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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Much Does it Cost to Fly between the USA and Germany?

I have flown between Germany and the U.S. a total of 4 times in the past 4 years. With my upcoming trip to the U.S. in September, this number will soon be 5.

Every time I have made this transatlantic flight, I have done it with a different airline and had a connection through a different airport. And since the German boyfriend and I were able to snag such a great deal for our upcoming trip (with yet another airline), it got me thinking about what I have paid to fly between the U.S. and Germany in the past. So, here is an overview of each of my transatlantic flights, including how much I paid for my tickets.


This was my very first time leaving the U.S. It was also my first time searching online for airline tickets. So, I basically just typed "Chicago to Hamburg" in Google, clicked on the first search result, and begged my parents to pay for it. Looking back, I can see that the tickets were a little bit expensive, and I probably could have found something cheaper, but you live and you learn. I am also happy that I got the experience of flying with SWISS (because it's pretty nice).

USA to Germany
Chicago (ORD) to Zurich (ZRH)
31 August 2011 from 19:55 to 10:55

Zurich (ZRH) to Hamburg (HAM)
01 September 2011 from 14:55 to 16:20

Germany to USA
Hamburg (HAM) to Zurich (ZRH)
Zurich (ZRH) to Chicago (ORD)
-- This is on my receipt, but I didn't actually end up taking this plane due to technical problems. Instead, I was put on a Lufthansa plane through Munich.

TOTAL: 1,039.01 USD / 741.07 EUR

US Airways

This was hands down my worst experience flying between the U.S. and Germany. The flight was unbearably long, the planes were old, and I had two stops on the way back to the U.S. It is important to note, however, that this was the most quickly-planned trip as well. My departure was in September, and I bought the tickets at the end of July. For the best deals, you need to book about 4-5 months in advance.

USA to Germany
Chicago (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA)
11 September 2012 from 16:00 to 10:20

Frankfurt (FRA) to Hamburg (HAM)
12 September 2012 from 12:05 to 13:10

Germany to USA
Hamburg (HAM) to Frankfurt (FRA)
11 November 2012 from 08:25 to 09:45

Frankfurt (FRA) to Charlotte (CLT)
11 November 2012 from 11:05 to 15:00

Charlotte (CLT) to Chicago (ORD)
11 November 2012 from 18:05 to 19:14

TOTAL: 813.00 USD / 661.50 EUR

LOT Polish Airlines

This is the first/only time I have ever bought a one-way ticket. Unfortunately, one-way tickets do not cost half of a round-trip, but I got an okay deal on this one when you consider that I was flying in July - one of the most expensive months to fly. 

I was very happy with LOT Polish Airlines since I got to fly on their brand-new Dreamliner 787. I also had a whole row of 3 seats to myself, which probably made this my most comfortable flying experience as well. However, having to go through Warsaw Airport was the absolute worst. So, the SWISS flight still remains at the top.

USA to Germany
Chicago (ORD) to Warsaw (WAW)
24 July 2013 from 21:50 to 14:05

Warsaw (WAW) to Hamburg (HAM)
25 July 2013 from 17:25 to 19:00

TOTAL: 506.39 USD / 388.77 EUR


This was my last flight to the U.S. over Christmas. Lufthansa is a solid airline, and our experience was with them was great. I also really like the Munich airport, so having to sit around there for a few hours between flights isn't too bad. The only bad thing I can say is that Lufthansa does now charge for seat reservations, so Marco and I each paid 50 EUR each to reserve seats for each of the transatlantic flights. We didn't reserve spots for the shorter flights, and we did have to sit on opposite ends of the plane for one of the trips.

Germany to USA
Hamburg (HAM) to Munich (MUC)
20 December 2014 from 13:00 to 14:20

Munich (MUC) to Chicago (ORD)
20 December 2014 from 15:40 to 18:55

USA to Germany
Chicago (HAM) to Munich (MUC)
3 January 2015 from 21:30 to 13:20

Munich (MUC) to Hamburg (HAM)
4 January 2015 from 15:00 to 16:15

TOTAL: 828 USD / 622.19 EUR


This is the itinerary for our upcoming flight in September. This was by far the best deal either of us have ever gotten on an airline ticket between Hamburg and Chicago, and I am not really sure it would be possible to find something cheaper. Also, in typical Courtney-fashion, we have chosen to fly with yet another new airline.

Germany to USA
Hamburg (HAM) to Helsinki (HEL)
13:00 to 15:50

Helsinki (HEL) to Chicago (ORD)
17:25 to 18:40

USA to Germany
Chicago (ORD) to Helsinki (HEL)
22:00 to 14:50

Helsinki (HEL) to Hamburg (HAM)
17:30 to 18:30

TOTAL: 418.03 USD / 385.12 EUR

What was the best deal you ever got on plane tickets?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Yo, Digga! | Mistranslation Monday

Today's mistranslation comes from a few years back, but I have been weary of writing it due to its not-so-appropriate content. But since I am still reminded of this one years later, I feel like I just have to share.

There are some particular slang words that people up here in Northern Germany use -- words that are not taught in the classroom. One of these I encountered at a bar one night, when I heard a group of friends repeatedly calling each other Digga.


I think you can all guess what word came to my mind when I heard them saying this. Since this word obviously began with a "D," however, my logical assumption was that it was a combination of two words:

Deutsch (German) + n*gga = Digga

When talking about it with my fellow America friends, we all agreed on the fact that this is the only logical explanation of what Digga could mean. So, we all continued to be appalled whenever we heard it used.

Then, I finally mentioned my interpretation of the word Digga to a German friend.

After they finally stopped crying with laughter, they explained to me that although Digga does have a similar meaning to what I was already thinking, the origin is much different.

Simply put, Digga is the Northern German way to say bro. The word is derived from the German word Dicker, which, in this context, means close friend.

Needless to say, I am very happy to know that the Germans are not running around the streets calling each other Deutsch N... well, you know.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We're Going Back!

After moving to Germany in 2013, I was not able to visit the U.S. again until over 1.5 years later. So, when I came back from visiting my parents over Christmas, I never imagined that we would be going back less than one year later!

But we are! Last week, Marco and I booked plane tickets to go to the Chicago for 2 weeks in September!

We made the decision to do this during Easter break. I suggested it as we were talking through the possibility of going on a summer vacation. Since I am currently in the middle of my Master's degree, the next 1.5 years of my life are pretty much set in stone. And since the summer semester in Germany runs from April to September, I have no time for a proper vacation during the summer.

However, classes end on July 10. That means that students get July, August, and September to take their final exams, write their term papers, and take a breath before the new semester begins. Since exams are generally held in the first six weeks of this time, that means that the end of August and the month of September is the best opportunity to get away.

Although I could choose to go home over the holidays again like I did last year, it is much easier for Marco and me to travel between semesters. Christmas holidays at the university only last two weeks, which means that the last time we traveled to the U.S., I had classes the day before I left and the day after I got back. 

Taking this trip between semesters means complete relaxation without worrying about any uni-related stuff. I will be done with my summer semester classes, but will not have yet started my winter semester. Marco will be done grading the summer semester exams, but does not yet have to start preparing materials for winter semester.

Since we booked the tickets one week ago, Marco also hasn't shut up about drinking a cold Miller Lite, grilling steaks with my dad, and playing bags in the back yard. Let's face it, visiting Chicago during the summer/fall is the way to do it. Forget about Christmas.

Monday, April 20, 2015

You're Welcome | Mistranslation Monday

Although I had studied German for about 4 years, I wasn't very good at the language before studying abroad here in 2011. So when I first arrived, I was so terrified to speak the language with actual Germans that I put off doing things that required any level of social interaction with non-Americans for as long as possible. That included grocery shopping.

After living off of the cookies and apples given out at orientation meetings for nearly a week, I finally caved and walked to the local grocery store near my apartment. Luckily, picking out the items and getting to the register went quite well. Heck, even the checking out and paying went well, which I was quite nervous about. However, I was shocked at the rudeness of the cashier when she handed over my receipt.

"Bitte schön," she said with a monotone voice as she stared me straight in the eyes.

In my mind, "bitte schön" translated to "you're welcome." And saying "you're welcome" without someone saying "thank you" first is pretty darn rude.

My eyes squinted, and in a refusal to give this impolite woman the courtesy of a proper "thank you," I quietly uttered the American "mmmhm" and walked out of the store as quickly as possible.

Over the next month, I continued to notice this phenomenon throughout my everyday life in Germany.

When I ate in the school cafeteria, the lunchlady would say "bitte schön" as she handed over my plate of Schnitzel and Pommes. When I went for drinks in a restaurant, the waiter would mutter "bitte" as he placed the beer on the table. When I ordered bread in the bakery, the baker would exclaim "bitte schön" with a smile as she handed over my Franzbrötchen.

Looking back now, I do not know if I slept through the German lesson where it was taught that "bitte" or "bitte schön" is also a polite way of saying "here you go," or maybe it simply wasn't taught in the U.S. at all. Anyways, it took an embarrassingly long time to figure out that the Germans aren't rude. I'm just an idiot.

At least I know better now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thanks, German Public Healthcare!

My American friends probably don't feel like reading more about me gushing on about how German public healthcare is awesome. But as someone living with a chronic illness and has experienced the inefficient American healthcare system firsthand, I just can't help it!

Last week, I got this very exciting letter in the mail from my German health insurance provider:

My German public healthcare is going to cover all the costs for my new insulin pump, which is worth over 3,000 Euro! Well, I do have to pay 10 Euro, but I can live with that. Especially since my current insulin pump (which my parents paid $1,000 for) looks like this:

Animas Ping insulin pump

It used to be completely green, but it started peeling about a year ago. Now people often ask me if it's camouflage. Doesn't that look like something you would trust to keep you alive and healthy?

Since my pump is 5 years old, it is also no longer under warranty (warranty on insulin pumps lasts 4 years). And since I would be completely screwed if it stopped working, my healthcare provider did agree to cover the costs of a new one!

Now I am just waiting on a delivery and a call from my doctor. Thanks again to the amazing German public healthcare system, which generously provides the same coverage to foreign students as it does German citizens.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to Recreate "Kraft Macaroni & Cheese" in Germany

If you grew up in America, then chances are that you grew up loving Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Even after living in Germany for nearly 2 years now, I still miss the contents of that little blue box.

So, I have been slaving away in my test kitchen over these past few years trying to figure out a way to recreate the secret Kraft recipe here in Germany.

How to Make Imitation Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Before someone says it in the comments, let me first address two things:

1. Yes, you can find off-brand macaroni and cheese in Germany. 

My answer to that?

Very few grocery stores carry it, it is extremely over-priced, and no off-brand can compare to the deliciousness of Kraft.

2. Yes, there are lots of amazing recipes online that try to recreate Kraft mac and cheese.

My answer to that?

Most of the cheeses those recipes require are super expensive in Germany (have any of my fellow expats tried to buy cheddar lately?), and those recipes take way too much effort.

Here were my requirements in trying to create German Kraft Macaroni and Cheese:
  1. Ingredients must be available at my local discount grocery store. 
  2. Ingredients for one serving must cost less than 2 EUR.
  3. Total cooking time must be under 20 minutes.
  4. Cooking process must require no more than one saucepan, a colander, and a stirring utensil.
After nearly two years in Germany, I was finally able to fulfill all of these requirements with a imitation Kraft macaroni and cheese recipe that makes the German boyfriend gag, but let's not try to pretend like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is some kind of delicatessen.

Imitation macaroni and cheese

Only two ingredients are absoluately necessary to make this macaroni and cheese. These are:
  • Noodles
  • Schmelzkäse
Schmelzkäse is basically a meltier and stickier version of American cheese, and it comes in many different colors and flavors. You can buy whichever kind tickles your fancy.

Now, let's get to how you make it:

Step 1: Boil Noodles

If you can find macaroni, perfect! My local discount grocery store doesn't carry macaroni noodles, though, so I just bought these curly noodles. Since I am only cooking for one, I make about three handfuls of these noodles.

Noodles for German macaroni and cheese

Noodles for German macaroni and cheeseNoodles for imitation macaroni and cheese

Noodles for imitation macaroni and cheese

Boiling pasta

Boiling the water in my electric kettle first really make me feel like I have successfully assimilated to the German lifestyle.

Boiling pasta

Boiling pasta

Remember that it's not macaroni and cheese unless you strain the your noodles in a $2 colander that you bought from IKEA five years ago.

Step 2: Mix in Cheese

After the noodles are cooked and drained, put them back in the saucepan, and add your cheese. For my 3 handfuls of noodles, I use 2-3 slices of Schmelzkäse. I like this white "herzhaft-würzig" kind. Unfortunately, the yellow food dye us Americans love is banned in many European countries, so to get your macaroni and cheese to appear as Kraft-like as possible, just try to find the brightest yellow Schmelzkäse you can find.

German form of American cheese

Unwrap the cheese, throw it in the pan, and stir like crazy. To make it creamy, I do also suggest adding some butter and possibly milk. To minimize on dishes, I do not measure. But I guess I use about a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of milk.

Butter for macaroni and cheese

Schmelzkäse pasta

You know its Kraft Macaroni & Cheese quality when the cheese resembles plastic.

Imitation Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

Don't worry, it eventually melts and turns into this!

Imitation Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

For an extra special touch, make sure to eat it off of those ugly plates that the person who lived in your apartment before you left behind.

German macaroni and cheese


What is your favorite boxed/frozen meal? Have you ever tried recreating it from scratch?
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