Green Sauce

The origins of Frankfurter Grüne Sosse (green sauce) are not entirely clear. It is largely believed that the Romans brought it from the Near East. But the route the recipe followed from Italy to Hessen (where it is today a celebrated local speciality) is disputed. Some say it was introduced in Hessen by Italian trading families, others that the recipe travelled to France and was later brought to Germany by French Huguenots – a story which makes some sense, given that the second largest settlement of Huguenots in what is now Germany was in Hessen in the late seventeenth century. What I know for sure, however, is that Easter is not Easter in my parents-in-law’s house in Hessen without at least one meal of Grüne SosseRead more »

Moving in Germany: Couches on the U-Bahn

Moving on the Berlin U-Bahn

Moving on the Berlin UBahn.

I have moved a lot in Germany. Like 6 times in a year a lot. This is mostly due to poor planning, short-term sublets and an inability to commit to things like buying a full kitchen (welcome to my madness), but the positive byproduct is that we got really good at moving on the cheap.

As we initially moved to Berlin with just two suitcases, it was possible to make our moves purely by public transport. Nervous about our limbs simply falling off during these moves, we limited our purchases and kept our possessions down to 2 or three loads …at first. But, inevitably, we managed to accumulate more and more until our hobo moving method was no longer an option.
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(In-) Convenient

A few years ago while chatting with a friend who, like me, has a German spouse, I had a mini-revelation:

“There is no German word for convenient,” I said.

After a pause, my friend the English teacher says, “Well that explains a hell of a lot.”

Both fluent German speakers but without a dictionary in front of us, we racked our brains for a potential German equivalent to the English word convenient. Or convenience. Or conveniently.

Fitting to our search, we brainstormed the antonym: Inconvenient = Umständlich. My go-to translation website gives this word circuitous, cumbersome, laborious and involved, which are all certainly inconvenient, but it does not mention inconvenient as a translation. This is interesting, and perhaps an example of different usage of the word. Or perhaps an example of misunderstanding by a foreigner! Read more »

Birthdays at Work (or the Joys of Raw Meat)

My first job here in Germany was in a publishing house (Verlag in Freiburg, and that job was actually my first real job after college. It was certainly a different way to be indoctrinated into the world of work. It was the early nineties and it was the Schwarzwald. Freiburg is still a pretty hip town, but in small companies like the one I started in, they stick to tradition. Almost everyone was per Sie with one another, despite the fact that many of them had been working together for years. After a year of having two Americans and one Canadian in their midst, they loosened up a bit and we were almost all per Du.

Birthdays at work, depending on the company, usually involve the person whose birthday it is bringing in something to eat. At my current company, it might just be Sekt and Brezeln for my small department. At my husband’s company, some people bring in three-course elaborate meals for the whole group, which is 40 people. This year I made American cakes and cupcakes for the whole lot. They were a happy bunch after the sugar rush! Read more »

Dealing with Damage

Despite not being military or part of any diplomatic corps, my family and I move frequently. We moved in 2010, and then in 2012 – not counting the two additional moves within the same town from one temporary flat to another and then into the house we bought, and now we are moving again later this year. We’ve been trying to declutter to avoid moving unpacked boxes from one house to the next, but we realized that we had to finally close out and submit our damage claim from our big move in 2012 before we moved again in 2014.

We had delayed submitting the claim because as mentioned before, we had moved several times in 2012 and decided to wait till we had received all of our things from the move from America to Germany to submit one big claim. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the best idea. In fact, what I took away from the experience is that it is best to submit the claim as soon as possible while you are still feeling incensed that your beloved leather dining sofa has never-before-seen cuts in parts of the leather or a favorite side table now has three legs less.

Broken Nightstand
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Austria and Germany: Worlds Apart

Buch: Streitbare Brüder

One of several recent books about the differences beween Austria and Germany is entitled “Quarrelsome Brothers.” See more books below (in German).

Billy Wilder (1906-2002), the noted Austrian-American film director (Double Indemnity, Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot), as famous as he was, used to complain about how he was frequently misidentified as German. Americans do often get Austria and Germany mixed up. Sometimes they even confuse Austria with Australia! Thus the joke T-shirts and signs found in Austria with a “no kangaroos” logo. Silly Americans!

Never really that good at geography, Americans, even if they can find Austria on a map, also tend to be ignorant of the many great and subtle differences between the small Alpine republic (population 8.4 million), known as Österreich, and its much larger neighboring republic to the north, known as Deutschland (population 80 million). Austria is only about the size of the US state of South Carolina. Germany is slightly smaller than Montana. In some ways, the two countries can be compared to the United States and Canada, or the US and Great Britain (with the sizes reversed): They both speak the same language, but with significant differences, and they share a common history that has made them friends, yet has also left them worlds apart. Read more »