Thursday, October 31, 2013

Real Expat Life: Things I will miss about Germany

So yesterday I covered things I WON'T miss about living in Germany. The irony? We discovered our German electric company charges us by what they "guess" we use each month, leading to a nasty surprise when we got the bill for a YEAR'S worth of actual electricity usage all at once, due in a few weeks. So I'll be adding "insane energy billing policies" as number 13 on yesterday's list and we'll be eating ramen this month...

Moral of the story, my dear fellow expats? Check your energy bills. If it looks weird or like it might be too much/not enough, then ASK. I have heard so many horror stories from others since this happened to us. Don't learn that lesson the hard way like we did! 

But since I strive to stay positive, today I want to talk about the stuff I WILL miss about Germany. Despite the things that make me want to rip my hair out, there is plenty I love about my adopted home. It was hard to limit myself to only 12 things!

1. The awesome people I've met
Self explanatory. Some of the friends I've made here have been the best friends I've ever had. It breaks my heart to know they won't be a train ride away anymore :(

2. The grocery stores!
I am so spoiled by the grocery stores. Cheap food, fancy food, all the amazing dairy products and artisan breads I can desire, not to mention all the tasty Italian treats from just across the border. Be still my heart!

3. The travel opportunities
Ah, the TRAVEL! Being so close to everything! $100 roundtrip to some gorgeous island? Why not? I will seriously miss this!

4. The beautiful scenery
Bavaria is breathtaking. I doubt I'll live in a place this beautiful for a long time.

Plus you get to meet all these cute cows!

5. How organized and clean everything is
I love how organized the Germans are. If things break, they fix it. If it needs to be done, they do it. Things run smoothly, people keep things clean, and it's just so refreshing.

6. The amazing deals on antiques you can find
I'm constantly amazed by the antiques bargains you can find here. When I ask why the prices are so low, the dealers usually say that younger people aren't interested in old things anymore. That makes me sad, but I'll appreciate what they cast aside in the meantime!

7.  The fests, markets, and all the other charming parts of German culture and tradition
Beer fests, Christmas markets, village parades, maypoles-Germans have some amazing cultural traditions that I have loved being a part of!

8. The cities
There's something about strolling through a medeival city center, gazing up at beautiful cathedrals, and checking out a Saturday vegetable market or enjoying a coffee at a cafe. I will SO miss this.

9. Speaking German
I worked so hard to learn German, and I'll be very sad when I don't have the opportunity to use it every day anymore. I'm really worried I'll forget it!

10. Grabbing a doner to go
Mmmmmmm doner. I wish you would come with me to America!

11. The history around every corner
As an aspiring historian, the amount of history in Europe available at your fingertips is incredible. From climbing on castles to browsing museums to finding hidden gems tucked away in the countryside, all the history makes my nerdy heart sing.

12. Feeling safe
I feel very safe in Bavaria. I don't worry about a lot of things I used to worry about in the States (like, giant bugs for instance!). It's nice to feel like you live in the German Mayberry sometimes.

So, what do you think? What's your favorite part of where you live?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Real Expat Life: Things I won't miss about Germany

When you move abroad you go through phases. First you're in wonder. Everything is different and new and exciting and an adventure! Then the frustration. It's different and it's hard and I JUST DON'T LIKE IT. Then, you come to terms with it, make the best of it, and then you're fully integrated and you've passed the culture shock test, right?

Har har! ;)

I'm of the opinion that no matter how long you live in a place, there will always be things that drive you crazy about it (this can also be said of "back home" too, lest you think I'm picking unfairly on good ole Deutschland). I also think that as an expat blogger, I should be honest about what life is really like-ups, downs, and in betweens. I love Germany, but sometimes it irks me. And that's ok!

 This past weekend I was feeling very frustrated with Germany...probably because it took 7 hours to finish 3 loads of laundry, i scrubbed 2 inch thick calcium deposits off the shower door, and finding that the store I needed to pop into was only open from 9-11:30 on Saturday (what?!). Thus, the list was inspired.

So, here goes. Things I WILL NOT miss about Germany!

1. The calcium buildup
Geez louise, this frickin' calcium in the water!! If we don't squeegee the shower doors right when we get out, you can forget it. The only thing that will make a dent in the calcium buildup is my landlord's potent homemade concoction that came with his warning-"Don't get it on clothes or skin! Makes holes!" Hmmm....

I mean, I grew up near the beach, so I know that tap water isn't always great, but geez. My poor hair, skin, and household appliances...

Dreaded condensation dryer...

2. The tiny washer and dryer that take 4 times longer to get the job done
When I first started doing laundry with Euro washers back in my student days, I thought, surely they can't all be like this. Then I lived in a WG in Berlin. Then in my own apartment in Bavaria. And yep, they're all like that.

Why does a machine need 2 hours to run a load on hot water?! How is that even remotely green? Don't even get me started on the dryer-it takes an additional 2 hours to get anything dry, and then I have to dump the water it collected in its fancy condensation system.

Sorry, but this is 2013. This 1800s style day long washing adventure is no bueno, yo. I JUST WANT CLEAN SOCKS.

3. The monthly recycling pick up
I like that Germans have such a great recycling system in place. I do not like bags of recyclables sitting in my kitchen or outside because you only pick them up once a month. Maybe twice a month? Work with me!

4. Complicated recycling in general
When I first started recycling in Germany, it was so confusing. And rest assured, your German neighbors will not hesitate to publicly humiliate give you a stern talking to if you get it wrong. That waxed paper feeling carton? PLASTIC. It has a tiny metal ring on it? DOES NOT BELONG IN THIS BIN.

It's stressful, y'all.

5. The Autobahn and its manic speed demon drivers
The Autobahn sounds cool. Drive as fast as you want! Yay! But then you drive on it and realize that the majority of the highways are only 2 lanes wide. Then you factor in that long haul trucks stay in the right lane going around 70k while speed demons in Porsches are blazing past in the left lane going 300k. Then poor you, in your mid range car trying to go 120k and you try to pass a truck? Prepare yourself for the rudest, most aggressive drivers ever to tailgate, flash their lights and bully you til you get out of the way. It stresses me out.

I mean, why wouldn't you make the Autobahns 3 lanes? This seems like simple logic. Or better yet, German speed demons, learn some patience! And switching lanes? Prepare to have a heart attack as some dude is inches from sideswiping your front bumper as he gets in your lane. SPACE. IT'S A THING. End rant.

6. Germans' assumptions about Americans
Germans are very well versed on the world and its goings-on. But it always annoys me when I meet someone and they want to launch into bashing Americans. Look, I know America has its problems, but newsflash: Just because you watch American TV shows and read the newspaper doesn't mean you're an expert on my country. America is huge. It's diverse. We've got conservative regions, liberal regions, and everything in between. Languages, cultures, traditions-there is no one size fits all. So please spare me your insight when you've never even been to my country and I'm quite possibly the first American you've ever met in real life. Get to know me before you start making assumptions.

This also goes for comments like, "Oh you're American? But you're smart/cultured/speak other languages/not obese." Rude, guys. (And yes, I've had all those comments made to me)

7. The random opening hours
I get it, it's a different culture. But I will never understand how it makes sense business wise to be open ONLY from 9:30 to 11 on Saturday. How are you making money?

8. The lack of good Mexican food
This isn't your fault really, cause you're super far away from Mexico. But please stop putting Turkish food in a burrito and calling it Mexican. It's not and it just disappoints me.

Tasty, but not Mexican.

9. Awful German radio
A German friend of mine was very upset when I told him this and insisted it's just because I live in Bavaria. Be that as it may, I've driven all over Germany and have been disappointed by the radio. Partly because Germany has apparently made it a national mission to support obscure one hit wonders and keep royalties flowing to them and also I guess Germans just have a thing for techno beats and cheesy lyrics awkwardly constructed in English. Who knows.

But y'all, I heard Old MacDonald Had a Farm being played on the radio one day as part of a normal lineup. Like...what?! NO.

10. Roads that are not big enough for two cars
This might be a Bavarian problem. Look, I know we're in the country, but why do you build tiny, winding roads that only fit one car. I noticed you added little tiles on the sides so I don't have to drive in the dirt when I pass another car. Nice idea, but that could've been avoided if you'd just built it for 2 cars to begin with...

11. The staring.
Germans stare. It's not weird to them. If you return their stare they keep on staring. It's odd and gives me the creeps.

12. Lack of screens
The weather is great, the sun is out, the house is stuffy-open the windows! Oh wait, now I have to spend all day killing the wasps and flies that came in too. Screens! They're a great invention!

So that's my list. But because I don't want to dwell on the negative and because there are plenty of things I LOVE about Germany, that list will be up tomorrow! Hooray!

So how about you? Anything you love/hate about your new home? Anything on here you agree with? Let me know! :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Sweet Potato Soup and Soda Bread

This weekend Fionn and I had a date night at this awesome little French restaurant in a nearby town. Fionn ordered the special-a sweet potato soup, and it was so good I was determined to recreate it.

And it was so dang easy I had to share. Next week I'll make a Tasty Tuesday that doesn't involve an orange vegetable ;)

Adapted from
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 half of an onion, diced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ginger
3 1/2 cups chicken stock (I prefer to do half chicken and half veg stock, but this is up to you)

In a large stockpot, saute the diced onion in olive oil until softened. Add the ginger and cumin and stir until fragrant, around 1 minute.

Add carrots, sweet potato, and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

Remove from heat, and using an immersion blender, puree to desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Soda Bread
Adapted from here

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups fat-free buttermilk or 1 1/2 cups skim milk, with
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar, added

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C

Combine dry ingredients. Add buttermilk, stir to combine.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead quickly into a ball. Place dough ball onto a greased cookie sheet and cut an x into the top.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Yum :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter, and a street party led by a giant bird on stilts!

I love the Latin Quarter. As a teenager, I spent my summers there, taking classes at the Alliance Francaise and trying to look cool alongside the trendy students milling about from the Sorbonne.

Making the most of our weather, we walked along the Seine and stopped to look at the Notre Dame.

We walked up in time to see a huge street festival going and some kind of procession taking place outside Notre Dame. It seemed like they were raising money and awareness for handicapped people, and were putting on a special mass for them. There was a band, dancers, bleachers for the huge crowd, and even a hype man.

aaaaaaaaaaand then they brought out a guy on stilts dressed like a giant bird, who delivered a magic letter. It was one of those moments where as a translator, you're pretty sure you're not hearing things right...except you are.

Then, confetti canons! Dancing! Music! 


Yep, a collection of priests led the way into Notre Dame for the special mass, followed by an enormous crush of people streaming after them. It was a wonder they all fit!

Our magic bird friend stayed outside though.

From there we walked along the Seine, visited everyone's favorite (and crazy claustrophobic) English bookstore, Shakespeare and Co, and stopped for another expensive coffee.

Of course, what's a stroll along the Seine without looking at the books and print sellers? I love their funny 1800s prints, especially from the Napoleonic era (my favorite time period!).

Then it was time to come home to a sweet treat. Mmmm...eclairs, religieuse, and millefeuille. Begin sugar coma. ;)

I love Paris.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Arc de Triomphe and strolling les Champs Elysees

Can you believe world traveling Fionn had never seen the Arc de Triomphe? I know, me neither. Obviously we had to remedy this!

The Arc de Triomphe was built by Napoleon as a monument to his victories. You can go up to the top (via lots of stairs) but we decided to skip the line and just admire it from the ground (bonus: it's free!)

The tomb of the unknown soldier is also located here. Once we got to spend Bastille Day in Paris and saw the whole ceremony they do to honor them. It was very moving.

I love the details on the arch. Every time I visit I find something new. We noticed some German towns near us were listed among his conquests!

just adding to Fionn's Mr. Cool photo collection

Vive la France!

Since it was Sunday, we took a stroll down the Champs Elysees and checked out some of the open stores. It was really a perfect fall day, we couldn't ask for better weather.

Je m'baladais sur l'avenue
Le coeur ouvert à l'inconnu
J'avais envie de dire bonjour
À n'importe qui
N'importe qui ce fut toi
Je t'ai dit n'importe quoi
Il suffisait de te parler
Pour t'apprivoiser

Aux Champs-Élysées
Aux Champs-Élysées
Au soleil, sous la pluie
À midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez
Aux Champs-Élysées

I went for a walk on the avenue
my heart open to the unknown
I felt like greeting whoever
Whoever, was you,
I said anything to you
It was enough to speak to you,
to get to know you.

On Champs-Elysées,
On Champs-Elysées
In the sun, in the rain,
at midday or at midnight
There is all that you want
On Champs-Elysées.

Is the song stuck in your head now? :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Eiffel Tower from Trocadero

I have climbed the Eiffel Tower at least 10 times, maybe more.

My brother is to blame for this, since when we would spend summers in Paris with our grandma, he was always eager to try to climb it as many times he could. We'd usually get sick of it after 3 times, but during subsequent trips with friends they always wanted to climb it. So up we went!

I was so glad Fionn had already climbed it, but I figured we should still see it at least once. So I suggested my favorite viewing point, the Trocadero. 

Trocadero is a large pavillion flanked by museums on each side. The Museum of Man and the Naval Museum are definitely worth a visit if you have time. If not, just get a super sweet photo of everyone's favorite Parisian landmark.

Another thing off my 25 by 25 list! Picture together in front of the Eiffel Tower :)

We happened to be there just as a half marathon was finishing up, and shortly before a bomb threat closed the Eiffel Tower for the day. Good thing we didn't want to climb it that day!

Beautiful :)

Do you have any favorite Parisian places?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Weekend in Paris: Shopping in Le Marais

Last weekend, Fionn and I headed to Paris. My grandmother has lived there my entire life, so I've been to the City of Lights more time than I can count. That being said, Paris has had a huge influence on my life. Though I've been visiting there since I was a baby, it wasn't until I was a teenager that I started spending whole summers there. I was enchanted with Paris-its sophistication, its history, its culture, its je ne sais quoi. It was always the first stop before my studies abroad, a familiar "home" to return to during my times abroad, and the place of a thousand memories. Even though Fionn had been before, I was eager to show him "my" Paris.

We only had 2 full days in Paris, but since we'd already seen the highlights we focused on spending time with Oma, shopping (no offense Germans, but your fashion is atrocious), and gorging ourselves on delicious pastries. It was a really laid back weekend, which suited both of us just fine :)

Saturday, Oma treated us to a awesome breakfast with lots of tasty pastries. Fionn explored the traditional Saturday market around the corner from her apartment and I got a haircut (finally!). 

After lunch we decided to focus on shopping, we spent most of Saturday in la Marais, a neighborhood in the 3rd arrondissement where you can find boutiques, second hand stores, and charming streets. We found some fantastic deals in the many thrift stores around there. 

Of course, we had to stop for macarons!

The rest of the afternoon was spent strolling through beautiful Parisian streets, stopping in cafes for overpriced coffee, and dreaming of Parisian expat life...

ah, la vie Parisienne!

Ready for more French updates? They're comin'!