Living the Traum

I live in Germany, a land where everything cool is 15 years in the future, for example: Contemporary music, fashion and acceptance of other races. The things that I’m used to enjoying in North America which seemed totally mundane are still extremely exotic here. Like brown sugar. Or cream soda. Or root beer. I can usually find whatever I need at the Asian specialty food shop, which is odd because you’d think that they would be catering to the Asian community, not homesick Canadians who don’t want to interrupt their plans for early onset type II diabetes.

But in Chinatown in Toronto, the Asian stores don’t need your business. They don’t need to cater to your strange white person preferences. Everything is written in Chinese as a way of deterring your patronage… Like, “I think this is a cantaloupe, but it could also be some kind of seafood?” I lived in Chinatown for a few years, so I actually forgot how to shop at other grocery stores. I would walk into a big box grocery store and be like ‘Where do they keep the dried squid? Do they even stock Ginger Balls? Did they sell out of square watermelons?’

In Munich, it can be hard to get authentic foods. It’s getting better now, but there was a time when Pizza and Sushi were made and sold at the same place. Unless the cook is half Italian and half Japanese, I am not putting either of those in my mouth. I guess I understand the machine-gun principle behind offering Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food—I mean, why not cover your bases?—but as a customer… you can’t really expect that they are going to do any one of those particularly well. I once ordered the sampler plate and got a sushi stuff egg roll floating in green curry soup.

Munich is a relatively safe city… Very low crime, squeaky clean. The only thing that really terrifies people in Munich is this thing called a Zug, which translates to ‘draft’. No, I am not talking about forced military service, I am talking about a slight breeze indoors. Now, drafts are very dangerous in Germany. Nothing scares a German more than moving air. In Germany, drafts are the number one cause of the common cold. Contrary to popular belief, germs do not cause colds—drafts do.  Every German knows that necks are particularly sensitive to drafts. If there is a draft, you must immediately cover your neck to protect yourself from getting a cold. If you sit in a draft when you already have a cold from a previous draft, you’ll likely be dead before sunrise.

The panic that moving air causes is the reason why there is no air conditioning in Germany. Anywhere. Not at work, not at home, not even on public transportation. Once when my Dad and brother came to visit, my husband and I took them to the Alps for a day trip. On the way home, the train broke down and 200 people were forced to sardine themselves into a bus intended for 85. It was already a hot day and the stank of 200 people who just climbed a mountain was not really contributing to the atmosphere. So when the temperature reached about 40 degrees, I asked my Dad to crack the window above him which only slid about 4 inches. As soon as those 27 fresh air molecules entered the bus, the guy sitting across from us whips out a T-shirt from his backpack and covers his neck. The struggle is real, people.