A Nine-To-Fiver in Germany – What’s in the Bag?

What’s it like to be a nine-to-fiver in Germany? A very hard question to answer since everyone has had their very own experiences, but after a while in Germany, and more than one job in this land behind me, I feel like it could be safe to make some general comments about it. But don’t be negatively surprised if your experience is different from mine; leave a comment with your stories instead!

I will start by rejoicing over the fact I have learned tons working here because the German work dynamics and style are something very different from what I had known in the past. Also important to say is that if the nice experiences have taught me a good deal of stuff, the bad ones have been even better teachers for the kind of things you don’t get to learn in school. So far, Germany has allowed me to work part-time, freelance and full-time (not all at the same time!) and these observations are the common ground I find between my experiences so far: Continue reading

Reasons to love Germany in spring

Der Frühlingsanfang (beginning of spring) holds lots of special memories for me. My first time in Germany was in the spring of 2016. There was a lot riding on this visit. It wasn’t just any long weekend away in Europe but a chance for me to check out Bremen before deciding to move here with my partner. The city had to sell itself to me, and much to my partners relief it did. How can you resist living in a city with picturesque windmill, a Bürgerpark to explore and the Weser River to stroll along?

This is my third year of experiencing spring time here. Before I go on, I should congratulate us all for surviving the winters months. Other Germany cities may differ, but here in Bremen it’s been a pretty grey, cold and miserable few months. Everyone hibernates. There’s not much to do other than console yourself with Kaffee und Kuchen and numerous box sets. In my opinion, Bremen is definitely best enjoyed when you can take part in outdoor activities without losing feeling in your fingers and toes. Time has moved very quickly since Christmas, I’m very glad for us to be three months in to the year and seeing the temperatures start to rise, for the evenings to become lighter and for the blue skies and flourishing Blumen to bring colour and life back in to our surroundings.

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Christmas Means Cookies

For almost a month already, we have been floating in the yearly jolly atmosphere that smells like cinnamon, shines with the twinkle lights and tempts us with delicious food.

Germany is famous for its wonderful bread and it’s a very well-deserved reputation, however, there’s a lot that can be said about German pastries, cakes and cookies. Normally, people’s thoughts fly all the way to France and its delicate macaroons or éclairs as the must-try when looking for something sweet in Europe they can later talk about. I find myself much more inclined for the astounding variety of Christmas cookies that Germany has to offer, hence, here a list of my favorite ones among the sorts I have  tried so far just in time for you to judge if I have walked the wrong path, chip in with a recommendation or bolt out in search of some newly discovered variety to munch on while waiting for the holy and silent night. If you are left feeling hungry for more cookie tales, check out Alie’s earlier A Small Festive Treat blog post. Continue reading

The Great German Bake Off

Before coming to Germany I thought I was a fairly good at baking. Lemon drizzle cake, raspberry muffins, carrot cake, treacle tart, no problem. I’m not claiming to be Mary Berry (British baking legend), but I could confidently walk in to the office knowing my baked goods would go down a treat. However, that confidence was soon rocked on my first attempt at baking in Germany.

Success! The sticky toffee cake as mentioned PHOTO: Sarah E

I find baking quite therapeutic so setting out to make some cupcakes for my partners colleagues was going to be the perfect activity to remedy the stress of moving countries. But I soon learnt that it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I thought. The first hurdle is to tackle the baking aisle at the supermarket and the hundred and one flours available. The choice is great but when you just want a self-raising flour, think again. After much internet searching I discovered self-raising flour doesn’t exist here, so it’s a case of getting plain flour and adding baking powder. I find that Type 405 flour is the best option then add the required amount of Backpulver, usually zwei Teelöffel (teaspoon) per 150g of flour. As baking is all about the chemistry, it’s better to get this as exact as possible otherwise your sponge will sink or taste like iron. Continue reading

Harvesting Germany’s Wild Garlic

Germans and their food obsessions. We are getting deep into Spargel season, but I am still stuck on the last seasonal mania, Bärlauch. Alternatively known as Allium ursinum, ramsons, bear leek, or wild garlic – all of these names meant nothing to me before coming to Germany.

Wild Bärlauch Photo: Ian Porter

The fixation with Bärlauch isn’t quite as strong as the all-encompassing Spargelzeit, but it still sneaks its way onto every menu and farmer’s market. In the last few years, I’ve been treated to Bärlauch the traditional German way, harvested straight from the forest. I’ve never felt more German.
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Why don’t Germans Refrigerate their Eggs?

After writing about German tea in my last post, my mind has been on food in Germany and how different it can be than food in the USA. Like the eggs I have stored in my pantry. That’s right, my unrefrigerated pantry.

Behold! German eggs Photo: Erin Porter

I’ve talked about grocery shopping in Germany and how it can be a harrowing experience. It almost sent me packing my first few months in Berlin. Customer service is non-existent, check-out is an athletic event and goods are displayed in the least attractive manner. On my first grocery trip, I must have spent 30 minutes scouring the store looking for eggs before finding cartons piled high in a nondescript cardboard box on the floor. Milk was in boxes – also unrefrigerated – nearby (I’ll have to get into that another time). I was flummoxed. What was going on?!

Let me tell you all about the eggs in Germany my friends, and why they are aren’t refrigerated.

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5 Things I Can Do with a Kid in Germany that I Can’t in the USA

5 Things I Can Do with a Kid in Germany that I Can't in the USA

Baby in a Bar Photo: Erin Porter

I get asked about my experience having a kid and raising her in Germany a lot by my American family and friends. But the truth is, I have nothing to compare it to. Unlike fellow GW contributor Jane, I never had a child in the USA.

However – as an American – I can theorize about some of the differences. The little things that catch me up as a parent, as well as the big things that show how far apart the parenting cultures are. I know that there are at least five things I can do in Germany with a kid that I couldn’t do in the USA.

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Picking the Right Äpfel

FoodApples are one of those marvellous foods which fulfil all requirements – at once delicious, nutritious, versatile, and practical in form. Boiled eggs, though slightly more fragile, are similar. It is unsurprising then that apples form and have formed a staple part of my diet since before I can remember. The lunchbox from my school days almost always included at least one apple, at university apples were one of the foods I would buy in bulk and still get through, at work an apple is my afternoon pick-me-up, and my children can be near certain that they’ll find an apple in their lunch box too.

But, for all this good will, the transition between apple eating in England and apple eating in Germany has not been a smooth one. Indeed, over six years ago, in the first months after our move to Berlin, during the peak of apple season, my relationship with apples floundered. The range in the standard supermarkets was very limited. I couldn’t find the sorts I liked from the UK. The apples I could find always disappointed – they didn’t taste good or they lacked an essential crispness. Not content simply to move onto another fruit, I sought expert advice. Continue reading