Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Germany and Austria, a perspective

Since I feel an obligation to the few people who follow my blog and linked my page to theirs, here is a post.

I have lived in Europe now for almost 6 years. The first 5 years were spent in Dresden, Germany. What was the former East Germany. It is a unique experience, even from those who live in west Germany and other parts of Europe that were not under communism. Since July of 2011, I have lived in Graz, Austria. I knew moving here would produce some culture shock, maybe even more than our initial move to Germany, but although I have had some shock, I have not had as much as I thought I might. I thought I would share a few major differences that I have seen and felt.

Seeing as Austrians speak German (albeit a "funny" version) and that it neighbors Germany and the cultures are very similar, the two are also rather different.

German cuisine comes from Austria, so the food tends to be better here. Graz is known for its apple dishes and pumpkin seed oil. The Austrians also have a whole different vocabulary for their fruits and vegetables. Apricots, cherries, and several other berries are just an example. Their bakery goods are also quite different than what you find in Dresden. Most are actually much better here, and they tend to taste as good as they look. (This is a problem in Dresden, most don't taste near as good as they look!) In Germany, every region has their own potato salad, but sadly, potato salad is hard to find here. The Kase krainer is the Austrian sausage, and it is really good (think somewhat spicy sausage with cheese inside).

The schooling is also quite different. I think here, the kids have about 4 days of school and one day of fun! Seriously though, during the winter, Logan's 1st grade class went ice skating 3 times and the whole school had a day to sled down the hill outside the school. The other day, any child who wished to participate in the state ski races boarded a bus and spent the day snowboarding and skiing. Our boys went to school and did ? with a substitute teacher. The older two kids had ski trips for an entire week (7 days). Neither kid participated and were supposed to attend classes with either the other 5 kids that didn't go, or in the case of Ashlyn, go down a grade and do class with the 5th graders. The following week, Ashlyn's class had an "English" week (again she didn't participate) in which the kids were taught English by native english speakers from Great Britain. The week cost over 100 Euros and the ski trips were about 300 Euros per kid. The schools seem much more relaxed here versus Dresden and the kids get 8 weeks of summer, 2 weeks more than Germany.

Shopping is also a little different. First, everything is more expensive. In the stores, the price tags will have the German price first, since it's cheaper, and then the other EU countries after. Austria is always at least 50 cents more. Food is also more expensive. I actually could find more American products in Dresden and am missing some things here, like cream of mushroom in a can (I have to buy the powdered soup and add milk and corn starch to thicken it up) and refried beans. (It's the small things!) But, I can get chocolate syrup and lots of different fruity, carbonated drinks unavailable in Dresden. I will be glad to get the things again when I get back to Dresden, but will sure miss the drinks here. I may have to have people bring them up when they visit!!!

That is quite enough to bore you by now. I have to go figure out how to adapt some of those good looking recipes from America for use with the products I can get here. If you made it this far, hope you enjoyed the peek into just some of the differences. I will write more about the cultural changes soon. Thanks