An Expat Thanksgiving in Germany

It’s that time of year again. If you were in the United States right now, you wouldn’t miss a beat in knowing what I was talking about. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Although this great American tradition is not celebrated in Germany, expats and their friends gather and have learned how to search and seek in order to create feasts in the new Heimat just like they would have back home. If you’ve joined an expat group or community of some sort, there’s usually an organized potluck. Since I’ve been in Germany, there have been years when I’ve celebrated multiple times (up to three) in a year to none at all. In addition to participating in the potlucks, I’ve hosted and invited others including all of my husband’s department colleagues one year and my German in-laws another.

In an effort to replicate the family feast, questions arise as to “where can you get … in Germany”?  Access to ingredients have changed over the last decade and availability of certain foods also depend on regions, but with some planning you shouldn’t have any problem checking off everything on your Thanksgiving shopping list in Germany these days. Otherwise, it might be time to improvise and introduce a new tradition in your new home.

With some planning, Thanksgiving in Germany can be replicated. Photo: Jane Park

With some planning, Thanksgiving in Germany can be replicated. Photo: Jane Park

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Are NEXTV’s German Channels Gone Forever, or Not?

It’s been over five years since I first wrote about NEXTV and “Watching German TV in the USA and Canada”. The great thing about Toronto-based NEXTV was that it allowed you to watch virtually the full range of German public and commercial TV channels on your regular TV – no computer needed. NEXTV’s high-quality streaming video could be fed through a Roku device connected to a TV set (via an HDMI cable for HD), making it difficult to tell it wasn’t real television. It was almost like being in Germany.

“Was” – past tense. Suddenly in early November, without any warning, it was all gone. Well, all except a limited offering of channels similar to that also offered by Dish via satellite, although at a lower price. No more ARD, ZDF, RBB, RTL, WDR, and the many other “real” German channels that were available until they simply vanished.

I first found out what had happened when I received a desperate email from a man who wanted to know if I knew what had happened, and if I knew of any good alternatives. After checking to see if the channels were indeed gone (they were), I knew there were few if any good alternatives. Read more »

Who am I, really? Talking Identity with German Freshmen

IMG_0317I’ve been living in Germany for 4 years now, three of which I’m spent teaching first year students at a private university in Cologne. More than anything else, this experience has taught me humility; I realize now just how thankful I should be that I’m not 19 anymore. Teaching at the university has given me the opportunity to speak to thousands of kids, most of whom exhibit a curiosity bordering on incredulity when I tell them I’m from Chicago, a reaction that I still can’t really understand. More often than not, their general interest in my background sparks a conversation about our two countries, the most interesting parts of which relate to how my students see themselves and their country.

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Healthy eating in the Hauptstadt


Salad at Daluma

One of my favourite things about working on in Mayfair, London was that I was a stone’s throw from amazing health food shops and cafes. I loved popping out on my lunch break to pick up a sweet potato, pomegranate, and feta salad, or working my way through various ranges of dehydrated vegetable crisps. Yes, I’m a complete sucker for that sort of thing – and always happy to indulge my predilection for obscure but yummy green juices.

Since moving to Berlin, I’ve never quite found anything that could compare. Yes, most cafes sell sandwiches and salads. Yes, the range of organic supermarkets and products is pretty much unbeatable in this part of the world. But, nothing quite to the easy-access health food extreme I had been enjoying in London. Bread and cheese were hard to avoid. Why would you want to, you may well legitimately ask, but sometimes, just sometimes, you fancy something not quite so heavy. Until recently that is, when I made the joyful discovery of three new places all in Mitte, which is conveniently close enough to work and to home. So, if you’re similarly a health-food nut like me, here are three recommendations for when you come to the Hauptstadt. Read more »

Learning to Hate Deutsche Telekom

Door to Berlin

Door to an unconnected home

I had no strong feelings about German internet providers. Sure, I love TV and the internet, but how it got to me was of no concern. That is, til Deutsche Telekom screwed us over.

First, the good news. We have a new apartment! After months (and months) of searching for a bigger place to accommodate our little Berliner we found a classic Berlin altbau – all tall ceilings, double windows and hardwood floors. We love it.

But we knew we needed to do one thing as soon as possible – get our internet connected. We’ve heard it can take some time to get an appointment (even if it is as simple as flipping a switch) and we didn’t want to miss a day. Ha! Such naiveté. Turns out we still had some faith in German customer service which has now been thoroughly quashed.

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Flying the German Way: Landing Applause

As I write this I’m on a cruise ship just off the Pacific coast of Mexico heading south from San Diego towards the port of Acapulco. That’s a bit ironic because (a) there are about a hundred German tourists on board our Mexico-bound vessel, and (b) I’m writing about flying and something I call “landing applause.”


The scene as our cruise ship sailed out of San Diego. On the right: the Midway Museum aboard the famous WWII carrier. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Before we get to the flying part, a bit more about “die Deutschen” on board. Most of them hail from the Essen region of Germany, although at least one lady I spoke with yesterday is Austrian. One man from Essen or thereabouts surprised me by being much more chatty than your typical German, telling me (in German) all about his group’s Amerikareise. (Germans do tend to travel in groups, although there are exceptions.) He and his compatriots had flown from Germany to Atlanta, and then on to Los Angeles. They had seen a bit of the American West before boarding the Norwegian Sun in San Diego. As is often the case with Germans, this was not his first visit to the United States. We had our brief fellow-passengers conversation as our ship steamed (actually diesel-electricaled) out into the Pacific while most of us were standing on the upper deck watching the San Diego skyline and Coronado island recede into the hazy distance. San Diego lies close to the Mexican border, and soon we were in international waters within sight of northern Baja California’s mountains. Read more »