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Your Guide to Navigating German Supermarkets

Your Guide to Navigating German Supermarkets | How German Grocery Stores Differ From American Grocery Stores

A grocery store is a grocery store, whether it is located in the United States or Germany. Yes, grocery stores in both countries sell fresh produce, bread, milk and other essentials. However, there are small differences to keep in mind before you start your shopping trip. The most convenient feature, to me is that the price that is on the tag is the final price you pay. It already includes the tax, so if you see a package of strawberries for €3.00, this will be the price you will pay at the register. Here are more helpful hints for your grocery store trip in Germany:

Why are Eggs Not Chilled?
In Germany, eggs are stored on ordinary shelves, while they are refrigerated in the United States. The simple reason: freshly laid eggs in the United States are washed for hygienic reasons before they arrive at grocery stores for sale. It is forbidden to sell eggs, that have not been washed with hot water and odorless soap in order to be germ free. In Germany it is exactly the other way round: Washed eggs are prohibited to be sold. During the washing process the natural protective layer is lost. This layer prevents bacteria and salmonella from getting into the interior of the egg. Once the protection has been washed off, eggs have to be kept in coolers.

Bring Your Own Bags
Before you head out to the store, know this: there are usually no free bags given out by German grocery stores. Germans tend to bring their own bags or folding crates (like these at The Container Store), and even pack their items themselves. If you forget your bags, you can purchase bags at the checkout register. Also, there are no packers at the end of the conveyor belt. Wal-Mart failed when they tried to introduce bagging groceries for customers in the 1990s Germany. (For more on Wal-marts in Germany, check out this article from the Huffington Post).

Store Hours & Sundays
Most grocery stores in Germany are open from 7am until 8pm. Some larger chains stay open longer, but all of them have one thing in common: closed on Sundays. This day of the week is reserved for relaxing, dining together with your family, or heading to a museum. For emergency runs on a Sunday, look for gas stations or supermarkets in a train station or at an airport. If that is too far for you, check if you can borrow some milk for your Sunday morning cereal from your neighbor.

Grocery Cart Deposits
It is very common to drive onto a grocery store parking lot in the United States and see carts scattered from customers being too lazy to return the cart to a corral. Germans came up with their own way of dealing with this. To get a grocery cart in Germany, you have to insert a €0.50 cent or €1 coin into the handle in order to release the cart. Use it for shopping in the store and later return it the same place you received it. Insert the metal plug into the back of the handle and get your coin back. This saves grocery store employees from having to collect carts and gives you some exercise.

Why is the Milk Not Being Refrigerated?
The United States had fresh milk deliveries by a milkman for decades. The milkman stopped by several days a week, took the empty milk bottles and left fresh bottles of milk at the doorstep. This milk has to be refrigerated, since it is “only” pasteurized, meaning it is heated up to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit and will be good for about 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge. Contrary to that, more than 65% of the milk in Germany is treated with Ultra-high temperature processing at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, which basically sterilizes the milk. This kind of milk can be sold non-refrigerated and has a shelf life of 6 to 9 months. You can also buy some milk from the refrigerated section in a Germany supermarket in case you want to do a taste test and compare a pasteurized and a ultra-high heated milk.

If you buy a single-use container in form of a can of soda or a water in a plastic bottle, you will pay a €0.25 deposit, which will be refunded when you bring the container back to a supermarket or shop.

Pfand Deposits on Cans & Bottles
To promote recycling, in 2003 the ever-clever, thrifty Germans implemented a container deposit legislation, also known as Pfand [pronounced pf‿ant]. If you buy a single-use container in form of a can of soda or a water in a plastic bottle, you will pay a €0.25 deposit, which will be refunded when you bring the container back to a supermarket or shop. Sometimes a real person will refund your deposit, sometimes you have to push your bottle or can into one of these deposit return machine and get a voucher printed. Either use the voucher in the store or go to the cash register to have the amount paid out to you in cash. When you throw that bottle away, you're also throwing away your €0.25. The deposit legislation does not cover containers for juice, milk-products, wine, spirits, or liquors.

Did we forget other differences that you have noticed? Let us know in the comments!

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Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You

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Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You

Every year the hardest part of our trip is leaving behind our two cats, Katze and Jayla. They’ve seen the suitcases load up and wheel out, and when you try to say goodbye they’ll hide under the bed, as if that will change the impending situation. Most vacations, I leave the house in tears. My worst fear is that something happens to us on our trip, and as a result, Katze and Jayla will forever think they did something wrong and we abandoned them. This is what I do to manage their anxiety and mine, when vacation time comes.

Comfort Zone® with Feliway® Diffuser Kit
One year, when we returned from vacation, Katze had been so stressed over us leaving she gave herself a urinary tract infection. No fun! I didn’t know this was possible, and we did everything as we had normally done. My Mom came by in the evenings to give them dinner and spend time with them. The litter box was spotless. The vet said it was definitely anxiety-related. Since then, whenever we go out of town on vacation, we plug in a (associate link) Comfort Zone® Feliway® diffuser into the outlet next to her favorite sleeping spot. That was four years ago, and we've used it for every vacation since. Katze hasn't had a UTI since.

We had heard about Feliway® from my Mother-in-law, who had issues with her cat marking their suitcases while they tried to pack. When that was plugged in, he stopped marking. My Mom has a crazy cat who has a diffuser plugged in all the time. The Feliway® diffuser alleviated the confrontations she had with my Mom’s other, more mentally-balanced cats. Its well loved by our feline family, and I hope it brings your family relief too!

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Nest Cam Indoor

Nest Cam Indoor
This is definitely relief more for my own anxiety than the cats’. They have no idea what (associate link) Nest Cam Indoor is. For me, the benefit is that at any time of day, I can open the app on my phone, and I can see that the house is ok, possibly see Katze and Jayla, and even hear my ticking clock in the background. It's a visual relief that arrests my anxiety in it's place. One time I caught Jayla and my Mom watching a NASCAR race together. I knew because I could see Jayla’s face and eyes following the cars on the screen. When I was feeling homesick and missing them, that was priceless. We have one that we bought several years back, and is still supported by the current app. Its something that while its expensive at first, it will last a while. We position it by our TV in the living room, and it covers most of the hallways and the couch they love.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Securing Pet Sitters

Securing Pet Sitters
If you have family or friends around that you trust to check on the cats every day, great. Maybe they’d even be game to send photos and/or video from time to time too. Spend time before the trip to make sure they understand any feeding quirks. That’s often how cats will show they’re upset, is by eating less or turning down treats that they’d normally never miss. Jayla has had several teeth removed because of bad genetics, and she needs higher food bowls that work with her, not against her, when she’s trying to eat her wet food. We make sure the caretaker knows about that, and that it's ok if Katze eats Jayla’s leftovers. Typically the first few days we’re gone, Jayla will turn down wet food in protest of the situation. Katze has turned down her wet food if it's not chopped up like she normally has it. They’re our furry divas, and we love them.

If you don’t have family or friends nearby that can watch them, it's time to bring in the professionals! Visit the website for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) to begin your search. It will help locate nearby licensed and insured pet sitters. It's a good indication that who you are hiring is responsible and takes their profession serious if they’ve become members of the NAPPS. If no one is registered in your area, ask your veterinarian for a referral.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Blankets

Normally our couch throw blankets are folded up on the arms of the couch, but when we’re away from home, I spread them out flat in a few places, one where Jayla lays a lot, and another on our bed. Two reasons, one, if the girls have anxiety-caused upset stomach episodes, or their well-meaning-family-member-turned-pet-sitter has given them too many treats, the blankets protect the furniture and are easier to wash. The second reason being it's an additional comfort source for them that they can burrow into if they wish.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Keep Suitcases Out of Sight

Pack in Another Room
Our cats definitely understand what a suitcase signifies. One time Sebastian got down our biggest suitcase from the attic, and set it out in the hallway overnight. Jayla left us a smelly present inches away from the suitcase for us to discover the next morning. Since then, we try to sneak the suitcases through the house into the guest bedroom where we can close the door. This isn’t usually too hard, when the cats are out in the catio it's easy to get things tucked away out of sight. Since Sebastian likes to start putting things away for the trip sometimes a month ahead of time, it's better that the cats don’t even know it's vacation time. I would hate for them to be anxiously anticipating our trip for that long. We typically will bring out the suitcases from the guest bedroom for final packing the day before we leave.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Pet Trusts

Pet Trust
At the first sign of turbulence on the flight, my panicked thought is “Oh No! What will happen to the cats!” This is something we’ve been talking about doing forever, and plan to do. You can legally make plans for your pets in the event something happens, and even set aside a trust fund for their care if you’re not quite sure that your possible caretaker would have enough funds to support them. If you’ve never considered this before, here’s a Pet Trust Primer from the ASPCA I recommend looking at to get you started.

How Do You Manage?
Do you have other tricks up your sleeve for managing travel anxiety for your cats and you? Do share! Comment below, or reply via email. Every little bit helps!

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The Best Fragrance Travel Hack

The Best Fragrance Travel Hack: Scentbird

After years of packing regular size fragrance bottles or leak-prone atomizer sprayers in my checked-luggage, I finally found a better solution. One of my biggest travel nightmares is to have my fragrance leak all over my suitcase or have the bottle confiscated by the TSA due to a new liquids ban. I heard about Scentbird when I was searching for a better alternative to atomizer sprayers and signed up for a subscription last summer. This is the best fragrance travel hack I’ve found.

How to Travel Light With Your Fragrances & Prevent Spilling and Breakage

How to Conveniently Pack Fragrances
This subscription service sends you a fragrance vial with a 30-day supply for $14.95 per month. For your first order you will also get one of their twist-top tin cases. This case keeps the glass vial from breaking and protects the sprayer. This is the solution I was looking for when packing fragrances. You can switch out the glass vials by pulling it out of the case and inserting a new one. The vial has enough fragrance for 30 days, based on 4 sprays per day from the 0.27 oz / 8 ml bottle.

Smelly, Happy Vacation Memories
My first vial was filled with L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent and I took it with me on vacation to Lake Constance in Germany. Scent has the magical ability to transport us back to a specific time and place with one sniff, and whenever I smell L’Homme, it reminds me of the great time I had visiting Lake Constance. Our sense of smell is very complex. Odors are processed differently than, for example, our sense of touch or our sense of sight. Whatever we smell gets processed by our olfactory cortex, bypassing the brain where ALL other senses get routed through first. That’s why smells attach to memories without us consciously registering or processing them. This is exactly what L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent did for me.

Save Your Empty Subscription Vials
In my case of falling in love with the scent of L’Homme, I used up all the cologne in the vial within about 6 weeks. I missed having the scent in my collection and bought a regular bottle of it a couple of months later. Thankfully, I had kept the empty vial, because you can unscrew the sprayer and refill it with fragrance from a larger bottle. That way you have another month of your favorite fragrance in a perfectly sized container and do not have to worry about taking your large bottles with you during your travels.

Getting Started With Scentbird
The very first thing that Scentbird had me do upon subscribing, was to complete an interactive quiz to find a fragrance for me. There were questions about my idea of a “perfect vacation”, or the choice of a preferred drink. Based on your answers, Scentbird gives you perfume recommendations. Finally, select the fragrances that sounds best to you (from over 450 scents total) and place them in a monthly queue, from which you will receive one fragrance to try per month. Besides the small form factor, which makes it perfect for traveling, I also love the fact that I can try a scent before committing to a larger, expensive bottle.

I found and paid for my subscription for months now, and I’m really happy with the service. I’ve since become an affiliate of Scentbird because I believe they offer value to International Travelers. If you make a purchase after clicking on my links, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Their current promotion is a 25% off coupon with code NEW2017. Just click here and enter the code at checkout.

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How I Was Able to Sleep for 5 Hours on a Transatlantic Flight: Product Review

Bose QuietComfort 35 Review
For several years I had seen noise-canceling headphones at our local Best Buy, who had several headphones on a testing display. While Denise was looking at the movie selection, I played with the noise-canceling headphones, fascinated like a child. I have always bought headphones in the $35 to $50 range, because I could never justify the tenfold price for the Bose headphones with noise-canceling technology for flying only a few times a year. However, I kept looking at the weekly ads every now and then, hoping that the price would drop or they would announce a special doorbuster sale. Anyone who has already purchased Bose products knows that Bose has solid pricing and special offers are unfortunately extremely rare.

How I was able to sleep for 5 hours on a transatlantic flight in economy seating

My Best Sleep on a Transatlantic Flight Ever
When Bose announced that their new wireless headphones with noise-canceling technology would be released in June 2016, I was thrilled and kept watching early Youtube review videos. In 2016 we also happened to fly to Germany on my birthday and Denise surprised me with the headphones right before the flight. You can imagine my excitement, even though I had to tame myself not to bounce up and down the plane aisle. This was also the first flight where I slept 5 hours just listening to an audiobook. I rarely get more than 2 hours of sleep on the nighttime flight across the Atlantic, so I can definitely tell you that the technology works. As soon as I put on the headphones and paired them with my phone, the cabin noise was muffled down to a whisper. Even during the flight, the constant drone of the engines was only about 15% audible. Several times Denise tried to talk to me and had to repeat herself, because I simply could not hear her the first time around.

After testing the headphones for several months now I am still impressed by the sound quality, noise cancellation and fit, which is why I wanted to share my thoughts.
How does noise-canceling work?
How Does Noise-canceling Work?
Noise-canceling technology tries to reduce the surrounding ambient noise to a minimum. Behind small openings on the outer side of the headphones, the QC 35 contains small microphones, which record the frequencies of the environment. The speakers inside send a compensation signal in the direction of the ear. The ambient frequency and the compensation signal resemble each other and can almost completely eradicate ambient noise, which is no longer perceived as a disturbance by the brain. The noise-canceling function is clearly the highlight of these headphones. It tunes out the constant drone of an airplane and most noise around you, with the exception of high, shrill voices and sounds.

First Impression
I loved the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones immediately after unpacking. The main components are made of plastic, reinforced with stainless steel elements and covered with Alcantara, a manmade, suede-like material. The headphones feel high quality and provide great wearing comfort. They are so-called over-ear headphones that surround the ear completely, which I had to get used to a little bit. My former headphones were in-ear headphone plugs, that also helped to suppress . surrounding noise, but never had a noise-cancellation feature. To my surprise, these new Bose headphones are designed in such a way that they do not cause headaches from pressing on your head too much or "hot" ears from wearing them too long.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Product Review | Travel Case Included
What’s in the Box?
In addition to the headphones, a travel case, an aircraft adapter, a micro USB cable for charging, as well as an audio cable are included. Here as well, a high quality of production is seen in all parts.

Technical Things to Know
The QC 35 are Bose’s first noise canceling headphones, which can also be connected wirelessly. This is possible via Bluetooth as well as via NFC (Near-field communication). Wirelessly, you can easily switch between two permanently connected devices, which is great when you listen to music on the laptop and then take a call on the smartphone. The music playback will pause until you hang up the call, then continue afterwards. Up to six connections can be stored and, to better organize all your connections, Bose provides an app for iOS and Android.

The built-in Li-Ion battery holds 20 hours in cordless operation according to Bose. Tied to a cable, the battery lasts for 40 hours - all while providing noise canceling.

The sound quality of the QuietComfort 35 headphones is at least as good as the noise reduction. The sound characteristics come with powerful bass, which was never overpowering. I caught myself several times hearing many small subtleties on my favorite albums, which my in-ear headphones never picked up. Bose has also incorporated a sound correction that slightly increases the bass and treble at low volume to create a more balanced listening experience. Even when the noise canceling is switched off, the headphones display excellent sound quality.

Control Panel
The three buttons on the back of the right headphone are for controlling the volume and interact with the connected devices. They are mounted in a good position and can be operated intuitively. The built-in microphones offer a very good voice reproduction during telephone calls. All the people I’ve called with the headphones could understand me perfectly well.

What's Not to Like?
With all the praise for these headphones, there are very few critiques that come to mind. One of them being that the battery of the QC 35 is permanently installed and can not be replaced by the customer. If I want to use the headphones for many years, I doubt that the battery will last for as many hours as it did when first bought. The second point of criticism has to do with the battery again. While charging the headphones, the noise-cancelling technology is switched off.

And lastly, these headphones are pricey and not something that most of us just grab at a store and take home. If you want to test them out and hear the difference for yourself, check out an electronics store around you and look for the Bose display in the headphone section.

At the high price level, I expect perfection from headphones. The noted criticisms are minor, and can be easily overlooked, since the overall product is perfect. I am sure you will enjoy a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35, especially when traveling. They will make you feel like you have the whole plane to yourself and hopefully give you many hours of sleep on your flight.

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler