Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Things We Do in Swabia but not Wisconsin, Part 1

It's been a while since I compared life in the Schwabenland to life in Wisconsin. It's also been a while since I last blogged! The will is there, but I've lacked inspiration. We had some lovely weather recently, which was perfect for Easter (and then it got cold and snowed, but never mind that), and I started thinking again about things we do differently here vs. in Wisconsin.

So let's see what comes of this.

Things We Do in the Schwabenland that We Don't (Didn't) Do in Wisconsin

Plan Easter meals well in advance

I think Easter has always been my favorite holiday. When I was little it meant a new Easter dress, an Easter bonnet, white gloves, new white shoes, and a wonderful fancy brunch at a local country club. The music in church was uplifting and beautiful, and even though snow was not uncommon at Easter in Wisconsin, at least Spring was on its way.
ca. 1970, probably Easter Sunday
Here in the Schwabenland Easter is even more special in some ways. The best part is that we have three days of forced family time and relaxation. Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday are stille Feiertage, which means all stores and businesses are closed. No shopping (even for a last-minute ingredient one forgot), and M doesn't go to the office unless there's an emergency. Lamb is the traditional meat served on Sunday and/or Monday, and we typically make our lamb stew.

Since [loud] yardwork is frowned upon on stille Feiertage (weeding is tolerated if you feel guilty while doing it), we quietly get indoor jobs done, read, watch TV, cook, and relax. It's really nice to have M home for basically four days in a row (he spends a short time in the office on Saturday). So while Easter has always been my favorite holiday, it's even more special now. It feels strange to me by now that Good Friday and Easter Monday are just normal days in the U.S.

Bring our glass bottles to the recycling center

In my hometown, items that can be recycled - paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, and cans - all get thrown into the same huge rubbish bin and collected by the city every week. Here only the gelber Sack (plastic and packaging recyclables) and Altpapier (paper & cardboard) get picked up from the city, and that's only once a month. We have to haul glass bottles to the recycling containers, which is not a big deal. 
This is in Wisconsin, and I'm pointing at the recycling bin.
The other is garbage, and ours here is 1/3 the size of that.
Wisconsin garbage pick-up: once a week.
Horb garbage pick-up: once a month.

Sort the recyclable glass by color

White (clear), brown, or green? Unfortunately the wine M and I drink comes in bottles that are greenish-brown. I have no idea which bin they belong in.

Buy our meat from the local butcher (and lamb from the Turkish butcher)

There's just something about a small local butcher where everyone knows your name. I have the luxury of not having to worry about convenience, which is why most people just buy everything at the grocery store. I have lots of free time and am good at planning ahead. And although I never cared about that in Wisconsin, I like knowing where the meat we eat comes from. All the meat our butcher sells comes from farms within our state. If I ask where the Rinderfilet is from, the butcher will tell me a farm in the Black Forest (for example). I once asked the butcher in a store in Sheboygan where the tenderloin was from, and he said (I kid you not), "a cow." I could tell from his smile he was being funny, but he also had no idea where the shipment came from.

Drive to local farmers to buy fresh produce (especially Spargel)

We buy most of our produce from Mustafa, our vegetable guy who comes with his truck on Tuesdays and parks for 20 minutes in front of our neighbors' house. He also tells us where everything comes from, though he gets it all from a Großmarkt. Being an American, I don't care if the strawberries come from Italy or Spain as long as they are nice and red, but I know Germans who will buy one but not the other. 
Mustafa and his seasonal produce
Spargel, however, I only buy from the Spargelhof  seven miles from home. Picked freshly that morning from the field I have to drive around to get to their shop.

the white blankets cover fields of delicious weißer Spargel

In fact...

While in Wisconsin I bought everything in one grocery store, the other day I drove to the Bäckerei one village away to get fresh rolls and pretzels, then to the Spargelhof  above for a kilo of that deliciousness, and then to one more village beyond to the Kartoffelhof for potatoes. Total time: ca. 45 minutes. The grocery store would have been a 3-minute drive, but fresh local products are worth it!

Bring our own reusable cloth bags to the grocery store

There's a sensible charge for plastic bags in most stores in Baden-Württemberg, so any self-respecting Swabian will bring her own bags or shopping basket with her to avoid this charge and damage to the environment. It just makes sense, and would even if there weren't a charge. We bag our own groceries here, which I also vastly prefer to waiting for the bagger in Wisconsin (especially the ones who insist on chatting).
I love my granny basket. Don't judge me!

Change tires twice a year

M calls this "putting the summer/winter shoes on the car". Although he did teach me several years ago how to change and pump up a tire with a foot pump, I would have had someone at a garage do this for me in Wisconsin. Of course, despite several layers of frozen snow on city roads for three solid months, I had all-season tires on my Jetta (damn, I still miss that car). Here in Swabia we have summer and winter tires, and M changes them himself. 

It goes without saying that he thoroughly cleans each tire after removal. And this had to be done on Easter Saturday (not a holiday), because again, it is frowned upon to labor publicly on holy days.

This list goes on, so I decided to make this a two-part post. My dad arrives tomorrow to start his month of learning/improving his German, so I should have all kinds of things to write about in the next few weeks. He'll be taking a class at the local language school, and I'll be his evening tutor.

Expat readers: What kinds of things do you do in your adopted country that you didn't do in your home country?


  1. Hello. I have found your blog via Confuzzledom. It's really interesting. My husband has uncle and cousins who live somewhere in Germany (I can't remember where!! Gutenheim? Gutenburg? ) We live in France - the biggest difference is going for the daily bread, which we never did in the UK. I still use "square bread" for my sandwich lunches, but when at home it's always a baguette. And we have more "apèros" - in the UKL friends would come for coffee/tea in the afternoon, or for dinner, in the evening...It's much more common now to go to a friend, or have them here, for apèros - several drinks with nibbly things. I drink more too - because of the apèros, I fear!!

    1. Nice to meet you; thanks for reading! Confuzzledom is great, isn't she? "Several drinks with nibbly things" sounds lovely! :-) I haven't heard of going for "daily bread", but I've not spent much time in France - and then only in the Alsace region. Bread is one of the first things I miss when I go to the States or Scotland.

  2. Great post! I always am also confused about the green/brown wine bottles, but BV assured me that they go in the green bin. He's German, so he can't be wrong... oder? ;)

    1. Oh crap. I've been putting them in the brown bin. Except on very sunny days. Then they look greener. I think I will follow your husband's tip from now on.