Portage la Prairians travel and live in all corners of the earth and The Hoop and Holler tracked down one of our happy wonderers, Angie Pembroke(Patsack), to report on some of her story.  This former Arthur Meighen High School and University of Manitoba(nursing) grad moved from her parents’ (Dave and Debbie Patsack) home, to the United States and then on to Europe.  She married Jon Pembroke five years ago and the couple have two young boys, Brayden(4) and Taylor(8 months).  Here’s the rest of Angie’s story.

Angie and Jon Pembroke

Angie and Jon Pembroke

HnH:  Where do you live now?

AP:  I live in a little village called Spesbach, near Ramstein Air Base (a large US air force base) in South Western Germany. We’ve been here just over two years.

HnH:  How did you end up living there?

AP:  Ten years ago I spent a year here as an au pair (fancy word for a cheap nanny). Jon was in the US Air Force and here on a temporary assignment. We met here…fast forward 8 years and we were married and living in Syracuse, NY. Jon had gotten out of the AF but was/is working for a company as a contractor for the USAF. A position with his company opened up on Ramstein and we jumped at the chance to come back!


HnH:  How is living in Germany different than Portage?

AP:  There are so many little things! The number one thing, obviously, would be the language barrier. German is a tough language to pick up on! In the area we live many of the Germans speak English, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s helpful to be able to communicate, but it makes it really hard to learn the language, because when I speak my terrible German to them, they just talk back to me in English.

Things are closed here on Sundays, like they used to be in Portage. Gas stations and restaurants are open, but grocery stores, department stores (even Ikea) are closed on Sunday. The Sunday day of rest even extends to your home activities… it’s against the law to mow your lawn or do anything noisy like that outside.

German fridges and ovens are tiny! My baking pans from home don’t fit in it and the fridges are bar fridge sized and hidden behind a cupboard door. They often go daily to the markets or local store instead of a big weekly shop. There just isn’t room for a week’s worth of groceries in the fridge!

autobahn speedometer

autobahn speedometer

HnH:  What is better about living in Germany?

AP:  The autobahn. Contrary to popular believe, it doesn’t actually have “no speed limits”. There are sections that are unrestricted, but a good portion of the highways (aka autobahn)  do have a speed limit (although it’s usually 130km/h). In the unrestricted areas I tend to drive about 140-150km/h, but people are blowing by me.

HnH:  What is better about home?

AP:  Central air conditioning, ice cubes in drinks (and free refills), and screens on the windows.


HnH:  Have you had a chance to visit some interesting places?

AP:  I’d have to say the most interesting place we’ve visited would be the Dacau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, which is near Munich, just a few hours from our house. It was the first concentration camp built after Hitler came to power, and the model that all the other camps were built from. Touring it resulted in a very emotionally draining day but I learned so much, and while it was actually stomach turning, it was also pretty fascinating.


HnH:  Can you mention the war around Germans or are they sensitive still?

AP:  On our tour of Dachau we learned that visiting a former concentration camp is part of the junior high curriculum for German students, so it is definitely something that is being discussed. The only conversation I’ve had about the war was with a taxi driver in his 70’s… this was when I was here 10 years ago. For the life of me, I have no idea how this came up in conversation during a cab ride!  He told me that during the war when he was 10 years old, two German soldiers showed up at their door and told his Dad and his older brother that they had to come fight with the Nazi soldiers or they were going to kill their family. Both his father and his brother went with the soldiers, and within 3 weeks they both had been killed fighting. It’s a conversation that has really stuck with me.


HnH:  What is the food like?

AP:  Heavy, but delicious! Lots of pork, usually with a side of pommes (fries) or spätzle (egg noodles). Turkish döner kebab shps are really popular here, and even though it’s not German, that’s probably my favorite food that we get here!


HnH:  Is the beer any good?

AP:  I like it! There are lots of different kinds, but I’m partial to Alt beer, which literally translated means “old” beer, it’s a regional ale, and hefeweizen (unfiltered wheat beer). It is cheap here, often cheaper than buying a Coke or a bottle of water, and usually for a larger glass! We also have a beer man, like my parents had a milkman in the 80’s. He comes every second Friday and brings assorted cases of German and Belgian beers as well as casks of fresh brewed specialty beers, like cherry or hazelnut beer.


HnH:  What would the price of some typical grocery items?  How much is gas?

AP:  A litre of milk is 90 euro cents, so about $1.30 Canadian. Cheese is cheap! Chicken breasts are about $14 a kilogram. It’s funny, some things cost less than home, and others are quite a bit more. Gas is crazy high.  Last time I filled up it was 1.63 (Euro) a litre for regular, that’s about $2.38 a litre! We’re really fortunate though, we get gas rations on the base, so we actually pay US gas prices.

better bundle that baby when you get back to Germany

better bundle that baby when you get back to Germany

HnH: How are the Germans as a people generally?

AP:  Lovely. They’re not a particularly smiley bunch, but I have found that people go out of their way to help. Although, older German women are obsessed with making sure everyone’s babies are warm. It doesn’t matter if you know them or not, if its “cold” out (and that’s a relative term, being Canadian) they aren’t shy about telling me my baby isn’t dressed warm enough. “He’s cold, he needs a hat” was one of my first full sentences I understood in German

HnH:  What are one or two things you know about Germany you had no idea about before?

AP:  They’re the king of recycling! We get one 80 litre trash can that is picked up every two weeks. We have three other cans, one for yard clippings and compost, one for plastics and metal, and one for paper. Glass is recyclable here too.


HnH:  Any food you miss from home?

AP:  We’re pretty spoiled because Ramstein is such a big base that they have a huge commissary (military grocery store), so we can get pretty much any food from the US there. Ramstein is also a NATO base, so there is a tiny little “Canadian Shop” that sells mostly liquor and cigarettes, but you can also get tins of Tim Hortons coffee, maple cookies, and occasionally a Coffee Crisp or Caramilk there. That really leaves ketchup chips as the only “food” from home I miss, although there are days I’d kill for a Fat Boy or a perogy pizza from BP’s.


HnH:  What are some common ideas or misconceptions Germans have about Canada?

AP:  They usually seem surprised when I tell them that it’s not cold all year long.


HnH:  What is the weather like?  How cold is the winter?

AP:  In this part of Germany they usually get a little bit of  snow, and temperatures usually hover around or just below zero. This past winter though was so, so mild (I’m sorry, not trying to rub it in) we had a few snowflakes fall one day, but nothing stuck. Winters are really dull and grey though. There were times we would go over a week without seeing the sun.  Summer is nice though!


HnH:  What is your funniest memory so far?

AP:  As a rule (and Germans follow the rules), Germans don’t jaywalk. Jon once was stopped by the police for jay-walking at 2am, on a deserted street.



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