures during the time EF takes place usually are quite okay, you might need to pack a coat or a sweater if you intend to go out after dark. Rainproof clothing doesn't hurt either.
    Other than clothes, make a list of what you think you absolutely need to take to the con, then strike 75% off that list, and you'll get a good estimate of what you will actually have to take there.  ;D We all love our toys and electronic gizmos, but you may be in for a nasty surprise once you figure out that huge wolf plushie you bought and your iPut Classic don't leave you any space to cram the artwork you bought in there. Which leads us to the third part of this little exercise:

  • Reducing the clutter

    Many items people tend to put in their bags aren't strictly needed. For example, I personally don't pack any shampoo or shower gel – that does not mean I simply don't shower, though – I just find it far easier to simply pop into a local store and get the stuff somewhere on the way than drag along bottles of liquids through half the country or across the world. If you don't have any special needs, personal hygiene products can easily be acquired locally.
    Likewise, many electronic toys clutter up your bags with their myriads of chargers. These days, many devices already can be charged with a simple USB connection – check your local electronics store for a 230 volt to USB converter. They are available with up to 8 ports, saving you the hassle of carrying 8 individual chargers, plus you get to share them with friends – they're popular these days. If you've got devices that won't take USB voltage, little pro tip from my side – take a world adapter and a multi-socket outlet from your country with you when you travel. "Certified electrical engineers who are aware of what they are doing and have the neccessary permission to do so" may also build their own one.  8)


This post cannot possibly be exhaustive. For further tips and some convention insight, I highly recommend What to take to a convention - the list may be a few decades old and slightly outdated in places, but it still holds many truths.

In the next instalment, now that we're all set up and ready to go, we'll talk about... pitfalls!

Oh yes. Fashion criminal... err, I mean, Americans!  ;D

To the benefit of the European fashion sense, please consider.



Go for these instead:


As always, feel free to chime in.  :)
« Last Edit: 22.01.2015, 04:37:15 by doco »
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Lurinare

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Re: Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« Reply #1 on: 22.01.2015, 21:06:32 »

Usually when its hot outside short trousers


is okay even in germany XD
There is only one thing: You should always wear long trousers during the meals as a male (specialy for dinner!) !

But please no FlipFlos as shown in the second Pic!! XD
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o'wolf

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Re: Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« Reply #2 on: 22.01.2015, 21:45:52 »

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SiranaJHelena

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Re: Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« Reply #3 on: 22.01.2015, 22:11:10 »

Although I agree with most of the stuff, I think this dresscode is slightly exaggerated and rather confuse people, especially the "Go for these" picture. Many men (and women) I know simply wear Jeans and T-Shirt and German society is perfectly fine with it as long as the clothings are cleaned up from time to time. ;)

My advice are two guidelines:
1) No bedroom clothes in public (and this includes fetish wear of all kind just as much as boxershorts and pyjamas.)
2) If you wouldn't wear it in front of your parents-in-law and grandparents, don't wear it (and no cheating here.)

Making a list of "Do's" on such an individual topic like clothing rather scares people away, especially from other countries. ;)



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o'wolf

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Re: Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« Reply #4 on: 22.01.2015, 22:40:42 »

Although I agree with most of the stuff, I think this dresscode is slightly exaggerated

Actually, it is the minimum you get away with in a four star hotel in Germany. In fact, business casual or better would be more appropriate for a conference hotel, but the casual style suggested in doco's post is acceptable during an event like ours.

Of course, it's just a suggestion. But we want leave a good impression, don't we?
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Schakaline

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Re: Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« Reply #5 on: 22.01.2015, 23:37:56 »

Although I agree with most of the stuff, I think this dresscode is slightly exaggerated

Actually, it is the minimum you get away with in a four star hotel in Germany. In fact, business casual or better would be more appropriate for a conference hotel, but the casual style suggested in doco's post is acceptable during an event like ours.

Of course, it's just a suggestion. But we want leave a good impression, don't we?

This may actually come as a surprise to our younger readers, but yes, not everybody dresses like like a f*cking hipster, not even in Berlin.  ;D Unless it's part of your costume or you have an agenda of flaunting your lifestyle, it's best to default to casual street clothes, as this indeed isn't a stag party or a dance club, but a hotel you normally couldn't afford at age 20 in the first place.
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karpour

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Re: Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« Reply #6 on: 24.01.2015, 18:45:29 »

..., not everybody dresses like like a f*cking hipster, ...

Do you think writing stuff like this is a good way to represent this Convention? You're entitled to your opinion, but seriously, you're a staff member making a post in the public EF forum.
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Sithy

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Re: Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« Reply #7 on: 24.01.2015, 19:09:47 »

Oh dear I am a woman and wear those shorts, am old enough for gray hairs AND have a mohawk. Oh. Well then. (not offended btw, I choose to dress in a way and everyone can have an opinion on that xD)

I have to say though there is a time and place for everything. I felt it more appropriate to wear a dress with tights or long trousers when going to the hotel restaurants. Yes my hair was still louder than what they are used to ;) But dressing to fit the environment and ensure the comfort of all guests is a big deal to me. We DO want to leave a good impression so yeah despite being one of those darn alternative dressers...I see where doco is coming from. I adapt to where I am the guest, and I think that is good to keep in mind. (to those going "but sithy, ur identity!!11!" That ain't in your clothes and if it is: sorry real life works differently)

Adding to the post, remember your thank yous and pleases/dankes und bittes. The hotel staff work hard for us. Yes it is their job but a thank you goes a long way! I like to go through my room each morning, put stuff out of the way, make sure the floor is empty etc. It makes life easier for the cleaners, they only get a set amount of time per room. Be polite :)

Edited to add: I also look at the clothing advice more as a little tongue in cheek. It's funny :) !
« Last Edit: 24.01.2015, 19:13:11 by Sithy »
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Cheetah

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Re: Eurofurence Essentials (2015 Updated)
« Reply #8 on: 24.01.2015, 21:24:20 »

Everyone, please calm down. This is supposed to be a piece of advice, nothing more. It's not a new set of rules. You can dress any way you want, as long as it's allowed by the Rules of Conduct. This thread is not part of the rules of conduct. It's a suggestion, to be interpreted at your own discretion. If you think you know better, you are entitled to your own opinion.

Have a nice day :)
« Last Edit: 25.01.2015, 00:30:38 by Cheetah »
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yours,

Cheetah
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