Survey conducted by Dan, blogger and owner of Live Work Travel USA. He’s my opposite — a German expat living in America — like my evil mirror image from a parallel universe. Or am I the evil one? (Clearly one of us has to be destroyed.) But first, Dan asked me…
What food items do you miss most from America?
Now, I realize I just named a type of food that comes from an entirely different country than my own, but hell — Mexico is right there. We’re like passive-aggressive neighbors; all smiling and waving to each other from across the street, then talking massive amounts of shit as soon as we close the front door. “Oh. My. God. Gladys, did you hear what Mexico did today? That slut.” So, I don’t miss that, but I do miss burritos. Big, sloppy, disgusting burritos the size of a newborn baby. Hell yes. And real guacamole. And tortilla chips that aren’t powdered with artificial flavoring, like some weird, evil German’s idea of what nachos should taste like. (Hint: nachos should taste like salt, not Satan’s jockstrap.)
Real Hot Sauce
Tapatio. Sriracha. Dave’s Insanity Sauce. Blair’s After Death Sauce. Mad Dog 44 Magnum Pepper Extract. (Why are these names so violent?) Now, most of these anus-burners can be ordered online, but not all of them. Real hot sauce is hard to find in Germany. Oh sure, they’ve got Tabasco in almost every store, but I said hot sauce, not red vinegar for complete pantywaists. My wife suggested I look in some local Indian and Asian food stores, and she was right! I found my precious Sriracha sauce. Problem is, the bottles are tiny, so they’re the same price if I ordered the big daddies and paid for the shipping, but still! Victory, I say!
Out of Season Fruits and Vegetables
I understand all of the reasons why eating locally-grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables is a good idea. It’s good for the economy. Good for the environment. Good for your Mom (zing!). But I’m American; we simply cannot understand the idea of not getting whatever we want, whenever the hell we want it. “Mangos in December. Strawberries in January. No, I have no idea where they’re coming from. What’s the problem, hippy?” So I guess I don’t really care about any one fruit or vegetable in particular; what I care about is that I’m being forced into becoming a better person. When it comes to self improvement, I want it to be according to my schedule — ideally while on a comfy psychiatrist’s couch or readily available in pill form.
Real Ketchup and Mayonnaise
When you order French fries here in Germany, you will typically be asked whether or not you would like them to be, “red and white.” This means half your fries will be drowned in mayonnaise, and the other half in ketchup. Since every American on earth knows dipping your French fries in mayonnaise is black magic communist devil worship (with herpes), I’ll skip over the concept itself. But dude, there is something deeply, terribly wrong with German mayonnaise. It tastes sweet, like Miracle Whip. I hate it, so I basically just avoid anything in this country that has a chance of filling my mouth with thick, white, porno goo. And then there’s the ketchup. Now, I’ve seen Heinz ketchup in the grocery store, but that’s not what you’ll get on the “red” side of your fries — you’re gonna get a weird, thin mutation of ketchup which tastes, inexplicably, like salsa. It’s like the retarded younger brother of ketchup, and nobody knows who the father is.
Which German foods do you like, that you wish you could get in America?
Lots of Americans think they know what real liverwurst tastes like, but they don’t. And they hate it. This is because major supermarket chains in the States sell pink, mass-produced paste called liverwurst, but it tastes like salty foreskin. It wasn’t until I moved to Germany that I saw the full spectrum of liverwurst — every brand, flavor and texture — like a horrifying pâté rainbow in the sky. Yet even after sampling the real deal, I still wasn’t sure about it. My gag reflex remained on high alert: “Hey boy, what do you think you’re trying to sneak past us here? Didn’t we already talk about this back when you were 12 years old, when you smeared this shit on a cracker at that Christmas party? You spit it out into a napkin right in front of the host. Guess this is one lesson we’re gonna have to teach you twice.” What I’m saying is, it took me about 6 months to really make friends with liverwurst, but after I did, I loved it. I also enjoy the fact that so much of it is made from young pig and veal livers, because their youthful energy reinvigorates my own liver and repairs all the damage I’ve done over the years.
You know Weißwurst: those white sausages served in a steaming ceramic bowl with a lid on top? They’re short, thick and perfectly smooth — like zombie dicks. I think they do sell them in some German restaurants in the States, but I’d never really noticed them before. Now I love these things! I don’t even cut the peel off, like I’ve seen the Germans do; I leave it on because I like the way it pops in my mouth. It reminds me I’m eating an animal which has literally been stuffed up its own ass, and that just seems so right.
Okay, now these sausages are the long, thin, dark red ones you see at German festivals. And since I apparently can’t stop talking about dicks today, I’m gonna go ahead and say they look like really long dog dicks. Like a full yard of the proudest Doberman ever. And there’s something saltier and tastier about Schinkengriller than the other sausages. They’re my favorite. I just don’t understand the tiny rolls and slices of white bread they’re served with. If you’re gonna jam your meat into a piece of bread, at least use a hotdog bun or something long enough to make the whole thing feel welcome.
And of course, in America, I wish I could more easily find 1-liter glasses of beer for sale. Hell, with the exception of local festivals and events, there are only a few pubs here in Hannover that sell them at all. This is probably due to the fact that Maß beers are really more of a Bavarian thing. (And Bavarians regard the rest of Germany the way Texans regard the other 49 states of America — with a playful sense of entitlement masking the fuck off attitude underneath.)
Other than food, what products do you miss from America, that you wish you could get here in Germany?
Seriously. Buying clothes in Germany is a painfully expensive ordeal. Especially when it comes to jeans. You can go to some ethically dubious chain and find yourself some cheap blue jeans, but there’s a decent chance some sweatshop child will have sewn a message into the tag: MEN’S JEANS, SIZE: LARGE, MACHINE WASH GENTLE, OH MY GOD PLEASE GET US OUT OF HERE.
Stain sticks and sprays are laundry products you can apply to stains immediately after they occur, and then sit on your lazy ass for up to a week before doing the laundry. Stains come right out. Maybe they do sell them here in Germany — or something like them — but I can’t find them anywhere. One time, I spilled red wine on my blue thermal sweatshirt, so my wife applied laundry detergent directly to the stain. Just got the spot wet and rubbed that shit right on in there. Ran it through the washing machine and BOOM; my sweatshirt was covered in these massive, hideous white blotches — like I’d just lost a fistfight with a bottle of chlorine.
Standard Shower heads
Not handheld shower heads. I’ve talked about this before — how Germans love their handheld shower heads — but they’re not for me; I want the hot water to rain down on my head and shoulders like I’m standing beneath a waterfall. It’s soothing. Holding on to the source of the water keeps you from relaxing, and it’s not like the water won’t eventually reach your anus. Jesus. You don’t have to blast the poor thing with a jet of water like you’re suppressing a riot.
To be honest, most of the toilets in Germany seem to be standard, as opposed to low-flow. I haven’t encountered too many low-flow toilets here, but when I did, it sucked miserably. Your stinking loaf drops onto a dry shelf, where it remains until you flush. Then it streaks its way into a tiny cup of water before (hopefully) disappearing. You might be surprised just how effective a generous pool of water can be at stifling the true potency of your stink nuggets. Chances are, if you’re American, you’ve been taking standard toilets for granted your entire life. I sure as hell did.
Nighttime Mouth Guards (dental guards for sleeping)
Seriously, why can’t I buy these things in Germany? I clench my jaw at night so hard I am literally cracking my own teeth. Every dentist who has ever looked into my mouth has said, “Wow, your teeth are so straight… and you’ve really never had braces? But jeez, what’s with the nighttime grinding? Here, let me fit you for a €300 euro dental guard — one which your insurance may or may not cover — I have no idea…” And then I get to explain I use $10 dollar night guards from the States, and then the dentist acts like he or she has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. (Oh, but they do, those sons of bitches.)
NyQuil, DayQuil, Advil (Ibuprofen), Tylenol (Acetaminophen), Zicam, Excedrin, Claritin, Dimetapp, Neosporin (topical antibacterial) — you know, the basics. You can buy some of these things in Germany, but you’ll have to make an extra trip to the pharmacy (Apotheke) to do it. Oh, and you’ll have to speak to a pharmacist about them too, describing all of your disgusting symptoms in detail before they’ll hand over the goods. “Hi, I have a runny nose. Yes, snot is coming out of it. No, the snot is not brown or yellow. What? Did you just ask if my snot is thick? Look, can I just please have the nasal spray so I can breathe again, god damn you?”
Germany and America have different regulations for prescription-strength medicines, so you can’t always find the drug you need here. This sucks pretty hard for expats like me. I’m American. I’m accustomed to blasting what ails me with the chemical equivalent of a howitzer. If I’ve got a headache, I don’t want to just get rid of it; I want to smash it out of my skull with a hammer. if I can’t sleep, I won’t politely ask insomnia to leave me alone for the night; I’ll stab that bitch right in the windpipe. And when seasonal allergies come around, I’m not going to gently usher them out the door; I’m going to give them two rounds to the chest and sprinkle cocaine on their bodies for the cops to find.
Are there any German products you wish you could get in America?
Oh sure, we’ve got shoes we choose to wear indoors. They’re called slippers. What I mean are the kind of dedicated footwear every German owns — super comfy, donned the moment you set foot in your home — and typically stored in an orderly fashion in the entryway. I don’t mean like at a party hosted by some asshole who makes you take your shoes off and throw them in a haphazard pile in the corner so you can worry about them being lost or stolen all night long. I’m talking about house shoes; they make you feel at home, peaceful and relaxed, because they’re yours. Kind of like that scene in Full Metal Jacket: “These are my German house shoes! There are many like them, but these ones are mine!”
Thin, scratchy towels are the norm here in Germany. This may sound like a negative, but it isn’t; I used to hate scratchy towels, but have come to love how easily they wick the water from your body. Hell, they downright suck the water off, and they exfoliate your skin at the same time. Like sandpaper that’s juuuust soft enough not to scratch off your fun bits.
Dynamos are lights for your bike which run off the power generated by the rotation of your tires. I’d never seen one before moving to Germany, and I was immediately impressed. Who wants to slap a pair of batteries into a plastic case and then replace them every couple months? I love the idea of generating my own light — like Gandalf saving everyone’s ass at the end of The Two Towers: “At dawn, look to the East!”
Tilt and Turn Windows
These things are yet another example of genius German engineering; a tilt and turn window can tilt inward at the top or open inward completely from the side. Germans invented them, and they rule. (Which is why the rest of the European countries totally ripped off the design.) In America, most everybody has windows the slide up or to the side, and I don’t know about you, but I am constantly breaking these things. Also, I am the clumsiest man alive.
I don’t know how they work, but in Germany, you can call America for less than a cent per minute using something called ‘predial’ numbers. They’re usually just 5 or 6 digits dialed before the country code, but only certain service providers allow them. Also, the caller has to be using a land line. But still, awesome! Predial numbers — in addition to Skype, WhatsApp, Instant Messenger, email, letters and postcards — were vital during the time my wife and I were in a long distance relationship. We talked every single day, for an hour during my lunch break Monday through Friday, and then 4-5 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Christ. Just thinking about all those months of heartache makes me want to cry all over again. I’m crying right now, in fact. Like a little bitch.
Effective Public Transportation
U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Bus, Fernbus, Metronom, Regionalbahn, IC, ICE — just about every German city provides access to all of these options. In the States, only a handful of cities even have a subway, and at this moment I’m having trouble remembering any of them except New York. NYC is lousy with subway trains, but I come from Portland, Oregon; we have the bus and a light rail train called The MAX (Metropolitan Area Express). Oh sure, you can hop on a train up to Seattle or something, but it sucks. Takes forever. We need high-speed trains, man!
Until I received this survey from Dan, I never really thought much about foods or products I missed from the States. And I definitely hadn’t thought about things from Germany I might miss back home. I just didn’t care. What can you do about it anyway? Forgo clean undies by stuffing your suitcase full of hot sauce and prescription drugs? Shit, I’d rather get caught smuggling dildos.
The availability of American foods and products in Germany is actually quite impressive. In fact, I have to award Germany 4 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds for its effort:
But the truth is, if you want to live in a foreign country, you have to adapt. That’s what every good expat does. In fact, the only thing I truly miss from home is the luxury of not having a language barrier. I miss my ability to handle minor tasks and solve problems without applying a bunch of time and effort. I am terribly lazy, you see, so I have to preserve what small amount of vital energy I have left. If I don’t, my wife will find me passed out on the floor because I tried to read a German baking recipe. “Salz, Zucker… that’s ‘salt’ and ‘sugar,’ probably… oh my God, what is Schlagsahne? Some kind of cream, right? Hitting cream? Aw Jesus…” BOOM! — I’m on the floor.
Thank you, Dan, for asking me these questions and prompting this blog post. And thank you, Reader, for reading it. If you’d like to see another one, check out: InterNations: An American Expat Answers Questions About Living in Germany
Thinking of moving to the US? Ever wondered what life is like for expats on the other side of the pond? For information on life as a German expat in the United States, visit Dan’s site:
Live Work Travel USA