I feel like mothers are enslaved here in these provincial parts of southern Germany by what I call the “cult of the warmes Mittagessen” or the cult of the hot lunch. (I’m not even going to try to stretch the truth by saying parents instead of mothers. It’s pretty traditional here, and I don’t think fathers are feeling the same pressure that I’m talking about. If you think I’m wrong, I would love to hear more.) Just in case you don’t know, lunch is the main meal in Germany. Walk through the residential neighborhoods of where I live at noon time, and you’ll detect from several directions that alluring smell of onions sauteing in melted butter, the base to any proper Swabian meal. Expectations are high and this includes having a hot meal ready and waiting for whenever the kiddies come home from school and Kindergarten from noon onwards. Even if a working mother starts her working day at 7:30, trying to have the cheese hot and bubbling on the top of home-made Kaesespaetzle for noon might seem like a heroic effort. As a fellow American mother said to me once, “What’s wrong with a sandwich?” Read more »
A guest post by Adam Keyes of Munich’s Karneval Universe
In early November cities and towns all across Germany erupted into color and celebration for the beginning of the Carnival season, or the “Fifth Season” (die Fünfte Jahreszeit) as it is also known, and Munich was no different.
Fasching, as Carnival or Mardi Gras is known in Munich, traditionally begins at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, as it is at this time that the “Council of Eleven” (Narrhalla) gathers to plan the events of the forthcoming celebrations that will occur across the city. The Council of Eleven, who all wear comedy jester and fools hats during the celebrations, are joined by the Carnival Prince and Princess in the planning processes. This year’s Carnival Prince and Princess are Alexander II and Lisa I, who arrived at Munich’s Viktualienmarkt (“food market” square) in a vintage car to be presented to their “foolish nation.” From this point until March 4, 2014 the Carnival Prince and Princess reign over all proceedings.
The German term Fasching originates from the medieval word vaschnc and relates to the fasting period of Lent (die Fastenzeit), which commences right after the Carnival season. Fasching has its origins in the dancing, revelry and pageantry that allowed everyone to let off steam before giving up things for Lent. Despite the evolving changes in customs, manners, the economy and celebrations, the Fasching tradition has lasted to this day. Read more »
The German Nazi Past seems always to be lurking around in the background of German life. Over the past few weeks the German Past has once again emerged from the shadows, suddenly all too evident in the glare of headlines all around the world.
In a story that the German news magazine Focus first broke in the first week of November 2013, it was revealed that a cache of more than 1,400 artworks confiscated by the Nazis had been discovered in a cluttered apartment in Munich’s Schwabing district. The inhabitant of that apartment turned out to be 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, whose father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, despite having a Jewish mother, was an art agent commissioned by the Nazis to cleanse German museums and galleries of so-called “degenerate art” (entartete Kunst). Read more »
As I have written before, Angela Merkel and her right-leaning Christian Democrats (CDU) won the most votes in Germany’s election on 22nd September. 10 weeks have now passed, and still a new government is yet to be formed. From a British perspective, it seems to be taking a very very long time (the current coalition government in Britain was formed in about 5 days in May 2010). But in Germany, this lengthy process of forming a government is far from surprising.
Having failed to win an absolute majority (they got 41.5% of the vote), it was clear back in September that the CDU (along with their Bavarian sister party, CSU) for the sake of stable government would have to form a coalition with another political party. Coalitions are not unusual in Germany; indeed all governments since 1946 having been formed of two or more parties. Past experience of coalition negotiations (the negotiations for the Grand Coalition in 2005, also under Merkel, lasted two months) and the fact that the CDU’s most obvious (and existing coalition) partner, the right-leaing, economic liberals, the FDP, failed to get the prerequisite proportion of votes to have any politicians in parliament, suggested that this time round talks might take even longer. Read more »
I have written a few posts about homesickness here at German Way, not because I am constantly homesick, but because it is a major theme in an expat’s life. The first wave of cultural euphoria keeps you riding high in your new surroundings for about 6 weeks, and then you suddenly begin to crave familiar people and places. The valley of your first intense homesickness is usually around 3 months, and by the end of 6 months most people have largely adapted to their new way of life. The wave continues like a sine curve, its magnitude (and your respective strength of emotion) getting ever smaller. According to the experts, it tends to level out slightly above “normal” for most people. This means that most expats are, on average, happier as a result of going abroad.
In my many years of experience as an expat, the model described above fits remarkably well. Even watching others as they arrive and go through the stages, it is the 6-month mark that is crucial to adapting. Also, beware of going home or receiving visitors during that 3-month valley, or you can set back your own adaptation process and start all over again (so I’m told…)
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Hyde wrote a blog about this topic last year, but here are my thoughts…
I have been living in Germany most of my adult life, and for the most part, I have learned to move past the few foods that I really miss from the US and just simply live without them. I moved here in my early 20s, and to be honest, I really couldn’t cook. At that time, I missed things that I would hardly consider “real food” at this point in my life — things like Kraft macaroni & cheese, frozen ravioli, and Reese’s peanut butter cereal. I still miss the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and I still crave proper tortilla chips and easy jarred salsa that isn’t full of sugar, but otherwise, I have learned to make do.
So when I am using my American cookbooks, I often have to either substitute or just not make certain recipes because the ingredients are non-existent or very hard to get. Most of these things are convenience foods, or at least canned foods. Here are a few, off the top of my head. Read more »