The local version of the German Sears catalogs (OTTO) is not paperback, but hard bound like a prized novel. Walmart, America’s number one retailer, failed miserably here in Germany.
They have Cheetos here, but they are all PEANUT (Erdnusse) flavored! I have yet to see CHEESE FLAVORED PUFFS of any variety. WTF? Cartman weeps. Don’t even get me started on potato chips. You gotta search for a good “regular old” potato chip. Eighty percent of potato chips here are red bell-pepper flavored (paprika in German). Pretzels are popular and available.
Want some saltine crackers for your soup? Not on your life my friend! You can get Ritz and sesame flavored crackers, but pity the fool looking for plain old Nabisco saltines. How is this even possible? In a land of otherwise awesomely delicious soups, both Campbell’s and the saltine cracker are nowhere to be found.
Breakfast and dinner are pretty much the same thing over here. Only the lunch menu ever varies. For all practical considerations you can think of breakfast and dinner as perpetual trips to Subway. The “variety” comes from the different meats, breads and condiments you use to make either your breakfast or dinner sandwich. Admittedly, there are a lot of permutations on sandwiches (which is a good thing), but can you imagine eating two meals a day at SUBWAY every day for the rest of your life?
Umwelt. They got it in spades. What the hell is umwelt? From my on-the-scene analysis, it is a form of conservation that somebody like Teddy Roosevelt would have appreciated. It is rare for me to walk in a place over here that hasn’t been continuously occupied in one form or another for five or more CENTURIES. The US is only a couple centuries old and only the east coast has any claim to continuous urbanization for any coherent length of time. The people here know that if they destroy their environment, there isn’t anywhere else to go. Therefore, they tend to be [b]extremely[/b] sensitive to their environmental impact. They actually care about the place their kids will grow up (crazy, I know). I was at a zoo with a young couple and their four year old son. The mother is a smoker. We were sitting at a park bench in the concessions area of the zoo when the ashes from the end of her cigarette fell to the bricked patio floor. Her four year old almost had a nervous breakdown witnessing this singular diabolical act of “pollution”. It is quite illegal to even trim your hedges after very, very early in the spring or late in the fall, as this might disturb nesting birds.
Bacon. There’s good news and there’s bad news. The kind of Waffle House bacon that most of us grew up eating is available here, though you need a bit of savvy to find it. Most stores will carry it as “breakfast bacon” or “American bacon”. All the bacon I have purchased in Germany has been sliced thinner than Mitt Romney’s intellect, and there seems to be no option for apple smoked or maple flavored varieties. You will most likely be buying it in 100 gram packages at about a euro per package.
Sugar. One size fits all. Sold in one kilogram packages only (at least at the retail level). That is a bit over TWO POUNDS, which translates into those tiny little bags of sugar they sell at your local Kroger alongside the enormous stacks of five and ten pound bags most US customers routinely purchase.
Cereal. Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies are identifiable and available. Cereal aisle in German store a tenth that of the US though. Weird that most FLAVORED cereals tend to include chocolate and not fruit as a sales hook. They have a lot of “health” themed cereals that look like trail-mix, though I don’t remember seeing any Grape Nuts.
Healthy living. Along with their focus on environmental Umwelt, the Germans tend to take their health more seriously than Americans. The tiny 1kg portions of sugar and 100g bacon packaging in the stores underlines this attitude. Even rich people with Porshes ride their bikes back and forth (in the winter, in the snow) without so much as a second thought. People older than your grandma are out riding all the time. At the end of the day, German life expectancy is only a couple months, give or take, longer than the US. Matter of fact, if you removed all the needless gun deaths from the equation, the US population lives longer than the average German. I find it interesting that the focus on health in Germany doesn’t really translate into longevity. That speaks volumes about any individual’s ability to manipulate his or her lifespan through exercise alone. What I can say with certainty is that old people here ARE healthier and more active, even if they do eventually fall out at the same pace as their more portly and docile US counterparts.
Turns out that all that Umwelt is expensive, so you are going to pay through the nose for bottle deposits as well as grocery bags at the store, not to mention gas for your car, which is somewhere around the equivalent of EIGHT BUCKS a GALLON USD. Note the one liter bottle of Mobil One oil priced at 22 Euro to get an idea how bad things are on that end. Expect your utility rates to triple from whatever you pay in the US, which WILL have you looking at the THIRTY OR MORE varieties of high efficiency LED LIGHTS already being sold in stores here.
Kitchens. Kitchens are not considered “part” of a house or apartment here. They generally move with the occupant. Kitchen cabinet sizes are standardized, as is mounting hardware. Since everything is brick here, solid mounting points for heavy cabinets are easy to find. The local version of Home Depot sells entire kitchens, complete with all appliances, cabinets, counters and sinks, starting at around a thousand euro. Kinda of an Ikea Kitchen in a box. Custom kitchen retailers abound. A few thousand euro will get you a COMPLETE KICK ASS kitchen over here (where I paid about two thousand bucks just for a refrigerator back in the US!). About the most you could spend on a kitchen is five thousand euro, and those kitchens have amenities like MOTORIZED HANDS FREE drawers! You kinda push against them with your knee and voila they open. Another press and zippity do dah, they close. My favorite upscale kitchen appliance? They sell a flush wall-mount built in latte-cappuccino maker for a little over a thousand euro. I opted for a table top model at 350 euro. A little piece of Starbucks right in my kitchen (dislosure: my machine is actually a DeLonghi model).
McDonalds. This little slice of American heaven lacks the reliance on the red goo meat and bio engineered crap they serve in the US (outlawed here). Metrics has killed the Quarter Pounder as well. You can order beer at McDonald here (though I have yet to see anybody do it). And for the life of me, I don’t remember the breakfast biscuit coming with sliced tomatoes and lettuce in the US. An aside of an entirely different aberrancy is that KFC does not sell biscuits here, a crushing blow for certain members of my immediate family and something that is certain to have the corpse of the Colonel rolling over in his grave.