Grocery Shopping; Germany vs U.S.

We recently received neighbors in the townhouse next door to us. It had been empty since we moved in last October, but now we have neighbors living next us. They are American contractors working over here. It is great having American neighbors (what a nice surprise!) and it is interesting hearing their stories so far adjusting and learning the ropes. The one thing they don’t have is access to one of the U.S. bases here. When they found out that they could get all the American goods they needed at the commissary on base, they were very excited to go with me!

Before we moved over here, I had some idea what to expect (great beer, lots of brats, festivals, etc) but I was completely unsure of how the day to day real living stuff would pan out. Would there be ‘normal’ grocery stores. Would there be anything remotely close to a WalMart? Not that I’m particularly crazy about WalMart, but sometimes it’s nice to go to one store and get everything I need. I guessed that there would be specialty stores like when I studied abroad in Italy, and I was right. Go to the Backerei to get your bread and pastries. Go to the Metzgerei to get your meats. However, I was excited to discover that, with a little bit of looking, all of the grocery stores have meats and bread and most things you need. Just make sure you bring your language cheat sheet otherwise you might end up with cayenne pepper and not paprika!

If you keep up with the literature on American food these days, you probably know that there are a lot of additives getting thrown into meat, dairy products, and frozen foods….well basically everything. When I go back to the states I am SO going to miss the normal sized chickens (they’re much smaller here than those hormone injected monsters you see in the states…eat up!), the awesome cheese, and the super awesome meats and cured meats/sausages/etc. Basically I feel like everything I eat here is real food, and it’s nice!

I have read that if you search around in Germany you can find some of these elusive items. I have heard that a lot of the Asian grocery stores sell corn syrup and brown sugar. By the way, they have Asian food stores all around here, how awesome is that?!? I’ll tell you, it’s pretty awesome if you like Asian cuisine! Just think red curry paste, green curry paste, bamboo shoots, all the fish sauce you could ever want, coconut cream, coconut milk, spices, garam masala….MMMMMMMMmmmm. Anyway, back to what I was blogging about…what was I blogging about?...oh yes….

So my neighbors were quite excited that I have access to all the American 'luxuries' on base. It made me realize I am quite lucky in that I have the best of both worlds, but I’m wondering how much it is affecting my expat experience? Maybe a ‘no commissary for 2 months’ experiment is in order! Without further ado, here are a few lists I've compiled of grocery items that are found, and ones that are hard to come by over here.

Common Grocery Items that are impossible to find in Germany

-          Vanilla Extract

-          Oatmeal

-          Organic Peanut butter. I heard finding peanut butter is a task in itself

-          Most American cereals

-          Caro corn syrup. My neighbor told me this one, although I’ve never actually used it.

-          Packaged Bacon. I still feel I will find this if I keep looking, but the only place I know to get bacon is at the Metzgerei where they cut it in front of you.

-          Many of the things I love like coconut flour, almond flour, coconut oil, almond milkand almond butter are non-existent

-          Hot Dogs. They have the best brats in the world, but not regular old ball park hot dogs

-          Starbuck’s Coffee. There are Starbuck’s here and they do sell it at Starbucks, but I haven’t seen the coffee grinds or beans at any stores

-          Most American chips (you can forget about Doritos, Tostitos, Fritos, etc.). They have their own versions and most are good. Some have quite the interesting flavors.

-          American style cheeses (cheddar Cheese, Monterey Jack) cheddar cheese is available but you don’t see it often. They have lots of Gouda though! Except for taco night, I prefer German cheeses anyway.

-          On that note, grated Cheddar Cheese is only found at one store I know of, Real

-          GOOD frozen pizzas. This is one junk food item that is very hard to find. Of course there is an Italian Pizzeria around every corner to keep you satisfied, but when you want a bad American DiGorno pizza, good luck.

-          Frank’s Hot Sauce. Doesn’t exist.

-          I haven’t searched on the economy, but I heard brown sugar can be hard to come by

-          Fruits and Vegetables out of season. I don’t know when spaghetti squash is in season, but I cannot find it here. On another note, now that I live in a place where stuff is sold seasonally, it makes me wonder how much effort, preservatives, environmental disruptions, etc. are created to get Americans their off-season fruits and veggies.

-          Canned pumpkin. I heard if you make the short trip to France you can pick some up J

-          Root Beer

I don’t eat much junk, but here are some American snacks I have seen over here.

American Snacks you can find

-          Snickers Bars. Not that Germany has a shortage of great chocolate, but Snickers are one of the only American candy bars I have found here

-          Oreos, but you won’t find the huge bags of them (they come in small rolls and are expensive) or the specialty ones (mint, double stuffed, etc)

-          Pringles, with different flavors like Paprika

-          Sprite and Coke (and I heard Dr. Pepper is around)

-          Ben and Jerry’s. It is the ONLY American ice cream you can get in Germany.