Why Germany is Magical at Christmas Time

 

Christmas is right around the corner and I am in the holiday spirit full force. Our tree has been up for weeks and I am all about Christmas music, parties and, most importantly, Christmas markets.

I’ve always loved Christmas, probably because my mom goes insane on the holiday decorations, like a tree in every room insane. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I see her house. But then I moved to Germany and the Christmas celebrations skyrocketed. I will say one thing, Germany is absolutely magical at Christmas time is, in my humble opinion, the best place in Europe to celebrate the holidays.

And what better to show you how truly amazing Christmas is than with a photos from around Germany that highlight the holiday season.

Christmas Pyramid in Heidelberg, Germany & Other Places Germany is the best place to be for Christmas

 

Why Germany is the place to celebrate Christmas

 

Germany Christmas Markets are so Magical

 

Christmas Markets are so magical in Germany

 

Christmas Markets in Germany are the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season

 

Most of these pictures are from Christmas Markets because there is nothing like a German Christmas Market. Every city, big and small, has some sort of Christmas market or at the very least a weekend with a market.

What is a Christmas Market, you may ask? A city takes a main square and the surrounding streets, puts up stands, sells glühwein (hot, mulled wine), trinkets, gifts and lots of food, and everyone stands around eating and drinking and being merry. There’s always sausage sandwiches and crepes with Nutella.

The streets of our city are covered in Christmas decorations and the atmosphere is so happy. I swear, Germans are the happiest this time of year. People are holding doors for others, not pushing as much, and very much enjoying the Christmas spirit.

If you add snow to the mix, there’s just nothing like it. It’s like being in a Hallmark Christmas movie minus the terrible acting. I hope I’ve convinced you to visit Germany over Christmas because there is just nothing like it.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate the holidays?

 

Why Germany is the best place in Europe to celebrate Christmas

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Handling Home Sickness

 

95% of the time I am extremely happy, content and full of life. But then there’s that other 5% when I don’t feel my best and since moving abroad, that means I am feeling home sick.

I’ve written about being home sick before but the feeling has been something fierce the last few weeks. I haven’t been back to America since May. That’s almost 7 months since I have stepped foot on American soil. I realize that I am very lucky to be able to travel all around Europe and that I get to spend my birthday in France and my wedding anniversary in Tuscany, but there’s something about being home that can’t be matched.

The home sickness feeling is different now than it was when I went to college. In college, I could easily call my mom and talk to her on my way to class and talk about my day and her day, plans for the weekend, etc. Now, we’re in completely different time zones, 6 hours apart, and it’s not as easy to call while walking around. One, it’s expensive to make direct phone calls (we do FaceTime when I’m on WiFi) and walking around speaking English, usually brings about lots of stares. Text messages happen all throughout the day but it’s not the best substitute for sitting in a coffee shop and chatting.

There’s also something to be said about all the conveniences of America. Like having my own car and having big parking lots at the grocery store. On the days when I’m not working, I don’t have the car (we only have one) but want to run errands, like the grocery store, and have to be super strategic about what I buy because I have to carry it home. And on the days when it’s raining, like today, all I wish is that I had a car so I could drive to Kroger! And, of course, there’s missing Target. I miss Target on a daily basis.

These may seem like trivial things but when buying cheese at the cheese counter requires a 15 minute pep talk to yourself just to make sure you say the right amount is extremely draining. There’s the gearing up to speak German, which is not an easy language, and on top of that, there’s trying to remember grams vs. pounds! Seriously, if I had one wish, it would be that the entire world would be on the same number scales, like temperature, weight, length. Why is America the only country with the metric system?! I digress.

The past few weeks I have felt sad because I’m missing the births of several of my best friends’ babies, I’m missing the building of my parent’s new house, I’m missing the housewarming parties, the baby showers, the spontaneous dinners, the engagement parties. It’s not easy and I feel like a bad friend, daughter and sister.

I’ve tried to pull myself out this funk in several ways because I don’t like being this dreary, sad, depressed person. I like to always turn a negative into a positive. That the glass is half full, not empty. But it’s not necessarily easy. Everyone experiences something negative in life. Life’s tough. And moving abroad has been the single most growing experience of my life. Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve been incorporating into how to handle that home sick feeling.

Get out of the house // It’s so easy to sit at home and watch Real Housewives when I’m missing home and wanting to feel more like myself. And admittedly, I do this quite often. But if I fall too far down the binge watching abyss, I start to go stir crazy. I take Copley for a quick walk, grab a cup of coffee with a friend or run to to drugstore to get a new nail polish. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes, I feel so much better by getting some fresh air.

Hit the gym // I love to work out because I love to feel strong but I also love it because it makes me feel mentally at peace, too. Plus, who doesn’t need as many endorphins as possible? Like Elle Woods said, “Endorphins make you happy. And happy people just don’t kill their husbands.”

Meet a friend // I do miss my friends back home but I am so grateful for my friends I’ve made in Germany. Going through the expat life is so specific and unique that it’s so nice to chat with other people going through the same thing. After a cappuccino or a glass of Processo and gabbing about how strange it is to not understand how the mail system works or where does the aluminum foil go in the recycling. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my feelings.

Shop // Ok, Ok, I know many psychologist will have a problem with this answer, but retail therapy works. I don’t go crazy, sometimes it’s just a nail polish like I said above, sometimes it’s a new mug, sometimes it’s an extra sleeve of Nespresso coffee. And I like to buy online because it’s then two fold. I get the rush of ordering something and then having it arrive!

Open a bottle of wine // Or your cocktail/drink of choice. When I’m feeling extra sad, I like to open a semi-special bottle of wine at the end of the day. I don’t drown my sorrows in the glass but I like to have something to look forward to when the day is rough. Plus, there’s nothing quite like a glass of dry, red wine to heal you.

Plan a trip // When I’m feeling home sick, planning our next vacation is so helpful! It’s the biggest perk and the biggest reason we wanted to move abroad, so looking into our next destination always perks me up!

Feeling home sick is totally normal and something that I go through probably about twice a year and by focusing the positives and having things to look forward to definitely gets me through.

I’d love to know, how do you handle a difficult situation? Have you ever felt home sick? How do you handle it?

How to handle that home sick feeling when you live abroad, tips to get through it

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Learning German Update

 

It’s been quite a while since I did an update on what it’s like to learn German. Last week I finished my A2 book, which feels like such an accomplishment. For reference, foreign language levels go from A1 – C2 or beginner to fluent. My goal for our time living in Germany is to complete B1 because that’s the level where you can have conversations, can legally work and can legally stay in Germany as a foreigner.

I’ve been upping my studying game recently and wanted to share some tips that have really worked for me. If you’ve ever learned another language, I would love to hear what tips you have. Leave me a comment below.

I now have three different notebooks surrounding German studying. I have one for grammar, one for vocabulary and one for homework and exercises. I really like the vocabulary notebook instead of notecards because it doesn’t take up as much space and it’s easier to flip through while watching tv or taking a coffee break at work. I did like flash cards in the beginning because I was at home all the time, but now that I’m working and on the go a lot more, I like being able to grab the notebook and being able to flip through it when I have a second.

Finding online worksheets, especially for pronouns and other grammar topics, has definitely helped. I found several websites that offer free or donation-based worksheets for all sorts of different topics and the sites also have the answers. (I love this site). I write out the full worksheet into my notebook and then write my answers. It takes longer but writing the words and sentences helps my comprehension. Pronouns are the hardest part of German for me and I really need the practice. There’s also a lot of information on Pinterest, which I never would have thought. Practice makes perfect, right?

Speaking more with coworkers and friends. Vinn and I try to speak German as much as possible at home. Admittedly, we could do this a lot more but sometimes at the end of a long day, the last thing we want to do is keep our brains turned on and thinking in German. Speaking is the quickest way to learn to a language, I’ve learned. Once I got over the fear of sounding stupid, my German knowledge actually grew.

 

If  you could learn a new language, what language would you pick? If you have learned another language, what tips do you have?

 

Learning German isn't Easy, Here are some tips that have helped me

 

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American Household Products I Miss

 

In today’s edition of things I miss from America, I’m sharing all of the household products that I prefer in the USA compared to Germany. The products in Germany are healthier and not as toxic as the products in America because the European standards for products are higher but there are some things that I like better from the States.

I would also categorize myself as a neat freak/control freak/perfectionist, so not having some of these has been a big adjustment. If you know of any products that are similar to these that are available in Germany, I’d love to hear them!

*This post contains affiliate links.*

Clorox Wipes

I used to wipe down our bathroom and kitchen countertops every single day with Clorox wipes. They are so easy and quick to use that make cleaning not as much of a chore. I love the convenience of the wipes, too, because you only need one thing. You don’t have to spray anything, then use a paper towel. It’s super lazy but keeps the countertops clean during the week until I deep clean. Germany doesn’t love wipes in general because it produces a lot of waste, which is true, but sometimes I wish I had them for quick cleaning.

Shark Vacuum

I am just going to say it, I hate my vacuum here in Germany. We bought it from another expat couple who was moving back to America, which is so nice, but there isn’t a big enough surface area to pick up all the dust and crumbs off the floor. I loved our Shark vacuum that we actually received as a wedding present and I miss it so much. It is seriously the best vacuum around because it is super lightweight, has lots of attachments to get into corners, easily transitions from carpet to hardwoods and does a fantastic job in a short period of time.

Anthropologie Candles

This one isn’t necessarily a household product but I really miss those big candles that just smell amazing. The candles here aren’t as potent, if you will, and don’t last as long. I used to light candles every single night in the States and I’ve gotten away from that habit here. There’s no Anthropologie or Bath and Body Works and I have yet to find some comparable candles.

Queen Sheets 

Queen size mattresses just aren’t a thing in Europe. We brought our mattress with us and thank goodness we did. It’s a pillow top and the most comfortable thing in the world. The problem is that we can’t buy queen sheets anywhere. We brought one pair with us thinking we could just buy another pair once we moved, but we haven’t yet! We haven’t really run into a problem, it’s just that I have to wash them and put them back on in the same day. New queen sheets are definitely on my list of things to buy when we go back to the States for Christmas.

Ziplock Baggies

The plastic here in Germany isn’t the same when it comes to baggies. I have found some here but only in quart size, which are way too big for every day use. I wish I could just go to Costco and get the lifetime supply of Ziplock sandwich baggies. I definitely use more containers here, which I suppose is a good thing, but sometimes I just want some baggies!

Tin Foil 

Last but not least, I miss tin foil. Tin foil exists but it’s not as thick and definitely not Reynolds Wrap. It almost feels waxy here, not as sturdy and not as popular. I can’t really explain the differences but I just don’t seem to like the tin foil here. The box isn’t as nice either and it is super difficult to cut the foil. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cut myself from trying to rip the foil off the “cutter.”

These products are trivial and don’t make or break having a good or bad day, but sometimes I really wish I could swing by Target and grab everything on this list in one fell swoop. Oh, that would be so nice. But, it’s an experience and I’m adjusting.

What are your favorite household products?

 

Living abroad is amazing, but I miss some household products from the USA

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Watching American TV Abroad

 

Admittedly, I love TV. I have an addiction to the Real Housewives of most cities and have seen the majority of the seasons at least once. We cut cable in Michigan about a year before we moved to Germany but we had Netflix and Hulu. I was able to watch the majority of shows I wanted to watch and didn’t really miss cable.

Add in an international move and I immediately started to miss cable and tv in general. We decided not to get German cable in an effort to save money. Of course, we are traveling quite a bit and not spending all of our time inside watching tv, but there are definitely Sundays spent on the couch relaxing and nights after work where binge watching something is all my brain can handle.

So, how do we watch American tv while living in Germany?

*This post contains affiliate links.*

It’s simple: Netflix and iTunes.

Netflix is the easiest option because 1) it is still paid via our US bank account and 2) I didn’t have to do anything to update our account, our Apple TV just knows we are in Germany based on our IP address. Netflix also works in other countries the same way. The only issue is that many shows on US Netflix are not available on German Netflix. Germany requires steep taxes for movie and tv production companies, so many shows do not want to pay. There’s no 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation, which is a big bummer, but we have other shows that we probably wouldn’t have watched, like Suits. Netflix also has lots of German shows, too, so it helps with learning German, too.

iTunes is really how I watch the majority of my tv and that’s because it’s how I can watch my housewives shows. Shout out to my dad for Apple Family Plan! I really don’t think I could have survived without it. It’s a taste of home and the perfect background noise. I just started rematching season 3 and 4 of New Jersey and, man, did I forget how awesome these seasons were!

I have some friends who also watch things on Amazon but I have no experience with that. My sister has Amazon Prime and she absolutely loves it. Not sure if it makes sense to have Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it once we move back.

Other people we know have a VPN that allows them to watch cable from an American tv. Here’s an article on how to set up a VPN but I find it too complicated and don’t want to put in the effort to figure this out. It seems like a lot of work to just watch This is Us. 

I’d love to know what you are watching now. Leave me a comment down below! 

 

How to watch your favorite American tv shows in Germany

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