Not Käsespätzle again please …

The night we moved to Berlin we drove around in a snowstorm desperately trying to find a restaurant with a kitchen still open at 10pm on a Tuesday evening. Not knowing the neighbourhood, we dashed into the first warmly lit place we saw, hoping not to slip on the thick crusts of ice covering the pavement. What luck – it was a vegetarian restaurant, and they were still serving! My memory may be skewed by the simple relief of satiating my hunger on that bleak night, but the meal has stayed with me as some of the most delicious I have ever eaten. With both of us vegetarian, that the whole menu was meatless certainly helped. In due course, it became our favourite local restaurant; the surefire go to place when we had friends to stay. Such was the quality of the food and the subtlety of the flavours that we knew even the most committed meat-eaters would enjoy it. Continue reading

Incorporating a New Worldview, Into Your Old Life

It’s fairly common to feel like an alien at times, while living in a foreign country. But now, when I come home to Canada for my regular summer visits, I often feel like a bit of an alien here too. In recent conversations with family and friends at home, I am finding that my opinions and perspectives about both everyday and fundamental issues are differing from theirs, sometimes to the extreme. This has made me stop to consider how my expat life has changed my views on certain issues, and how it may be affecting my various relationships. Being “worldly” and “cultured” are often touted as beneficial, but how does one learn to incorporate such qualities into relationships with those who have lived their entire lives in the land you left?

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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

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German Grocery Stores Are No Visual Feast

One aspect that I have always loved about living in Europe compared to the US is the overall higher quality of food. Tomatoes taste like sweet sunshine and smaller Old World apples are crispier and sweeter than their mammoth American cousins. Then there are those products that are special to Germany such as the bread and sausages which we expats or former expats have written or talked about ad nauseum. That’s why I was surprised to once hear that Germans, compared to their EU neighbors, spend amongst the least amount of money on food per capita. Continue reading

Dealing with the Germans

This topic has the potential to be divisive and insulting. I will tread lightly. A year ago, a friend of mine celebrated her last few days of singledom with a bachelorette party in France. Unable to attend, I sent along an “Instruction Guide to a German Husband”, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek list of Do’s and Don’ts for foreign wives of German husbands.

And sitting down to write about how to deal with Germans, I find myself thinking: 11 years of marriage to a German, countless hours and festivities with German in-laws, 11 years of living in the country and speaking the language… do I really know how to deal with Germans? Only sometimes. I think I’ve got things figured out and then some Amt throws a spanner in the works, or I attend a party where I’m the only foreigner and come away feeling fresh off the boat, a complete outsider. Continue reading

Winning the Recycling Game

You’ll have to accept my apology for the delay in this post, but I have been busy sorting my rubbish. As those of you know, thanks to previous posts by Hyde and Ruth, this is serious business here in Germany.  I am reacquainting myself with what goes in the Gelber Sack (yellow bag), Biomuell (not to be confused with Compost), and Restmuell (anything else).

You can purchase and sort with strategy in order to reduce your consumption, eliminate some of your clutter and save some money. First off, I would recommend to any Americans preparing to move to Germany to take the time to sort through your things there. Take advantage of the convenience of your rubbish being collected frequently and of the tax benefit for donating things. You will avoid the cost and hassle of having to do so in Germany. It is likely that you will be moving into a smaller place anyway so downsizing your things will pay off in the end. The hassle in waiting for the next paper pick up, now that your container is bulging with all of your back issues of untouched In Style magazines will be eliminated. And don’t forget the tax advantage of getting a receipt for your donation to your local American library, where you could have unloaded those back issues.  Continue reading

Something from home

“Can we bring you anything that you can’t get there?” is a common question our visitors from the UK ask. We usually spend a good ten minutes, both of us running through supermarket shelves in our minds’ eye, but almost always to no avail. Aside from the odd big pack of Yorkshire Tea bags, it would seem we want for nothing.

Does this mean we have become so acclimatised that we no longer dream about products from home? It is true that our habits have altered somewhat over the three years of living here, adapting to local trends and tastes: Nivea creams and cleansers fill our bathroom shelves; quark has become a family staple and these days a potato salad just isn’t quite right without a good share of gherkins. But I’m not sure that is really it: rather, being able to reel off such a short list of these examples seems to me testament to the fact that the vast majority of our consumption – edible and beyond – has remained pretty much the same. Our limited demands have less to do with acclimatisation and far more with globalisation and the ubiquity of internet shopping.  Continue reading

These are a few of my favorite things . . .

I have been back in Canada for a few months now, for the usual hockey off-season, and I can’t help but continually make comparisons between my two homes. When nearing the end of the season in Europe, I start fantasizing about things at home in Canada: all the foods I’m going to eat, activities I’m going to do, people I am going to see.

Once here however, and all the Canadian foods have been devoured, summer festivals have been attended, and family have been visited, I start doing the same romanticizing about all the things I miss overseas.  Read on to see what it is I adore and miss about Germany and Switzerland when home in North America, and those things I long for in Canada, when I am living the expat life in Europe. How many of the same would you include on your own list? Continue reading