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

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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Things You Won’t Find in Germany


Things We Miss (or Not) in Germany

There are many things that expats miss when they leave Germany. I wrote about that in 10 Things Expats Miss After They Leave Germany. But today we want to focus on the reverse: things you won’t find, or rarely find in Germany.

Americans, Canadians, and other English-speaking expats living in Germany (and Austria, Switzerland) suddenly discover one fine day that something they take for granted in their homeland is not found in Germany at all. Or it may be almost impossible to find. As the German saying goes: “Other lands, other customs.” (Andere Länder, andere Sitten.)

No added sales tax (VAT). It’s included. The price you see is the price you pay.
PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Sometimes it may be a favorite food item (Cheerios, real salsa). Other times it may be a service (toll-free calls, Uber) or a medication (cough syrup). One day it dawns on you: I’ve never seen an in-sink garbage disposal in Germany! (Against the law or discouraged in most of Germany.) Or comes the day when you realize something you use all the time costs more in Germany than back home: contact lens fluid (only available from the Optiker, for a pretty price). Below are some examples of common things NOT found in Germany, divided into three categories: 1. Never or Almost Never; 2. Rarely, Once in a Blue Moon; and 3. Sometimes, Depending on Your Location. Okay, here we go, starting with things you’ll never or almost never find in Germany. Continue reading

An Expat Thanksgiving in Germany


It’s that time of year again. If you were in the United States right now, you wouldn’t miss a beat in knowing what I was talking about. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Although this great American tradition is not celebrated in Germany, expats and their friends gather and have learned how to search and seek in order to create feasts in the new Heimat just like they would have back home. If you’ve joined an expat group or community of some sort, there’s usually an organized potluck. Since I’ve been in Germany, there have been years when I’ve celebrated multiple times (up to three) in a year to none at all. In addition to participating in the potlucks, I’ve hosted and invited others including all of my husband’s department colleagues one year and my German in-laws another.

In an effort to replicate the family feast, questions arise as to “where can you get … in Germany”?  Access to ingredients have changed over the last decade and availability of certain foods also depend on regions, but with some planning you shouldn’t have any problem checking off everything on your Thanksgiving shopping list in Germany these days. Otherwise, it might be time to improvise and introduce a new tradition in your new home.

Expat Thanksgiving

With some planning, a traditional US Thanksgiving can be replicated in Germany. Photo: Jane Park

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Schäl Sick: Life on the Wrong Side of the Rhine

kalk postHere in Cologne, people tend to scrunch up their faces a bit when I tell them I live on the “other” side of the Rhine. And not in Deutz, close to the river and the city, but Kalk, deep into the hinterlands of the Falsche Seite. Kalk is a neighborhood with a reputation for criminality and limited opportunities, some of which is deserved. But when you look deeper, it’s not hard to see why more and more people are abandoning the Old City, Belgian Quarter, and Ehrenfeld for the bright shores of the right bank.

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It’s not quite cheese, it’s not quite yoghurt

Quark 2I first heard of quark (such a wonderfully German name) 7 years ago in the “exotic” dairy section of a high-end UK supermarket in London. I was with my German husband. “Oooh” he exclaimed, with tangible excitement, “Look, quark – shall we get some?” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and when I asked what quark was he couldn’t really tell me. “It’s a bit like yoghurt,” he said, “Only thicker, more like cream cheese.” Nevertheless, we took home this mysterious dairy hybrid and I was an immediate convert. So what’s the excitement all about?

If you’re new to living in a German-speaking country, the chances are you’ll have noticed quark. A staple of German cuisine, it features prominently in supermarket fridges, bakery counters, cafe menus and Kindergarten meal plans alike. But to call it a cross between cheese and yoghurt is to do it a disservice. Quark is unique. True, technically-speaking it is somewhere between the two. Like yoghurt, it’s made from soured milk, but the starter culture used for quark is different and provides a significantly less sour taste. Like cream or cottage cheese, it’s mild and creamy, but it is without salt. Being salt-free is only the beginning of its nutritional qualities; it’s higher in protein than yoghurt and, in its full-fat form, is a great source of vitamin K2, which helps keep calcium in your bones. Amazing!  Continue reading

Foods that are hard to find in Germany, part 2

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. Continue reading

Culture shocks go both ways

As I write this, I am two weeks into a holiday with the children in my hometown of Hull, in Yorkshire, North England. Beyond it being wonderful to catch up with family and old friends, it has provided interesting opportunity to reflect on a few cultural and social differences between here and Berlin. Now we all know generalisations are just that – so excuse me a few now…

These northern English cities are renowned for their friendliness. Berlin is not. But with time, I have come to realise that Berliners (or to speak more broadly – Germans) are not unfriendly – (in most cases far from it) – rather that they lack the ability of making easy small talk.  Continue reading