I’m a 35-year-old Brit from London with qualifications in literature and psychology and a rather varied working background in music, television, neuroscience and all manner of things in between. My passions, however, lie in travel, writing and food, and with my blog, I’m able to focus on these (albeit not very consistently at present, with a 5-month-old baby on my knee!). As well as reviewing local restaurants and documenting wine-fuelled excursions into Riesling country, I explore traditional German recipes and celebrate Germany’s seasonal approach to food.
My German husband, who I met in London, was offered a job in Mainz three days before we got married, in 2010. I’d been badgering him to apply for jobs all over the world and, having had enough of my somewhat soul-destroying London commute, was very excited to escape with him to Germany to start our married life together. Though I’ll not lie: I’d have been content with relocating to the Maldives.
The biggest surprise I had moving here was discovering how “white” Wiesbaden is. Of course it’s unfair to compare a huge, sprawling capital city with a relatively small spa town, but coming from London, where white Brits are now a minority, I’m used to enjoying life in a truly multicultural environment. There is a sizeable Turkish population here in Wiesbaden but I continue to find it strange to meander down a packed high street on a Saturday in a sea of almost exclusively white faces.
As a Brit, I am exceptionally keen on standing in a tidy, well-formed line for just about anything you can think of. Queuing is, as they say, a British national sport. So, imagine my dismay on discovering that the Germans, running entirely against stereotype, are all out for themselves when it comes to queuing. Combine this with the fact that they apparently have no sense of personal space and you’ll find that getting on or off a bus or train is not dissimilar to engaging in a rugby scramble, and every time you stand at a supermarket checkout you’ll find you’re getting spooned.
It’s hard to pinpoint typically German characteristics but of course stereotypes wouldn’t be stereotypes if there weren’t any truth in them. Of course, they are outgoing, friendly folks and those who prefer to keep themselves to themselves; relaxed, humorous types and uptight bureaucrats. However, there are three traits I’ve found to be fairly consistent across the Germans I’ve met or come to know well: they’re always punctual, they love a good debate and good grief, do they know how to party!
The most dramatic change that’s occurred in my lifestyle since I moved here has been the way in which I eat. When I first arrived in Germany, I was a confused by what I took to be a serious lack of variety in fresh produce on supermarket shelves. I had no idea it was simply that the Germans are, broadly speaking, extremely dedicated to consuming local, seasonal produce. I’m ashamed now to think I didn’t know when cherries would come into season, or asparagus, or walnuts, or pears. Four years on, however, and I’d find it very difficult to eat any other way: you can’t beat the excitement of seeing the first fresh herbs of the year at the market; the pleasure of guiltlessly gorging on local strawberries come early summer; the joy of seeing the first pumpkins on the shelves as the days grow cold and dark. It makes cooking so much more pleasurable when you know you’re really making the most of the passing of the culinary year; and very satisfying to know that the food on your plate’s not travelled far to get there.
Can you tell us about a cross-cultural blunder you have committed in Germany?
Four years on, with some seriously intensive language classes under my belt, and I continue to make an idiot of myself with my faltering grasp of the German language. I once told my mother-in-law I’d been inside a 45 degree sausage (I’d meant “Wüsten” – desert – rather than “Wurst”); and I’ve lost count of the number of times, woozy in the unbearable wet heat of the Rheingau summer, that I’ve remarked to friends or colleagues on how very gay it is outside (gay = schwul; humid = schwül). What a difference an umlaut makes…