Hamburg’s Christmas Lights


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Warning: This post is photo heavy!

One of the things I love about Christmas here in Hamburg is all the gorgeous Christmas lights. They make the cold and the dark at this time of year seem worthwhile. Therefore last Sunday evening armed with my fancy new camera I headed into the city to try and capture them. What I learnt is that I still have much to learn about photography. Still I got some pretty decent shots.

Looking across the Alster at Sunset


Going for the art-house look


Rowers out on the Alster

I don’t think I could ever get sick of this view

Merry Christmas in multiple languages

My beloved Rathaus


A Christmas Tree of Light

Another art-house shot

Fairy lights strung across the street

Football German-Style


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I can now tick off another thing on my German Integration Checklist: Attend a local football match.

Fellow expat Scott (@papascott) invited me to join him at the HSV vs Stuttgart match last night and of course I jumped at the chance. I loved watching the World Cup and had, subsequently, wanted to attend a Bundesliga match.

It was a chilly and damp winter’s night but that didn’t stop 48,223 fans from turning up to a game in the middle of the week. But even with that many people it didn’t feel overcrowded. We arrived an hour before game time which gave us time to leisurely grab a drink & in my case a pretzel before heading to our seats. It also gave Scott time to warn me about what was about to happen – namely a local celebrity King Karl being hoisted up in the air on a cherry picker to sing HSV’s pre-game song ‘Hamburg, Meine Perle’ (Hamburg, My Pearl) during which all dedicated HSV fans stood up and waved their HSV scarfs in the air. It was, let’s say, an experience.

Despite being up in the top section, we had a great view of the game.

The camera makes it seem so far away but we had no problems seeing the players and the ball and regrettably the HSV players forgetting that the main aim of the game is to take the ball with them and not leave it behind.

Scott also pointed out to me the pen in which the opposing team’s fans are kept.

That’s them there in red with the line of police in fluro. Sorry about the somewhat blurry photo. The sad fact of German football is that to help prevent violence the opposing team’s fans need to be kept separated from the rest of the stadium. There were only about 500 Stuttgart fans in attendance, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in noise. They spent the entire game banging on drums, singing and chanting. I guess you need to be a pretty hard core fan to come all the way from Stuttgart for a mid-week game.

The game itself was pretty exciting. The teams were fairly evenly matched, both of them being at the bottom of the Bundeslinga table. Whilst the HSV team could get the ball to the goal, they just couldn’t get it into the goal, much to the disappointment of the fans. When they left the field at half-time after Stuttgart scored a late goal, the HSV fans actually booed their own team. I have to admit I have never seen a team’s fans actually boo their own team, but the HSV fans were not happy – and I can’t blame them.

During the second half, tempers were frayed on the field with a Stuttgart player getting a red card for what looked like a minor scuffle and a HSV player got a yellow card for trying to start a fight with a Stuttgart player. However, up in the stands the fans were kept happy by the mobile beer sellers.

Unfortunately the score line remained at 0:1 so I never got to see how HSV fans react to their own team scoring. However, it was nice to note that language is irrelevant at a football match ‘Yeahhhh!!!’ and ‘Awwww! are universal. As are hurling whatever abuse you feel like at the ref that missed an obvious foul.

Getting back to the train station was almost as exciting as the game itself whilst the arena tried to deal with over 48,000 people trying to leave all at once. Waiting for and then trying to get on the shuttle bus involved a fair dose of humour as we were basically herded like cattle. Fortunately, despite the loss, the cold weather and the large amount of people, everyone was laughing and I saw no aggression or even yelling, just good humoured comments about all of the above.

Thanks Scott for a wonderful night out! You might make a HSV fan of me yet.

The Only Constant


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The quote ‘Change is the only constant in life’ is once again ringing true for me. Today is/was my final day at the job I have have for 7 years and the job that moved my life from Australia to Germany. It’s a big change, a massive one even. From my second day in Germany I have gone to the same office every weekday, seen the same faces regularly on the U-Bahn, gotten my mandatory Coke at the same supermarket and basically had a very comforting daily routine amidst all the upheaval of learning to adapt to life in a new country. Now that is all changing.

Alas, I don’t have news of an awesome new job which prompted all this change. I left my job in part because I felt undervalued and unappreciated. Regretfully my now former company chose to show me just how little they valued me. I have learnt some really tough life lessons, especially this past week, and now move on into the world a little wiser and a lot less trusting than before.

I do, however, have a plan, such that it is. For the first two months of the upcoming year I will be a full-time German language student at the Goethe Institute in an attempt to drag my German from barely conversational to business level. It is going to be a very tough 2 months, but one I’m looking forward to. Unfortunately, evening classes were never going to be enough to get my German to the level I need it to be to find an awesome new job here. Therefore if I wanted my job situation to change, I needed to make that happen for me. It kinda feels like burning everything to the ground in order to rebuild it.

So lots of changes are happening and all without the safety net of having a steady reliable income. I’m excited and, if I’m honest, also scared about what 2015 will have in store for me.



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It’s not just Advent Calenders that supply Germans with a steady stream of chocolate in December, but St Nicholas (Nikolaus) also gets in on the act.

On the night of the 5th December, German children clean their shoes (the bigger the better) and put them outside their door. If they have been good, then on the morning of the 6th, they wake up to find their shoes have been stuffed full of chocolate, lollies and other goodies.

Unfortunately, as an adult if I put my shoes outside my front door all that would happen is the strong possibility that someone would steal them. However, the business centre in which my company has an office plays St Nicholas for us grown-up children and every December 6th we arrive at work to find chocolate on our desks. This year was no different, but since the 6th falls on a Saturday this year, we got our presents a day early.

Along with a note explaining why. Apparently Nikolaus is a busy man this year.

Rough translation:

Tomorrow on Saturday 6th Saturday…no, comes not Santa but naturally Nicholas.

And because he also has so much to do this year, we allowed him to show up a day earlier at the office to leave a little something to sweeten the pre-christmas time.

So, story time is over:  Unpack and enjoy… and continue working.

I just love this tradition! And that the staff at the Business Centre get really into it.

If you also work in Germany, does your office do something similar? Or are you forced to buy your own chocolate to celebrate Nikolaustag?

Chocolate: It’s What’s For Breakfast In December


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Growing up in Australia I didn’t know that Advent Calenders were a thing.  Sure, I knew about Advent as I was dragged taken to church every Sunday, but having a calender associated with it was not something that Australians did in the 80s. However, here in Germany Advent is a huge deal, especially the Advent Calender – and it is a tradition I have embraced wholeheartedly as who can’t get behind having chocolate for breakfast for the first 24 days in December.

The first Advent Calender I got was one designed especially for children so the chocolate came in all kinds of festive shapes

and ones that were supposed to be festive but looked strangely suspicious

Then the following year, I discovered that After Eights did an Advent Calender and due to my addiction to mint flavoured chocolate there was no going back after that.

So now every December I start my mornings with a piece of mint chocolate and life couldn’t be better for those 2 minutes it takes me to eat it. Actually I would be in favour of extending Advent to cover the whole year. I think the world would be a happier place if everyone started their day with a delicious piece of chocolate.


No, I Will Not Fix Your Computer

Source: ThinkGeek

Yesterday afternoon I had an appointment with my neurologist, who I only go to see so I can get my drugs for a previously diagnosed neurological condition. Whilst, he is a lovely old guy I actually don’t trust him to diagnose anything. When I first went to see him last year, I brought all my medical files with me so he could read the entire case history of my condition. He didn’t even bother to read them. That set alarm bells ringing. In my appointment yesterday, the third appointment I have had with him, he asked me what neurological condition I had. Do you perhaps understand why I only trust him to write a prescription?

Anyway, during this appointment, he asked me what I do for a living. Now explaining what I actually do for a living causes people’s eyes to glaze over so I simplify it as Tech Support. It is Tech Support, but in an extremely niche section of IT and it does not involve fixing people’s computers.

About an hour after my appointment I get a call from my neurologist. I immediately think perhaps there was some mistake on the prescription he wrote me, but no, he actually wants me to come back to his office to fix his computer. He wasn’t entirely sure what was going on but it required some kind of password which he didn’t have. I had to explain to him that I don’t know how to fix computers. But my biggest issue with it was that, in my opinion, it was inappropriate. Sure, if I had a long-standing and friendly relationship with him it might have been fine, but for someone who had seen me three times for a grand total of at most 30 minute, no, it wasn’t. It really wasn’t.

What are your views on this? Is it okay for medical professionals to use their patients as a free computer helpline? Or for free tax advice or free legal advice? Or whatever their patients might do for a living? Or do you think that there exists a professional boundary there?


As Heard On The BBC


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Français : Logo de la station de radio britann...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Life is weird. Yesterday, however, life became a little weirder than it normally is when I received an email from a producer at the BBC World Service Radio wanting to know if I would participate in a live debate that evening thanks to a blog post I had written that a grand total of 43 people (at that time) had read.

I initially turned the offer down as the debate was scheduled to start at 7pm and I was doing sound for a performance of Twelfth Night that began at 7:30pm. But she begged me to come on for 5 minutes and I agreed I would if they could promise I would be done by 7:15pm. Unfortunately due to the time constraint I didn’t get to debate anyone (damn!) but I said my piece & responded to what had been said previously & hopefully didn’t embarrass myself.

The theme of the debate (in case you didn’t click on the link to the post) was Bob Geldof re-releasing ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. The debate participants were a showbiz reporter for the Guardian, a woman who runs an organization promoting African culture & me, who, let’s face it, is hopelessly unqualified to speak about this topic.

I actually had quite a bit of fun, after I stopped freaking out about it being my first time on radio and it being the bloody BBC. I wish I had more time honestly, especially since the woman from the African culture organisation (I think that’s where she was from, I was busy freaking out at the time) was making excellent points and I would have loved to have asked her some questions about them.  If I ever get the chance again to participate in a radio show, I would definitely seize it.

I have no idea in the slightest how the BBC found my rant on my tiny insignificant blog. It’s just so absurd when you think about it. Still, something to tick off my bucket list.

Why You Shouldn’t Support Band Aid


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In 1984, the pop greats of the time lead by Bob Geldof got together to release ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ to raise money for the famine in Africa and in doing so they released the most offensive song meant to inspire compassion ever written. It is a song that reeks of white Western privilege. This song is getting a re-release to raise money for the Ebola crisis in West Africa and while they say the song is getting a tweak to make it reflect the Ebola crisis I wonder if anyone has realised how offensive this song was in the first place.

I was 9 when the song was released and it immediately annoyed me.  Mainly because 9 year old Aussie me was offended by the line – ‘And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime’ There is never any snow in Australia at Christmastime either, but we damn well knew it is Christmas. Snow doesn’t equal Christmas around the entire world.

Also, the continent of Africa is roughly 45% Muslim.  That means that around half of the population don’t celebrate Christmas in any form, therefore them not knowing it’s Christmas is no hardship whatsoever. So, you know, points lost for cultural sensitivity there.

Then there were just lines like ‘And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom‘ and ‘Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears‘ which were just ridiculously over the top.

If these weren’t bad enough, then there comes the most offensive lyric ever that I still can’t believe it exists. ‘Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you‘. Now it is a natural reaction to be thankful that you yourself are not starving to death, but to be thankful that someone else is?  How the fuck is this line, in any context, okay?? I’m appalled that anyone thinks that this line was not only okay, but totally appropriate to be in a song raising money for people who were starving to death.

Therefore, I urge you to tell your friends and family, not to buy this song. Ignore their pleas that everyone needs to buy this song to donate money to help fight Ebola. You don’t. There are plenty of worthy charities out there fighting the good fight against Ebola.  If you have a couple of euros spare, then please give them to Doctors Without Borders – either here in Germany or in the US or in the UK or Australia. Your money will go to an organisation who have been there since the beginning of the outbreak and doesn’t attempt to cash in on outdated and offensive stereotypes and sentiments while increasing their public profile.


When The Wall Fell



It was 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell.  I remember watching it on the evening news in Australia.  I was 14 years old. I remember being excited by the images I saw, the celebrations, people embracing and crying. I had a pen friend in Germany at the time. I wrote to her asking her what she felt about the wall finally falling. I never heard back from her.

I never expected 25 years later, I would be living in Germany and watching those same images on TV again, but this time with the news anchors speaking German instead of English. As a 14 year old, I wouldn’t have dreamt that this would be my life, living here and trying my hardest to integrate into German life.

Where were you when the Wall fell? Is your life anything like you imagined it would be a quarter of a century ago?

Making Pumpkin Soup: An Experiment In Being Domestic



On cold winter nights one of my favourite soups to eat is pumpkin soup which can be found in the canned soup aisle of every single supermarket in Australia.  However, when I moved to Germany, I discovered that they don’t really do canned soups and of their very limited range, pumpkin was not one of the soups available. Also, to add insult to injury, pumpkins are not available all year round as they are in Australia, but instead are available for a month or two at the beginning of autumn before disappearing until the following year.

After four years of having pumpkin soup very rarely, I decided that it was high time that I learnt to make it myself and so I headed off to Saturn to buy a blender.

Isn’t it just gorgeous?

Once armed with the all important blender, I could get down to the business of making my first ever batch of home-made pumpkin soup. It is probably prudent at this point to point out that I am not one of those people that is a wizard in the kitchen. I can cook a couple of meals that keep me feed throughout the year, but that is about it. Therefore making pumpkin soup from scratch was going to be venturing into new territory for me.

I procured two pumpkins

Pumpkin #1

and cut them up to roast in the oven

and roasted them for about 40 minutes at 180C (and yes, I had to google how long & at what temperature to roast pumpkin – hush, now).

Once roasted it is supposed to be easy to remove the skin. Obviously the people that said that removing the skin was easy had never met someone with my lack of fine motor skills. I was able to, in the end, separate the pumpkin from the skin, but it did involve quite a lot of mess plus some skin ended up in the blender with the pumpkin. I like to think of this as adding a rustic look to my soup.

After some trial and mostly error, I discovered I needed to add about half a cup of vegetable stock to the pumpkin to get it to purée in the blender. But after roasting and puréeing both pumpkins, I was left with saucepan full of pumpkin purée.

To this I added about 100mL of soy cream, because when one is as lactose intolerant as me you don’t have the luxury of using the real stuff. Also, I had some previously made pumpkin spice, so I added some of that as well to give it some extra flavour.

After about 10 mins or so on the stove top, I was rewarded with about 2 litres of delicious pumpkin soup, some of which I put in a bowl and ate immediately.

With the remaining amount I decided to be really clever and put it into individually portioned ziplock bags so that I could just get the amount out I needed rather than unfreezing all 2 litres when I wanted just a bowl full. This was a great idea, but I forgot to take into account my lack of motor skills, so whilst I did end up with 4 ziplock bags full of soup, I also ended getting a fair amount of it down the outside of the bags and all over the kitchen counter. But here are the cleaned up bags all ready to go into the freezer. I decided to place them into a container in case I have a freezer bag explosion or something. Knowing me, this could well happen.

I now need to go out and buy many pumpkins before the end of the season so that I can make a supply of pumpkin soup that might have a chance of lasting me at least halfway through winter, cause I can see these 4 bags going in about a week or so.




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