Cultural Differences V

Sometimes the differences can be surprising.

Canada switched to the metric system in 1975, so I wasn’t anticipating any problems in the kitchen – I know how metric measurements work. I figured I could read the numbers on the packaging.

The problem started when we started purchasing things for the kitchen. Pots and pans were no problem. Neither was cutlery. The only measuring cups I could find were large ones, a litre in size, but I could adjust. It was the measuring spoons that were problematic. I couldn’t find any.spoons

Turns out that in Germany you don’t use amounts when you are cooking, no teaspoons or tablespoons or fractions thereof. Everything is done by weight. That is challenging for me.

It isn’t that I can’t estimate, or learn to cook using weights. It probably wouldn’t take any effort in English – but my online German lessons haven’t progressed as far as cooking. I’m still at “the cow and the dog eat an apple” stage. For some of the things I make it can be important to make sure the amounts are right – an eighth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper adds a pleasant taste. A quarter teaspoon makes the dish inedible for many people – too hot. What is the weight equivalent of an eighth of a teaspoon, and can I trust that it really is the right amount?

For the first month here, I looked for measuring spoons in the stores. In not just the grocery store but every store I entered, no matter how unlikely. (They looked at me rather strangely at the shoe store.

It took a long time for me to think of ordering online – at home there were at least two stores across the street where I could be sure of buying anything I needed for my kitchen, and another couple that stocked a lot of kitchen implements. I’ve always shopped in person for kitchen stuff. Where I am now I get the impression that most things must be ordered online (I haven’t noticed a clothing store, shoe store, hardware store, mobile phone store or electronics retailer. But we do have two banks.)

So, I went online to order measuring spoons. The prices at everyone’s favourite online store were a bit shocking. I wasn’t sure which set of spoons to choose, but figured I could take a chance on not liking them when I received them – the prices were shockingly low. I settled on a set of spoons for only 59 cents.

The only drawback was the shipping. Not the cost, but the time. The spoons arrived yesterday. I ordered them almost a month ago. I realized they were coming by snail mail. I hadn’t realized they were coming from literally the other side of the world. You would think they would be in a warehouse somewhere, but there is no demand for measuring spoons in Germany – they are not kept in stock here.

The package arrived yesterday. The spoons had been mailed from Tuvalu.Tuvalu

I had least heard of Tuvalu. It is a small south Pacific country. I thought their only industry was tourism. And selling internet domain names (Tuvalu has the designation .tv, which is prized in some entertainment circles.) The entire country isn’t much bigger than my small German town. I’m not sure where they would put a warehouse full of measuring spoons.

For customs purposes the package was labeled “gift,” which strictly speaking isn’t true. I paid the 59 cents. Though the value listed on the shipping label was only 11 cents. If that was the manufacturing cost, I guess they can make a profit on the transaction.

I’m happy to finally be able to use the measurements I am used to, but I still am curious as to why the spoons came from Tuvalu. Were there none closer?

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One comment

  1. […] a measuring cup or measuring spoons. I know, I looked everywhere. I finally resorted to Amazon. The measuring spoons arrived, but the measuring cups have been in transit for more than a month now. If I wait for their […]

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