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Growing Up a German Girl in America

Growing Up a German Girl in America

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Eating Salami in a Peanut Butter World…

I was born in California, but my heart has always been in Germany. You see, my parents are German, and emigrated to the US in the 60’s to start a new life. Fortunately for me, much of the life they thought they’d left behind came along with them.

My first language was German. I ate German foods, wore German clothes, went to a German school on Saturdays, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve… My family was German.

This was the 60’s and 70’s, so travel and communication wasn’t like it is now. No Skype or e-mail. Instead, we had occasional scratchy long distance phone calls and packages wrapped in brown paper and twine covered in stamps and full of delicious treats. Family would visit, and once in a great while, we would board a plane, usually Condor Charter, and fly 10 hours to visit the people we loved.

Growing up this way was normal for me… but I could see how different I was from the other kids. You could say, the salami sandwiches on black crusted rye bread in the lunchroom made me stand out.

Why am I putting all this online? I guess that writing it helps me remember…and allows me to share the culture I grew up with. The good, the bad; the traditions and the misconceptions about what it means to be German in America.

Comment(14)

  1. even though i was born in germany to german parents, when i moved with my husband who was in the army when i met him , i totally understand how you take your culture with you and you have to figure out how to best live with it in a country that is so different and so alike in many ways. what makes it hard for me that we live in an area that is not predominantly german so its harder to get and experience all the things that are available in other parts of the country

    1. Where did you move with your husband? Where I am now it northern California, my kids are surrounded by Asian cultures, which are nice, but it’s not the same. I end up ordering a lot of things online.

  2. Hi there!
    Even though I am “only” German I find your site very interesting. Never thought about some of the “why things are different” but I wonder about some things here in the US and still can’t figure them out…
    Schoen mal das ganze von der “anderen Seite” zu lesen:-)

  3. Hmm, how do I get my son to eat a nice salami sandwich. I guess he is already too americanized, eating white bread with peanut butter:( He likes fitting in as well. I think I will make sandwiches for dinner tonight!
    Christina in Arkansas

    1. Grin… it’s hard to get kids to eat new things sometimes…. We just never had peanut butter. A nice Fleishwurst might appeal to him.. it looks like bologna.
      Good luck!

    2. Roswitha,

      both my sons were more into US food when they were younger. I introduced them to German food via the Mehlspeisen from Bavaria. I would make a simple Einlagensuppe and Kaiserschmarrn. As they grew older I introduced German night when their dad (American) was not home. They started to really look forward to German night. Then I made Abendbrot instead of a cooked meal at night and now that they are nearly adults they love Abendbrot the best. I bake my own Germanstyle Mischbrot and on the day I bake my sons always make it a point to be home for fresh baked bread, still slightly warm, with some butter on it.

      Plus of course some of the favorites, Sauerbraten, Goulasch, Sauerkraut, Knoedeln. Keep in mind that German kids are just as picky as American kids.

      Good Luck.

      Gabriele

  4. All the comments ring so true and bring back a flood of memories of my German heritage childhood . As the daughter of a Greek – American father and a German mother who had never been in the U.S. until we came here when I was a child in 1970, I found the ” Americanization ” process a little difficult under my mother’s strictly German philosophy of living . I, too, was sent off to school with liver wurst sandwiches on black bread while my classmates had p+ j sandwiches ; Mc Donald’s was absolutely forbidden as were jello molds and corn on the cob -, my mother relented on that food a few years later when she realized how delicious it was; also , sandwiches were open-faced and eaten with a knife and fork , the eating utensils held in the European style , of course !

  5. I just stumbled upon your sight and it brings back a flood of happy memories. My mom was from Berlin and I lost her last year. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in the states and my brother and I too would stand out at school with our Cerulat wurst or medwurst sandwiches (which I loved dearly). My Oma would always send us her cherry jam which was oh soo good on fresh bread. My mom would make goose at Christmas and keep goose grease for putting on bread (yummy). We too would have egg liquor made at the holidays. When I was 5 my mom started to dress me in lederhosen. I hated it then because I really stood out from other kids. We grew up good home made German food. So many wonderful memories. I thank you for your postings.

  6. I am one of the last of the “boat people”. I came from Germany with my parents on a passenger liner from Germany to the East Coast of the USA. My father had a job with a German company opening offices in the US. All our friends were german. We moved to California after a year (still all German friends). I was even kicked out of kindergarten because I could not speak English, and apparently resorted to biting! I remember all my elementary school sandwiches being prepared with thick butter, instead of the nice mayonnaise all the American kids had. Nutella might as well have been from Mars! The other kids looked aghast when it was on my sandwich (with butter). Gruenkohl, Kaiserschmarren, leberkaese… yes I was from a foreign country. My American husband and I got married in Germany. I now have my own kids- who went to German school every Saturday- One of our favorite ways to speak with our cousins in Germany is in “Germish”, a language of our own creation. My daughter graduated with a degree in German from TCU. Right now I’m baking Pflaum Kuchen… that’s how I stumbled on you fun web site! It is now added to my favorites.

  7. I just came across your lovely website. I suppose that my children‘s experience is a sort of mirror image of your childhood. I‘m an American, but my children were born and are being raised in Austria. While I love and appreciate the culture here, I do my best to incorporate aspects of my US culture experience into our children‘s lives as much as possible – in this post, I‘m writing about foods/customs – (celebrating Christmas 25.12 (and with Christkind 24.12!), Hershey‘s kisses, Reese‘s PB cups, PBJ sandwiches (here, they‘re the oddballs with a salami on rye :-)), Hellman‘s mayo, Thanksgiving, Pies. I grew up in a family who made all meals from scratch in the US, and that I have in common with folks here in Austria. But our from scratch cooking is just a bit different, and I like hanging on to the way we did it in the US, as well as learning new, wonderful techniques.
    Anyhow, your post on what to bring back from Germany reminded me of how lucky I am to live in Austria and have these wonderful items at my fingertips, too. And it made me think of how lovely it is to hold on to traditions.
    Thank you!

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