To quote one of my favourite authors, Bill Bryson, “I am a stranger here myself”! And that’s how I will probably always feel, no matter how long I will stay in Germany.

Thinking about my parents who came from Styria to a small Carinthian town with a population of roughly 8000, living there for more than 30 years they were considered “newcomers” all their lives. I guess it’s easier living in a large cosmopolitan town, where you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Luckily, due to the kind of company my father was working for, with his special education, he was not the only crazy Styrian being swept into the deep mountain village – sorry, town – to work and live there.

I at least have managed to occupy a town with roughly 67,000 inhabitants. Even though the city centre doesn’t seem much bigger than the ones insmaller Austrian towns with approximately a third of people living there.

What makes me feel like a stranger? Germans and Austrians can’t be that different, can they? Well …obviously, they can. The language is only a minor barrier … apart from a more pronounced accent / dialect we use different words for the same things than the Germans. A chair is a chair is a chair. No matter whether it’s a comfy one, an office chair or a kitchen chair. Not in Germany … resulting in laughter or questioning looks when I use my Austrian expressions.

And the food! Oh boy! Eating out sometimes is like running the gauntlet. Ordering – bravely – a Schnitzel (I know, I know I will be disappointed) I need to think beforehand to give a special order. As in: skip the veggies with the hollandaise sauce and the weird orange salt on fries. Pizza: with a sigh, because I just know it will be a weak example of the real thing being served in Italy, forget the dollop of dried oregano in the middle. However, surprisingly, the best and most Italian style pizza I had was frominternational delivery service “Domino’s Pizza”. I wonder what that tells us about German cooking?And THEY say the British food sucks … yeah, sure!

Feeling like a stranger is not just a matter of another country and culture. It’s also the difference in German and Austrian character. Due to our Austrian history, being a melting pot and influenced bySouthern and Eastern countries – after all, once upon a time “the sun never went down” in the Austrian monarchy – the Austrian in general is warm and not at all scared to hug his friends and family. I couldn’t imagine NOT hugging my best friends – male or female – and this is something I miss incredibly. In Germany? It took ages until one of my German friends opened up in these regards. How come it’s especially from “strangers here themselves” I receive the most warm-heartedness? Because that’s just the way they are? Of course, not every German is cold and unable to show feelings. But those seem to be exceptions. One of my friends actually confirmed this German characteristic … when I dared to thank him with a hug for installing two lamps … that it took them ages, years, if ever, to come to the point of hugging.

Yes, I am a stranger here! I will always remain a stranger, I will always sound like an Austrian, keep my Austrian passport and identity … and I will always shudder when I have to use some German words that barely come across my lips. (Like “Brötchen” instead of “Semmel” – roll -, “Quark” instead of “Topfen” – cream cheese -, “Blumenkohl” instead of “Karfiol” – cauliflower -, and so manymore …) One adapts, of course, but in the end one will always be different! And I’m proud to be!



No, I’m not talking about the three famous words said by Jerry O’Connell in his hilarious movie“Tomcats”. And I guess my article would be blocked or reported to the Catholic Church if I spelled SMD out … so I won’t do that. And it’s not really what this article is about … at least not in the literal sense.

Of course, you were right in the first place. It’s about love and the words every woman wants to hear as soon as the first few dates are over, “I love you, honey / sweetheart / darling / baby / babe / bunny!”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful hearing those words. And I’m a sucker for endearments. (But I only consider English pet names as cute and sexy! Being called “Schatzi” or “Liebling” just doesn’t ring right in my English coloured world! Not to mention actually saying “I love you” in German. Just strangeand very, very weird!) BUT … is it really that important hearing those words spoken out loud?Especially with Valentine’s Day a few days ago, it got me thinking again.

Having been in a relationship for nearly 2 years – what a great accomplishment, no wonder it ended – I had to revise my initial thoughts on the importance of hearing those words. It IS important. Not having heard them once throughout my relationship, I realized it is important. At least to me. However, not being able to say them either, showed me even more clearly, that he just wasn’t the right one. I know, I know, actions speak louder than words … but I think it has to be a combination of both! Actions and words! It just feels good to be told you are appreciated, that your partner thinks you look pretty and desirable … receiving a shrug and “I don’t have an opinion” when you want his view regarding the latest dress you bought to look pretty for him … thatjust doesn’t cut it.

So yes, it is important, at least as important as spoiling your partner. May it only be the lovingly prepared bubble bath after a hard day at work, cook a nice dinner or buy the gorgeous piece of jewellery / clothing / bag you have been admiring while strolling through your favourite city. Not to mention being spoiled and surprised with short getaways, restaurant dinners and flowers. Maybe I’m too romantic. Too idealistic. Maybe I’m old-fashioned. And sometimes I feel as if I just don’t really belong in this day and age. Maybe I just dream of those things because I still haven’t had the luck to experience them. And maybe I just had too good an example in my father who did all those things for my mother. And told her he loved her. Coming home with a flower just because. Leaving little messages. Spoiling her with preparing breakfast or breakfast in bed on Sundays.When Mum or I wished for something – especially on vacations – we usually got it. We often went out for dinner or Saturday lunch. And above all, he loved Mum more than anything. They did fight occasionally, of course they did, but to each other they were everything. Till the end. My Mum just kept going for another three years because of me and the only consolation I have is that they are together now again.

Telling and showing those close to you how much you love and care about them, not being afraid to express your feelings … even though it makes you very vulnerable – and believe me, I know it is scary – is important. And oh so rewarding.


Talking to my friend recently, reminiscing about “the good old times”, I once again realized that I do miss certain standards. As modern and tolerant as I am … when it comes to certain issues, I’m quite old-fashioned. Or should we rather call it traditional?

I miss going to the theatre, opera, operetta dressed up to the nines. In evening attire or at least very elegantly dressed. It’s so sad that nowadays regular clothes rule and no one really cares anymore. But, well, since theatre plays often tend to be forcefully modern – no matter what age the play was written – there wouldn’t be much sense dressing up anyway, right? And that’s another thing I miss very much. Theatre plays that actually play in the times they were written in. I hate plays which were supposed to be in the 19th century being brought into the 21st. 

Which is why I love being on one of the Cunard liners so much – well, so far, I have only graced the Queen Mary II with my company once, with another trip planned for this year. I love the style, the dressing up in black tie attire for half of the nights, the elegance of the ship … still a hint of the past centuries left when the Atlantic crossing was the only way to get there. 

And I miss the old movies from my childhood – which were already old then as well. Seeing 40s, 50s and 60s Austrian and German actors and actresses on the screen today no one has ever heard about. Movies I watched at home on Sunday afternoons on one of the two TV programmes we had. Some of them were still black and white, others already had the washed-out colours of the early colour TV era. Who still knows Peter Alexander, Gunther Phillip, Theo Lingen, Hans Moser, the Hörbiger und Schell Dynasties, Romy Schneider, Curd Jürgens and so many more … well, probably no one from outside the German speaking countries anyway, but today’s youth will probably look at you flabbergastedly as well and just ask, “WHO?” (And yes, I’m also a big fan of the early American greats Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Doris Day … enjoying the screwball comedies from the 40s, 50s and 60s …)

I also miss manners! Yeah, that’s right! Manners. I could slap every kid around who neither manages to say “Hello”, “Goodbye” or “Thank you”. And by slapping them I’d slap their awful parents as well. It’s tragic that so many people are unable to have the smallest measure of manners. Not to mention the spiralling down of plain old common sense when it comes to simply everything. Surrounded by stupiditywherever you look, starting with the common people, ending with those in power, that’s the worst and just unbearable.

I do enjoy today’s conveniences, love my smartphone, my MacBook, my Rangey … all those wonderful appliances, not to mention the social security net, healthcare, the chance to travel around the world, the opportunities us women have. And still, some part of me is mourning the past … a past I never knew myself. But probably in a former life …


I like to cook! I really do! I like to be creative and just throw together what’s in my fridge and freezer. And if it’s just something simple like a stir fry withgreen beans, tomatoes, roasted chicken, seasoned with BBQ sauce, herb butter and cheese.

I regularly browse cooking magazines and wherever I am, I usually bring back home a new cookbook. Like from Ostfriesland, Washington, the Queen Mary 2, England … diligently using tons of Index Post-its to mark the recipes I want to try one day. (And never seem to get doing that! Or let’s say, very rarely! I might get inspired by one of those recipes, though and try some part of it …)

My favourite cook book, however, is the first one I got and which I had wished for once upon a Christmas: the Sacher cook book (from the famous Viennese Hotel Sacher). It’s still the best and the one I use most, especially when I want to cook Austrian dishes I know from home. Like Szegediner Goulash, Pork roast, red cabbage, etc

And of course, I also have an old-fashioned binder with handwritten recipes (sectioned into main dishes, desserts, baking, etc) I copy down from screenshots made from online recipes. Because, being theefficient person I am, I just don’t like the looongcooking descriptions I don’t need. And by reading the recipes I also know right away which ingredients I don’t like or can skip, using keywords only for the cooking instructions. Which is much easier and quicker to read and use. It also contains recipes from home, dishes my Mum used to cook and are usually not in any cook book. Among my favourites? Pasta with ground meat, seasoned with ketchup, mustard and pickles. Or fried curd cheese dumplings; pancakes with baloney, mushrooms and asparagus; pasta with white cabbage “Krautfleckerl”; their meat, veggie and mozzarella lasagne; Mum’s Tiramisu … and so much more. 

My binder is the one I go to first when I need an inspiration for something sweet and savoury to try out for tea or coffee visits from my friends or actually decide to try a new recipe. 

Thinking back to my childhood, I was lucky also in these regards! Both my parents were great cooks!(And not only them! I basically grew up with wonderful cooks in my family. My uncles, my grandfather, Aunt Do …) And while Mum was responsible for everyday cooking, my Dad used to cook on the weekends and loved to try new recipes or recreate something he had eaten on one of his business trips. We were among the first of our acquaintances who had a Raclette set, which Dad brought back from Switzerland. Or cheese fondue.

I loved to help my Dad and basically learned from him that recipes are merely a suggestion and one doesn’t always to have to stick to everything that’s written down. My Mum, she was the one who stuck to the recipes, Dad was more resourceful. And, would you know it, they too had their recipe binders with cut-out recipes from magazines and handwritten notes. When they died, I couldn’t just throw them away, so I combined their recipes and put them in one folder, with my favourites. I miss those times, being home, their cooking, looking over their shoulders, learning. With everyone standing around in the kitchen when we had guests, because it was just the place to be.

I try to keep up traditions and not forget the recipes. And even though most of the time I’m just being creative, experimenting with food I have at home, with the main focus more on speed than gourmet cooking, I do cook the food from my childhood too.To remember …