12 Things From Home Which British Expats In Germany Miss
The one thing every expat misses from home is the food. Unless you're Dutch perhaps. Aside from your mom's home cooking, it's the little things which define familiarity and memories of childhood. The products that you grew up with which are a national institution back home but just aren't appreciated outside of your country's borders. For British Expats in Germany it's no different. For 2 nations which in many ways are culturally similar, the eating habits are definitely somewhat different! The good news is that many of your favourite things from home can be easily found in Germany if you're prepared to look further than your local neighbourhood Rewe.
And Insider Tips On Where You Can Find Them…!
1. PG Tips
PG Tips may be the nation's favourite tea bag but the same holds sway for any good (black) tea. It is difficult to find good quality English style tea in Germany. PG Tips and Tetley tea bags can very often be found in your local Asian grocery store. Loose-leaf Turkish tea (which is similar but often stronger than English tea) can be found in your local Turkish supermarket. Failing that, Twinings English Breakfast Tea is available for the price of a small tropical island in Karstadt's food section. If you're living out in the sticks, the next best option is to go to your local German tea store and ask for Ostfriesische Teemischung. This tea, hailing from the East Frisian region of Niedersachsen, is similar to what we know as Assam tea and is very pleasant to drink with milk.
2. HP Sauce
Britsh Expats in Germany know that mustard on a Bratwurst or mayo on chips is a poor substitute for HP Sauce. It may be produced in Holland these days instead of its native Birmingham but it still tastes bloody marvellous on a bacon sandwich, chips or barbecued meat! Whilst it is not as ubiquitous as the awful, sugary chilli or barbecue sauces found in German supermarkets, do not despair. HP Sauce can be found in larger Real, Tegut, Edeka and Globus stores. Some of these I know are regional supermarkets only found in Southern Germany – out East I'm not so sure – please leave a comment and enlighten me!).
3. (Indian) Curry Paste and Poppadoms
In the 10 years since I've lived in Germany, the natives have started to embrace Indian food and it has become much more mainstream. Yes, there were always Indian restaurants in larger metropolitan areas but it was very difficult to find any Indian cooking ingredients in a German supermarket. You can now easily find these, although the quality is poor and they are expensive compared to the UK. If you want your trusty Pataks or Rajah curry pastes, best to go to an Asian grocery store. These stores in Germany are often (but not always) owned by Thais or Vietnamese but stock all kinds of Indian provisions too. You can also find poppadoms and papads, as well as all your spices to make a good curry (cumin, tumeric, mustard seeds etc) at very reasonable prices. You'll be glad of them because I'm afraid to say that one of the most common gripes of British expats in Germany is that Indian restaurants here tend to be not only distinctly average but also somewhat devoid of spice.
4. Hob Nobs
This one really took me aback when I saw them, just for its sheer randomness. My local Turkish supermarket sells Hob Nobs and Chocolate Digestive Biscuits. I couldn't fathom out why….until I read an article that United Biscuits, who own the McVitie's brand, were sold to the Turkish conglomerate Yildiz for GBP 2 billion in 2014. Who knew? So apart from all the other delights of the Turkish supermarket (who doesn't love Fladenbrot?) you can now pick up some Hob Nobs to dunk into your cup of proper English tea.
Your author is definitely in the “hate” camp for Marmite but I do know that a lot of British expats in Germany pine for it. Those who want the iconic black jar of vegetable extract spread are at the mercy of Karstadt's pricey food section, unless you have a large supermarket such as Real nearby with a well-stocked international food aisle.
6. Baked Beans
This staple ingredient of the Full English Breakfast and the mainstay in every student's diet, baked beans are much more commonly available here than you would probably assume. You will mainly find the Heinz Beanz brand in Real, Globus, Edeka as well as larger branches of Rewe in major cities with a large expat population. I've also seen them in a lot of Turkish and Asian supermarkets.
7. Salt and Vinegar Crisps
In recent times, Germans have discovered that crisps flavours other than the ubiquitous Paprika are actually quite nice. A welcome byproduct of this discovery has been the proliferation of salt and vinegar flavour crisps in German supermarkets. Kettle Chips and Tyrrell's are the most popular brands and can be found in larger and more specialist supermarkets such as Real, Globus, Tegut, HIT and Edeka. Aldi-Süd also offer a bargain-tastic and very tasty house brand of salt and vinegar crisps for €0.99, which for me is equally as good as the well-known brands. The German brand Funny Frisch also gets the thumbs-up.
Whilst Kellogg's and Nestle cereals are everywhere, this British favourite is trickier to find. Random fact: Weetabix also has a much lower sugar content and higher fibre content than most other cereals. If you want your Weetabix, then you need to look in Real and larger branches of Rewe, Tegut, Edeka.
Now, as any British expat will tell you, real bacon is not that thin, crispy pancetta like product which Americans (and Germans) insist on calling bacon. Proper, British bacon is thick cut, juicy, often smoked and able to assist in curing a Sunday morning hangover. Surprisingly, for a nation which loves piggy products as much as the Germans do, British style bacon is difficult to find here. Real, and surprisingly Aldi-Süd, offer Bacon englischer Art which is about as close as you will get until your next trip back to England's green and pleasant land.
10. Mature cheddar
10 years ago it was very difficult to find cheddar in Germany without going to a specialist cheese shop. Since then, Cathedral City and Kerrygold (they're Irish but we'll let it go for the sake of a tasty cheddar) have conquered the German supermarkets. Even Aldi and Lidl will occasionally have a mature English or Scottish cheddar during the British Food Week promos they typically run a couple of times a year. If you look, you will be able to find a decent mature cheddar in virtually all larger German supermarkets.
The Germans are not big lamb eaters, as you probably guessed from a cursory look around any meat section of your local neighbourhood supermarket. Buying lamb from the butcher here is very expensive. Fear not, my friends, for those of you who love the fluffy-white creatures which adorn the hillsides of Wales and Northern England, the solution comes in the form of your wonderful, local Turkish supermarket. The Turks, along with most of the Middle-East, are very fond of lamb and whilst the meat cuts are a fair bit different, you can find chops, ribs and goulash at very reasonable prices.
12. English real ale
Now you may be wondering, why in the land of Helles, Doppelbock, Märzen and Hefeweizen would you crave an Old Bishop's Wagglecock? And you may have a point. Nonetheless, I have to say that since turning 35, I have grown very impartial to a nice, British real ale. Indeed, I definitely think British ales are very under-appreciated outside of their domestic market. Fear not my lovely British expats in Deutschland, you can find a great collection of real ale in the nationwide Toom Getränkemarkt chain and a somewhat more limited selection in Real and Globus.
And 5 things you can't easily buy here…
1. Cadbury's chocolate
Cadbury's parent company, Mondelez International, also owns the Milka brand which is so popular in Germany. Clearly they have a strategy to not market both brands alongside each other because you can't find Cadbury's chocolate anywhere. Order online or go to a specialist British shop if you're lucky enough to have one locally.
2. Robinson's cordial
I naively thought that pretty much every European country drinks fruit cordial to dilute with water. I was wrong, they don't have it here. If you tire of Apfelschorle then you are in for a wait for a nice glass of Robinson's Barley Water.
3. Ginster's Cornish pasties
Meat pies generally are nigh on impossible to find in Germany. If you're craving a Ginster's then you're in for a wait until your next trip home, unless you buy online. The ingredients themselves are not hard to find here if you're decent at baking and fancy a home-made attempt at a pastie.
4. English style sausages
You're stuck with Nürnberger for your not-so-full English breakfast or Thüringer for your barbecue until your next trip home, unless you're lucky enough to live close to a specialist British shop which also has a refrigerated section.
5. Malt vinegar
No German chip is worthy of being sprinkled generously with malt vinegar! Your vinegar options I'm afraid are restricted to brandy, white wine, apple or balsamic-based in your local German supermarket.
So there you have it. I would love to know which ones would have made it onto your list, or even better if you're in the know and can share somewhere other than a specialist British shop where the above 5 items can be purchased. Sharing is caring…
What do all you Americans, Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans miss the most? And how tough is it to buy it here?