Munich: random thoughts for the day #2

  • Who the hell convinced the Germans that orange cheese-like-food in a spray can is an essential part of the American diet? This stuff makes an appearance in every single “American Foods” section of every single grocery store in all of Germany. This is not a new thing, either – I remember seeing spray cheese at the KaDeWe in Berlin way back in the 90s, when their American food section consisted of little more than that, marshmallow fluff, Dr. Pepper, and DM10 jars of salsa. What do you think it would take to get the international food stockers to forgo the cheese in favor of some real American essentials, like vanilla extract and peanut butter cups?
  • I’d just like to mention how cool it is to live in a neighborhood (and city, for that matter) which has more than two grocery store chains (I’m looking at you, Zurich). Oh, the choices!
  • All I can say is kudos, CNN, for breaking the latest Britney Spears news even before MTV did (um, not that I’ve been sitting around watching Date My Mom all afternoon or anything like that…). That’s some quality international reporting right there.
  • This beautiful building? Oh, that’s just our neighborhood swimming pool.

A couple political notes for you Americans abroad

1) Dr. Sara appeals to us all to write our congresspeople about how ridiculously lame we find it that we as Americans abroad are expected to pay taxes in two countries. Pretty much every other government in the world has figured out that this is a lame way to treat expats; hopefully this proposed bill will straighten things out. By the way, your congresspeople are the representatives from the last state in which you legally resided in the US. You can vote for them (or against them), so that means they have to listen to you. Ha!

2) The US government may see us as double-tax-paying suckers, but at least the Democratic party loves us. Democrats Anonymous Abroad is sending 22 delegates to the DNC, and if you register on the Democrats Abroad website by January 31st (ie, tomorrow), you too can take part in the primary voting. You can also register to receive your absentee ballots for any and all upcoming elections using their handy Vote From Abroad wizard.

OK, back to my usual posture of closing my eyes, plugging my ears, and singing LALALALALA whenever US politics comes up.

Great chieftan o the puddin’ race!

Yesterday evening we were honored to be guests at a traditional Scottish Burns Night, the essential ingredients for which are haggis, whisky (are you Scots out there appreciating my spelling?), and a little poetry. The men in kilts were just an added bonus.

We learned a lot about Scottish culture while sipping on the delicious, warming whisky, important facts such as what kind of shoes are worn with a kilt, why haggis is better than salmon, and a variety of uses for the word ‘pudding’.

You’ve never seen a folk more enamored with their national dish than the Scots and their haggis. This love of a dish based on sheep entrails is hard for a vegetarian like myself to understand. But indeed, the Scots consider haggis so important that they want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to partake: there’s even a vegetarian version (entrail-free, naturally).

Without further ado, I give you the dramatic interpretation of Robert Burn’s poem ‘To A Haggis‘:

A poem for a haggis from zurika on Vimeo.

I wasn’t able to coax anyone into proclaiming ‘If it’s not Scottish it’s crap!’ (mainly due to a lack of concerted effort on my part), but there’s always next year… lucky for me Burns Night is celebrated each and every January 25th.

Munich: random thoughts for the day

  • We live so close to a brewery that our neighborhood actually smells like brewing beer most days. It’s really a pleasant smell, but I’m still glad it doesn’t seem to reach all the way to our apartment.
  • Right Said Fred is currently featured in a German commercial, performing I’m Too Sexy while shilling for Meister Proper (the German Mr. Clean). It makes me laugh.
  • What do you think this truck delivers? Fresh produce?

  • Speaking of deliveries, our refrigerator/freezer was delivered today. Three weeks without ice was much too long. Dirty martinis for everyone!
  • DSDS (the German American Idol) got off to a promising start last night. This guy is one of the best candidates of all times. The video is hysterical even if you don’t speak German – just wait till he starts singing. Seriously, it’s worth it [note – since I just realized this might not be obvious: he is intending to sing in English].

The new-city giddiness still hasn’t worn off.


After a 3-week wait (which by several accounts in quite short), Kabel Deutschland has finally deemed us worthy of giving them money in exchange for internet. Internet! In my home! Yayayayayay!!! I feel like doing a happy dance around the room, but then again that would require getting up from the computer. And I have a whole bunch of internet to catch up on.

I’d like to take this opportunity to profusely thank Zoozie’z, a fabulous bar and restaurant here in Munich which offers free internet. I have spent much time there these past few weeks.

Regularly scheduled blogging (and email replying, and commenting on other blogs, etc., etc.) to resume posthaste.

O2 rocks my world (a little bit)

So as I mentioned in the last post, we are keeping busy doing all those annoying little things one must do upon arrival in a new country: paperwork, set up utilities, paperwork, get insurance, paperwork, sign up for a cell phone plan, paperwork…

We decided to get contracts with the cell phone provider O2, since it seemed to have some of the less-offensive rates around (it’s entirely possible that there are better rates out there, but processing any additional info might have made our heads explode before we even got around to choosing one). After offering up our passports and visas to prove that we were worthy of paying lots of euros for German mobile numbers, we were actually pleasantly surprised by two secret extra-special bonus features that came with our new plans:

1) My O2 phone has a mobile number and a home number.* So if someone wants to reach me but doesn’t want to pay those crazy mobile-calling prices to do so, she can simply call my ‘home’ number, which will cause my cell phone to ring (but only if I’m at home). This means we don’t have to bother to get a home phone at all (which we were hoping to avoid, anyway). It also means that my husband and I have different ‘home’ numbers.

2) For signing up with O2 I got 10 hours of FREE internet access (in an attempt to get us hooked before they jack up the price) – and not that lame trying-to-browse-the-www-on-your-tiny-ass-phone kind of internet, but fancy on-your-computer internet which magically works via tiny invisible fairies which travel at the speed of light between your computer, your cell phone, and the series of tubes. Such fancy newfangled things they’ve got these days. This internet thing is so very exciting to me since, as I may have mentioned before, we still don’t have internet at home. (Note: I’m trying to use this fancy phone internet sparingly, so my excuse to still not be replying to emails in a remotely timely manner still stands.)

And after all these years, the German word “Handy” still makes me giggle.

* A little background for you Americans: unlike in the US, where mobile numbers look the same as landline numbers and cost the same to call, Europe differentiates between the mobile network and the landline network (‘Festnetz’) in some ways. Mobile numbers have certain prefixes, and cost more to call in most situations than landline numbers do.

I think we’ll call this the interrogation room

Still alive, still unpacking, still no internet at home. A trip to Ikea is long overdue (at least Ikea sells the same furniture all over the world, so our new German furniture will go perfectly with our Italian, Swiss, and American furniture).

Another thing we need to take care of is choosing a German cell phone plan. They are much more expensive here than in Switzerland or Italy, so we’re actually trying to pay attention to what we sign up for this time. Other than the cell phone plans, I’m pretty consistently amazed at how much less things cost here than they did in Zurich.

Every time I leave the apartment, I fall a little more in love with Munich. It has a great vibe, combined with beautiful architecture and interesting people. Our neighborhood seems more fun each day – new shops, restaurants, cafes… I find myself walking around with a goofy smile, bubbling over with excitement to get to know this city. And trust me, I am not normally a bubbly person.


I think I’ve finally done it: I’ve gotten “grüezi” out of my system. After merely a week, I’m able to walk into a shop in Munich and not automatically blurt out the Swiss greeting. It’s actually not too hard here, since the standard greeting in Bavaria is “Gruβ Gott!”, which starts out a bit like “grüezi” anyway, making it possible to start out with one and then make a save half-way through and change it to the other without sounding like too much of a confused loser. OK, that last part may or may not be true – for all I know I sound like a confused loser all the time here. At least the Bavarians are nice about it. :)

I’ve also managed to break the Swiss habit of saying “merci” instead of “danke”, although I admit to letting an “en guete” pass my lips once or twice this week. Now as long as I can remember to say “Fahrrad” instead of “Velo” and “Schokolade” instead of “Schoggi”, I should be all set.

Home at last

After two months of wandering the US, it’s nice to be in a city I currently can call home: Munich. We arrived a couple days ago and have been sleeping on an air mattress in our new apartment since then. I sure am looking forward to seeing all our furniture and stuff next week! Until then, we are keeping ourselves busy mopping (a few rooms have brand new flooring – covered with a couple centimeters of sawdust) and shopping for odds and ends.

One of the big exciting discoveries thus far has been a gigantic Kmart-like store just a short walk from our new place. This type of store was sorely missed in Zurich (and Milan, for that matter). It’s great for (1) when you don’t know where to go to find something (because they sell pretty much everything… I mean everything) and (2) when you don’t want to pay a fortune for said thing. Quality and service are great and all, but sometimes you just want to pick out something yourself and pay hardly any money for it, you know? It must be the American in me… but the best part is that I don’t even have to go to a strip mall to find this stuff in Munich!

Another bit of fabulousness: the tram stop near our place has one of those live signs that tells you exactly how long until the next several trams arrive. This makes it super-easy to decide whether you want to wait around or just give up and walk. Efficient laziness!

Alas, it’s not all sunshine and flowers here in Munich: it’s going to take 2 TO 4 WEEKS to get our home internet access set up. What in the world am I supposed to do until then? I’m already wearing out my welcome at the one and only free internet cafe I know of. Anyway, if I owe you an email or something, um, I hope you’re breathing normally until it arrives.

Despite all the hassles that a move brings with it, it’s so worth it for all the fun I have getting to know a new place. Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re off to get acquainted with the world’s largest Feuerzangenbowle. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Homeward bound

After spending a fabulous New Year’s in Boston with friends, we’re finally heading back to Europe to complete our move to Munich. We’ve had a great time in the US, but I’m really looking forward to having a home again, and sleeping in my own bed.

Happy New Year!

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