Ah, finally: einkaufen (shopping) – what you have all been waiting for!
In general, it seems like we spend a lot more time shopping here. Maybe that’s due to our tiny refrigerator (out of food again!); maybe due to living in the heart of city and being on foot more (let’s duck in here and see what they have!), maybe a bit also due to only having packed the barest essentials (why did I insist on packing my good knives but left the knife sharpener behind??)
We now have our favorite places, to shop and to dine, with frequent-buyer cards and everything.
As my sister commented in an early post here, it would be wrong to not devote at least a paragraph to our beloved Rossmann. It’s like a Walgreens, but without the pharmacy. It’s a store chock-full of interesting products– it’s so fun to walk down the aisles and browse all the lotions, bath salts, makeup and soap. And to us, everything seems really cheap (billig)! Toiletries in general here are much less expensive–I would say 50% less than in the states. Yesterday I bought a big container of body wash for €0.50! Check out (guck mal) their website and you’ll see what I mean!
(As a reminder you can hit any of these websites in Chrome and choose to translate them into English).
DM is also great but doesn’t have the same charm as Rossmann. Still, it’s got bigger stores with more services, including a gift-wrap-it-yourself station and photo printing.
Now: groceries. As you know we have 3 Rewe branches near us (sadly we are not near Edeka or we would shop there to support Lisa! Sometimes I stop at an Edeka if I am not near home!).
Both Edeka and Rewe have produce that is far superior to what we get at home, even at Whole Foods and New Seasons. For instance, I’ve been enjoying incredible tomatoes this winter (yes, you read that correctly). They’re so incredible I could–and I have–eaten them for breakfast. The melons–all kinds–also amazing: ripe, sweet and aromatic, full of flavor. Nothing like the bland ones at home. The assortment of exotic fruits is also a breath of fresh air; we regularly see figs, gooseberries and lychee at the regular old grocery store. The lettuce selection is different but again everything is fresh from the grower, with incredible taste. I have fallen in love with Feldsalat, something I had never seen before.
Ok, potatoes and cabbage. This are the staples of German food! As you might expect there is a wide variety of cabbage types here, including on that was new to me, Spitzkohl, which is very mild, and its smaller size makes it easier to store (recall: tiny fridge, no countertop space to speak of!). This cabbage is delicious stirred into a vegetable soup, or roasted in chunks with olive oil and sea salt. I could eat some every day! When there’s no time to cook, I pick up a stovetop-ready pouch of pre-cooked rotkohl (red cabbage) with Kumel (caraway seeds) or Apfel (apple).
In the potato world, there is also a large variety to choose from of course. We are now partial to drillinge (“triplets”) which are like fingerling potatoes back home. But, they’re all good and it seems like I am constantly roasting potatoes to serve alongside any meal.
Groceries are also considerably cheaper here. Now, they are in smaller packages; but even after calculating size and converting currency we find the cost of living here is cheaper (with the exception of housing, which is relatively expensive at least in central Dusseldorf, which is very dense). And, recall we do not have a car to put expensive fuel in, and park. etc.
When we were planning this year abroad, I remembered being worried about what we would do for healthy but quick lunches out. We often eat lunch out on the weekends while we do our errands. I needn’t have worried: there are tons of options that are quick and easy, ranging from Doner-kebab joints to cafe food and even a chain of Canadian poutine places (there’s those potatoes again!).
But the easiest and most satisfying lunch spot we have discovered is the buffet at the department store Galeria Kaufhof (recently rebranded as Galeria). The selection is incredible: hot entrees, several cold salads, fresh juices, those coffee machines we find we now cannot live without, and an incredible dessert selection. The buffet is easy (minimal speaking required) and everyone can get as much (or as little) as they want. Many of the old folk seem to come here for kaffe und kuchen which is an afternoon tradition. You’ll see a photo below of an ad in one of their dining rooms that translates to “Cake is the answer.” Quite right. They also serve sparkling wine and beer. Can you imagine this at a US department store? I suspect there would be a lot more purchasing if Proseco were on hand!
(Even IKEA has an assortment of baked treats that would rival most US bakeries.)
The shopping at the Galeria is also very good for us. Although I wouldn’t normally think to go to a department store for most purchases, I find Galeria convenient and it’s fun to look at the clothes and the housewares, which are sort of like a Nordstrom but not as expensive and with more practical stuff. Between their 2 main locations we can get everything we need for the house (knife sharpener!) and grab lunch as well.
One of the things I noticed when we first got here and started exploring all the great small independent shops and the large department stores like Galeria and Peek and Cloppenburg was the bright colors and fashionable Euro-style of everything. The Euro-style is starting to look “normal” to me so I don’t notice it as much now, but the colors are still striking: bright lime greens, fuchsia pinks, and sunburst oranges everywhere and on everything: sweaters, tea kettles, socks, shoes, pen handles. Even underwear!
The color is a nice antidote to winter weather, although there has not been much ‘winter’ to speak of, and days that start stormy end more often than not end with sunshine.
The Germans themselves are smart dressers. This is something I have noticed especially in the the older gentlemen. I often observe what people wear on our long train journeys. Older people also ways look very polished and pressed, and have take care to choose matching or complimentary socks and scarfs; they look like they’ve materialized out of a magazine. There is a middle-aged woman I’ve seen a few times wearing a peacock blue-green wool town coat, with almost the exact color leather shoes and handbag, with related scarf. Yesterday I saw a man wearing a bright red cashmere sweater with a red tartan scarf.
Of course the women often look fantastic here in this high end shopping-city. We will do an entire post at some point about bespoke women and menswear in Germany in Britain…a fascinating topic.
Oh, and shoes. People’s shoes are always very clean, practically spotless. This has made me take more notice of my own shoes and I feel like quite the slob when we tramp into a store or the train with less than pristine shoes.
One more mention…that Jeff would be disappointed if I did not include: schriebwaren. Or, stationary as we might say, although the chances we would utter this word in the states is low. The fine art of that which is handwrittten is alive and well here. We have a shop devoted to Schriebwaren on our high street: pens, papers, notebooks, envelopes, wrapping paper. And Lamy pens, made in Germany, are displayed in cases like valuable jewelry (in fact, some do cost thousands).
I have taken several photos of items in shops below that I hope you will enjoy.