When I first moved to Germany in January 2017, I shared a post describing the immediate differences I noticed between the US and Germany and the American products and customs that I missed. Now, nearly two years later, I’ve compiled a list of the same sort; some items have been added, and many have stayed the same.
The US is an incredibly large and diverse country, and the below list of American yearnings is from the perspective of someone familiar with the northeastern part of the country (New England and New York) who also tends to frequent Whole Foods. Let’s also keep in mind that this list is mostly food products, and that, of course, there are other and more profound differences between Germany and the US.
This is slightly misleading because kombucha does exist in Berlin, it just isn’t readily available. In the US, I can expect to find a selection of kombucha brands in any given grocery store; this is not the case in Berlin, where it can only be found at bio markets and assorted health food cafes and vegan restaurants. If anyone is looking to try top notch kombucha and Berlin’s best by far, Bärbucha Kombucha is my recommendation.
Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg are almost entirely flat. After living in Vermont, Alaska, and New Hampshire, Northern Germany’s topography is a real bummer. While immediate access to the mountains is not possible, a 1-2 hour flight can get you to the Alps in either Bavaria, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, or France, and to the North there’s Scandinavia.
This goes hand in hand with #2. It does snow here in the winter; normally it’s just flurries and light dustings. Nothing like those Upper Valley dumpings.
4. Mexican food
Berlin has the best Vietnamese and Turkish food I’ve ever tried, however, full-flavored, delicious, and authentic Mexican food has not yet been realized here. Picks 5 and 6 are comparable.
5. Hot sauce
Germans generally tend to eat mild food. They like flavor, just not spice. There’s really no sort of hot sauce that has made its way into mainstream German food culture, even milder sauces like Tabasco and Frank’s are mostly unknown, and there’s no German alternative. Fortunately, there’s a super Berlin-made hot sauce, Crazy Bastard Sauce, that does the trick when I run out of my Angry Goat stockpile.
6. Tortilla chips and salsa
America’s best snack food simply does not exist in Germany. Do not be fooled by the “Nacho Flavored Chips” and “Salsa Dip”, their tastes most closely resemble Doritos and tomato sauce, respectively. That being said, Alnatura does carry a decent tortilla chip, and the fresh ingredients to make homemade salsa are readily available. Additionally, there’s a wonderful little Mexican and Latino specialty shop in Prenzlauer Berg called Chili & Paprika, and their selection includes handmade corn tortillas, hot sauces, dried peppers of all varieties, and every type of Tequila and Mezcal.
7. Bottomless brunch
Besides the fact that it’s illegal for restaurants to offer here, I can’t understand why the concept of unlimited alcohol for 2 hours with your choice of a tasty entrée hasn’t caught on yet. I suppose alcohol is considerably cheaper here, the drinking age is 16 for wine/beer and 18 for spirits, and public drinking is legal — perhaps people have a different mentality about consumption, but I’m not so sure. All I know is that Germans who visited us when we lived in NYC had rave reviews, because, let’s face it, there’s no fun like bottomless fun. Saturdays are for the bottomless brunches.
8. Chocolate chips
Not once in nearly two years have I found chocolate chips in Berlin. Alnatura and Bio Company sell very small and rather expensive bags of mini chips, and there are baking chocolate bars that you can crush to make choco chunks, but standard chocolate chips are not a thing in Germany.
9. Small talk
I think it’s a pretty fair and widely-known stereotype that Americans are afraid of silence in social situations, and would rather fill that void with a bit of small talk. For many people, it’s unnecessary; to me it’s comforting. Of course this is not the case for all Germans, but many Berliners you encounter in public do not possess that general sense of warmness and openness that you find in the US.
10. Year-round kale
Just trying to make vegan kale Caesar salad outside of that October-January window over here. There is, however, something to be said for eating seasonally.
If only I was compensated for this constant promotion, but regardless, their clean lines and classic yet trendy designs are unmatched. Aritizia, you beautiful company, international shipping is not enough, you HAVE to come to the EU. The fact that I HAVE to order from Germany and pay import VAT is a real punch in the CC. On a positive note, it sure looks like a few celebs have been reading my blog:
12. The convenience of One-Stop-Shops
Shout out to Whole Foods, CVS, and Hannaford’s.
13. The variety of food and beverages in grocery stores
It’s not always necessary to have 12 different cold brews, 14 coconut waters, and 21 kombuchas to choose from, but also, it is.
14. Paying for everything with card
I can’t believe that in such an advanced, wealthy, and influencial country cash is still king. It’s common for Spätis (Berlin bodegas), restaurants, and bars to accept only cash. Sometimes places will also accept debit cards, but I’m over here trying to collect miles…Also people over in Sweden are getting payment and ID microchips embedded in their bodies.
15. Iced coffee
Not an iced latte, not an iced cappuccino, and certainly not a 3 oz. portion size. They do have delicious cold brew here, notably Ben Rahim and Oslo Kaffebar, however, let’s just say Germany does not run on Dunkin’.
Speaking of iced coffee, I miss ice. Just ice.
17. The guarantee of being served water at a restaurant
It’s not customary in German restaurants to receive water at the beginning of a meal. You have to ask for water and are rarely and possibly never given the option of free tap, only bottled.
Germany has incredibly delicious bread, pretzels, potato chips, and all sorts of salty and yummy carbs, but they don’t really have crackers. Not even Saltine’s. Classic. But apparently not.
Sephora actually opened their first Berlin location in Galeria Kaufhof last year, however, any American will tell you that it’s not the real Sephora. It’s mostly “Sephora Collection” products and a scattering of international brands. Plus, you can’t use your Beauty Insider card to collect points. What really hurts is that I can’t even access the US online site from Germany to see what the new skincare offerings are. As an alternative, Germany does have Douglas, which has a decent selection of skincare brands.
21. Customer Service
The lack of superior customer service here is very frustrating. I think it’s one thing about living in Berlin that I’ll never get used to. When you’re seeking help or service from someone who is quite literally employed to do just that, it’s discouraging to be met with disinterest, unfriendliness, and impatience.
22. Whole Foods
I miss the food bar, I miss the drink section, I miss the variety of amazingly delicious and healthy snacks, I miss the friendly checkout staff, and I miss the fact that such a huge supermarket giant sells mostly organic, eco-friendly, and/or sustainably produced products. Sadly, the nearest location is in London.
23. Nyquil, Benedril, and Alka-Seltzer
OTC drugs that get the job done. I feel off-brand not promoting holistic alternatives, however, there’s just nothing like the real thing. Apothekes (German pharmacies) can provide for your common cold and mild ailments, but the American in me really longs for Nyquil on death days. Luckily, we have a stocked home pharmacy at the moment. Will need a refill soon…ahem…Smog…
24. Peanut butter
Are there any nationalities other than Americans that like peanut butter? I’m genuinely curious because the non-American friends I’ve made in Berlin don’t seem to understand its goodness. The bio markets here carry an okay one that’s made with only peanuts and salt, but somehow it’s not the same as my old friend, Santa Cruz Organic Crunchy Dark Roasted Peanut Butter.
25. Juice Press
Delicious, imaginative, and nutritious; Juice Press is my favorite juice and superfood shop in the whole wide world. Could eat and hydrate there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until eternity. At least Berlin has Superfoods & Organic Liquids, a tasty and close alternative.
I asked around and here are a few of the things that other Americans miss about the US while living in Germany that are not already on the above list:
- Bacon, egg, and cheese brekkie sandies
- Real New York bagels
- $1 pizza slices
- Club sandwiches
- Reece’s Pieces
- Graham crackers
- Sour Patch Kids
- American Chinese food (e.g. General Tso’s)
- Christmas in NYC
- Egg Nog
- Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn
- Carne Asada fries
- New Orleans seafood
- Public displays of politeness and friendliness
- Hot wings
- Saying “Hi, how are you?” and then being able to walk away and not have a full-on convo
- Strangers holding the door open
- Pita chips
Even though Berlin doesn’t have 20 varieties of kombucha in every store, it’s an amazing city and it has many things to offer that can not be found in the US. My next post will cover discoveries and perks of living in Berlin!