On My Exile (Part 2)

(Originally posted Feb 20, 2017)

So, today marks 3 years and 2 days since the beginning of my exile from the United States. I have to say that while I was apprehensive about moving to a foreign land, I have come to enjoy being here (honestly, I started enjoying it as soon as my horrendous jet lag ended). There are a lot of similarities between Germany, as well as some vastly different things. I have come here to document these and hopefully provide some insight for those looking to visit Germany.

I live in a sleepy little town with about 500 people. It is such a small town it doesn’t even have a bakery. However, we do have a bar – so you know, like liquid bread and all that stuff. I guess that shows the priorities of the town (not that I am complaining!). Every year, like most German towns, they have a Christkindlmarkt. It is a Christmas market where everyone goes to drink hot spiced wine and complain about their neighbors – to their neighbors. Germans are very frank, and won’t beat around the bush if their neighbor is doing something that is against the unwritten rules of German life. That being said, once the dilemma has been aired and the neighbor (with much chagrin) acknowledges it, the two parties can continue to imbibe in their drinking of alcohol as if nothing had ever transpired.

One of the things that is great about Christmas time in Germany is lebkuchen. Wikipedia’s page says lebkuchen is “…a traditional German baked Christmas treat, somewhat resembling gingerbread.” A better description is fluffy, but heavy crack filled cookie of so much deliciousness, my head feels like it is going to explode every time I eat a bite. I keep editing the wiki page to reflect that, but someone keeps changing it back (probably a German). My favorite type is N├╝rnberger Elisenlebkuchen. They have a high concentration of almond flour in them (no less than 25% and sometimes almost 40%!) which gives them a flavor like spiced, roasted nuts. The only thing I don’t like about them is that they are pretty expensive. A tin of six good quality 6” round lebkuchen can cost anywhere between $10 and $30. The nice thing is that because of the nut content and the covering of chocolate or icing they can last 6 to 8 months and still be moist and delicious – not that they last that long in my house. I always prepare by buying a metric shit ton when they go on sale after Christmas at the commissary.

The preparedness of Germans astounds me still to this day (I spoke about it after the first year of my exile). I recall being at last year’s Christmas market, and noticing that almost every German child was dressed in so many layers they had a striking resemblance to Ralphie’s brother in “A Christmas Story”. I think I even heard one poor kid say “Ich kann meine Arme nicht runter machen!” (I can’t put my arms down!). Still, even with their preparedness they still have a hard time buying food for more than a couple days. While in the U.S., I would shop for food about every two weeks and I thought that was pretty frequent. I knew people that only shopped for food monthly. However, in Germany, the food doesn’t last that long. It seems to spoil quite quickly compared to the states. I honestly attribute that to the dismal weather here; the weather is so depressing that I assume the loaf of bread I bought 2 days prior just gave up on life. The weather is so gloomy I am surprised they don’t give people vitamin D suppositories when they arrive at the airport.

I think the way the Germans counteract the shitty weather is by having parties or festivals for everything. I don’t think that there is a single month in the year where the Germans aren’t celebrating something. Hell, I am surprised they don’t celebrate their birthdays more than once a year! Oh, wait. I just remembered. In Germany, YOU buy everyone drinks on your birthday. I bet some of you out there reading this are wincing as you do so, but bear with me; this is the better way to do things. In the U.S., you have your birthday and everyone buys you drinks. Unless you don’t have friends, then you buy yourself drinks. And a pizza. And a tub of ice cream. Then you eat it all in a pathetic bout of self-pity and wonder why you don’t have friends. Anyways, in America you get your drinks bought once a year. In Germany, your free drinking ratio is directly proportional to the amount of friends you have, minus the cheapskates that are always “busy” on their birthday. This is why I ask new Germans that I meet what week of what month their birthday is. For any Germans out there, I still need the third week in April and the last week in November. If your birthday is in either of those weeks, want to be friends?? (Actually, I have one already in November, but my birthday is also in November so I have to counteract that). German birthdays are fun. They usually have a plethora of cakes to choose from, and I always choose all of them. The last German birthday party I went to had no less than 7 cakes. Maybe that is why I am 30 pounds overweight.

This is just the perspective of one man living in glorious exile from his homeland. If you took the time to read all this: congratulations! Your prize is that you won’t get this time back in your life. Next time just go to Germany.

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