Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Big Move

Growing up in south-central Kansas, I seriously never imagined that God would take me away from my hometown.  I dreamed of getting married, buying a house in the same town I'd always lived, and raising kids in the same small-town atmosphere that I loved. Obviously, God had other plans, because just a year after getting married, Tyler got hired with Boeing, and we found ourselves on a plane headed for Seattle. After settling there and making it our home for years, I felt like we had it made, and, okay, God knew what He was doing after all. ;) Then came the news that Tyler's job was moving, and we would have to choose between relocating to Oklahoma City or taking an international assignment near Munich, Germany. It was a scary decision, but we chose Germany. Another change and more stretching out of my comfort zone...WAY out of my comfort zone. 

The process was fairly seamless as we neared the actual move. Boeing flew us over for a week to house hunt (I got to fly first class for the first time in my life!), which is when we found our wonderful rental house! We are living in a small village of 7000 people, a 17 minute drive to Manching which is where Tyler works (a wonderful change from his hour-plus commute in Seattle). Our house is in a very nice neighborhood with a lot of really friendly people. Our next-door neighbors speak great English, and we've really enjoyed getting to know them over coffee and cake. Our landlords have also been exceptional and always ask if things are okay at the house or if we need anything. Almost everyone seems to understand enough English that we can get our point across, and we can understand enough German to figure out the gist of what they're saying. :)

We had a little extra time on our house hunting visit so we decided to venture into Munich for an afternoon. We took the train (a mostly-fun experience, except we didn't realize we handed the conductor our receipt instead of our ticket and it took a bit of confusing dialog and lots of hand motions to figure out what was wrong). We saw the main square of Munich that day and the main pedestrian/shopping area. We also explored some of Ingolstadt on the house hunting trip. It's a city close to Manching where we stayed during the trip. It stands along the Danube River and is a cute place.

One of my take-away thoughts from this trip was how much eating is done differently in Germany (and Europe) than at home. Our first night's dinner started with me in tears, and they did not abate the entire time I was eating my pasta. I'm blaming most of that on stress and jet lag, but the dining etiquette is very different here ;) There are very few fast food places (only McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and Subway are available here), and they are mostly found along the autobahn at rest stops, not in towns. Dining out here means walking into your chosen restaurant, checking the table for a "reserved" sign and if there isn't one, seating yourself. Your waitress will bring the menus and right away ask what you want to drink. Beer is cheaper than water here...yes, you pay for water, even tap! But nobody really drinks tap water in restaurants, just "still" or, more popularly, "sparkling" bottled water. After she returns with your drink, you  order your food (sometimes pointing is necessary when the language barrier is rearing it's ugly head). 

Some of the local flavors in our region are pork schnitzel (breaded and fried pork steak), schweinehaxen (crispy roasted pig leg), kase spatzle (homemade egg noodles with cheese), kn√∂del (flavorless rubbery potato/pasta dumpling/ball), and apple strudel (yum!). White asparagus also makes Germans lose their minds in the springtime.  EVERYTHING is spargel. All. The. Spargel. But I digress. Once you get your food, your server leaves you alone to finish your meal without interruption (usually not even checking if your food is tasting okay!). After you have finished, she will return to ask if you want to order dessert. At this point, you can say yes, and she will bring you some [hopefully] yummy goodness. You can also say no, but then you need to make sure you also ask for the bill RIGHT AWAY or you'll be stuck sitting at your table for a long time waiting to catch a glimpse of her again to try to ask for the bill. Germans work on the assumption that once you sit down at a table, that table is yours for the rest of the night. They never rush you or push you to leave, very unlike America where they bring the bill with your food and clear your plates before you've finished eating it. Germany's practice is certainly nice while you're eating, but when you're ready to leave, it can be a real pain sometimes. ;) Tips are not totally necessary in Germany, but we usually round up a few Euros anyway (no more than 10%). You always pay your waitress directly, and very few places accept credit cards, so make sure to bring cash. 

German food is definitely the most popular cuisine here, with Italian a very close second. There is nary a "real" Mexican restaurant to be found (Ingolstadt has 3 "Mexican" restaurants, but only one of them is kinda-sorta-passably-Mexican). Breakfast is another point docked from Germany...the closest pancake place is an hour away! The typical German breakfast consists of a roll or hearty slice of seeded bread with cheeses and thinly-sliced meats and tomatoes. They also really love soft- and hard-boiled eggs. I guess the pancake demand just isn't there. Dessert is also hit or miss here. They have sooo many cakes in the bakeries that LOOK so delicious, but when you actually try them, they aren't sweet and aren't flavorful. But they sure do look pretty :) Speaking of cake, for Germans the afternoon coffee and cake break is very popular. It seems almost everyone takes time out of their day to enjoy a latte macchiato or cappuccino with their chosen baked good. It's a nice idea, but coffee that late in the afternoon usually keeps me up too late that night :) I really do love the mindset of taking time to enjoy the day though. During the summers, cafes have outdoor tables that will be full of people enjoying their afternoon coffee and cake and chatting or just people-watching. It's a fun way to engage in the local culture. :)