American Man Blindsided by Spring Allergies in Germany

bee covered in pollen in a flower
Welcome to Germany, where noses run like rivers and the sneezes are free. — Photo by Lennart Tange (

I have always suffered from hay fever. Every spring, between May and July, my allergies go nuts. And I’m from Portland, Oregon, mind you, which resides in the valley between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Pacific Coast Mountains like a breakfast bowl full of pollen spores.

Portlanders know all about seasonal allergies. My friend Looney Tunes moved to Portland just a few years ago and said, “I thought I was going to die.” That’s how hard our pollen count schooled him. It took him to school and fed him crackers.

My other friend, who I will call “Midnight in Wyoming,” moved to Portland and said of his resulting allergy attacks, “I wanted to shoot myself in the head.” (I’m not sure we can take this seriously, however, coming from a man who dances the Electric Slide.)

As a native Oregonian, I’m accustomed to allergy attacks. They are an annual norm for me, but I thought things might be different in Germany. Perhaps the trees will be different there, I thought. Maybe the flowers and grasses will make a kinder, gentler brand of pollen. Oh no, they have the same shit over here, and it’s working me over like it hates me. Like I slept with its mother… Ivanna Sneezeonyourwiener.

sneezing picture
“Achoo!” “Oh dear, Gesund–” “ACHOO!!!”– Photo by Inf-Lite Teacher (

Holy mother of Joseph, I wake up feeling like hell every morning; my eyelids fused together with tears and eyeball honey. My throat is so itchy I feel like I swallowed a blond-haired, blue-eyed hairball. I sneeze like 15 times before my Earl Grey is done steeping (and yes, I put milk in it like a total fruitcake. Whatever man. I’m 1/4 English).

What in the hell, Germany. Clearly you do not respect my generic, Costco-purchased Claritin. I brought this shit all the way from the States, where we don’t have to talk to a pharmacist to buy a bottle of NyQuil. Where we enjoy so much freedom we can buy DayQuil and NyQuil and take them both at the same time.

Anybody else gettin’ nailed by allergies right now? What’s a red-blooded American supposed to do against pollen spores the size of soccer balls? Why am I mixing metaphors like an inebriated Irishman? Oh, hello beer stein full of sweet, golden Pilsner — why yes, you are just the medicine I was looking for.

And now, Dear Reader, I would like to invite you to watch this video I made. It’s a rapid-fire compilation of my sneezes over the past week. I only managed to record about half of them, since sneeze attacks come on super fast and my iPhone takes forever to switch into video mode, but here they are, in all their eye-watering, head-pounding, snot-rocketing glory. (Warning: video contains minor swearing.)

Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”

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74 thoughts

  1. Dude, why aren’t you on a first-name basis with the folks down at the Apotheke? You know, to the extent that the moment you step through the front door, you hear the unmistakeable “tut-tut” sounds, and without prompting, packets of Tempo tissues and Loratadin tablets are shoved into the line of your declining vision and runny nostrils. Not that I’ve experienced this, mind … ;-)


  2. I feel your pain. Have also had hayfever most of my life…however, I get shots in my turbinates to ward off the evil spirits and salt water nasal lavaging helps a lot….Claritin NEVER worked for me…


  3. Always put milk in tea… It’s not like the Earl Grey was from Baden Baden (it’s so good they named it twice!) or somewhere equally continental! Tea without milk is for when you are ill and are told to put honey and lemon in it.

    Long live milky tea!

    PS. Hope the hayfever gets better soon!


  4. Death!! Death to German Pollen!! I wake up every morning and want to stick a fork down my throat to scratch it.. So itchy! And then it’s a sneeze attack haha siiigh


      1. I’m near Karlsruhe and I feel awful every morning. Sometimes we drive past these fields of yellow flowers and then I pretty much want to die haha


  5. Life sometimes plays cruel jokes on us doesn’t it? My husband suffered from a horrible ragweed allergy his whole entire life living in Ontario. It figured that once we got them under control with some annual allergy shots we them moved to Germany, where he is naturally allergen free. However, the past few days we’ve come to think that I must have developed a mild allergy to something in our local farm-fresh, manure scented air. I strongly suspect the airborne poo particles. Sunday I woke up with watery eyes which lasted all day and today it has taken on a less fluid consistency. Ugh. Keep your pockets full of tissue and carry on my friend!


      1. I believe they were covered by our insurance in Canada, so I’m not quite sure. You should definitely ask your doctor about them though. My husband had to see an allergist to see exactly what he was allergic to first, and then he was able to start the injections, which he began well in advance of his allergy season.


  6. First, there’s a marvelous med here. I had an attack that normally only prednisone would treat in the US, but they have something here (and I think you may need a prescription) that’s fabulous – Desloratadin, band name AERIUS. Second,go to an allergist. They treat allergies differently here than in the US (where they give you very mild serum for 100 years); Here they give you thermonuclear allergy shots for a very short time (maybe every day for 2 months) and then you’re done. The only problem is that they’ll only treat 1 allergy at a time (instead of the 30 different things that were in my serum back in the US. I haven’t tried that yet because, mercifully, I’ve only had one allergy attack in the 3 years I’ve been here, and the med kicked ass!


  7. Seriously, same here (coming from California and a massive area of orchards). I just received a bottle of 200 Costco-brand benedryl from a friend back home, which worked fine in CA, but isn’t putting a freaking dent in the German pollen \o/ Ugh


  8. Aw, you sound just like me! I live in Houston, which is apparently the allergy capital of Texas. I get four–count ’em–FOUR allergy shots every month because I’m pretty much allergic to the entire world. I take two prescription and one OTC allergy medicines every day. And I STILL sneeze like that this time of year.
    At least you are not alone!


      1. I have, but the whole worms concept really freaks me out. There’s supposedly one that helps with gluten intolerance, which I also have, but it still just—ugh. I can’t even think about it.


      1. I’m not sure yet. I would imagine it will take months and months of local, organic honey consumption, which might help for allergy season next year. I would imagine the results will be subtle.

        I’m honestly more worried about a person who doesn’t like honey. I think we should make him take a honey bath. :)


  9. Ha! That sucks. As you say though what doesn’t suck is having the freedom to buy cold medicine without talking to a pharmacist. For such a laissez-faire culture, the French are pretty uptight about their pharmaceuticals too. Yay for over the counter drugs! Let freedom ring, night and dayquill.


  10. Poor thing. I believe that foreign/ brought in medicine or food do not have the effect or taste like local things. I’ve experienced it myself but I don’t know why. My advice: See a specialist and move to one of the North Sea Islands. A friend of mine did that years ago and was happy ever after allergies free I was told. LG Anja


  11. We have the same soundtrack here in NYC. And nature has given us all of the pollen but none of the accompanying warmth and sun traditionally associated with the season. Pure, dull, misery. Great post!


      1. Yesterday was in the 50s, today in the 80s (apparently), or as the rest of the world would say between 0c and 30c or between 10c and 11c. Celsius, you mean nothing to me!
        Love the nyc series, hope your next visit is, er, less eventful!


  12. Holy cow… your allergies REALLY are bad!! I’m sorry to hear you’re suffering… on the other hand: The sneezing concert was nearly impeccable. Except the *goddammit* in between… LOL
    I love your post!!!


  13. Hey Hannovers here :)
    funny blog and fun to read
    my gf suffers from the same allergy. she takes some pills against it but they make you very sleepy as a side effect


  14. your post all are so funny. i am a german gal married to an us citizen. i prefer not to say american, because america is an continent and canada, mexico and everything below mexico belongs to the continent of america. anyway, i had my whole life very bad allergies as well, which did almost went away the few years in Germany, but than i moved to florida, and i had the worst allergies ever in my whole life. but no more, i got acclimated to florida now. by the way, i wear no wedding band at all, i took if of after a couple of years. didn’t like the thing of wearing two bands at one finger. anyway, enjoy your stay in Germany.
    by the way, to keep you from sneezing in the morning, take a shower before you go to bed, washing of the pollen out of your hair, and before you rise in the morning, see that you blow your nose and see that you can make the saline wash through your nostrils, washes the pollens out that have accumulated over night in your nostrils.


  15. Tortured by it every Spring here in Japan. Drinking a local pollen seems to do the trick, and of course I have to wear a mask everyday even going to bed. I feel the pain :(

    Great blog you have here.


      1. It seems I am allergic mostly to Japanese cedar tree.

        Yes a mask. Everybody wears them here specially around that time of the year so it is not that embarrassing.


      2. It is , it’s like a mandatory unwritten rule. Mainly because everybody uses the public transpo, and when its crowded I don’t think you will appreciate people sneezing and coughing without covering.

        But during spring it’s like there is a mask festival in every pharmacy in town. Mask of all shapes and sizes are sold. They also have mask for daytime and nighttime use , male or female. Some are even design to make it more fashionable.


  16. Allergiespritze Voloan A…helped my US friend really well. It’s good for app 3 months and cost under 20 Euros. Good luck!


  17. I LOVE your blog. I just found it and I have been laughing my head off all evening. Im sure your allergy troubles are over by now, but next year, see if you can find some locally grown raw honey and eat a tsp of it every day as soon as the season starts. It works!! Good luck!


    1. Hi Sarai! Thank you for writing! We’re glad you liked our blog.

      I bought a TON of local honey here in Hannover, and have been consuming it with haste. I’m hoping it will pay off next year.

      Thank you for the comment and have a great weekend!


  18. I live in Stuttgart and i sneeze more than this guy on the vid …. I never had any allergies earlier and now i have it from every god damm plants and animals here …. in 30 years i havent had any and now i feel the same like shooting a bullet in my head from May until august ….. Germany i guess has become a cursed land for allergy sufferers or it make you suffer if you werent earlier … Bless you and bless myself …


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