Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Life in Kiel

Frightful & Delightful

It is the most hideously grey and drizzly and cold weather today, fitting for those who despise Monday. I personally love Mondays because the markets are on and I can stalk my favourite coffee wagon while singing the praises of ‘local produce’ and sounding like a right knob. But today die Lüdde was having none of it, and our market visit was whirlwind and I got half the coffee in before she spat the dummy and was wrestled, shrieking, into her Magic Sleep Suit (wonderful things) for a nap.

So here I sit with the second half of my coffee, resigned to the fact that I likely will not leave the apartment again today because I simply cannot be arsed getting her back into a Schneeanzug and underneath three blankets and zipped into her pram bed (which she hates, and lets me know, lustily, as I am wedging her in) and me into fifty layers, and her pram into a plastic raincoat, for the pleasure of an ice cold walk around the leafless, slippery block. It also means tonight’s dinner will solely be roast veggies because I wasn’t quick enough to get meat or cheese.

Naja, Was kannst du tun? The important thing is, we are gemütlich. The house is toasty, there is an abundance of chocolate, courtesy of three Advent calendars and St Nikolas, and despite dinner being inadvertently ‘paleo’, we have food. So things are sort of delightful inside, despite being completely frightful on the other side of the front door. Now we just camp out and wait for the hideousness to taper off outside. So, you know, see you in six months.

Speaking of being toasty, I noticed something last week. Something about myself and my household habits, and how they are slowly changing to be more … German. For the past several days, all the windows in our apartment have been closed. I feel gross saying that. I am an open window person, regardless of how cold it is outside. My mother-in-law delights in stalking around the apartment closing all windows in sight, even when it’s twenty degrees outside. I don’t keep every window open during the colder months, but at least one. The kitchen window, preferably, to keep a nice flow of fresh air coming in and to chase away food smells. I hate old food smells. I have long wrestled with the German (well, really, cold-climate country) tendency to have all the windows closed all the time, opening one or all every few days for just five minutes to freshen things up. If all windows in the house are closed, I lie in bed at night and fixate on the stale air I am breathing in, similar to how I do about ten hours into a long haul flight. But with the baby in the house, and the heaters already on, and the recent revelation that open windows during the colder months can lead to mold (the things you learn as a Southern Hemispherer) I have started keeping all the windows closed. It feels weird. But I am adapting, resentfully, with more frequent openings of windows than your average German would recommend.

Sometimes, when something like this occurs, when a lifelong habit is squeezed, flipped, folded or done away awith, to fit a new lifestyle, I can’t help but look at the present moment. I see someone who rarely ate meat five years ago, wedging in a mustard-smothered Bratwurst with relative frequency. I see someone who was pathological about open windows, living in a sealed off capsule. I see someone who was always, always approximately twenty-two minute late, now worrying my date won’t turn up if it’s two minutes past the appointed time. I see someone who is a complete Mischung of two rather different cultures.

Tell me, frightful or delightful?



  1. Lutz Mowinski

    8 December, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    We are all praying for warmer weather so we can open our windows again 🙂
    Also, things are changing for me as well, i’m no longer living alone, I also found a significant german (albeit female) 😉

    1. Liv

      10 December, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Wonderful news! Significant Germans are excellent things, I am very happy for you!

  2. Brigitte

    8 December, 2014 at 2:32 pm


  3. Claudia Werrner

    8 December, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Liv, I suppose that this kind of adaption will happen to every person living in a foreign country not only for holidays. Most of our habits have practical reasons, which are not the same
    in other geographical parts of the world, e.g. because of weather. And, to be honest, some things we Germans do, are part of our mentality. I am German, and I still smile when reading
    about the things we do and don’ t , written by you. Also does it make me kind of proud to be
    a part of the” Community of sometimes strange-looking manners and habits”.
    I have never thought this way before, more like being a little ashamed of these typical German
    ” Befindlichkeiten”, I don’t know a word for that in English.
    So, get yourself another Cup of coffee or Glühwein and have a nice “Adventszeit”!

    Many christmasy greetings….
    Claudia Werner

    1. Liv

      10 December, 2014 at 7:12 pm

      Don’t be ashamed of the wonderful German idiosyncrasies – I love them. It’s funny what you notice as a foreigner. When my husband points things out about Australians, I am always so surprised it is even noticeable, because it seems so normal and natural to me. But you are right, many habits of the Germans come from the German way of thinking and seeing life and the world. It is truly endlessly fascinating to me.

      Prost (with my Glühwein) and Merry Christmas (even though I know the Germans NEVER wish anyone an early Merry Christmas!).

  4. Christie Dietz (Eating Wiesbaden)

    8 December, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Oh, totally delightful, even though I started feeling a bit suffocated even thinking about being in a flat that hadn’t been amply, daily Durchlufted. B is absolutely obsessive about Durchlufting: there is a moment in the Autumn when all of a sudden, opening the windows properly in the morning becomes, “I’m just going to do a quick airing”. In the middle of winter, I find it confusing because surely it’s just letting all the heating out, but at the same time, I have learned to love the rush of bitterly cold, fresh air. Swings and roundabouts.

    1. Liv

      10 December, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      I have been practicing my Durchlufting/decided that if temps are above 4, the kitchen window can remain open for substantial amounts of time. But the thing is, I go to Durchluft the living room, and think, ‘but I have been tactically heating so well’ and almost cannot bear to let the heat out.

  5. Jim Holder

    8 December, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Liv, I completely sympathize with you! During my service with the U.S. Army, I spent two winters in Niedersachsen, whose winter weather is similar to that in Kiel. This was a real shock for me since I grew up in Los Angeles, California, where more than once I spent New Year’s Day on the beach in 26-degree-C. weather. I ALWAYS opened my bedroom windows at night in L.A. However, Germans know how to enjoy life during winter. Case in point: “Dom” in Hamburg. Here’s wishing you “Fröhliche Weihnachten!”

    Jim Holder in California

    1. Liv

      10 December, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      It is true Jim, they don’t let winter get them down, unless us spoilt Sydneysiders and Californians (winter, what’s winter?).

  6. JuLi

    9 December, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    😀 No need to suffocate even in the cold winter! “Stoßlüften” (=all windows open for some minutes) at least twice a day helps a lot. And I personally like to use that opportunity to look out of the window, feel the wind on my skin and take a couple deep breaths of fresh air… till it get’s so f****** freezing that I want nothing more than completely closed windows, some blankets and a hot tea. ;D

    1. Liv

      10 December, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      Hahahaha, and one just needs to repeat that process until Spring rolls around.

  7. radeldudel

    9 December, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Ah well, I love fresh air, too. But my B does not, so we are in a constant “it’s too cold” vs “it’s too stuffy” mode.
    Oh well. At this time of the year one can stand outside in the fresh air with a nice warm mug in the Hand, warming the insides. And summer will be back, with open Windows!

    1. Liv

      10 December, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      There is ONE problem with open windows in summer, just one. Germans don’t do fly screens! What is with that??

      1. [DEmon]

        12 December, 2014 at 9:25 pm

        I do! I insist in fact. ;]

  8. Karina Sommer

    10 December, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I absolutely adore and love your blog and am always excited when I see a new email coming in. As a german currently living in beautiful Sydney for half a year, its incredibly interesting to read your stories about my lovely country.

    1. Liv

      10 December, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      Oh thank you! Such a wonderful thing to hear! I hope you are finding my home city pleasing and that a warm Christmas isn’t too odd (most Europeans I know just can’t accept it hahahaha).

  9. Dorit Dormayer

    11 December, 2014 at 4:00 am

    I am from Münster but live in Florida since 14 years now. Winter over here is FINALLY the time of year I can open all doors and windows

  10. Dijana

    27 December, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Hi Liv,

    I was reading your blog and I came to find out that you’re an Aussie and that you live here in Kiel.
    My bf is Australian as well and we have moved to Kiel two years ago. We have a 10 months old son now, who was also born here, but he has an Australian citizenship. I just realized that you have a baby girl as well, so I just wanted to ask you if you’d like to have a cup of coffee one day. Would be nice to have an English speaking friends.
    And children need children of course 🙂

    Happy holidays,
    Dijana, Josiah and baby Johan

    1. Liv

      1 January, 2015 at 12:26 am

      I would love that! Shoot me an email –

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