Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Since Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Germany (it really means nothing to Germans), we don't get Thursday and Friday off and have to settle for a postponed celebration on Saturday. Thus, yesteday served as Thanksgiving. I didn't take many pictures of people but the food was a huge attraction. The bird was about 7 kilos, around 16lbs. in American terms, and barely fit in our oven. In fact, our oven is permantly damaged as a result but it was delicious. Here are a few photos of the spread, and this is not including dessert which went largly untouched due to lack of space in everyone's bellies. In an effort to be good hosts, Patrick and I were prepared with 10 bottles of wine (5 white and 5 red). W anticipated that everone would drink wine with dinner but also know some people would need to drive home so we also got 3 large bottles of soda and 2 different types of juice. The reality of drink choice completely shocked me, all soda was completely gone, neither juice was touched and only 2 of our 10 bottles of wine had been imbibed. In addition, Sam and Enrico brought some wine, one bottle was gone, they left one with us and took 4 back home and 2 other bottles of wine were left as presents. Which means we now have more wine than our (usually empty) wine holder can handle. Patrick is already having thoughts of Feuerzangenbowle.
We were 10 people and managed to reach 30% Americans this year. It was a bit of a joint Thanksgiving with my friend Sam, we each invited friends and did some of the cooking and everyone got along nicely. Sam and her husband, Enrico have a cute baby girl who is about the same size as the turkey as you can see in the photo (the baby is the one dressed as a cow in case you couldn't tell) All around a good effort and a great evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Rate of Exchange

Thanks to I can monitor the ebbs and flows of the, sometimes fragile, Euro/USD relationship. Since mid to early October, the dollar has been strengthening against the Euro (or the Euro weakening against the dollar). This would normally have been a welcome suprise, up until September I was getting paid in USD. However, just as Europe became a realistic travel destination for Americans once again, I traveled to the US and returned to work in the Euro zone where my salary is now paid in Euros. One year ago, shopping in the US meant an automatic discount of about 40% on everything because fo the exchange rate. As Christmas approaches this year, the Euro is only worth about 1.25 (good for buying Euros with USD). In fact, I've been in the market fora flight to Boston. In the past it has ALWAYS been cheaper to purchase flights, and everything else, in dollars. Now, I can actually save between $20 and $60 by buying the exact same flight on the US website in dollars. This example got me thinking about what else may be cheaper in Euros at this point and I did a little searching. As one may imagine, typicalls American products like Dell and iPods are still cheaper in dollars, only marginally based on the actual number being the same. Products imported to both countries, such as UGGS are still significantly more expensive in Germany but this is probably due in part to greater taxes on clothes and in the case of UGGS, they have only recently been introduced to the German market and are not competing with copy-cat boots. European makers, such as Longchamp (France) are actually cheaper in Germany now. When I bought my large Longchamp tote in Miami in 2007, accounting for the exchange rate of roughly 1.50, the price was almost the same on both continents and it ended up being cheapest to buy at the airport tax free. Now you will pay 79 EUR in Germany and $125 (before tax) at Nordstroms, realizing a discount of about $25 or 20% buying in EUR. Some things, such as flowers and frozen pizza, have always been and continue to be cheaper in Germany while shoes and electronics will cost you less stateside. The exchange rate can only account for so much as taxes are 19% on everything you purchase in Germany so shopping in NH will help increase the value of your dollar. For the first time, I find myself contemplating purchasing a flight in EUR and hoping if I wait a little longer the EUR may fall just a bit more and, with a bit of luck, rise in the months leading up to my trip.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Returning to my (German) home

It is weird to think that in 2 years I have lived in as many German states. I've only ever lived in 2 states in the US in all my 23 years there, and one was a temporary home while working at camp. This weekend, we will drive up to Braunschweig to attend a birthday party and visit friends. Braunschweig is in the center of the country, about 5 hours north of Mannheim but most people from the south of Germany (where I live now) think BS is in northern Germany. Since Patrick comes from a town an hour out of Denmark, it is hard for me to see BS as northern. I have no reference for the western part of the country but I tend to identify much more with northern Germans on traditions and perceptions. If you can drive from the top of RI to the bottom in an hour, you can do Germany top to bottom in about 8, Germany is comprised of 16 states. Everyone in Germany has the RI mentality when it comes to distances and somehow I'm the one convincing people that 3 hours isn't so bad and anything less can easily be done in a day. I digress, the main point I was trying to make is that I am now returning to a place in Germany where I have friends and favorites. This weekend I am hoping to visit several of both. On the favorite front, we will hopefully find time for the lion statue, ice cream and sunday brunch and I am also excited for the mall (which you may remember from posts in 2007 is not so exciting) including the best craft store in all of Germany! A´highlight in the friend category is a new baby who is about 7 months old and I will meet for the first time. I usually hate long drives but today I am beyond excited to get in the car for the 5 hour drive with Patrick and our necessary stop for dinner at McDonald's or a rest stop serving schnitzel mit pommes (there's no eating healthy on the road). It's always nice to go home.