Apr 17, 2014

Pros & Cons of Living in Germany: Part Neun

PRO: Maultaschen
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A friend of mine helped me to discover these little pockets of deliciousness about a year ago, and ever since that divine day, I stop at Aldi at least once a month to grab a pack or two for dinner. Maultaschen is basically the German version of ravioli--only much larger. Created in the Swabian region of Germany, maultaschen consists of an outer layer of pasta dough enclosing a filling of minced meat, spinach, breadcrumbs, and onions flavored with various spices and herbs like parsley and nutmeg (although other fillings can be found as well). You can simmer them in broth and serve them like a soup…you can boil them like regular ravioli and cover them with butter & onions (as pictured above) or a tomato sauce…or you can cut them into slices and fry them in a pan with onions (my personal favorite way to eat them). I recently discovered a maultaschen filled with cheese and bacon…basically the best discovery in the world, as you can imagine. It's interesting, though…I've never been able to find these little dough pockets in any restaurant I've eaten at in Germany. Tell me they don't only exist in home kitchens and prepackaged at grocery stores?!? I'm hoping to take a maultaschen recipe home to the states with us and try my hand at making them from scratch someday. If you've got a stellar recipe, send it my way!

CON: Queuing Confused
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Germans, you guys are sweet. You're fun to talk to, you have beautiful gardens, and delicious beer…but you don't know how to form a line worth a darn. For a country that loves structure and efficiency so much, it boggles my mind that many Germans don't grasp the concept of queuing. Or maybe they do and they just don't care to form lines? Whoever's faster and pushier wins? Who knows. Either way, I hate having to stand in line for something in Germany where there are no "official" designated lines or someone directing the line moving. I'm always looking for the beginning of a line and then there's just no line to be found. The airport is the worst of these places. Well, that and tourist attractions and bathroom lines at Oktoberfest. I once yelled at a group of German ladies trying to cut the line for the bathroom inside an Oktoberfest tent. The line wrapped around the building and the ladies just "pretended" not to notice and kept trying to sneak in at various points in the queue. They tried in front of the wrong girl (me!) because I made a scene and embarrassed them to the back of the line. Girl had to pee! Ain't nobody got time for line breakers. Honestly though, it's not just Germans (and it's not all Germans…there are always exceptions to the rule). Many Europeans have this queuing ineptness, too. Now, I'm not saying all American's are good at waiting in line…faaarrrr from it (hello Black Friday madness!)…but it's a common frustration among the American expats I've befriended here in Germany. I guess the trick is to pretend you're German and it's every man for himself? You guys know what you're doing don't you? Give it to me straight.

PRO: Autohof (Rest Stops)
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If you've never experienced a German rest stop (Autohof or Rasthof), you haven't seen the beauty of what efficient and expansive rest stops should be. Autohof's are big and can house a wide variety of things like restaurants, gas stations, restrooms, bars, hotels, showers, playgrounds, conference rooms, telephones, convenience stores, and even sometimes churches. Anything you might need on the road, an Autohof is sure to have it. Only trick is, these things are placed anywhere from 40km to 60km apart on the Autobahn and not all Autohof's offer all the amenities I listed above. Sometimes these large rest stops offer one restaurant (maybe a Burger King or a Nordsee), but often times you'll find a hot and cold food bar in addition to a restaurant chain…just to give you options. I'm sure this accommodation is especially appreciated by truckers who are on the road all the time and would love to eat more than soggy hamburgers day after day. D and I love when we can find a good Autohof that ticks all our food and fill up boxes during long travels. American rest stops are good…but they're no Autohof. Unfortunatly, not all rest stops in Germany are large Autohofs. Click here if you're interested in reading more about the how the Autobahn and rest stops work here in Germany. This guy lays it all out beautifully!

CON: Rest Stops (or lack thereof)
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While Germany does have some pretty impressive rest stops, there is one problem…they're few and far between. In America, you'll find a place to be able to get off the interstate to pee or eat just about every other mile down the road. In Germany, the rest stops (and exits to towns in general) are a bit more spread apart than what I'm accustomed to. I can't tell you how many times I've almost peed my pants while driving somewhere on the Autobahn. Or almost run out of gas because we can't find an ESSO station (that's more of a military problem than a Germany problem…our gas rations are only useable at ESSO's). There's not a McDonald's or Arby's or Starbucks off of every exit ramp here…an annoying truth many expats learn the hard way in the beginning. You also have to consider the fact that wherever you stop, you'll have to pay to pee. That quick stop at Burger King will cost you…and you can't just stop at a random restaurant in a random town to use their restroom unless you're buying something. Common courtesy, I get it. But German towns are small in some areas, so you may have to venture off the Autobahn a few miles before you reach anywhere to eat, pee, or get gas. Paying for it just adds insult to injury for me, at least. Another interesting thing…you'll see signs that say "P" for parking just off the Autobahn, but there are no bathrooms there. If you're a boy, it's no problem. If you're a girl…you best keep on driving. Sometimes they'll also be a small picnic area there, but no restaurant with food for purchase. Germans love a good picnic, even on the side of the interstate. But if you're "hangry" and wanting more sustience, keep driving for that Autohof. When we head out on driving trips here, we have to plan quite a bit more than we would have to back stateside. D and I have learned that a bag of snacks and a well-placed ESSO station plugged into our GPS is more of a requirement than a choice while traveling the roads of Germany. You live, you adapt, and you do as the Germans to. :)

PRO: Super Clean Everything

Germany is absolutely, hands down one of the most immaculate countries I've ever stepped foot into. The streets, the bathrooms, the movie theaters…clean, clean, clean! You never see trash on the side of the road (side eye, America) and I've never walked into a restaurant and felt like I was sitting in sludge (side eye, Waffle House). Granted, I'm sure there are plenty of unsavory areas of Germany, filled with graffiti and trash and less than cleanly bathrooms, but for the most part, this country is spotless. At least when you compare it to the USA or a few other select countries in Europe. I love Italy (don't hate me Italy friends!), and while I've only visited certain areas, one thing that suck out in my mind was the trash and overall dirtiness of those areas I traveled in Italy. I remember my mom getting off the airplane with me from Bolgona to Frankfurt and almost literally kissing the ground at the airport because she'd missed the cleanliness of Germany so much. I don't know if it's just because Germans cuckoo for cleaning (I mean, their recycling laws are ridiculously extensive), but they're definitely doing something right. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE clean and beautiful Germany. That whole paying to pee thing is a little easier to take knowing you're contributing to the cleanliness of the country. Just don't go into a fest bathroom. There's just no hope for those places, no matter what country you're in!

CON: Lack of acceptance of the Flip Flop (and other foot visible footwear)
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If I have one more German ask me if my feet are cold in the middle of July, I'm gonna scream and run away forever. Americans wear sandals and foot-exposing footwear from the second it hits 65°F outside until the first leaves of fall start to shed to the ground. This I know to be true because I am one of those Americans. Sandals ALL SUMMER LONG! From what I've observed, many Germans only tend to wear sandals if it's over 85°F…which happens for maybe about 3 weeks out of the year and then boom, they're back to boots and closed-toe everything. I absolutely don't understand it! Aren't your feet hot? Shoot, aren't your necks hot (they also wear scarves year-round)? Are you afraid you'll catch a cold? Do you all have foot fungus that we don't know about? Dear Lord, I hope not. I'm constantly baffled and even after 3 years abroad, I still have no answers. Oh…and don't even get me started on the Birkenstocks with socks phenomenon. I thought Americans were bad about socks and sandals…but Germans are large offenders as well. Granted, Birkenstocks are German and Germans should wear the crap out of them. But socks? Sigh...I see my dad in every sock-sandaled German that walks the street. Every spring/summer (appropriate sandal wearing times of year, right?), I have at least a handful Germans ask me if my feet are cold while wearing sandals…and at least dozens of them stare at my feet with dissension. German teenagers seem to be the only exception to this unwritten "no sandals" rule. They'll wear them more than Germans of older ages. Is it an age thing then? HELP ME! German friends, any light you can shed on why the aversion to sandals? I need to understand!

Until next time…

*Please keep in mind that all of these pros & cons are formed simply from my experiences and perspective as an American living abroad. You can find the other installments of my Pros & Cons of living in Germany hereherehere, herehereherehere & here!*

34 comments:

  1. The queues. Oh my goodness, I share your frustration! When arriving in Marburg and needing to sort things out at the housing office, it was like everybody was playing a memory game so you knew who was next.
    Ha, and the sandals thing too... we've also often wondered what is wrong with peoples' feet that they don't want to show them off...

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  2. Kinder Pingui! I have only ever found these in Germany and Geneva airport. I am completely obsessed with them and it makes me so sad that they don't sell them in the UK :(

    Olivia x

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    1. I totally had to Google those because I've never tried one! Might have to go hunt some down here, they look yummy!

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  3. I've honestly never noticed that Germans (at least the ones over twenty) don't wear sandals very often! Maybe I'm still too much a part of the age group where it's perfectly acceptable to wear them regularly? I have to pay attention to that from now on! But many Germans are definitely offenders of the No-Socks-in-Sandals- rule - and it makes me cringe every single time! ;)

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  4. You are absolutely right about the queueing. In Sweden you have to get a number and then wait until your number is displayed. 3 days after I got back from Sweden I had an appointment at the doctor's and there was one queue left from the reception desk and one queue right from it. HELLO??? It drove me mad!!! I wish they would introduce the Swedish system here. Would make things a lot easier because obviously people here don't understand the meaning of a queue. It's so different in Britain though. I once saw a bus stop in Edinburgh and people formed a line there that was 10 metres long even though it was raining cats and dogs. Still mums with children stood in the little bus shelter. In Germany people would have pushed to get a tiny spot in the shelter too. Hilarious!
    And about sandals. I don't know if that's a German thing. I just always found sandals ugly and wear flip flops only at home or at the pool. I prefer ballerinas in summer or just any shoe where you can't see the toes. I think it looks ugly when you can see the toes but that's just my opinion I guess :D

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    1. I love the number idea! That would definitely save me some headache!
      And I love wearing the ballet flats, too…but come July when we have those heat waves, I've gotta have my sandals! With no A/C in most places here, I'd sweat to death in anything else!

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  5. I've nearly peed my pants on many a trip back to the airport from my husbands parents house because of a lack of Rasthofs! I've now learnt not to drink so much Kaffee with the Kaffee und Kuchen before we leave! And if Mutter Richter says Barfuss one more time and asks me if my feet are cold despite the soaring temperatures and underfloor heating in her house I swear I will flip!! German's simply can't deal with your toes being on show! What is wrong with these people?!?!}

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    1. Glad to know I'm not the only one!! I, too, have had to cut out the coffee before road trips. Such a bummer! And I guess Germans just don't like seeing feet? It will forever boggle my mind.

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  6. Swedes will wear sandals but they always seem like very complicated contraptions with zippers and what not which to negates the whole purpose of a sandal. Also in summer you see many a man wearing clogs and socks!!

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  7. Love these posts and I think it's so interesting because many of the things you mention about the States are totally different how they are approached here in the Pacific NW. I guess that just means that the US is a huge place too and things might be done differently in different parts of the country. I find that so fascinating that within even 1 country things can be so different! :) For example, in Oregon, we only have rest stops about every 60-70 miles or so, if not more (maybe because we have so much open land). So interesting!

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    1. Thanks, Casey! It's interesting that you mention Oregon and their distance between stops (I've never been..and would LOVE to visit someday!). I guess I should say that here in Germany, there are also very few exits off the Autobahn that lead to any kind of gas station or restaurant right off the interstate. So, even if there aren't official rest stops for 60 miles, in the states there would at least be somewhere to get off to get food or to use the restroom. Sometimes that's not the case in Germany. You're so right…the US is huge and even there, things can differ from region to region!

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  8. the flip flops!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!! I love a clean city, Toronto reminded me so much of NYC but clean!

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  9. The queue cutting or really, total disrespect for line etiquette is the Bain of my existence since moving here! I don't know if you've ever noticed Casey, but in the very rare circumstance where you will witness Germans lining up, the queue lines are mental! I sometimes wonder if they actually know what they are lining up for! Hehe

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    1. Agreed!! I doubt they do. Or either we look crazy trying to form a line when they just do whatever! So frustrating.

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  10. These are still my favorite posts that you do. I'll miss them when you move! Maybe after living in Florida for a while, you could do some about Florida! I'm sure they would be hilarious! :)

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  11. And now I really, really, really want some of those huge German ravioli thingys! Dang they look good!

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  12. the show thing would drive me crazy. the Californian in me is pretty much always wearing sandals.

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  13. Learn something everyday, this was really interesting and have to say how would they cope here in Australia were the the thong (flip flop) is the normal summer footwear and scarves are not the common it just doesn't get cold enough in some parts of the country

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    1. They'd probably never wear thong flip flops…without socks, at least!

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  14. Oh, just wait...because in Florida we wear flip flops year round. I've been here a full year now (from up north) and when it turns to winter in Tampa (i.e.: below 60) people wear parkas, shorts and flip flops. It is, hands down, the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

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    1. YES! Thank the Lord! I can't wait!! Although, I won't be wearing a parka with 60 degree weather. 40's definitely, but bust out the ballet flats in the 60's!!

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  15. Oh my those look amazing! I must attempt to make them ESPECIALLY since I love German food.
    Thank you for sharing :)
    Roxy
    IntoWanderlust.com

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  16. As a German, those posts always crack me up! For some reason, I too dislike wearing sandals and even when it's like 30°C outside, I prefer to wear slippers and rarely wear sandals. I can't even really explain why!

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  17. Maultaschen are Swabian so you can't miss them on menu in the black forest... and way better than the store bought ones. Also so fun to make at home!

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    1. We've GOT to get to the Black Forest before we leave! We were supposed to go this weekend, but a certain boy I know has a paper to write. Bummer!

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  18. I love aldis! Plus, I got so used to not wearing flip-flops that I find it really weird now to expose my toes!

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  19. that is so weird about the footwear! and annoying about the lack of rest stops!

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  20. Icelanders don't ever properly line up either, more like a big crowd waiting to get into something even at the airport when boarding!

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    1. Maybe it's a European thing then? Who knows. I hate the airports here for just that reason!

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  21. Korea is a lot like Germany haha. It's clean, people are bundled up until they're sweating (seriously, we were outside in tshirts and shorts and there were kids running around in winter jackets), and they don't do lines. You just kinda... go.

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  22. Hahahah!!! That last one made me giggle! Love it!!!

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  23. haha, the last one is so true! :D you can find maultaschen in almost every restaurant in stuttgart! but i don't agree with the clean thing. yes, italy is definitely very dirty, but germany is not that clean, too! but maybe it's just here in NRW, there's trash everywhere!

    xx, Eleonora

    *eleonorasblog*

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  24. Well, there aren´t that many stops to pee or gas if you are travelling through Montana, Wyoming, Or Idahoo... and there are stop placese with a P and a WC which means there are toilets there, for free.
    But I do love the Rasthofs in Germany!

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