Germany is an amazing place to spend a semester abroad. The food here is amazing; the streets are filled with bakeries and ice cream stores, the beer gardens are perfect in the summer and you can find like ten types of sausage in one restaurant. All in all, it’s great. And yet for some reason I find myself missing the strangest foods that are easily found all over the USA.
1. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes aren’t a thing here, which I find so odd. I finally managed to track down a tiny bin of these beauties at my local supermarket after almost 3 months of living in Germany. When I cooked them my roommates all asked me what I was making because they’d never seen a sweet potato before. Mind blown.
Word to the wise: forget the peanut butter and use your extra carry-on space for a bag of sweet potatoes. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
2. Salad Dressing
See that bottle of Italian Dressing on the shelf? Don’t buy it, it’s not the zesty stuff you find in American supermarkets. And the honey mustard dressing? It’s so spicy your eyes will start to water. I actually haven’t been able to bring myself to try the “American Dressing.” I’m kind of afraid to know what it tastes like.
If you find yourself in the salad dressing aisle of a German grocery store, just forget anything you’ve put on a salad before because nothing will taste like you remember.
3. BBQ Everything
BBQ sauce, baby back ribs and pulled pork are all things of the past once you come to Germany. While there are some BBQ sauces here, they’re way too sweet for my taste. Occasionally I’ll spot an empty shelf where bottles of American BBQ sauce used to stand, but sadly they’re always sold out. Go figure.
4. Mexican food
Mexican food just doesn’t exist in Germany, and my tastebuds are all the more sad for it. I’ve had the most intense Chipotle cravings since beginning my semester abroad, and a burrito bowl with extra guac just might be my “Welcome back to America” meal.
Also, in case you’re curious there’s exactly one Chipotle in all of Germany. It’s in Frankfurt, which GoogleMaps has just kindly informed me is exactly 107.8 miles away from my apartment. Dang.
5. Brownie Mixes
Another odd item, I know. Because I write for Spoon, a lot of my friends think that I cook myself super fancy meals every day and have a complete aversion to box mixes. Let me just clear the air for a moment by saying that I love boxed brownie mixes. There’s just something about the fudgey, flaky boxed brownie that will always hold a special place in my heart.
That’s probably why I was so disappointed by the German alternative. If you’re a fan of cakey brownies that taste more like cocoa powder than fudge, you’ll love your options here. But if you’re like me and need a thick gooey brownie, I’d suggest just baking your own from scratch.
My relationship with s’mores has been a complicated one. As a kid, I loved them and ate as many as I could at cookouts. Then I went through that awkward phase where I tried to cut back my sugar intake to be healthier, etc. Now I make s’mores everything. Whether it’s a brownie, cake or ice cream treat I’ll put s’mores toppings on it any day.
After coming to Germany, I realized very quickly that s’mores are not, in fact, a worldwide treat. When I tried telling my friends how to make s’mores, they actually gagged a bit during my description. Apparently eating a gooey stack of pure sugar is not to everyone’s taste.
If you find yourself packing for a semester abroad, make sure you leave home weighed down with plenty of your favorite snack foods, because odds are you won’t be able to find them overseas.