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Expat in Germany: July 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Life in Germany - Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping has been one of the more challenging aspects of life in Germany.  At first, I would make a list and hope for the best, but learned quickly this wasn't the best strategy after mistakenly buying tomato paste instead of tomato sauce for chili - yuck!  Even something as seemly simple as buying cheddar cheese went wrong since the name for "cheddar" in German is "Gouda".  So now, I make a list, look up all the words in a dictionary and then go grocery shopping.  This strategy works better but is time consuming.

Complicating matters is that I have a gluten allergy so I have to read all the labels (in German) on the lookout for gluten (in German of course).  It's a good thing I have a month before German school starts since my new life in Germany entails an average of an hour a day grocery shopping - everyday since our fridge is tiny (think small bar fridge).  Now I'm off to study German food vocabulary to make life in Germany easier. 

Life in Germany -Grocery shopping  photo courtesy of:

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sundays in Germany

After an 18 hour flight from Palau where we had a fantastic diving holiday, we arrived at Frankfurt International Airport on early Sunday morning.  There was nothing unusual about this, until J.P. said we had to eat at the airport.  I was tired and eager to get home, not wanting to spend anymore time in yet another airport.  So why was this necessary?  Because on Sundays in Germany, everything is closed.   Well that's not entirely true, bakeries are open until noon so that Germans can get their fresh morning bread and coffee shops and restaurants are also open, but everything else is closed on Sundays in Germany - including grocery stores and shopping malls.  And of course we had no groceries at home since we were gone for 2 weeks.    Fortunately some German friends were kind enough to appreciate our dilemma and offered up some cheese and fruit which we snacked on through the day and then despite longing for a home cooked meal, we went out for dinner again.  Monday morning I was at the grocery store bright and early.  Yes, sometimes living as an expat makes you appreciate your own country.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer in Germany & the German Attitude Towards Fans

As I've already discovered summer in Germany is hot! It was still over 30C at 9:00 pm on my first night in Germany. Coming from Calgary, Canada where we had a late start to summer this is indeed a warm welcome (pun intended).

What was not a warm welcome though was the German attitude towards fans. While eating our potato soup at my fiancé's mothers house, we all had beads of sweat rolling down our forehead but no fan in sight. Several hours later we arrived in Stuttgart where I saw our new apartment for the first time and was welcomed by a heat wave.  Summer in Germany is hot!  I told my fiancé that we immediately need to buy a fan. He wasn't convinced as he proceeded to tell me that fans cause colds and that we shouldn't get one or I would get sick.  I had never heard this before and was willing to take my chances since summer in Germany can last well into the fall. It turns out that the German attitude towards fans is to avoid them.  According to "Germans know instinctively that drafts cause colds and therefore drafts are bad." Who knew? However while I am happy to be living as an expat, I am even happier to spend my summer in Germany with the fan blowing at full speed - no cold in sight.

For more on German Attitudes see German Attitude to Window Screens

Summer in Germany photo of me in Stuttgart.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Romance in Germany

While Germans may not be known for their romantic ways as the French are, I have found that romance in Germany exists, it's just a bit more subtle.  Such was the case on my second day in Germany, when J.P. (my German fiancé) came home for lunch for the first time in twelve years because he missed me - ahhh, how sweet.  Who said romance in Germany didn't exist?

The sweetness was soon accompanied by more typical German behaviour though when I asked him how his tuna sandwich was.  He tried to respond in a polite Canadian way for my benefit, but it became apparent that a sandwich without cheese and fish from a can is not a suitable lunch and clearly German sandwiches with their fresh bread, cheese and stacked deli meat are superior to American (as he calls them) sandwiches.  Hmmm....he might have a point there.  At any point, I'm sure that by living as an expat in Germany I will learn more about the virtues of German vs. American food in the months to come. 

Photo for Romance in Germany courtesy of:

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Monday, July 12, 2010

First Social Faux Pas

It was going to happen sooner or later - I was just hoping for later, not my second day in Germany. It happened with my landlord who I had met briefly the previous day. He came to fix the lock and automatically I said "Hello, how are you?". This may seem innocent enough but the strange expression he gave me indicated that I had clearly messed up as he said "Fine. Hello Miss Rxxxx. What terrible social faux pas had I committed? First, I should have included his last name, "Hello Mr. Wxxx". Second, I should not have asked him how he was as Germans consider this insincere unless you really mean it in which case they will REALLY tell you are. I recognized my social faux pas right away having been to Germany before and previously discussing this with J.P. but what could I do. Oh well, I could only hope that this will be the biggest social faux pas this expat in Germany will make, but somehow I don't think I'll get so lucky.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Warm Welcome to Germany

I received a warm welcome to Germany at the Frankfurt airport where I was met by my fiancé J.P. and surprisingly his mom, who lives an hour away but insisted that she too wanted to greet me.   The warm welcome to Germany didn't stop there.  We drove back to her house where some good homemade potato soup was waiting for us.

My cats were supposed to accompany on my journey but due to an error by my vet back in Canada they were unable to, although they will hopefully join me in a few weeks.  J.P.'s mom knew I was upset about this so bought me a cat ornament as a "substitute" until my cats arrived - how thoughtful!   She also wrote a card in German that was incredibly sweet welcoming me to the family and saying that I was now part of her family too and how happy she was that I was finally here and welcome to Germany.  Fortunately J.P. was able to translate since my German is  very elementary. 

So much for German's reputation of being stoic and unfeeling, I couldn't have asked for a warmer welcome to Germany.  I have a feeling that this is only the first of many cultural misconceptions that I will discover living as an expat in Germany.

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