Q & A Time, Boys and Girls!

21 Oct

Thank you so much to all of you who responded our blogpost last month and sent us your questions!  I know it’s taken a while to get it together, but many of the questions took quite a bit of thought, which is a good thing!  So here we go, in random order… 🙂

How many German words do you think you know now?

I honestly have no idea!  I know that sounds like a cop out, but as time has gone by, it’s tougher for me to have a ‘list’ of words like I did in the beginning.  Instead, I find myself being pleasantly surprised (usually on a daily basis!) as to how much I can understand.  It’s definitely a sliding scale, too, as is the case with all languages- reading is easiest, then listening, and finally, speaking.  In other words, we’re to the point now where we can (I won’t say comfortably, but maybe sufficiently?) navigate menus, grocery stores, street signs, etc.  We do OK listening to folks if they’ll speak VERY slowly (and sometimes use hand gestures, much like charades!).  Speaking, with the exception of maybe 30 words, is a bit of a bloodbath, however.

What’s the hardest part of the language for you to grasp?

Well, you know that I’m a language person, so once I set my mind to (at least) memorizing some of the ‘rules,’ it’s a little easier.  For example, when we first got here, I didn’t know why there were capitalized words in the middle of sentences.  It turns out that all nouns- yes, ALL- are capitalized.  I also couldn’t figure out the ‘order’ of the sentences, how in English, it’s ‘subject + verb + adjective/adverb.’  Well, in German, the verb is always at the end of the sentence, meaning you’ve got (potentially) alot going on before you ever get to what’s actually happening in the said sentence!

OK, back to the question.  The toughest part of the German language, for us anyway, has been the four ‘new’ letters,  ä, ö, ü and β.  Yes, we now know how to pronounce each of them, but we have to constantly remind ourselves with each and every word.  The ä sounds like the ‘ea’ in ‘heaven.’  The ö sounds like a soft ‘er’ as in ‘work.’  The ü is pronounced ‘ew,’ like a female sheep.  And finally, the β is not a B, but rather two ‘s’s, like graβ.  You try keeping all that straight in your head! Ha!

Has the weather gotten any better?

Um, no.  Unfortunately, the weather here in Stuttgart is one of my absolute least favorite aspects of living here.  While there are occasional days of sunshine and (slightly) warmer temperatures, it rains more here than you can imagine and it’s always chilly, if not downright cold!  Just to give you an idea, when I head to the gym in the mornings between 6-8a, for the last few weeks, the temperature has been right around 30F, with the high later in the afternoon MAYBE reaching 45F.  *Sigh* I find that I’m most affected, though, by the rain and cloudiness.  It really does have an effect on your mood.  It got so bad for me last month that I started researching (and shopping for) SAD lights.  The only saving grace was that I went to visit my best friend in Tel Aviv the following week and came back Vitamin D replenished!

What are y’all’s favorite and least favorite German foods?

What a tough question for a foodie like myself!  Hmmm…My favorites are probably the Maultaschen (Swabian ravioli filled with spinach and beef) and ham/cheese/onion Flamekuchen (very thin pizza with creme fraiche instead of tomato sauce). I’m not a fan of German desserts (too much cream and fruit, always served cold, etc.), their salad dressings (VERY oil-laden) or the sausages (although I’m not a sausage fan at home either.)  John’s favorites are (obviously) the plethora of sausages (his top pick being the white veal and the Nurnbergers), the beer, spaetzle (Swabian pasta), Flamekuchen, sauerkraut, pretzels and frikadellens (flattened beef and sausage meatballs).  He doesn’t care for their bread dumplings, their desserts and many of their seafood dishes.  We’ve both enjoyed the HUGE selection of cheeses (over 3000 varieties are produced in this country! Holy cow, literally!), baked goods (bread and pastries are all the rage!) and fresh meats (beef is a big deal here)…

Any regrets about taking the pups with you?

NOT A ONE.  We knew from our very first day in Stuttgart that we’d made the right decision in bringing them with us.  Every day since has just been further confirmation.  Our biggest concern initially was just getting them here and that ended up going great! (You can read an LCD article I wrote all about it here.)  Once they arrived here safe and sound, they’ve loved every minute of it!  Of course, that’s not say that it didn’t take some getting used to!  They have a big house, a huge fenced yard and a doggie door at home…Here, they’ve had to adjust to a two bedroom apartment, routine leash walks and ‘scheduled’ potty and play times.  They love the walks, they love being able to go everywhere with us, and they seem to really love spending their days with the cool mom :).  Which brings me to the other reason it was the right decision- having them here has made ALL the difference for John and me.

What things do you like most about Germany?

Oooh, good question…In no specific order:

  • really fresh produce
  • the parts of the Autobahn with no speed limits (when corresponding with no traffic jams)
  • the gorgeous Fall colors
  • its central European location (you can get everywhere in a reasonable amount of time!)
  • their festivals (Germans have festivals for everything, all the time!  Food and alcohol are the common denominators.)
  • sausage (German sausage is actually healthy as it has to be 90%+ meat to get the title!)
  • outdoor space in general (there are so many parks, playgrounds, bike paths, hiking trails, etc.)
  • biergartens and outdoor seating at just about every restaurant (in warmer weather, of course)
  • public transportation (every German town with more than 40,000 residents has trains and buses!)
  • their ‘green’ efforts (they’re lightyears ahead of the States with energy conservation, recycling, composting, etc.)
  • gay and lesbian tolerance (there are ‘domestic partnerships’ everywhere here and it’s just not an issue…for anyone)
  • dog tolerance (they can go everywhere except the grocery store!)
  • the idea behind ‘coffee and cake’ every afternoon (even though we don’t care for their desserts and don’t (usually) partake in the ritual (because we’d be ginormous!), how great a concept is this?!)

Do they have any American restaurants or stores over there?

Fast food joints seem to be about the only familiar establishments here.  There are tons of McD’s, BK, Subway and KFC.  Unfortunately, we’re not fast food eaters (John has eaten KFC twice), so these might as well not be here.  Beyond these 4, I can’t think of any American restaurants or stores here. 😦

What exactly do you do all day while John’s at work?

I lounge around and eat bonbons all day, of course! Ha!  Nah…I knew coming into this that this would be one of my biggest challenges considering that I’m used to being on the go at every second.  Heck, I’ve owned and run a business since I was 24, so you know it’s foreign to me to, all of a sudden, have all this time on my hands!  So I tried to prepare in advance by starting this blog- I wanted something to both keep me busy AND share our adventures with all of you!  I also took on a new freelance project writing articles for Lowcountry Dog Magazine- I write three stories each week.  Considering that my background is in writing, both just seemed like logical fits…

Hmmm…What else do I do?  I go to the gym (or run outside, back when it was warmer) first thing every morning.  On pretty days, the pups and I spend alot of time outside, either exploring a new trail (there are ZILLIONS of trails here) or playing in our park.  By early afternoon, the Lowcountry is waking up, which means that my phone starts ringing with work-related stuff (yes, I’m still running a business from over here!)- clients adding, canceling, changing reservations, etc.  If I have errands to run, I’ll take John to work in the morning and keep the car for the day.  Otherwise, it’s bike time!  Luckily, nearly everything here is within biking distance.  John generally gets ‘home’ around 4p.  If the weather’s (somewhat) cooperating, we’ll take the pups on a nice long walk/play.  We like to cook together and the evenings are usually spent watching ‘our shows’- we’re currently addicted to Dexter, Pawn Stars, Modern Family and indie Netflix movies :).

How is it REALLY being away from your parents?

Difficult.  Tough.  Hard.  Get the picture?  As y’all know, I’m an only child, which automatically puts me on an uphill climb by doing something like this.  I’m used to seeing- or at least talking to- my folks (and my grandmother) every day of my life, so being this far away without them has been very challenging.  I miss them terribly.  On the flip side, I’ve often wondered how some people can live so far away from their families, seeing them only once or twice a year…I’ve wondered (and doubted) if I could do it.  And I’ve proven to myself that yes, I CAN do it…but I don’t WANT to.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging anyone who has opted to leave the nest and go it alone (not ‘alone,’ but you know what I mean), but I know now that it’s not for me…and that I can quit wondering about it.  I realize this may not make much sense to some of you, but I can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment just in finally having an answer to that ‘question’ that I’ve had for many years.  I wouldn’t trade my family ‘dynamic’ for anything and can’t wait to get back to it!

Do you talk to your parents daily?

Yes.  My mom calls me every morning (afternoon for me) as she’s walking her pup.  Then we ‘meet’ on Skype several times a week.  My dad’s an early riser, so several mornings (4a US and 10a GER) a week, we ‘meet’ for coffee on Skype, too.  It works out well. 🙂

How do prices in Germany compare with prices in the States?

For most day-to-day stuff, the costs are very similar with the States’ prices with German prices being slightly higher.  Granted, it seems to be a ‘give and take’ in that some items are way cheaper here, yet others are significantly more expensive.  For example, cheeses and alcohol are very inexpensive here- the fanciest cheeses are less than $5 and John’s beer is often WAY cheaper than my bottled water!- yet fresh produce ($7 for a head of cauliflower!) and cleaning products tend to be really pricey.  For clothes and household items, there’s a wide range of stores with varying prices, just as in the States.  I will say that their ‘WalMart’s’ prices are higher than ours, as are their home improvement items.  The same is true for restaurants- there’s something for every budget.

Things that are really expensive here?  Rent, gasoline, utilities and cars.  *Note- Everything, including all of the above, is significantly more expensive in the major cities.  Berlin and Cologne are CRAZY expensive, for example.

What has been your favorite trip since you got there and why?

John and I have talked a TON about this one and find it nearly impossible to choose a winner.  We’ve had SO many good trips since we got here, and each for its own reasons.  If we HAD to pick a favorite, it would be Switzerland.  It’s just like nothing we’d ever seen before- and may never again.  The view are simply breathtaking.  The fact that my parents were with us on this adventure probably helped, too! 🙂  Other top destinations?  Prague because we had such a romantic time there, Venice because it was great to go back to our favorite city in the world and to share it with people we love, and Heidelberg because it was our first adventure and is still our favorite German town.  Oh, and Paris this go around will always be special for me since my mom and I got to do it together. 🙂

How do you watch American TV shows there?

My husband’s a nerd and figured out how to block our foreign IP address, meaning that we can access all the US sites.  (Most sites won’t let you watch video if they see that you’re outside of the States.)  So we watch on Hulu and all the network websites (cbs.com, etc.) where most shows are uploaded within a day or two of their original airings.  We also use the ‘Watch Instantly’ feature on Netflix.

So are you and John about to kill each other having spent all this time one-on-one?

Surprisingly, just the opposite!  This adventure has been the absolute best thing for us.  Being each other’s only support system, only helpmate, only playmate, only EVERYTHING can’t help but deepen and enrich that bond you already share.  You also can’t help but to learn about each other and to depend on them even more.  You’re a team…a partnership…a duo, taking on the world!  I know it sounds cheesy- believe me, I know!- but it’s true!  We’re just in a really good place and loving it. 🙂

Does John like his job there?

Yes.  John’s doing a type of work that he doesn’t generally do much of back in the States- more hands-on, more outside, more dirt…And he’s loved the (temporary) change of pace! He’s also enjoyed meeting new people and has made several good friends whom he’ll miss when come home.  That being said, he’s REALLY missed his guys from work in the States- and his projects- and is really excited to get back to all of the above!

Is your business doing OK while you’re gone?

Lowcountry Pet Sitters is thriving, thanks mostly to my group of awesome sitters holding down the fort while I’m gone!  Yes, I’m still handling reservations and scheduling, but they’ve really stepped it up over these last three months and given it their all.  I’m beyond impressed with how hard they’ve worked and how smoothly they’ve kept things going.  I really can’t thank them enough.  So here’s to you, Nicole, Malori and Maggie!

Is it true that Germany has better beer?

I went straight to the expert for this one…My husband!  For those of you who don’t know, John has been quite the beer (and occasionally, wine) connoisseur for years now, trying it all over the world, brewing it at home, etc…Very few people I know actually know more about beer than John.  (Is it wrong to think that’s sexy?! Ha)  Anyway, back to the question…

No, German beer is NOT better than American beer, but let me elaborate.  If you think of American beer as the run-of-the-mill Budweiser, Coors, Busch, etc., then yes, German beer HANDS DOWN takes the cake.  But if you’re including all the microbreweries all over the States, then there’s no contest.  For starters, there’s much more variety in the States.  For example, when you go to a restaurant here, they will offer one type of beer, MAYBE two at a huge restaurant.  You can either order ‘a beer’ or not- there’s no Bud Light, Sam Adams, Coors, PBR to choose from, just BEER.  The reason for this is because each town, or cluster of little towns, has their own brewery that that’s who supplies the restaurants.  There’s more of a selection at grocery stores and gas stations, but still VERY limited by American standards.

It’s important to note, however, that German beer IS very good.  John really likes their Hefeweizen and their Dunkelweizen- he says both are superior to their American counterparts.  I prefer their Witbier.  Apparently, Germany has ‘beer purity laws’ that state that only water, hops, malt, barley and yeast can be used to make ANY beer, whereas in the States, various spices, fruits, etc. are often added to achieve different flavors, thus increasing variety.  Interesting…Oh, and for you wine drinkers, German/European wine wins that battle.

What do you miss the most about the US?

Wow, that’s a doozie of a question!  I’m going to take the Wheel of Fortune approach- you know, how in the final segment they automatically give you the most obvious RSTLNE?  Well, I’m going to assume that the question is referring to stuff beyond the obvious: our family, our friends, our house, the English language… 🙂

So in no particular order…

  • Fenced-in yard
  • Doggie door
  • Sunshine
  • American food
  • Warmer temperatures
  • Football
  • People who smile
  • Regular TV
  • Stores/Restaurants being open on Sundays
  • Eavesdropping (not in a creepy way!  just being able to pass by a group and understand what they’re talking about!)
  • King-sized mattress (all European beds have two twin mattresses- yes, so there’s a huge crack in the middle!)
  • King-sized blanket/comforter (all European beds also have two separate blankets- they wind up in the floor!)
  • Work (for me, of course!)
  • Friendly people (heck, we’d even settle for politeness or just common courtesy!)
  • Our cars (sharing a car is for the birds!)
  • Our cell phones (sharing a phone is also for the birds!)
  • Ordering FREE tap water at restaurants (you have to buy bottled water here and it’s often pricier than the beer!)
  • Space heater (I’m cold-natured and ALWAYS have a space heater nearby- not the case here!)
  • The beach and all things water

Is Germany as clean as everyone says it is?

Yes, it’s clean, but honestly, it’s really no cleaner than the States.  Now for European standards (*think Italian cities), it FOR SURE is very clean.  I will say that there’s MUCH more graffiti here than at home, even in the smallest of towns.  Apparently it’s considered an art form.

Is the Autobahn as cool as it’s hyped up to be?

Definitely not.  I did a whole post on driving a few months ago, so be sure to check that out for all the details, but the bottom line is this.  The Autobahn is not one road, but rather then name given to all the highways.  Yes, they’re well-maintained and they’re easy to navigate, but the Autobahn is ALWAYS congested.  Always.  You can sit in traffic- often for no good reason- for hours, regardless of day, time, etc.  Is it cool to drive top speed down the wide-open parts?  Absolutely.  Are there many of these parts?  Not really.  It’s a gamble really- some days you’re the dog, others you’re the hydrant.

So are y’all going to make it more permanent and sign on for the 3+ years?

Ah, the million dollar question…Drum roll, please!  After ALOT of thought, discussion and pros-and-cons list making…No, we’re not extending our German adventure, at least not right now.  John will be working as the ‘liaison’ for his project, though, which will mean he’ll be coming to Germany every few months to handle updates, training, etc., so it’ll be the best of both worlds for both of us (because I’ll tag along some, too!):)

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve LOVED our time over here, we’ve had a BLAST and we’ve learned SO much about so many different countries and cultures, but…we like HOME better.  It’s almost funny, really…All the changes and new experiences we’ve had in the last three months- it’s all been such a blessing.  But the biggest blessings have actually been under the radar: strengthening our relationship, boosting our confidence in ourselves and our abilities, stretching our comfort zones, and…making us truly appreciate home- and ALL that that entails- even more.  Dorothy had it right, folks- There’s no place like home.

See you in less than two weeks! Bazinga! 🙂

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