10 food and drink habits I've picked up in Germany
1. Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake)
Come on…did you really think this wouldn’t be on this list? Let’s just start off with an expected one then, shall we?
Kaffee und Kuchen is more of a tradition in older households, I would say, but not exclusively. If you meet someone at their house or out for a coffee in the afternoon, you can expect a cake or some form of sweet baked good to be there. If you’re out, of course you can decide if you want something or not. But if you’re visiting someone’s house, it can be hard to say no. (And why would you want to? It’s cake!) For some people it’s a nice pick-me-up, for others it’s a precursor to a nice nap
2. Sparkling water
I’m a believer now. Before moving to Germany, I found sparkling water (actually I probably referred to it as carbonated water) disgusting. Why would someone drink bubbly water without any flavor in it? Well…you visit a few places that only have sparkling water to drink so you have to take it until…you become hooked.
A cold glass of sparkling water can be so refreshing, and dare I say more refreshing than a cold glass of tap water? If I’m working out, I find sparkling water a bit too much to handle. But other than that, it can just hit the spot.
3. Sparkling water + wine or juice
Mixing sparkling water with other drinks is known as making a Schorle, sometimes translated as a ‘spritzer’. I like drinking Weinschorle (wine spritzer) because it makes me feel like I’m hydrating simultaneously while drinking alcohol. 😀 I also like mixing sparkling water with juice because it kind of resembles drinking a soft drink (which I rarely drink anymore) and it helps the juice stretch further so you don’t have to buy it as frequently.
4. Brezeln (pretzels – the big kind)
Need some breakfast? Pick up a Brezel from the bakery on the way to work. Need a snack? Grab a Brezel when you’re out for a walk. Brotzeit? (colloquial Bavarian term for dinner) Get a few Brezeln for the spread.
Essentially, the Brezel is the perfect snack for any time of day when you need a little something to shut up the noises in your stomach. It’s soft and slightly crunchy in just the right places, and those big chunks of salt on there top it off nicely.
Btw – enjoy this amateur gif I made!
5. Apfelschorle (apple juice + sparkling water)
You know what goes perfectly with a Brezel? And I think any German child will agree…it’s Apfelschorle! I will admit that this one is similar to number 3, but I believe Apfelschorle deserves its own category. This is a very popular drink within Germany, and maybe Switzerland as well, but you likely will not find this drink commercially sold in other countries. It’s weird, because one of the popular brands of Apfelschorle called Lift is a product of Coca-Cola. So maybe they’ve done some testing in the labs that shows it wouldn’t be a hit in places like the US? It’s a healthier alternative to traditional soda, but maybe therein lies the problem…
6. Hot tea
Drinking hot tea is certainly not a German phenomenon (don’t come for me Brits), but it’s more of an everyday practice than it was where I grew up. We could drink sweetened hot tea on an endless drip in the summer, but hot tea? Not really. I think I was in my 20s the first time I drank hot tea, and that was from my German partner’s influence. Growing up, you either drank coffee in the morning or a cold drink such as orange juice. And if you were cold and wanted to warm up with a drink, the choices were typically hot coffee, hot chocolate, or hot apple cider. (Yes, we had to specific ‘hot’ with every single one.)
7. Always using a knife and keeping it in my dominant hand
Look, this is just one of those cultural things that I can’t explain. Where I’m from, if you can cut whatever you’re eating with the side of your fork, you do it. Why use two utensils if you can get the job done with one? And if you’re eating something that definitely requires a knife, such as a steak, people tend to use the ole’ ‘bait and switch’ i.e. using the knife with your dominant hand to cut a piece, then placing the knife down and switching the fork back over to your dominant hand to keep eating.
Of course this is the way I was doing things when I first moved to Germany, but as I would observe the people around me and see that literally nobody was doing the same, I felt a bit self-conscious. This procedure is definitely not seen as proper etiquette, and I was drawing unwanted attention to myself. Wanting to integrate and not be seen as some weird outsider with no manners, I adapted to this more ‘proper’ way of dining.
8. Eating french fries with a utensil
Eating french fries with my fingers was never something I was fond of, but it was just accepted. It’s not something that gets particularly messy, outside of the salt that may be on them. But there are very few foods that Germans seem comfortable eating with their bare hands. I’m serious – many people even eat BURGERS with a fork and knife. (Now who’s the weirdo with weird dining habits??) Of course, eating with a clean utensil is more hygienic if you haven’t had the opportunity to wash your hands, or you know you won’t have the opportunity to wash your hands of the salt afterwards. That’s why if I’m given a utensil for my french fries, I’m definitely going to use it. Don’t want it to go to waste either, do we?
If you are a meat eater who also likes slightly spicy food, this is something you’ll definitely like. Currywurst is a grilled white sausage cut into pieces and submerged into a tomatoey curry sauce. It’s a perfect snack if you’re at a festival with your friends and slightly drunk, but it’s also just the perfect snack in general if you’re hungry for more than a Brezel. It’s considered fast food in Germany, and you’ve just gotta try one if you have the chance.
10. Glühwein (mulled wine)
Glühwein tends to be the warm winter drink of choice for alcohol-drinking adults, and for good reason. It warms you up when you’re at the outdoor Christmas markets with friends, as they tend to be outdoors. It’s spiced and sweetened wine, and often has some extra rum in there. And because it’s warm, spiced, and sweetened, you often don’t notice how strong it is. So pay attention to how many you drink, or you’ll be paying for it the next day.