I haven’t written an entry in months! This summer has been so busy and hot that I have been working, traveling, and exploring too much to write. Since my last post, I got my visa and started working, started a vegan potluck meetup, and traveled to Vienna and Belgium. I worked more than I thought I would in Germany and traveled less, but hopefully this fall that will change. Here are some highlights of the summer and things I’ve learned to like and not like about Berlin:
The people we’ve met here are pretty awesome.
After starting the potluck meetup, we’ve met many vegan foreigners like us who are from everywhere, love to eat, and are mostly in tech too. It’s been amazing to find people who we get along with and have things in common. We’re even planning trips to travel with some new friends too. In LA I struggled to find people that were social or would hang out more than once because of FOMO or because we lived too far away. With everyone living in the city center and never more than a bike ride or max 20 min. train ride away, you can be more spontaneous.
Vegan food and amazing coffee… is everywhere
There is so much good, sometimes healthy, and cheap food here. There are also more flexitarians who are willing to eat at vegan restuarants without crying about it. I also haven’t had to explain myself at nauseam like at every other place I’ve lived. I’ve loved eating 5€ vegan doner kebab to a fresh bowl of soup and hearty German bread at the yoga place across the street.
The service and attitudes of Germans can be lacking
From service workers, to pharmacies, to people on the street, you will either get someone really nice or somone who will walk pass you on the street and shoulder check you with never saying anything like sorry or excuse me, while they are smoking a cigarette over a baby. Sometimes I miss America for even the fake niceness or courteousness - but then I remember America has bigger problems.
After being in Berlin a month, I'm finally starting to find my favorite products and shopping spots. Berlin shops are interesting because you can go to 10 different stores and not see the same smaller brands. It seems that many specialized products have deals with grocery chains to only sell exclusively. So my favorite new vegan brand Terra Vegane, for example, is only at Denn's Biomarkt and Dr. Pogo and no where else! One of my new favorite sparkling mates, Lamate, is only at Rewe, and I've only seen some special Mexican products I know from the US at Edeka. You really have to shop around to find that favorite item.
At first, I was mostly shopping at my local store, Rewe, but after visiting different stores around the city, I realized I was missing out on a ton of products. I thought the vegan chain Veganz would have all my favorite products, but I found out since they closed most of their stores, they are focusing on their own brand and reducing competing vegan products - making it really hard to find the best brands there! I found the veganz options for seitan and cheeze to be absolutely terrible and I started making my own...until I found Dr. Pogo.
Dr. Pogo is a small shop in Neukölln and has every product I was looking for. I ventured all the way out there, but it was worth it. It is a small shop that sells all vegan products from food to cleaning products and even has a little cafe and baked goods. I went this week and stock piled my favorite Terra Vegane products including a really mind blowing seitan/lupine salami that is my new fav. They also have every VioLife cheese imaginable, so you don't have to eat that plastic shit cheese anymore. They have a semi-okay coffee whitener/creamer called Whity...hmm...and that cute package was a fantastic little chocolate/nutty/caramel bar. Finally, they have one of the best chocolate croissants I've had here so far. Take some cash with you because they don't take your dirty credit cards, obviously.
American Product Replacement Update:
Found a legit peanut butter from Holland (Pinda Kaas) that is only sold in Asian markets. Half way found the coffee creamer replacement, but it's super wasteful. Veganz sells these little one-time-use soy milk creamers that aren't so bad and only 50 cents for 10. Finally, I found a great meat replacement made right here in Berlin called Terra Vegane!
- ChariTea Sparkling Mate and Lamate! (The sparking mate with way less sugar than 'Merica)
- Super healthy German bread (with seeds, nuts, and carrots inside) from the local baker..yumm. They have the best bread in the world here.
- Suppengrun! German's answer to the Mirepoix from France. They package up carrots, celery root, leeks, and parsley wrapped in a little band and you go home with one serving of it ready to go. I created a simple recipe I will share soon!
- Weird-ass potato fingers aka Schupfnudel (Germans say they created it before the Italians created gnocchi...hmm)
- Souppen! German soups are the best, and they are really cheap. Also, when it's snowing outside and they sell the best soup you've ever had with that dense bread, it kind of feels okay for like a second
- Hafermilch - Oat milk is everywhere here and almond milk is not..but Oat milk is fluffier and has a microbubble index of 5,000%*
We Moved to Berlin!
So it's been a week since we moved to Berlin and I thought it was time to start writing about our experience moving abroad and some of my first impressions of this city!
Before discussing my thoughts on the city, I thought I would answer the why. A lot of people were surprised by our move - but mostly jealous. However, this is something we have wanted to do for basically forever. Almost every year, we would take our one big vacation in Europe. We always travel how a local does - we stay in Air BnBs, cook at home, go to meetups, and hang out like we would in LA. That way we can get a good feeling for how living in the city would be. Paris is beautiful but too traditional/strict, Italy is amazing and relaxing but tech is way behind, Scandinavia is cool but didn't blow us away...but Berlin was so different.
We heard the rumors and stats of Berlin and it hit everything on the Über Checklist - most green city, most vegan city, super tech startup city, English-friendly, family friendly, no Trump, etc. So after years of being Euro-curious, we made the leap and moved here.
What's It Like?
Americans don't know much about Germany except the stereotypes. I was told I would only be able to eat sausage and beer, and that everyone is cold. After visiting and moving here, I can definitely say that both are ridiculous generalizations. Similar to saying Americans only eat hot dogs and smile too much - kind of true - but too simplified.
In reality, LA and Berlin are similar in a lot of ways - and in many ways they are different. Both cities are a bubble - they have liberal, alternative people mostly living in them, there is always something to do, there is great food, culture, and people. Berliners have been more friendly, social, and open-minded than their LA counterparts. Even just this week, we have met lots of friends, went to an impromptu dinner with four people we just met, and met people from all over the world doing something similar to us.
For the day-to-day, I find Berlin to be much safer, QUIETER, super walkable, and healthier.
Safety - no weekly school shootings, drugged up transients in my doorway, and even small children take the subway alone with no problem.
Senses - It's so quiet it's actually scary/I love it. LA was ridiculously loud. With the constant helicopters or screaming people in the streets, neighbors with loud music and TVs until 2am.. Berlin is super quiet. Ride the subway at rush hour in a packed car and people are whispering and no one is playing a loud boombox. At home, it's so peaceful I don't think anyone is alive. For the smell - I'm not missing Eau de LA (weed/urine/body sweat mix) in all the streets...but that always reminds me of home.
Walkable - I lost 3 pounds during this week, just living like a German. I don't have a car and I have a mini-fridge (aka a normal German size fridge). So I am walking everywhere and going to my local store a few times a week. I only get the necessities to cook for the next few days and don't waste anything.
Health - Everyone is really healthy here - except for the constant smoking/drinking. We went to a local hackerspace on the weekend where we all stopped what we were doing at 5pm, walked to the store, bought groceries and cooked a healthy vegetable stir fry and salad together. The other hackerspace cooked a vegan tomato soup for everyone last time we were here. The food doesn't have as much added sugar as the US so we've reduced our salt and sugar intake by just leaving the states. We can even walk across the street and get a healthy homemade vegan meal or hearty soup for 4 euro any time of day.
Final Thoughts for Now
So far I'm really liking my new town. I really needed a change and even though I wanted to take a Trump detox (which isn't working because he's prolific) I'm loving the lifestyle here. I'm excited for 6 weeks of vacations, summertime, and more fun events to meet all the amazing people here.