I have now been in Germany for 41 days, and am starting to realize that there are some things that I really miss about being home. I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily homesick. It’s really hard to be truly homesick when you have your handsome husband and two adorable kids with you. This is quite a different prospect than before when I’ve been here by myself and had to seek out other Americans to interact with in order to speak English and generally be able to relax my brain. Now I can pretty much speak English whenever I want to, and have found myself in this really odd conundrum of speaking too much English and slacking on my Deutsch studies. I’ve decided that this soon won’t be my issue at all, as I will be starting up my research here, going to multiple meetings, and joining a German Medical Anthropology working group that meets to talk about research at the Freie every other week. Things are starting to fall into place, and the hardest part of entering the field will soon be behind me.
Things that I wish I could find in Germany:
Number One: Ranch Dressing. I have this memory from watching the Real World: London and hearing one of the Americans on the show craving real American ranch dressing so many years ago. I remember thinking that guy was crazy and surely he could do without it for the short time he was to be abroad. Hey Mike (I think that was his name), I totally get it now! We even went so far as to find a dressing packet that you mix in yogurt called “American dressing” that was supposed to be comparable. It was good, but definitely no Hidden Valley Ranch yumminess that I continuously crave. There really is no substitute, though at this point I would even take some crappy discount brand ranch. I know some tradeoffs are to be made for cheap Gouda, but carrots dipped in ranch are one of my comfort foods and I need them!
The other food I really miss is Mexican food. There is a Turkish Kebap place around every corner in Berlin, but Mexican food is harder to come by here. There are a few places, but the variety isn’t really there at all. It isn’t so hard for me to take the scarcity of the restaurants, we don’t eat out that often, but it is harder for me to handle the expense of buying the basics for making Mexican food at the grocery store. A typical can of beans here costs around 50 cents, while a can of refried beans costs €2.75. A box of 8 hard taco shells with a seasoning packet and a pouch of taco sauce costs €4. That is expensive in a land where I can buy a ball of fresh mozzarella for 55 cents!
I miss free bathrooms! This partly has to do with being in a really large city, but people are really stingy with their bathrooms. Even in the mall, they make you pay 30 cents to use the toilet and wash your hands. I really don’t mind paying to use the toilet that much, but it is a whole different prospect with Miss Annika. That girl is a drinking and peeing machine. She also is only 3, so when she tells us that she has to pee, she typically has to pee RIGHT NOW. She has peed in so many playground corners that it does not even phase her at all. There have been several times when we attemped to use the “city-toilets” that cost 50cents and are all over the streets here. These are really nice when you can use them because they are typically clean and there is plenty of space for our whole family plus a double stroller to get in. The problem is that they allow each person 20 minutes, with 2 possibilities to extend the time 20 more minutes. That means that if the toilet is “besetzt” (busy) we could be waiting there a long time. There have been several peeing ON the backside of the city toilet incidences already, and I’m pretty sure those humiliations will only continue. There was also a very fun incident when Annika was doing the pee-pee dance in a bakery where we had just purchased something and the nice middle-aged lady behind the counter bluntly informed me, “No, we don’t have a bathroom for customers.” I kindly yelled back at her, “I hope you have small children!” Apparently, that is the worst curse I could wish upon her at that moment. Not my finest comeback!
The fourth thing I really miss from home is knowing where to buy things. I don’t mean this in the usual way such as knowing where the stores are and such. I’ll give an example to illustrate. I needed to buy a flatiron for straightening my hair. I hadn’t brought mine from home thinking it would be more of a pain to do the whole converting thing the 5 times a week I use it, so I just wanted to buy one here. I scoured every store I could think of that might carry them at home searching in every hair care product and accessory aisle that I could find. I finally asked one of my German friends where to find one, and he told me to look at Saturn or Media Markt. These are stores that I would compare with Best Buy. They sell televisions, cell phones, movies, music, and apparently every type of electronic known in Germania. That includes hairdryers, electric toothbrushes, flat irons, curling irons, clothing irons, etc etc etc. Another of their competitors even sells electronic & motor-run model cars & airplanes. It is quite bizarre to see these things next to the digital cameras, but this is of course completely logical and makes sense once you think about it in the German way.
Lastly, I really miss the people at home. Yes, of course I miss all of my family and friends and the easy way that we could interact, but I also miss the general way that Americans treat each other at a personal level. I think I will write a whole other post about this with some illustrative examples too.