The UK is a pretty good place for a health blogger to be right now.

Although we are still a few years behind the health meccas of Sydney and LA, growth is rapid and new markets and niches are appearing all the time. Still, health travel is something that many of us aspire to, particularly as locations such as Bali are becoming more accessible and popular.  

Regardless of your industry or passion, the option to live abroad is an amazing opportunity and one that I have been lucky enough to take up. But what do you do when you find yourself in a less exotic location? This year, I found myself in northern Germany. On the one hand, Berlin is one of the most exciting cities to visit in terms of culture, health and the vibrant nightlife. On the other hand, I’m not in Berlin. Whilst northern European culture is fairly consistent, I found a few key differences in Germany that challenged my day-to-day life. For any other health bloggers planning on leaving the safety of larger cities, here’s what you need to know…

Peanut butter

One lunchtime, I brought out an apple and a jar of peanut butter and started to eat them together. I was met with shocked looks.

“Don’t you eat peanut butter?” I asked. Only on savoury things, apparently.

“We eat Nutella.” Right.

Processed American peanut butters can be found in larger supermarkets, and a couple of brands stocked in organic shops make other nut butters for a premium. I have conceded to buying mostly peanut butter as the cheapest option, and treat anything else as a major indulgence.

Sundays

Most shops and businesses shut on Sundays, which is very frustrating! If you have a car you have a multitude of walks, museums and local events to visit, but if you don’t then you’re kind of stuck. Even cities shut down, which really took me by surprise. I’ve adapted by making my Sundays about my weekly run, housework and blog work, but it isn’t the most inspiring of days! Additionally, many supermarkets shut at 8pm, so on a Saturday I have to be mindful about making sure I have enough food –on my first Sunday in Germany I had nothing but bread to eat!Berlin_0008

Direct Conversation

British vernacular includes “softening” phrases, such as overuse of “sorry” and lots of polite wording. Can you imagine sending an email to a colleague about a meeting and writing just “Come at 10am –Eleanor” and nothing else? In the UK, this would be seen as blunt and rude, but here it is about being to the point.  It has actually caused me a few misunderstandings already –saying “maybe” just doesn’t cut it here! To give you an idea of why we aren’t always understood, here are a few examples:

What we say What we mean What the Germans think
That’s interesting That’s so stupid They like my idea
Maybe I’ll come I’m not coming I’ll check my calendar
Not bad Pretty good Poor

Organic Food

Whilst the packaging and brands over here seem to be less young and exciting, and more no-frills than some UK and US brands, organic is pretty big here. Supermarkets often stock a wide range of organic produce, and there are supermarkets that sell exclusively organic produce. Here, organic food is referred to as “bio” and usually clearly marked with the organic association label. My local Lidl even has a freezer section of organic vegetables. However, when you’re trying to save money, it can be frustrating when only organic sweet potatoes and spinach is available!

Everyone speaks English

English is almost a second language for many people, especially the younger generations. Where I work, everyone has to speak English, as scientific presentations and papers are almost always submitted in English, and it is the primary language used in international conferences. It is highly useful for me, but a little embarrassing when my peers can speak multiple languages fluently whilst I am very much the beginner. Even when I do speak German, my English accent and halting speech is so apparent that people often switch to English anyway. Whilst it isn’t the best thing for learning to speak German, there is comfort in knowing that you will almost always be understood.