Things I Miss about America

These is a list I’ve compiled about things I miss about America since living in Hamburg, Germany.

Cookies:

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Hamburg has a wide, beautiful variety of pastries. They also have cookies here, but they are usually prepackaged and interestingly enough often have the American flag on them to signify that perhaps cookies are an all-American treat. Go figure! I have yet to find a really delicious cookie here. You know what I’m talking about. Ooey, gooey, fresh out of the oven, mouthwatering inducing cookie. Oh god, I think I’m crying.

24 Hour Convenience:

Every single Sunday, or often any time after 8, one cannot go to the grocery store. Things are closed up, probably for, you know “so people can have a life” or some such nonsense, but for an American whose WHOLE LIFE revolves around convenience. Fast food, 7/11, etc, this was and is a struggle that my pea-sized brain cannot get over. Every Sunday it’s like I have a memory of a goldfish. What? Nothing is open? But I wanted to buy a bunch of socks I don’t need and dry lifeless cookies to cry over again.

American Pleasantries:

Don’t get me wrong, people here, once you crack their reserved Hamburg exterior are extremely friendly and warm. I have had little to no problems in that department. I’m more talking about listening to other people. When you see teenagers on the train laughing, all other people stare at them disapprovingly. Sometimes the noises you hear all of your life, when they become absent, it’s surprisingly alarming. People are quieter here. People shush there children more here. You would think that could be a GOOD thing, all of this quiet, but I miss the way people communicate in the US! I miss being annoyed!

American Takes on Ethnic Foods:

All of the Mexican food places and Thai food places I’ve been to here are LACKLUSTER FOR MY ALL AMERICAN TASTE BUDS. I don’t think for a second that American versions of these foods are more authentic, they just have different spices, and my sentimental heart/gut misses them daily. Every time I eat Mexican food here (I am on a forever-quest), all it does is remind me of what I am missing. Chipotle (Yes, I still ate there through the E.coli crisis, I am not ashamed) those delicious hole in the wall taco restaurants, Don Jose’s with my mother, Jesus even TACO BELL. They call cilantro coriander here, FYI. Why.

Air Conditioners/Deodorant:

Americans like our stores, our cars, our houses at sub arctic temperatures. Spending last summer here, in the 150 degree humidity in hours and hours of public transportation with people raising their armpits unintentionally in my direction, it really makes you realize that Americans have grown up in a space and time bubble dedicated to avoiding body odor or sweating, while some Europeans are alllllnaturalllaaaaallleeeeeeee. (that’s me falling backward from the occasional whiff of body odor so strong it causes a physical reaction.)

Variety:

Yes, this is my third mention of food. In grocery stores in Hamburg, I would say the MOST variety you get on a particular item would be in the gummy section. They love their Haribo gummies here. I’ve been buying the giant gummies that have 25% more juice. That probably means they are healthier, right?

Other than that, you maybe get 10 or so varieties of chips, three kinds of ketchup, etc. I WANT MORE. I want to stand in front of the chip aisle and just be mystified for hours. I want to gaze up at the glistening bags of untold secrets and truly be confused about what I want to buy. So many brands, so many flavors, why did I only write “Chips” on my grocery list when in reality I’m buying something far greater. Here, you don’t get to be confused. Only one kind of tortilla chips for your guacamole (that you have to make yourself unless you want this weird bagged goo) curiously a lot of paprika flavored chips, and then a corner dedicated to Pringles. Why Pringles. Why. Perhaps that’s a post for another time.

 

Until Chipotle Stops Haunting My Dreams,

Sarah

 

 

Things I Miss about America

When in Doubt, Eat

Wow! I have taken a looooong hiatus from my blog writing. A month in a half in internet time is like five years! You all thought I was dead!

…WELL, I WAS. I decided to spend my afterlife on the internet too. I mean, what else am I supposed to do? Frolic with the angels?

(Side note: This was the first time I’ve ever written frolic and it feels weird. Shouldn’t there be a K? Anyway.)

During the last month in a half, my computer broke (by ghosts, I’m not kidding this time!), and I moved from one tiny room in a popular part of town to one giant apartment in a less desirable part. Also during this time I created and nurtured a blossoming bouncing baby facebook group called:

Hamburg Food Enthusiasts: English

It’s important to note that it says ENGLISH, because even though I’ve lived here for over four months, my German vocabulary has only expanded to about 30 nonsensical words. Hooray! Burgermeister!

Within a week of starting this group, it grew with such determination I thought for sure that I was going to spontaneously combust. YES, I know my blog handle HAM IN HAMBURG implies that I’m a dramatic, normally socialized person who loves to be the center of attention. Well, the truth is I have a love-hate relationship with people that I battle with internally on a daily basis! SO! Love ya!

As it stands, this mutant I’ve created has over 230 people in it, and we go on bi-weekly journeys across Hamburg to try new and interesting cuisine. 10-20 people show up at any given time, and I have to…like reserve stuff, and entertain!

 

It’s been crazy! And I’ve met some wonderful, lovely people in the process.

(Note: Some of these people aren’t solely from the food group, but it felt important anyway to note how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know them anyway)

And the FOOD, the whole point of this process, has been mildly disappointing to amazing.

In some ways, this group has helped me connect with this city on a spiritual level (and by that I just mean being well-fed) and gain some friendships I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to create. Thanks, internet!

Of course, there are some cons having to be the leader of a very active group. I’ve had to kick out a couple of people (one was a dude that was hitting on women, the other was a woman who called me a dictator! Cool!) and also orchestrating events is this crazy long process with a lot of hoops to jump through. I’ve also had to pretend that I knew a lot more about food than I do (I feel there is a long distance between “enjoying eating anything and everything” and an official “foodie” and I’m trying to breach that gap as we speak).

But it has been worth it. This group gives me the illusion that I’m popular which obviously has been my goal since the beginning of my life, it helps me orient myself in the city, and make connections/build friendships in a place that I knew very little people.

There is also nothing like being forced to go outside when you want nothing else but to stay at home in your pajamas eating oreos because you have literally 20 people counting on you to be there. ūüėÄ

In conclusion, I give this 4 out of 5 stars. Will try again. Sweet and salty with a tangy aftertaste.

Sarah the Burgermeister

P.S. In case you happen to be in Hamburg, the places we tried are: San Khao Thai Food, Paulines (brunch) La Quesadilla, and Ashoka Indian Food. ALSO JUST IN CASE THE INTERNET POLICE COME: The pictures are all taken from my food group and I politely asked if I can use their faces in my very, very popular blog that I assume only my mother reads. Guten Tag!

When in Doubt, Eat

Some People are Graceful and Others are Not

Growing up, I used to read National Geographic like it was a message from God. These were undiscovered worlds at my fingertips in Technicolor glossy pages. Once in a while, there would be a picture of the photographer or journalist, wearing khaki shorts or some such nonsense, and usually over looking the horizon. These people were adventurers. They were stony eyed and wild haired and had a look of determination that few people really can encapsulate.

(all images from natgeo)

Anyway, my point is, I’m not one of those people.

It took me two weeks to get over the fatigue of flying here. That’s two weeks of sleeping, slogging around, befuddlement, and an overwhelming feeling of not quite sure if I was dreaming or if this was reality. I was glad I remembered wearing pants during this time. I really had no idea where I was or what I was doing.

Once that was done? I got sick. Luckily, not FLU sick, but scratchy throat, eyes, sneezing, coughing, blah blah blah. Naturally, I had to go to a government office and wait six hours in a crowd of people as every hole in my face was leaking. Gross! Sorry!

And after that? Yesterday, I tripped and sprained my ankle. To add insult to injury, my face INSTANTANIOUSLY produced two giant red cold sores. Because, why not? I mean, this city only has approximately one trillion staircases and I only have to teach in front of a bunch of adults merely feet away from my face! WHY NOT.

So, no, some people are not meant to do some rough-terrain-snake-eating-majestic-looking adventuring. Some of us aren’t meant to be constantly photogenic, or always have something profound up their sleeves.

Some people have an¬†incredibly¬†hard time functioning in a place that is actually just a bizarro version of the city she just came from. We all can’t be graceful, alright? Please just love me anyway.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Today is my one month anniversary! I made it one month! (barely!) to celebrate, people threw me a giant festival.

AWH SHUCKS GUYS YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE IT’S NOT THAT BIG OF DEAL.

Just kidding, this was the Hamburg Port Birthday festival! 827 years young! They had giant boats, crazy fried foods and a surprisingly large amount of healthy foods, a cigarette stand…

Lazy robots, magical robots!!!…

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Some sort of bizarre dance troupe in spandex (the best part of this was that all of the people were just staring at them blankly and not moving as they were dancing their little hearts out)

And me enjoying a nonalcoholic beverage.

IN OTHER, OTHER NEWS:

I have finally moved out of my Airbnb into another temporary living situation in a new neighborhood. I have only slept here one night, but so far the grocery store a block from my house has fresh squeezed orange juice (YOU WATCH IT GET SQUEEZED IN A MACHINE) so I really can’t complain yet.

Much love, I promise I’ll be more optimistic next time!

Sarah

 

Some People are Graceful and Others are Not

Ents, Obedient Dogs, and Dads with Strollers

Hello my beautiful spring time friends!

I was going to write a long,¬†whiny tale about getting my work permit, but ALAS, it hasn’t happened yet. I’m quickly learning that I need to not make the assumption that I’ll know what I’ll talk about next week because who knows what will happen in five minutes in this unchartered, highly populated¬†territory.

So, this week I’m going to dive into more acute observations about our German brethren.

When I was at the subway stop (yes, I’ve somewhat mastered the subway system, which is such an achievement on its own I can’t even begin to describe the elation I feel in my heart. Here’s a picture below for your overwhelming enjoyment.)

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AMERICAN GENES?

ANYWAYZ, when one is at the subway stop, you get to people watch like never before. Remember, people openly and unabashedly stare directly at you here, so you get to do the same. It’s a little startling at how quickly I became accustomed to being creepy! Over time, I’ve started thinking creepy things like, “Oh, she has an American mouth.”

I would have never had guessed that someone could have an American mouth, but there it is. Even though people are REALLY white here, it’s a German white, a European white if you will, and there’s a difference. Who knew!

MAJESTIC TALL PEOPLE

Another interesting note, and it’s actually wonderfully poetic, is that people are tall here. I am a¬†5’8″ chubby gal¬†respectively, and I was always taller than most of my female friends, and frankly taller than half of my OKcupid dates. Here, I’m on the short end of the spectrum. For the most part, everyone is 5’8″ and above, and probably average around 6 feet tall. Long and lean. The majority of people here in Hamburg, at least under the age of 50, have bodies of athletes and models. INTIMIDATING.

But the BEST¬†part… is that every so often, you see someone a foot taller than the rest. When everyone else is 6 feet, there is a 7 foot tall person (men and women)¬†parting their way through the crowd. They walk differently. They move slower. Their heads are slightly elongated. I asked my interesting and captivating Airbnb host, and she mentioned that Germans have deep roots¬†from the old growth forests here. That some of them have tree-blood. I’m no scientist, but it checks out!

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I want to believe.

GERMAN DOGS

Okay, so, I have a long history with dogs. Who can forget the time one bit me on my left buttock when I was 8? Or when dad would bring home these mangy mutts from the golf course? And, rain or shine, dogs from anyone and everyone in America would jump up on me like a moth to the flame.

BUT IN GERMANY? SIMPLY NOT SO.

First of all, dogs 9 times out of 10 aren’t on leashes. They walk ahead of their owners with equal parts confidence and obedience written all over their faces. Like their owners, they STARE, but they do not even THINK about getting in my space. These are the most polite, well behaved dogs I’ve ever seen. In fact, here’s a picture of a dog on a leash because of the sheer novelty of it.

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This brings me to my second observation about these dogs… a lot of them are DIFFERENT looking. I obviously have heard of German Shepards…but there are these wire-haired dogs of all different kinds here. Scrappy, well-behaved, diligent creatures! It’s baffling!

I want to pet a dog already but the dogs don’t want to be pet!

BABIES

Babies are abundant here. Maybe it’s because it’s spring, maybe it’s because people love walking here. I couldn’t say. The thing I could say is that I have seen tons of dads with strollers. Here’s a creepy picture I took of not one, but TWO dads with strollers walking down the street.

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It’s nice to see! I also heard that people get approximately three years of maternity leave here? THINK ABOUT THAT, AMERICA.

Also, people leave babies everywhere. Trying to get your pants tailored? Leave your baby outside. Want a quick beer before heading off? Leave your baby outside. We are not in Kansas anymore.

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Anyways, here’s an abundance of photos that I could not get around to writing about. Things from swan boats, strange squirrels, my bread baby and more.

Maybe next time I’ll have my work permit! Haaaaa!

Sarah

Ents, Obedient Dogs, and Dads with Strollers

Dazed, Confused, Bewildered, Amazed

Dear friends!

This past week I have been finding scraps of time to take observational notes, but for the most part I’ve been so fatigued and confused I genuinely don’t know if it’s settled in yet that I’m trying to make a life for myself in a new country. That being said, I’d like to talk about my first impressions of Hamburg, Germany. I think they will change…or I will change… because already the shock my system went through¬†is settling down to a steady hum.

I’m determined! I’m forever confused by the government hoops I have to jump through to get my work visa! But, I’ll save that for another blog.

Observation #1: Staring

People love to stare here. As soon as I entered into this city… the taxi driver, the people on the subway, the old men, the babies in their carriages… these people love to stare. Now, the American in me of course instinctually smiles when someone is staring (minus creepy people) but here, they just stare with no noticeable expression difference. It becomes unnerving. Overwhelming. The eyes of people that you cannot communicate well with are staring you down always 3-5 seconds too long and you have no choice but to stare back or turn away.

Here’s a series of stock images from¬†Google¬†so you can get a glimpse of what it feels like to be stared at relentlessly.

(I picked mostly white people because this city is in fact… filled with a lot of white people)

The Optimist In Me: This means of course, you can openly people watch. Which is in my top ten favorite activities.

Observation #2: Food

Everything looks and tastes slightly better. Brighter, even?¬†I don’t know why. It could just be me, but I talked to my Airbnb host /hopefully new best friend ūüėČ ¬†and she mentioned that Germany has strict government regulations on how chickens are raised and eggs and stuff. I can’t argue with her, the egg yolks here are a bright sunset orange compared to the yellow we’re used to in the states.

This picture also comes from the internet to show you the difference. There’s lots of “controversy” about what the color means, but I’ve been eating orange eggs and can taste the difference.

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On a broader scope of the food situation. I just… I have been eating SO MUCH. There are really some attractive people here, tall, lean, European, aloof and graceful, and it’s been causing me to just eat on behalf of everyone. Eat and drink and eat. OH MAN, THE BREAD. THE BREAD DESERVES ITS OWN POST, But the strange thing is… I don’t feel bloated. I’m losing weight and yet eating more? I’m not a scientist, but my tight jeans are becoming looser as I stuff my face with croissants. Here’s a series of pictures of my food adventures thus far.

 

Buffets, giant bowls of Kaffee und Milch, best quiche I’ve ever had, weird veggies, nine pm gelato, stuffed seafood potatoes and so much more! Needless to say, I won’t go hungry. B-)

Observation #3: Quiet Charms

I think the most important part, through my haze of trying to live here, are the small moments of kindness and magic that I can STILL somehow see, even though I’m in this weird hibernation mode. The harshness of the staring paired with still nippy weather has caused me to feel a little unhinged, but through this unsettled feeling, I have still noticed some extreme kindness.

10 out of 10 times I have noticed people offering people with baby carriages or luggage to help them carry it up or down the stairs.

There are several Lake Alster swans that are lovely and forever startling. These birds are HUGE and magnificent.

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Tiny houses and tiny boat racing!

And so many undiscovered museums I can’t wait to get my eyeballs on.

For now, I feel like I made the right decision. It’s a honest-to-God challenge beyond my wildest dreams… in some ways it feels like you’re a child again. How do you make copies on a copy machine when everything is in another language? But I’m surviving. Not thriving yet, but surviving and that’s good enough.

Still getting my bearings,

Sarah

Next Week: Navigating the System: The Art of Getting a Work Permit

Dazed, Confused, Bewildered, Amazed

BON VOYAGE AND FITTING MY STUFF INTO ONE SUITCASE

I think there’s several levels of exhaustion at work here. One level is just never sleeping quite enough (the energy of leaving, plus all of this damn sunshine causes me to wake up far too early. Thanks, Southern California.), another level is continuously saying goodbye to friends and family members with the weak hope that they’d come visit me in Germany. And the final level is material exhaustion.

HOW DO YOU PACK YOUR WHOLE LIFE IN A BAG?

HOW DO YOU DRESS PROFESSIONALLY?

HOW MANY BOOKS ABOUT ENGLISH GRAMMAR SHOULD I STUDY WITH ON THE PLANE SO IT LOOKS LIKE I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING?

These questions are haunting me any chance I get.

Regardless, I’m happy. This feels so right it’s almost alarming.

Over this past week I’ve collected a series of pictures that accurately describe my feelings of excitement, resoluteness, love, bittersweetness,¬†fake-it-till-you-make-it bravery, and a dash of fear. Enjoy!

In regards to saying goodbye to my friends and family:

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In regards to my never-ending fatigue and stress eating:

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Jessica Warrick (artist of mermaid)

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In regards to this weird feeling of just not giving a rats ass anymore and just GOING FOR IT, YO:

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Pep talks to myself that it’s okay to be overweight, different, have a large personality and be exuberant. Being meek doesn’t suit me anymore. There’s enough room for me:

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Dreamy thoughts about the fantasies of Hamburg:

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Christian Schloe (artist)

I was about to show an image of my overflowing suitcase as the final picture, but it isn’t pretty, and I will have to reevaluate a few million items. Instead I found this lovely bag. Let’s just pretend I’m this dainty and whimsical instead, shall we?

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Travel bag for ladies,¬†1900 ‚Äď 1930. Exhibition 2015. Museum for communication, Berlin

GUYS THE NEXT TIME YOU HEAR FROM ME I’LL BE IN GERMANY. DID YOU GET THE MEMO? I’M MOVING TO GERMANY. THE AIRBNBs ARE NON-REFUNDABLE.

Much love,

Sarah

 

BON VOYAGE AND FITTING MY STUFF INTO ONE SUITCASE