Weihnachtsgebäck

linzertoertchenGermany at Christmas is divine – any visitor to a Weihnachtsmarkt can tell stories of the booths of crafts, gifts, toys, knitwear, ornaments, junk, treats, Glühwein, Wurst, candles, etc. The air is chilly, the mulled wine is warming, and the festive atmosphere is unmatchable elsewhere in the world. I miss that about Germany.

Happily, I have plenty of treats to keep me in the holiday spirit: all the Christmas cookies I make each year (and there are dozens and dozens of them!) are from German recipes. Read more »

It’s a matter of trust

After many years here, a theme that always seems to come up for me is that of trust. We Americans are known for being open, especially when it comes to sharing information about our personal lives. We Instagram, we share every minute detail of our lives on Facebook, we tweet. And many of us don’t think about doing so. Even people in their forties and up are sharing their everyday lives on social media. And these are usually attached to our real names (unlike many of my German friends, who use funny half names or split their first name in two, like Ka Te). It may be that we are naive; it may be that we just don’t care who knows all this stuff about us. We are more worried about our kids getting kidnapped off the street in broad daylight (thanks, local news) than we are about someone abusing or using our personal information. What does this say about Americans as a culture? Read more »

Is Santa Chinese? On the Trail of Santa Claus and der Weihnachtsmann

Chinese gods

Ceramic figurines of the Chinese gods Shou, Lu and Fu. What do they have to do with Santa and the Weihnachtsmann? PHOTO: Ridone Ko – Flickr

I’ve written about it before, but this Christmastide I’m delving a little deeper into the traditions of the season of giving and its central figure: Santa Claus, Weihnachtsmann, Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), Père Noël, Father Christmas, Babbo Natale, Julemanden, and so on. If you aren’t already aware of the many Germanic aspects of Santa Claus and Christmas, you can read about it on our German Way Christmas pages. While the German-American St. Nick connection and the “German” pickle ornament myth are fascinating, I know there’s more to the Santa Claus story than most people think. Read more »

Electrical Appliances: That Old Chestnut

Facing an overseas move? If you are moving from North America to Europe or from Europe to North America, you will definitely face the question of what to do about your appliances. Because of the difference in voltage, every expat has to go through this process of trying to figure out which appliances to bring with them and which to leave behind. There are several options:

  1. sell everything and buy everything new in Europe,
  2. sell some things, bring other things and buy the rest in Europe,
  3. or bring everything and use everything with transformers and adapters.

We expats often use factors such as length of stay (are we on assignment or staying forever?), storage space, or immediate cash needs when making the decision. Read more »

Four reasons to live in a WG in Germany

A WG in Lövenich (Köln) Photo: Jay Malone

I’ve spent approximately four years of my life in Germany all told, and (almost) everywhere I’ve lived has been incredible. In Berlin, I lived in a massive Kreuzberg loft, with 5 meter tall ceilings and a common room big enough to stage operas, which a few friends of mine actually did once. In Heidelberg, I found myself living in a vacation home, sleeping on one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever been fortunate to lay down upon. In Lueneburg, I lived with a family who had their own sauna, which I partook of more than twice.

All of these experiences predated the start of my life as a full-time student here in Germany and my first Wohngemeinschaft (shared flat or “WG” for short). And even though I loved my experiences in Berlin, Lueneburg and Heidelberg, I’ve found since that WG living beats them all.

Read more »

Nude bathing and traffic signs: 10 things that didn’t fall with the Wall

Lichtgrenze - East Side Gallery, Berlin

Temporary Lichtgrenze in Berlin to celebrate 25 years since the fall of the Wall
PHOTO: Andrea Goldmann

Last Sunday (9th November) Berliners celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A momentous occasion movingly marked by temporarily dividing the city again with a 9-mile “Lichtgrenze” made up of illuminated white balloons along the old division, which were then let off into the misty night sky at the same time the first people crossed the border all those years ago. Though the few remaining stretches of the Wall in Berlin are only there for the sake of history and tourism, not all aspects of GDR-life have been so thoroughly dismantled. From politics to bathing habits, what has survived these past 25 years? 

1. Die Linke

The first minister president for Germany’s far left Die Linke party – the post re-unification successor of the SED, East Germany’s ruling party – is about to be elected in the former East German state of Thuringia. It’s a strongly contested result, not least by Chancellor Merkel and President Guack, who join many people in feeling uncomfortable at having a party so strongly associated with the East German regime in a position of such power. 

2. Rotkäppchen 

On a more light-hearted note, the GDR’s brand of sparkling wine is now hugely popular throughout Germany – it’s certainly what we buy whenever we get together with friends to celebrate.  Read more »