Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter clothes for me

Mom's winter clothes

When you find yourself jealous of your baby's wardrobe it's time to go shopping. I confess I already bought most of the things here.  I would feel horrible about that normally BUT I don't really have any winter clothes this year because my old clothes are still too tight in the chest or hips and the things I wore last year while pregnant are way super big. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Zara customer service part 2

Remember when two pairs of jeans split and I got all upset with Zara for betraying me?  This is what happened-

I got a letter from Inditex telling me to take the jeans back to Zara with proof of purchase like a credit card receipt and they'd give me my money back.  I only had one pair of jeans, I'd already thrown the other pair in the trash.   I went online and printed my credit card statement with the Zara purchase and my online order receipt.  I also took the letter from Inditex which was a good thing.  At first the employee at Zara didn't want to give me a refund without the tags and original receipt.  However after they read the letter they gave me a refund.  

As a result I fell back in love with Zara.  Still my favorite European retailer by far.  And they have great customer service.

The end. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Buying toys for baby

I've been thinking about getting my baby girl some toys.  Sophie is one of the only babies I know who doesn't have a ton of stuff.  We didn't get very many gifts when she was born because we live so far away from all our family and friends.  Most of the things her grandparents bought for her were big purchases like a stroller or crib. 

When my Mom arrived two weeks ago one of the first things we did was head out to the toy store.  After looking everything over we carefully selected this fantastic toy for Sophie.  It moves, lights up, sings and talks. 

Bright Starts Having a Ball Roll and Chase Bumble Bee: Baby
It looks like the best toy ever, right?  Except that it made Sophie cry every time she saw it.  Turns out moving-glowing-talking robot bees are scary.  (Confession: I used it as a baby scarecrow by putting it front of my laptop so she's stay away from it.  I know, I know, I'm so mean.)  Now she's seen it enough to not be scared of it but she still isn't very interested in actually playing with it.  This got me to thinking about what I could get her that she'd enjoy and play with for years to come.  Right now some of her favorite toys are 3 stacking cups from the drug store and Lamaze stuffed animals. 

Below are my favorites.  I picked these out for Sophie especially.  She is pretty advanced for her age physically as she is crawling properly and sitting up completely alone.  She also loves music. I didn't add any books because there was no room and books are an entirely different category to me.

Learning toys for babies

Edushape Baby Xylophone Musical Toy, €16 / Skip Hop Treetop Friends Animal Ball Trio, €12 / Haba Eene, Meene, Miny Zoo, €35 / Fisher Price - Precious Planet Kick & Play Piano Crib Toy:..., €38 / Haba Fantasy Blocks: Toys & Games, €28 / Hide N Squeak Eggs: Toys & Games, €19 / Haba Cozy Chicken Clutching Toy: Baby, €10 / BRIO 30193 - Schildkröte: Spielzeug / Sigikid 40127 Greifling Katze: Baby

I purchased the Piano crib toy from after Sophie loved playing with something similar at a friend's house.  Another Mom tipped me off on a Fisher Price baby jumper also from  I couldn't believe it, the jumper on ebay was over 100 € less expensive than the jumper we tried to buy for Sophie months ago.   The Cat, shape sorter and wooden turtle I ordered from   Everything else will have to wait for Christmas.

My fingers are crossed she's going to like her new stuff! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Driving in Germany

This post is such a long time in coming you guys.

Most Americans don't have access to public transportation.  A drivers license is cheap and necessary so we take driving for granted.  In Germany the culture of driving is completely different.  Drivers licenses are expensive and there is an abundance of public transportation.  Having a car is a status symbol.  It's not just about getting from point A to point B.  A German's car is a reflection of who they are and they drive accordingly.  

Four out of the five years I've lived in Germany I've had a car.  As an English teacher I taught classes all over Hamburg and in the surrounding areas.  That translates in a lot of driving.  Sometimes as many as three hours of commuting in a single day.  I've been in multiple car accidents (none were my fault) and I have some opinions about German drivers.

For one thing, driving culture in Germany is strongly effected by region.  Berlin drivers are way more chilled out and low key than Hamburg drivers.  Berlin drivers will let you merge as soon as they see your turn signal but Hamburg drivers see a turn signal as a sign to close ranks so you have no chance of merging. This post is about driving in and around Hamburg.  I can't say if all Germans are like this.  I know all the license plates of the regions around Hamburg and I can rank them from the worst drivers to the best. 

There is an extremely sexist nationally held opinion that women aren't good drivers.  I can you from experience that this is untrue.  All of the dangerous behaviors I'm going to talk about are always done by male drivers.   Not all German guys are bad drivers either.  H is a great driver and he is never aggressive and always follows the speed limit.  But there are enough guys on the road who seem to think that they are starring in a overseas reboot of The Fast and the Furious to ensure that any time I get behind the wheel one of the following things is going to happen.

1. Tailgating-  Some Germans tailgate just to be assholes but most of the time they tailgate to let you know you are driving too slow.  Especially if you are, like, driving the speed limit.  The speed limit is too slow.  The German on your ass wants you to know that he is in a hurry and you'd better speed up before he crashes into your bumper.  A lot of times tailgating happens in heavy traffic when it's impossible to speed up or get out of the way.   If you don't have pet or children in the car you can break fast, this usually scares the Scheiße out of the tailgater and makes them stop.

2. Flashing brights- On the Autobahn Germans flash their brights as a way to say 'move over' or 'get out of the way' when they are driving much faster than passing traffic in the left lane.  That's totally cool.  But there is always some guy who will tailgate and flash his brights at the same time as a way to harass a driver who can't move out of the way either because of traffic or a passing truck or road construction or some other perfectly legitimate reason.  Semi trucks will also tailgate and flash their brights at cars driving the speed limit when the truck doesn't want to pass.

3. Being first- In the city it's always a race to the next stoplight and the dude driving the white Audi wants to be first because winning makes him feel good.   Cars will pass on the right, cut you off, speed, tailgate,  whatever it takes as long as they are the first person to stop at the next red light.  Sure it's annoying but remember, you are not just driving to work.  You're an extra in some guy's race car movie fantasy.

4. The pecking order- Germans really love their cars.   While most Americans show off by buying big ass houses Germans show off by buying nice cars.  They love their Audis, Mercedes, and BMWs.  If someone is driving a nice car they probably feel entitled to the right of way because their nice car means they're better than you.  I have a burning hatred for white Audis because I've been cut off by so many of them that I've come to the conclusion that only assholes drive them.  Germans joke that buying a BMW means having a built in right of way.  The resent emergence of the luxury SUV as a status symbol has added a new layer to the pecking order.  Beware of anyone driving a luxury SUV, especially if they are playing loud music with the windows rolled down. 

When I was an English teacher one of the phrasal verbs I often taught was 'good at'.  I can't tell you the number of middle aged German men who when asked to say what they were 'good at' would say something like 'driving fast in bad weather' or some other asinine example that made me use all my concentration not to roll my eyes so hard they'd fall out of my head.

Every guy in Germany with a car thinks he's a great driver.  That's a good thing to keep in mind if you are ever planning on getting a car here.

And as for the Autobahn, it's not really a big deal that there is no speed limit.  Gas is so expensive that most people can't afford to drive much faster than 160 km an hour.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

German home decor Teil whatever

Right now I am sitting in my living room pondering the new sofa covers.  Do they look right?  Are those pillows too light?  How is it that after months of painstaking making my living room perfect on a miniscule budget H suddenly gets it into his head that he'd rather buy new sofa covers instead of washing the white ones?  I spent months agonizing over my living room and now this.  Hmmm.  I'm going to miss the white couch but in three months Sophie will start eating solid foods.  Do you think a white sofa could survive that?  Or a toddler?  And a drooling dog?  Probably not. 

Then there is this trip to Prague.  We were going on the trip, then we weren't and now we are again.  Maybe.  Except some people do not want to be in the car for more than four hours at a time which means it will take two days to get to Prague and two days to get back.  That's a lot of travel days.  Maybe it's ok because we could spend two days in Berlin and I like Berlin?  It's times like this that I wish I was under a cloud that rained money.  How else am I going to afford three vacations in a six month time period?  And yes, I know how that sounds but these three vacations are all very important to me.  One is going to Prague with my parents, one is going home for Christmas for the first time in two years (!) and one is a long overdue family vacation after H gets back from his four month long business trip.  The Prague trip is the least important and therefore the most likely to get axed.  (sorry Mom)

All I've wanted to do all week is pour bath salts into my giant bath tub, get a glass of wine and soak soak soak while I read the last book in the hunger game trilogy.  Talk about lazy.  I can't let go of the feeling that this is probably the last chance I'll get to do absolutely nothing until next year.

At the ages of 30 H and I finally got a set of matching dishes and flatware.  I consider it our five year wedding anniversary gift to each other.  We've been together for seven years.  That's a long time right?  I know it's good stuff because H left a plate on the arm of the sofa and, of course, I knocked it over but it didn't break. 

 These dishes need to be tough if they are going to survive us.

Oh yeah, remember those beautiful orchids I bought?  I might have forgotten about them and they might have died.  No more house plants for me.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How to meet people in a foreign country

I was going to title this post 'how to make friends' but that would be misleading, especially considering most expats meet a ton of people but only become good friends with a handful.  I'm focusing on Germany, naturally, but I'm pretty sure this works in other countries as well.  

If you are a little shy, like me, then I suggest you grab a strong drink and get ready to suck it up.  Meeting people is impossible if you don't put yourself out there.

1. Language class- because no one will understand what a b*tch it is to learn German except other people who are trying to learn German too.  The great thing about language classes is that very few of the students are American or even native English speakers. 

2. Message boards- I love Toytown.  I used to post on there all the time when I first moved to Germany.  It works best if you live in a city.  If you live in a small town like me it probably won't help you meet people.

3. this is also a great site.  There are tons of meetups in Germany.

4. Work- I have made a lot of friends at work, specifically when I worked for Berlitz.  That was because Berlitz had a central office and there were always other teachers around.  When I started working for the higher paying language schools the central office disappeared and I never saw my fellow co-workers.  Most of the contact I had with these companies was over the phone or via email.

5. The English Pub- Every German city seems to have at least one Irish/English style pub where English speakers tend to gather.  When I was in Dresden it was the Jim Bean Bar and in Hamburg it's Finnegan's Wake.  They have a pub quiz (in English naturally), a big St. Patty's celebration and other fun stuff.  I'm pretty sure almost every English speaking expat in Hamburg has been to Finnegan's at some point.

6. Facebook- There are all kinds of expat groups on Facebook.  They usually have meetups and you can message individuals in your area.  Hamburg International Women's Group, International Group, and so forth.  One of my friends in Berlin goes to the Mum's and Bumps meetup.

7. On the bus/at the club/ walking down the street- ok, in all honesty, I have a very strong 'stranger-danger reflex' so if you stop me on the street because I'm speaking English on the phone or to my dog I'll probably think you're weird and run away but this has worked for other people I know.  To each his own, I guess.

8. Husbands/boyfriends- I meet people through my husband and his friends pretty frequently. 

Alrightly, that's my list.  If you think I missed anything let me know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Things Germans do: yard care

  • Rake the dirt to make it look nice 

  • Use manikins as yard decorations, complete with seasonal clothing changes

The manikin thing kind of freaks me out.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The revolving door (a post about expat friends)

I actually don't really have too much time to hang out with my friends right now.  That's ok, most of them probably don't expect to see me for another month or so.  I mean, babies take up a lot of time.

I've lived in Germany for almost five years.  When I look back on what a long time that is it kind of scares me.  My best friends back home still email and Skype with me because they're awesome, even though I haven't seen anyone is over a year now.  My friends in Chicago will be my friends forever.

My expat friends have been a little bit different.

Being an expat is like riding a merry-go-round.  You jump on and at any time you can jump off.  My merry-go-round ride has lasted five years.  A bit longer than the typical expat.  About half the people I've met only stay in Germany for a year or so.  Then they leave and it is really sad because I go from having a couple great friends to having zero friends.  I have to start meeting new people all over again.  That can get tiresome.  It takes energy to make friends.

I am the kind of person who come across as self confident and outgoing.  (A therapist told me that so I'm pretty sure it's a neutral opinion.)  Secretly, I will never ever let on to this in public, people I don't know make me nervous.  Like palm sweating, heart pounding, anxiety nervous.  The only exception are my students.  Four years of standing up in front of strangers and teaching them stuff made me get over it.  There have been several times in my years in Germany when the thought of going out and meeting new people seemed exhausting and overwhelming. It wasn't worth the effort.  Of course, that meant that I became somewhat sad and lonely.

Another thing is that expats sort of drift together because they all have one great thing in common, they're expats.  For the first couple of years I lived in Germany I wasn't choosey about who my friends were.   Almost none of those friendships lasted.  Sometimes I didn't have enough in common with people, other times there were personality clashes and some people seemed nice but were expats because they had deep seeded issues that I didn't discover until I knew them better.

It took me a while to realize that part of the problem was that I was looking for friends in the wrong places.  I mostly met people in bars and coffee shops.  Most of the people I met were single.  They were hipsters looking for adventure and faux intellectuals who claimed to have fled the USA when George Bush got elected president.  Really.  I heard the 'I left the country because of George Bush' so many times that it became a running joke.  For whatever reason I have never gotten along well with anyone who labeled themselves 'intellectuals'.  I knew a lot of intellectuals in Chicago and I generally thought they were narcissistic, navel gazing, not so young adults who needed to feel superior because they dropped out of college. 

Now maybe you are thinking that I should have made friends with Germans instead of hanging out with expats all the time.  Hah!  I did have a German BFF in Hamburg.  In 2010 she met a guy, fell in love and moved to Marburg. I still go visit her and we're still friends but I was very sad that she moved away.

I have fewer friends now than when I first came to Germany.  However, the friends I have now are staying put for a while.  They do not have plans to hop off the merry-go-round because they have spouses or jobs or kids firmly grounding them in this country.  I also have more in common with my friends than just being expats.  And none of them are crazy or intellectuals.   Because so many of my friends have moved within Germany I know people all over the country.  That's pretty cool.

The expat pool is smaller than the normal pool a person would swim in.  There are always less than six degrees of separation between expats.  Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.  People get reputations.  I once guest taught at a school and ended up having lunch with the ex boyfriend of someone I was friends with.  We only figured out that we sort of knew each other by association half way through lunch.  It was beyond awkward since I'd heard all sorts of stories about him.

To sum up: making friends is easy.  Making really good friends is hard.  Expats who come to the country for a year will have no problems finding other expats to drink beer with and have experiences.  People like me, who are staying much longer, might have to put in more effort to have true, lasting friendships like they left behind.

On a random note, while a ton of my friends are vegetarians I never seem to get on well with vegans and organic food people.  That's why I found this article to be so funny.

The end.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Are Germans more romantic than Americans?

This is something that I sometimes find myself wondering.  Romantic might not be the best way to put it but it's close.  None of my friends back home ever jet off to Paris for the weekend with their significant other but practically every couple I know of in Germany has done that at least once.  Including H and I.  It doesn't get more romcom than Paris in Summer.  I know it's not fair, Paris is only an hour away but surely great big America has something similar.  Wine country?  New York?  Miami?  New Hampshire?

Anyway, I wonder if I'm the only one who shares the sentiment that Germans make better relationship material.  Here are some random observations.  Keep in mind that this is just my perspective.

1.  Germans are not commitmentphobes.  It seems like everyone is always in a relationship and the relationships are always serious.  They usually move in together a lot more quickly than my friends in the US.  I never hear Germans complain that someone won't commit or won't take the relationship to the next level.  I've also never heard anyone complain about living with their significant other and not getting a timely marriage proposal. It's always meet, move in together, maybe get a dog and then break up or get married.  Rinse and repeat until you find the right one or decide to have kids.

2. A lot of Germans like their significant other and children.  This is weird.  I'm so used to Americans who complain about the burden of family life that I was actually shocked to hear my students say they didn't want to go on business trips to South Africa, New York or Australia because they don't want to be away from their families.  Say what?  I was always under the impression that everyone wanted to get away from their families!  That all parents dreamed of weekends lounging on sandy beaches with cocktails in hand getting plenty of 'me time'.  Not always so.  When asking Germans with families what they did over the weekend the answer is always something like 'I played with my children and took my wife shopping.' or 'We took the children to the animal park and then I took my husband out to dinner.'  For real.  Germans also like to talk about how great their families are.  They always say positive things about their significant others and children.  It's scandalous, I know.

3. They travel together.  Either as a couple or a family, Germans are all about travel.  And it's not like they don't also travel with their friends as well.  Taking family/couple trips seems to strengthen relationships and everyone loves to talk about their awesome travel.

4. Germans are all caring and gooey deep down inside.  They might have a stone cold heart reputation but once you get to know them they are actually all sweet and thoughtful.  Are you sick?  Expect the Germans to make you chicken noodle from scratch and bring you flowers and medicine and take out your trash.  Are you a student strapped for cash?  That's ok, the Germans will totally fly you to Berlin and put you up in a hotel for the week.  They also like to cook romantic dinners, drink champagne, and might surprise you with thoughtful gifts and will give your their coat if you're under dressed and cold.  They also really, really love their pets.

5. They don't seem to care if you split the bills 50-50.  They just love you, even if you're poor.*  You can move in and they will pay the rent.  They don't mind.  They might also buy you groceries and drive you around.

6. They return your phone calls and text messages.

7. Sometimes they are 1980s cheesy-romantic but they think it's cool.  So if you send a stupid sounding drunk text it's probably not going to be a deal breaker.

8. I've never met any Germans with Peter Pan syndrome.  They seem to be, overall, more responsible at a younger age.  They usually get their own flats when they go to school or start working so they learn important life skills like how to clean a bathroom and cook an egg.  Ok, so a lot of the college educated Germans don't have real jobs until they're in their late 20s but still, knowing how to mop the floor and pay the utility bill on time is priceless.  It also helps that they don't usually end up living in their parent's basements.

Any more thoughts?  No? Ok.

The end.

*This may apply to women more than men.

Friday, April 13, 2012

European makeup

This is a post about makeup.

Most German women don't wear as much makeup as Americans.  Since moving here I've given up eyeliner and eyeshadow except on special occasions.  I'm terribly vain so I won't leave the house without makeup unless I'm jogging.  I still wear it every day, just a bit more natural than I would if I were living in the States. It's taken me years of searching before I found products in Europe to replace the ones I was buying in the US.  It's so very, very hard.  Most of the makeup I bought in the US isn't sold in Europe. 

One of my biggest obstacles was finding mineral foundation.  Almost all the mineral foundation in Germany has glitter in it!  It sparkles.  I do not want to sparkle.  I just want an even skin tone.  Every time I would compliment one of my friends in the US on their flawless skin they'd say 'thanks but actually I'm wearing (insert name of mineral foundation that can't be bought in Europe)'.

I thought I could run down to the nearest drug store and pick up some L'oreal mineral foundation BUT no.  Drug stores in Germany only carry this stuff in colors like Buff, Golden and Beige.  If you've never been to Northern Europe, let me tell you, there is no sunlight here.  It's almost impossible to get a tan so I don't have one.  I'm pale, pale white.  I have no idea why, but apparently German drug stores think everyone has a nice dark tan or don't buy makeup that matches their skin tone.  Anyway, I finally found one single brand, ArtDeco, that doesn't sparkle and is pale so that's what I use.

I was also happy to discover that Burt's Bees lip balm is sold in most Budnikowski drug stores and there are Mac stores in some Douglases.   

My European makeup essentials below.

European makeup

Dior mascara, Burt's Bee lip balm, Art Deco mineral foundation, Neutrogena blemish concealer, Art Deco under eye concealer, Dior Peachy Keen blush, Mac eyeshadow and eyebrow powder

Monday, April 9, 2012

The last baby's clothes post ever

Ok, I forgot Zara.

I'd probably go broke if I tried to buy even half of this stuff but maybe I can find some of it on sale.

Baby's clothes pink and white

baby's clothes turquoise and peach

One more baby clothes post

I'm having so much fun with this. Just indulge me a little bit.  I haven't bought anything from H&M besides the navy polka dot dress in the last set.  But here are some of things I am thinking about.  I really like the navy, red and coral stuff.  Also the floral dresses, so cute!

baby's clothes yellow and turquoise

Baby's clothes navy and coral

Friday, March 9, 2012

Funny Things Germans Sometimes Say

Once I was at my in laws and I told them I was drunk instead of saying I'd had enough to eat.  To make that scenario even funnier, I was four months pregnant at the time.

That's what happens when you have a lazy husband who doesn't correct your German.  My guess is, I'd been walking around telling various people, "Oh no, no more food!  I'm totally drunk!" for at least three years before anyone corrected me.  Oh well.

So for the record, "Ich bin voll." translates to "I'm totally wasted"  or "I'm three sheets to the wind." or "I am very intoxicated."  Take your pick.

Below I have listed various funny things Germans have said in English.  I'll let you guess as to what they were actually talking about. 

Tom and Jerry always blow each other.
I slept with the family.
Will we meet us tomorrow?
When do you become your baby?
Watch out for porks on the road.
I need swimming pants.
Do we have any cough juice?
I became a cup of coffee.
We were in the near of the train station
That is wonder full.
Do you want to go on a non sex date with me?
I do not like black music.
He has his own mind.
There are many colored people there.
Our train begins tomorrow.
Oh look, it isn't alive anymore.
We're going to make a party.
I'm going to eat one of my sheeps this weekend.

I can't think of anymore funny translations, feel free to add your own in the comments!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

German Home Decor Teil zwei

Hi there.

I've been hard at work all weekend.  My apartment is transformed!  Well, sort of.

It's no secret that I haven't been loving the living room.  Even though our furniture looked fantastic in our little Hamburg apartment it seemed downright lackluster in the new one. Take a look.

 I tried moving things around and changing a couple things but I still didn't like it.  Here it is all decorated for our New Year party in January.

The entire room bothered me.  There didn't seem to be enough color, or pattern and everything seemed colorless and somehow dark?  Even though all our furniture is white?  I just didn't understand it.  The room frustrated me.

Two weeks ago I decided we needed new throw pillow covers.  We went to IKEA but everything was neutral colors.  That was the first trip to IKEA where I only bought a coffee mug and a flower pot.  I quizzed H on other stores that sold home decor but he didn't know.  I went home and got all teary eyed over how much I miss Target and the Pottery Barn.  Do you remember Linen n' Things?  There used to be a big one right by my parents house.  Half my friends back home AND my sister have the same chartreuse throw pillows from Target.  I love Target, but alas, Germans don't like hypermarkets.  Target doesn't stand a chance in this country.

H suggested I look on Amazon.

A quick search provided thousands of pillows.  I had no idea that Esprit makes home furnishings.  They do and I'm happy to say that their home furnishings are a lot better than their clothing line.

With my pillow problem solved I turned to our guest bedroom/office/clothes drying room/someday possibly a baby's room if we manage to fit anymore furniture in there.  

When we moved in we sort of stuck of bunch of furniture and stuff in this room and then forgot about it.  The place was a mess.  It needed a major overhaul before I could even think about putting a house guest in there.

Sadly, I was out of money.  I'd pretty much spent my entire decorating budget on pillows.  I still have to buy a crib someday, and a stroller and a car seat and everything else a baby needs in life.  I don't know enough people around here to throw a descent party, let alone a baby shower.  There is also the fact that most expats I know are on shoe string budgets.  I'd feel like a grifter if I asked anyone to come to a party whose sole purpose is giving me stuff.

My biggest problem was pictures.  Our apartment in Malente is much bigger than the Hamburg apartment.  There is a lot of empty wall space.  Pictures are also really, really expensive.  I didn't see anything at IKEA that I liked.  I was already sick of IKEA anyway.  I thought and thought and thought and finally decided to try printing my own pictures, matting and framing them myself.  Considering each of the pictures I hung cost an average of 4€, the results weren't too bad.  I spent most of Saturday and Sunday cleaning, organizing and trying to find the right place for our limited wall hangings.   Voila!

 I took these pictures of flowers when we were in Spain.  I hung them in the kitchen. 

And for no particular reason, I think I finally found a plant that can survive the extreme humidity in our bathroom.  These African violets appear to be, dare I say, happy?

Here is our room, in case anyone was curious.  The half green, half white walls were H's idea.  It's a popular decorating method in Germany and I actually ended up loving it.  H picked out all the paint colors in our apartment.
There are few more things to do this week.  My Hubs has declared that he will mop the kitchen and entry way this weekend.  The linens on the extra bed smell like dust and need to washed before my Mom comes but everything else is finished.  

Sometimes I feel like my decorating efforts fall flat compared to my friends and family in the US.  They have so many options and everything seems to be more affordable.  My 'big' apartment in Malente is just average sized or even small compared to apartments in Chicagoland.  Nevertheless, I'm proud of how it's turned out!  We built our little home together and I love everything, IKEA or no IKEA.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Practical European fashion

When I moved to Germany in 2005 I didn't own a pair of skinny jeans.  All my purses were small and I'd never had a pair of knee high boots.  I owed lots of delicate stiletto heals and cropped jackets.  The only flat shoes I had were flip flops and a pair of sneakers I used to wear to class sometimes.  The most walking I did was around my college campus.  I thought the Germans were funny for wearing their boots over their pants and that their jeans were too short. 
Me and my pre Europe clothes

Most of my clothes got chucked or put away indefinably within a year.

I like being warm and dry and able to walk around without pain, things that were pretty much impossible to do with my old wardrobe.  As I watched my stilettos shred and break on cobblestones and felt my boat cut jeans soaking up rain like sponges, I realized that European fashion isn't about looking good so much as it is about being comfortable.  These wise Germans were wearing short jeans so they wouldn't get dirty!  They tucked their pants into their boots to stay dry!  Here's a brief rundown of some other things I've learned about dressing in Europe.

Europe can be cold and rainy year round.  Even though I have a car I still spend a lot of time walking from place to place in bad weather. It's important to always have an umbrella.

In winter I almost always wear waterproof boots over skinny jeans.  I like heels but I stick with something that's low enough that I can walk and carry a heavy bag most of the day without pain.  I also choose a knee length coat in stormy weather.  Shorter coats are cute but they don't keep me dry and nothing puts me in a bad mood like a wet butt.  Snow boats are great but I only wear mine in the snow because they get dirty in rain.  I also always bring a hat and scarf so my hair is covered and won't get wet when the wind turns my umbrella inside out.  I wear gloves because the wind is bitter.

It isn't always warm in summer.  I've worn jeans and jackets in August more often than I have sun dresses.  I recommend strappy sandals and water proof flats for lots of walking.  I never wear flip flops unless I'm going to the beach or pool.  I also always have a light sweater or jacket in case it get cold or rains.  Usually it's cool in the morning and warmer in the afternoon so I wear layers that I can take off.

I always have hand lotion, sunglasses, tissues, lip balm, make up, my wallet, a liter of water, my phone, a small hair brush, gum, eye drops and an umbrella.  Depending on how long I'm gone and what the weather is like I might also need to bring a snack, hat, gloves, sweater, my ipod and a book.  If I'm going to work I need space for my teaching materials, laptop, dry erase markers, pens, post its, games, colored pencils and class notes.  If Redgie is with me he needs a water bowl, blanket, some treats and poo bags.  When I stop to pick something up at the drug store or super market I put everything I buy in my purse because I never remember to bring a separate bag for the groceries.  Some stores let you buy plastic bags but others don't. 

Since I hate backpacks and refuse to carry one now that I'm a college graduate, I like roomy, light weight purses with lots of pockets that can be worn multiple way.  It's true I occasionally realize I've been carrying around a forgotten jar of molasses for a week but I find it's easier to carry one big bag than two or three smaller ones.  My coach purses are the only ones that have lasted all the wear and tear for more than a year without breaking. 

I almost never buy shoes in American anymore because they don't last on cobblestones and the heals always get gouged.  My favorite places to buy shoes in Germany is Zara and Shoe 4 You.  Sometimes I buy shoes from Görtz and Tamaris. 

In General
I stay away from short shirts and low rise jeans and any clothing that rides up or down or won't let me move freely.  I don't want to be pulling my jeans back up every five minutes and worrying about my clothes while I'm busy doing other stuff.  If I can't bend down and pick up my dog in an outfit then I don't wear it.

Those are the only things I can think of now.