Snippets of life in a foreign land- Food!

So Germany is hardly Mongolian (hello to my sister Ni who is living there for a year!) but simple tasks are complicated by language barriers, cultural differences, and simply not knowing where things are.

Food is particularly important for me.  My adrenals are still recovering from the drugs I had to take last year, and they perceive a lack of food as stress.  When I don’t eat well, (regularly, and avoiding dairy, wheat, sugar and caffeine) my body can go in to a stress response that can take 3 or 4 days to even out.

So first up:  A supermarket.  No problem, right?  Every town has one (hundred).  Except that, in Germany, on Sundays, the supermarkets are geschössen (closed) even the 7/11 equivalents.  As I arrived on a Sunday, and started school the next morning,  I resigned myself to dining out for my next three meals.

However, even this is not as easy as you might assume.  Knowing 5% of a language (she gave herself generously) doesn’t mean you can necessarily read a menu.  I’ve spent many a self conscious 5 minutes staring at a menu outside a restaurant, wondering if a) I know what it is, and b) I also want to eat it.

For many people, it would be simple- you could have a sandwich, a pizza, a kebab, and be on your way.  However, if you must avoid wheat, buying food off a foreign language menu is a whole other story.

Also, eating on a budget means I need to be cautious about wandering in to a restaurant, especially with the exchange rate requiring me to add 50% more to everything.  On the awkward scale, walking in, discovering it’s not in budget, or there’s nothing for me to eat is significantly higher than the outdoor long menu read.  There is something too, about doing this on your own- if you go with a friend, you can mull it over together, and then if it’s a massive fail inside, you can laugh about it.  Eating a ‘got less/more/different  than you bargained for’  meal on your own makes one feel somewhat loserish.

So how would I rate myself for all these important food related requirements so far?  On the Harry Potter grading scale, I have consistently been pulling in Ds and Ts  (Dreadful and Troll).  In fact, I could be living in opposite land, between intention and reality.  I might even write a guide book on places and food NOT to eat in Heidelberg.


  • I misread a menu- thinking I was essentially getting a kebab, but as a salad, but ended up with a meat free mess of mostly air smothered in sour cream.
  • I tried for vegetable and chicken stirfry on rice, but got gluggy greasy fried rice (yuk!) with invisible chicken granules.
  • At a Japanese restaurant I ordered seaweed, 3 pieces of nori roll (complete with seafood filler and they were tiny), and tofu that arrived 30 minutes after the other two.  To add insult to my bird sized meal, the tofu was deep fried and crumbed, not grilled as ordered, and inedible.  Oh, and this mess was $24AU.
  • One day at school I was so hungry, I did what all the other kids do (I just wanna fit in!) and bought a pizza slice for the very reasonable €2.  I had a tummy ache for several hours after, so that cured me of that idea.  In fact, I did a really good job of upsetting my tummy in that first week.

Incidentally, the Haupstrasse- my entire walk to and from school, is hell for the wheat loving wheat denied.  There are a dozen a bakeries, and especially in the mornings, the smell of sweet croissants, buns and fresh bread in the air is intoxicating.

The Haupstrasse- my walk to and from school

The Haupstrasse- my walk to and from school

As Friday was a public holiday, on Saturday, I was finally able to shop at a store that was not a Kwickie Mart.  At the store, (oddly, called ‘Penny’) I gathered as many things as I could carry on my long walk home, only to get to the register and discover that (wait for it) they didn’t take Visa.  No, true story.  It was awkward.

The checkout lass had got a P for English at school (on the Harry Potter scale, that is) and my brain went in to meltdown as I scrambled through wads of receipts, English pounds and coins in my purse, only to come up €5 short.  Then I couldn’t find a way to say “can you take some things off the total?”  It  didn’t help that I had overdressed (more on that to come) and so I stood at theregister, feeling foolish, hot, sweaty and frankly irritated, til a nice man at the head of the very long line I was holding up explained to her what I wanted.    Really, Germany, no VISA??

My flat is not particularly well equipped (in fact, that is a WHOLE and other blog) so I had nothing to take lunch to school with.  Finding plastic containers was a mission in itself- it took until my second Wednesday to find some.  Where is a Shit for Dickheads store ($2 Shop) when you need one, eh eh?  In Australia, every supermarket has tupperware substitutes:  here, all the supermarkets I have visited are like Aldi, minus the miscellaneous household goods randomly on special, and have limited range (except for Aldi, which has the miscellaneous goods- but no plastic containers).  Oh Coles Fairfield, how I miss your generous opening hours and wide range of goods.

But, fear not.  At last, I have my plastic containers, a full fridge, and food-wise I am in control!  Now, I’m off to collect my laundry.  You don’t know it yet, but even this is a huge achievement in a foreign land.

Cafe life

Cafe life

Getting my German on!

Getting my German on!

About The Tina Sparkles Experience

Apparently, there are people who go traveling and just see things and nothing weird happens. I'm not one of those people....come on holiday with me and find out why!

2 Responses to “Snippets of life in a foreign land- Food!”

  1. What, no bratwurst for you? Or does that stuff cause stress even to bodies not as finely honed as yours? Keep up the good writing. Take one adventurer and a foreign land and, as they say, hilarity ensues.

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