Luisa Weiss’ Advice for the Expat in Germany

It’s Monday, but I got to talk to the creator and author behind the popular food blog The Wednesday Chef, Luisa Weiss, last week. She’s also the author of the best-selling memoir, My Berlin Kitchen which came out late last year, and as you may have guessed, she lives in Berlin.

My Berlin Kitchen

Continue reading

Are German Parents as Superior as French Parents?

The Wall Street Journal published another provocative piece on one certain “ethnic” parenting style superior than the American one. I put ethnic in quotes as I refer first to the Tiger parenting style written and described by Amy Chua early last year. Chua talked about the hardline, rather Spartan style which Chinese parents in particular use to raise their children in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She ceded that other ethnicities may adopt this same style, but in Chua’s essay for the Wall Street Journal, she uses the term Chinese mothers to describe the implementers of this take-no-prisoner approach.

Chua posits that the soft approach of Western parents is for wusses. But this month, Pamela Druckerman maintains in this Wall Street Journal excerpt from her book, “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” that French parents can also take a firm stance, and it’s the Americans who are getting run over by their kids.

Druckerman refers to a few anecdotes that seemed familiar to me. And as her comparisons continued between French and American parenting styles, some of the themes and observations were ones that I have made during my own recent repatriation from Germany to the US. Continue reading

Mark Twain in Berlin: Back a book!

Mark Twain traveled the world and wrote about it in several of his books. When I went to Hawaii, I learned that Twain had long ago beat me to it, back when the Hawaiian Islands were still better known as the Sandwich Islands. I also knew he had been to Europe and Germany, but I didn’t really know about his time in Berlin, along with his family.

Recently I wrote a review of a book about the Berlin Wall produced by Eva Schweitzer’s Berlinica publishing house. Now Dr. Schweitzer has announced a new book about an interesting but little known topic: Mark Twain in Berlin in the early 1890s. In an unusual twist for publishing, she is inviting potential readers to help fund the book, with an intended publication date of June 2012.

But first, let’s look at a bit of obscure history concerning America’s most famous humorist author. Continue reading

Some R&R for German Mothers

I have a confession. This might not come as a surprise to some of you, but it’s been tough being a mother to three children under the age of five. Especially in the last few months as my baby has become more sensitive to noise and light, and as I’ve had to try to maintain perfect nap conditions for him while containing two energetic preschoolers in our one-story house, I’ve felt more like the ringmaster of a three-ring circus. In other words, I have felt like a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Continue reading

Book Review: The Berlin Wall Today

The Berlin Wall Today: Remnants, Ruins, Remembrances
by Eva C. Schweitzer (photographer), Michael Cramer (foreword)
Publisher: Berlinica

Book cover

It’s amazing how quickly the massive, 100-mile-long Berlin Wall disappeared after it was first breached on the night of November 9, 1989. By the time of official German reunification in 1990, most of the Wall that had stood for 28 years had simply vanished! A little over two decades later, even less of the Wall remains. If you want to find its traces, you need a guide like The Berlin Wall Today.

But this book is much more than a mere guide for would-be Wall explorers. It is also a history book of the best kind: short and to the point. Through words and pictures it gives the reader a better understanding of the Wall – past, present and future. (The future includes plans to expand the marking of significant Wall landmarks.)

Michael Cramer’s introduction offers a good summary of the Berlin Wall’s past and the struggle to preserve even a few bits and pieces for future generations. Continue reading

German Authors in English

The Hangman's DaughterI’m normally not an avid reader of fiction. I generally prefer biographies and history, but every now and then I enjoy a good novel, especially mysteries and crime thrillers. Currently I’m part way through a novel that has been dubbed a “historical thriller.” The Hangman’s Daughter is a translation of Die Henkerstochter, a German novel written by Munich-born author Oliver Pötzsch. Three books in the Henkerstochter series are now available in German, but only the first one has been published in English, translated by Lee Chadeayne. It is a story of murder and witchcraft hysteria set in 17th century Bavaria.

Life in the small town of Schongau, even in the best of times, is rather unpleasant in 1659, about a decade after the Thirty Years’ War. But a series of murders of local orphans sets off a chain of events that makes life even grimmer for the townspeople of Schongau. People begin jumping to conclusions about a local midwife, and the town fathers’ sense of justice leaves a lot to be desired. Ironically, it is the town’s executioner (Henker), Jakob Kuisl, who leads the effort to actually solve the crimes and discover the truth. But the local leaders want him to use the usual method of torture to force a confession from the midwife, whom they now believe to be a witch. Continue reading

Expat Book Review: Expat Women

REVIEW: Expat Women: Confessions – 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions about Living Abroad by Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth

Book coverThe term “confessions” can be a little misleading here. These “confessions” from expatriate women are really (often desperate) questions from women living abroad and facing the many problems that anyone, male or female, living in a foreign place can encounter. The 274 pages of Expat Women: Confessions offer practical, reassuring answers to 50 pleas for help from women living the expat life in various places all around the globe. These are real questions from real women living the life of an expatriate.

Based on advice posted at the website and email responses to many women around the world, the book offers advice and encouragement for women dealing not only with the typical difficulties of culture shock, but also serious personal or family problems. Each of the two co-authors has many years of experience living and working abroad, and their advice reflects that.

The book’s basic, underlying message is “you are not alone.” The authors reassure expat women that they are not the only ones experiencing emotional turmoil and doubts. Never condescending, the authors offer solid, step-by-step suggestions for dealing with problems ranging from workplace difficulties to teens (or a spouse) who can’t seem to adjust to the expat life. But they also aren’t afraid to remind expat women that in the end they themselves are responsible for their own happiness. They remind us that sometimes we need to step back and gain some perspective on ourselves before we can solve certain expat and personal problems. Continue reading

You Haven’t Found a Job Yet? You Probably Aren’t Networking Enough

Last time I blogged it was about my job search in Germany. As I mentioned several times, I believe that speaking German is the biggest hurdle that one faces when looking for a job. The second hurdle is being at the right place at the right time. What do I mean by that? That you can’t expect to find a job simply through applying through or or company websites. By applying online, you are faced with the following problems:

  • Your experience does not fit the German Lebenslauf-style
  • You never worked in Germany so you do not have any Arbeitszeugnisse (reference letters from previous employers)
  • You are going up against hundreds of other candidates
  • 90%* of jobs are not posted online

Continue reading