Typically, people think of German food as sausage, beer, pretzels, sauerkraut and the like. Don’t get me wrong, that’s historically German food. However (and I’m sure this is true virtually everywhere you would visit or study), there is so much more to it than that!
Look at the photo above and tell me whether or not that looks like a typical German dish. Before I was educated, I would have said “No.” However, it totally is. What you are looking it is the Döner Kebap, created right here in Berlin by blending the food traditions of Berlin’s traditional Germans and its substantial Turkish immigrant population. This is a Kebap that I ordered in the Potsdam main train station, complete with cheese and garlic sauce. It is particularly “Berlin” and is absolutely delicious (Döner macht schöner)!! You’re also probably going to be surprised by the sheer variety of stuff that is available, especially with the local twist that they will put on dishes you’re familiar with. “Chinese food” is something just a little different than it is at home in the States.
Here’s the downside of food when studying abroad: You will miss the food from home. I typically get homesick at two different times: On holidays and when I think about food from home. It has been over six months since I’ve eaten Waffle House, and although that’s probably a good thing, I really miss it. This is food I grew up with. I haven’t had a po’boy in nearly a year. Again, probably healthier for me, but I really miss being able to get a meal with my buddies at 2:30 in the morning that consisted of waffles, eggs, and hashbrowns (smothered and covered, please).
The worst thing that can happen is when you get teased. It will happen at least once, and no matter how many times I fall for it, I refuse to learn. When something is advertised as “American,” or even if it’s something we would consider traditionally American, you will likely be disappointed. Now, this stuff is good on its own merit and should be appreciated as such, but if you’re expecting a meal like you’d get at home, you will be almost invariably let down. Case in point: Even after being here for nearly 7 months, I ordered a chili-cheese hotdog from a stand in Potsdam’s main street. It did not have any chili on it, and for cheese, it was a kind of Danish dressing sauce. Even fast food isn’t safe. McDonald’s menu is relatively similar, but it simply doesn’t taste nearly as good as it does State-side. (And it’s not just me. My German friends that studied in the US agreed.) On top of that, a basic meal at a German McDonald’s is about 7€, which comes up to about $10 right now. So you’re paying that much more for a meal that is not as tasty (McDonald’s is far from gourmet, but it is somehow even less flavorful here) and has significantly smaller portions. Not worth it. So be sure to take care of all of your cravings in the couple weeks before you depart!!
But do not despair! Another thing you should be excited about when you study abroad is the level of quality that you’re going to see in your food. The typical American diet is pretty processed, and we love our grease. In my experience here in Europe, food is slightly more expensive, but so much healthier here. That Kebap in the photo is the closest thing Germany has to fast food, and it is by far better for you then anything from Taco Bell. I didn’t change my diet drastically in the beginning of my study abroad, but I shed weight like it was nobody’s business. It’s awesome, and when combined with exercise, it’s make a sizable difference. I’m really looking forward to being in much better shape when I get back!