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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Gun Laws in Germany

I’ve shed a tear nearly every morning since the massacre took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on the 14th of December. Any time I look at a newspaper or scroll through my Facebook feed or hear a clip on German or English language radio, there has been some mention of the incident. It’s the tributes to the victims that really start the waterworks – lively, shining smiling photos of young school children reminding me of my own six-year old and the unimaginable pain their deaths have brought their families.

There are other reasons why this particular shooting seems to have struck a nerve. Continue reading

Expatriates and the cost of living in A, D, CH

Expatriates don’t always have a choice of where they’re assigned to work, but they definitely need to know the cost of living in their assignment location. If your salary is paid by a US company, for example, that salary might put you at a huge disadvantage if you are working and living in Tokyo, Japan, which happens to be the most expensive city in the world for expats. (The news for Germany is much better.)

Companies with employees assigned to overseas locations usually offer some sort of cost-of-living allowance to supplement the increased costs. So even if you are going to an overseas location by your own choice, without company support, you need to know how the cost of living there compares to your current or home location. But how do you get that information? One excellent source is the website, from which we derived the rankings discussed here.

It may surprise you to learn that, except for New York City, Honolulu, Anchorage, San Jose and San Francisco, most cities in the United States of America have a far lower cost of living than places in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America – and even Canada! My own hometown of Reno, Nevada ranks 455th out of 780. Most places in the southern states of the US rank much lower than that. Continue reading


We’ve returned to the Fatherland after the grueling process of packing up and moving a household of a family of five. We drove six hours from San Diego to Las Vegas listening to Die Zaueberfloete non-stop. We saturated in ueber-Americana for three days on The Strip. We flew eleven hours from Vegas to Frankfurt. We we drove three hours from Frankfurt to the tiny dwelling called Haeusles outside of Mitwitz which is nestled in Frankenwald (the Forest of Franconia) for a few weeks of decompression. Continue reading

Germans: We don’t need no stinkin’ apartment numbers

It never really dawned on me that the Germans don’t use apartment numbers – until I lived in a German apartment house. The only way the postal carrier (Postbote/Postbotin) can deliver mail to the correct apartment in even a large apartment complex is by the surname on the mailbox. In my case, not even my own last name, but that of the people I was subletting the apartment from. And my apartment complex in Berlin even had a Hinterhaus, another building facing a courtyard behind the front building, and all of them were five stories high. Yet the only numbers in sight were for the floors.

My first reaction to the lack of apartment numbers (Wohnungsnummern) was, “How ridiculous is that?” But then I remembered that the Japanese don’t even have street names in most of their cities (except in Kyoto and Sapporo). They use block section numbers in a confusing (to us Occidentals) address system that makes the Germans look like the height of logic and reason. The Japanese also write a postal address in the reverse order of most of the world: starting with the geographic location and ending with the name of the recipient. Continue reading

How many Germans are international travelers?

Germans have a reputation as travelers. They even claim to be the Reiseweltmeister (world champions of travel). Indeed, many citizens of Germany do travel abroad and in Germany. If you visit US national parks, as I did this month, you could get the impression that Germany is almost empty, and that most of the country’s population is in the US this summer. You will often overhear German, French and other languages as you hike the trails of Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon.

But in 2009 (the latest year for which statistics are available), Germans represented just 5.8 percent of all foreign visitors to the United States, totaling 1,881,944, a bit fewer than in 2008. That means that in 2009, barely two percent of all 82 million Germans crossed the Atlantic to tour the USA. Not only that, Continue reading

Enjoy the Silence

It used to annoy me that I couldn’t do any shopping on Sundays and that our Saturdays were so hectic racing from one shop to the next when I first moved to Germany. Like anything in life, I got used to it. In fact, I started to like the fact that there was some time without the claws of commercialism, although that was never a major concern in southwest rural Germany.

The same goes for Hausordnung (house rules). Coming from the land of the free, it takes Americans some getting used to not only be able to run out to the grocery store or Walmart at 2 a.m. but also that running a load of laundry at a similarly unconventional hour in your apartment building is forbidden. After five years, I found that my mind and soul got used to having silence midday and roughly between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

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Cultural Differences, re: Japan

I’ve been majorly annoyed lately. Mostly because of Facebook, which is my ‘keeping in touch with contacts in the US’ weapon of choice. Maybe it’s because I’ve got friends and family in Japan, maybe it’s because I read the news too much, I don’t know. But it’s been killing me the past few weeks, reading the banal and often unnecessary status updates about the bowel movements of my ‘friends’’ kids, or their upcoming concerts, or what they’re listening to. I actually quit Twitter because of this, even though that was a long time coming. I simply can’t believe that so many people have moved on so quickly after the Japan happenings. Continue reading