I am not sure why but when I asked this question elsewhere I got lots of replies along the lines of "Food is so much healthier in Germany! Just look when you get there!" and some sarcastic "yeah, the Germans only eat sausages and beer, but maybe if you look really really hard you'll be able to find fruit and veg and maybe even coffee" which really have irritated me all day. I am not at all worried about the quality of food in Germany, I am very excited about moving there, I don't expect a bunch of stereotypes or cliches. I spent a lot of time growing up in Europe (mostly Spain) and have missed the lifestyle incredibly, and I often rant about how our food standards in the US are awful comparatively, etc..
The problem is, I and my kids have a lot of fairly severe food intolerances. It has taken several YEARS in a country where we are fluent in the language and familiar with the customs to find brands/products that work well for us. Even the healthiest fanciest most wonderful organic farm made jerky usually has more sugar than I would like, and quite often traces of dairy. I am aware that it is an annoyance/pain in the ass/complicated to explain all the exact issues to store clerks and restaurant staff, so I am trying to find the best replacements for our usual "safe" snacks before we get there. (this doesn't even get into the fact that we still have to *try* all the new stuff and see what we actually enjoy)
I had hoped to take some of our staple (very favorite, yummy, AND healthy) jerky, protein powder, and fish oil so that we have a little grace period to find stuff in stores to transition to, but I then realized that could all be confiscated at customs. We obviously eat homemade meals of fresh meat/fish/eggs & veg/fruit at home, but we won't have a fridge or stove for at least a month so the dried/prepared snack issue is actually quite important. I made the mistake of asking if "baby carrots" (miniature sticks of carrot in bags) are popular over there (they were not in any of the countries I spent a lot of time in when I was a kid) because they are a favorite snack of my kids, and of course that prompted the comment that I might find fruit/veg if I looked. I know I can buy proper carrots everywhere, I just wondered about this specific packaging b/c it would be very convenient and please my kids. (Not having to get a cutting board, knife, etc to prep in our hotel room is a bonus)
I asked about coffee as well, though I am sure there is coffee generally we make an effort to get really high quality organic stuff, and if decaf water processed, which is not easy to find over here at all, so I wanted tips on finding it over there. (Is there a special name/brand for this type of thing?)
I found 2 "bio" healthfood stores (I think) near our hotel which I will check out as soon as I can when we get there, but any assistance with finding these things would be appreciated. (For example, over here many groceries are now stocking an "allergen free" section with gluten free and dairy free stuff, is that common over there?)
Please don't take my questions as some sort of slight against Germany or an indication that I am fearful of a new country or culture (that one really pissed me off, btw) I am just doing a bit of research so we can be comfortable and productive when we first arrive and look for a house.
Thanks so much.
I cannot speak for all the cities, it will really depend on where you live, and also I know nothing about jerky as a vegetarian and have no food allergies, as a result I don't check for these ingredients often.
That said, maybe this will help you:
Rewe stores (supermarket chain) have baby carrots, I assume other big supermarkets like Kaufland, Combi etc will do as well. In our Rewe the pre-washed baby carrots can be found near the fruit/veg section in a fridge where they also keep pre-washed, ready to eat salads and dressings. The German word for it is Babykarotten, or maybe Minikarotten. They have been pre-peeled as well.
I do not know about plain fish oil, I know many supplements for pregnant women and general Omega 3 supplements contain fish oil. These are widely available, every big supermarket has a small health food/supplement section. But if you are into more holistic, harder to find supplements I suggest googling for a Reformhaus in your area. These are usually smaller mom'n'pop type stores and traditionally offer foods labeled with allergens, offer lost of hard to find juices and supplements. You might also find protein powder there, though Germany is not big on those. We also now have plenty of Biosupermärkte who will all have supplements as well as only organic foods (big chains are Alnatura which has its own line of cheaper items; Basic; Aleco...). However, organic does not equal healthy, so if you ate looking for sugarfree items you'll have to read the ingredient lists. Manufacturers don't label items as nicely as the UK does, for example, but they are required to state what allergens (milk, wheat, nuts, eggs, mustard, soy..) are in their products. It will read "enthält Milch, Weizen" for these, and if it says "Enthält Spuren von... " oder "Kann Spuren enthalten von.." that means none of the allergens have been consciously added to the product but they were processed at a factory that also handles these items. Depending on the severity of your allergies you might want to stay away from them, but if you have to it will be really hard to find something.
Glutenfree sections are in all supermarkets and in the Biosupermärkte. The drugstore chains DM (highly recommended, carries Alnatura product) and Rossmann both have organic/health food lines including gluten free and dairy free items. Dairy free is easy, I am vegan and have no issues finding stuff.
For a selection of organic coffee check the Biosupermarkt, drugstores and supermarkets will also carry at least one organic coffee type but I have no idea about decaf.
BTW, if I say supermarket I do not mean the cheaper ones like Lidl, Aldi, Netto, Penny or Plus. While recently all have started carrying soy products and some organic items they do have a much smaller selection of these specialty items. If they do these are cheaper than elsewhere but you might need a longer time to find them.
As for supplements, as mentioned already Germans are not nearly as big on them as Americans are and hence, I find the quality and general availability of them lacking. It's one of the things I tend to bring back from the US when I visit and quite frankly have mostly stopped taking them because of this. Technically it's illegal to "import" any kind of herbal products and medications, but travelling with them is easy as customs do not search you coming in. However, I do not recommend having them sent to you -my mom often send me care packages of American things I am missing here and once tried to include some herbal supplements and the package got sent back. German customs opens and searches an inordinate percentage of incoming parcels so just be careful.
As for jerky, as far as I know it's unavailable here. I was recently in the US and a friend of my hubby's asked me to bring him back some jerky. So yeah, load up and bring it with you because you aren't gonna find it here. I also recently found out by chance when researching customs regulations that jerky is also on the forbidden to import list. German customs are just full of these arbitrary rules. Again, you should be fine travelling in with it, but I would not bother to have it sent over if you would normally be inclined to do that as customs is likely to find it and send it back. I would recommend finding other alternative snacks. There is no lack of healthy organic food and sugar-free snacks here I'm sure you'll find something.
As mentioned, gluten free is easy here as there is a wide variety of fresh-baked bread made without gluten. My husband has a gluten intolerance so we buy spelt (which is in general very popular, called "Dinkel" and you can find pasta, bread, crackers, etc made with it), kamut or buckwheat bread. You can also get gluten free bread at dm drug store but it has other ingredients I don't like so we don't buy it.
I know this news is not all good. When I first moved here from the States I was devastated at all the products I was used to that are unavailable here. Over the years I have gotten used to and learned to love what is available here, adapted my needs / tastes and found replacements for most things. I recommend doing internet searches for things you can't find here. Sometimes a German website will sell it but I have found countless products from UK websites who will ship to Germany. That is a great way to get supplements (the import laws only apply to stuff coming in from outside the EU) and loads of other products, so do check into that.
Good luck! Where are you moving to, and will you be staying long?
Mama since 2010
Multicultural living in Europe
Hey PJ, we got here yesterday! Our commitment s for 36 months and we may ask to stay longer after that. I'm not sure if we will end up in Mainz. Wiesbaden or Frankfurt but that is where we are planning to explore/look at houses.
Hello all! So we love it here, Mainz is beautiful, the food thing is still tricky without a kitchen but after some rashes/etc the first week we got super strict and have found a few restaurants that will cater to our needs. I have a rec for a ped in Wiesbaden but the person who likes them doesn't know how they will feel about non-vax, etc... So I was wondering if there was anyone that could suggest a ped or family doc in the area (willing to travel if necessary) that is crunchy friendly. Also, although we are homeschooling now, I am curious about the school situation, particularly kindergarten since I hear it is more playtime than "school" and it might be a nice way for the kids to learn the language and meet friends. Is there a vaccine exemption I need to fill out or something? (Or nothing like that and you just can't attend w/out vax, etc...?) I am feeling pretty conflicted about the school thing since we were adamant about continuing to homeschool before we left, but now that we are here everyone is gushing about how great the schools are and how early the kids finish the day, etc, etc... I do really want the kids involved with German kids but had hoped for after school activities or sports things to achieve that. Any ideas?
Glad to hear it's going well for you!
Just a word of warning: homeschooling is illegal in Germany. If you continue to do it, you are well advised to keep it very low-key. There have been stories of police taking children away from their parents for homeschooling (no kidding!). One family was even granted asylum status in the US because they wanted to homeshool and were facing persecution here for it. Most Germans I've talked about this with are very anti-homeschool. There is, however, one pro-homeschool group called Unerzogen: http://www.unerzogen.de/ which has local meetings. You may find some other like-minded folks there. Good luck!
Mama since 2010
Multicultural living in Europe
Should have clarified (and I actually joined the unerzogen yahoo group, cool people!) we are able to legally homeschool here because we are in the country in association with the military. I was pretty bummed when I found out that there wasn't going to be big active groups of German homeschoolers getting together here that we could practice our new language with and that is kind of spurring this reconsideration of the school thing. It is really hard for me to understand how it can be so unacceptable in a culture to homeschool that it is actually illegal. I've actually already had a comment (from an American actually) that she couldn't believe my kids are homeschooled since they are so outgoing, etc, etc... I kind of thought most people had some vague concept of homeschoolers as kids who happen to have a parents heavily investing time in helping them do better than they would at school (otherwise why are we doing it?) but it appears the kneejerk reaction by many is to assume it's just a way to isolate the kids and avoid teaching them important stuff. (I have met homeschoolers like that, but I wouldn't say most of them are like that at all)
Yeah it's pretty silly. I think it's just one more negative result of the history of this country. Apparently the government sees homeschooling as a way to educate people for sinister purposes, and to avoid interaction with different types of people.
Mama since 2010
Multicultural living in Europe
I have a rec for a ped in Wiesbaden but the person who likes them doesn't know how they will feel about non-vax, etc... So I was wondering if there was anyone that could suggest a ped or family doc in the area (willing to travel if necessary) that is crunchy friendly. Is there a vaccine exemption I need to fill out or something? (Or nothing like that and you just can't attend w/out vax, etc...?) I am feeling pretty conflicted about the school thing since we were adamant about continuing to homeschool before we left, but now that we are here everyone is gushing about how great the schools are and how early the kids finish the day, etc, etc... I do really want the kids involved with German kids but had hoped for after school activities or sports things to achieve that. Any ideas?
We are planning to attend a baby meet up group in our town. They seem to be all over the place. Maybe you can find something similar? If you call the Burgerzentrum or Rathaus they might be able to tell you more.
Also, it is popular to have kids attend a hobby or two a few times a week. Joining a sports team for example. They are not necessarily school based.
As far as vaccines go - I never had a pedi say anything about it really. One even made it clear that I am not forced to do it and she just wanted to ask because they are required to offer it to everyone. I never heard about a vaccine exemption, I don't think anyone cares. It is certainly not a must to be vaccinated to attend kidergarten or school. Unless some new law has been passed that I don't know of? I was gone for a few years..:/
As this question has come up before...
Here is a list of all clubs which may offer after school activities:
Also happened to come across a list of English-speaking doctors in Mainz, here's the link just in case...
There's a bilingual school. 5th grade and up
A list of water playgrounds...I'm on a roll, Mainz sounds great!
As for jerky, as far as I know it's unavailable here. I was recently in the US and a friend of my hubby's asked me to bring him back some jerky. So yeah, load up and bring it with you because you aren't gonna find it here. I also recently found out by chance when researching customs regulations that jerky is also on the forbidden to import list. German customs are just full of these arbitrary rules. Again, you should be fine travelling in with it, but I would not bother to have it sent over if you would normally be inclined to do that as customs is likely to find it and send it back.
Actually, most countries are extremely strict about their import restrictions on meat products and other foodstuffs. It's about disease prevention (used to work in food and agriculture administration). I think the last huge outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the EU in 2001 was caused by meat that was illegally imported Britain. This is the site for the US, with all restrictions and explanations. I'd guess that US and EU regulations are fairly similar.
Have you found no websites in the UK that sell jerky? They should be able to ship to Germany without restrictions.