Don’t Mention the War. Read About It.

One facet of German culture that continues to impress me is how they have dealt with their WWII history. German authors have written extensively about it from the “inside” of German perspective, although I have yet to delve into their works. As an outsider, it is easier for me to identify with stories written by English-speaking authors, and there are a number of novels I have read that give insight into life as a German during those difficult times. We are all familiar with the Diary of Anne Frank, and many movies and TV series have made this horrific period of history painfully real. Literature remains one of the most powerful ways to represent the multitude of stories of that age, and as a self-confessed bookworm, I have collected many books set in the time period.

By no means exhaustive, nor in order of greatness, here are a number of my recommendations: Read more »

All Day School (Ganztagsschule)

Here in Eppelheim (near Heidelberg), there has been a lot of controversy about the new Ganztagsschule that started this school year. There had been talk of it for ages, but it finally came to fruition for this school year. However, many, many people are unhappy with the way it was implemented and with the results of that. Last year sometime there was a survey of all parents asking who would be interested in sending their kids to all-day school. Apparently 51 parents said they would be interested in the school, but the survey was unverbindlich (non-binding). The next thing we heard, they were closing the Hort and no one had a choice any more. We always knew that the first graders would have to do Ganztagsschule, but the 2nd – 4th graders were supposed to have a choice in the  matter. Now, for working parents, there is no choice. There has been an uproar since, especially because they changed the pricing scales for the so-called Randzeiten (7-8am and 4-5pm, plus Fridays from 12 noon and during school holidays). Because the state is no longer subsidizing the care, and is instead putting money into the all-day school, many people are paying a lot more for a lot less. The costs worked out well for us because they based them on the number of kids under 18 in the household. But I can imagine that single parents or parents of only one child will really be forking it over for the child care. What a mess! Read more »

From Bundesland to Bundesland

I received a reminder in my inbox today from my co-blogger Hyde calling to my attention that I had missed my Monday deadline to post here on the German Way blog. This was another casualty of my most recent move. In case you haven’t been keeping up with my personal expat saga, my family and I just moved to Essen in North Rhine Westphalia having left the small Swabian city, Aalen, where we had lived a total of seven years as a family. Read more »

Life and Customs: Germany versus Sweden

Expats living in Europe have a unique opportunity to travel and visit interesting places in many countries. Traveling from Berlin to Stockholm, for instance, is only a 75-minute jet flight – about the same time as flying between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the USA. If you’re an expat who hasn’t been taking advantage of this, it’s time to start!

Recently, I had a chance to compare some of the customs and practices in Germany and Sweden. I was surprised by some of the differences, but I have written about similar differences before in “Comparing Germany and France and…” Here are a few interesting and practical cultural comparisons between Germany and Sweden.

Money
Living as an expat in Germany or Austria, it can be easy to forget that the EU does not equal the euro. Most of the time it does, but as soon as you venture off to Scandinavia, the UK or eastern Europe, you are reminded that there are still ten European Union member nations (out of 28) that do not use the euro.[1] You are transported back to a time when travelers in Europe had to exchange money at the border when entering another country – back to the days of French francs, Spanish pesetas, Italian lira, and German marks. (Prior to the Schengen Agreement of 1995, travelers also had to get their passports checked and stamped.) Traveling from Germany to Denmark, for instance, means exchanging euros for Danish kroner (DKK, 1 krone = €0.13 or $0.18). If you head to Switzerland (not an EU member), you’ll need to use Swiss francs (CHF).

Stockholm 1

Stockholm’s busy harbor is also a scenic tourist attraction. PHOTO: H. Flippo

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Keine Gelegenheit versäumen – don’t miss your chance …

Blue notebookI remember that when I lived in Berlin for a year as a student ten years’ ago, I approached every conversation as a language-learning opportunity. Like a hungry caterpillar, I would gobble up more and more words whether talking to taxi driver or a philosophy professor. Earnestly, I would take mental note of unknown words, and later, decipher them with the help of my increasingly tatty dictionary and note down their meaning in a little blue notebook with the dream of my language skills suddenly and miraculously transforming into a beautiful, fluent-in-German butterfly.

But how lazy I have become after nearly five years of expat life. I only noticed this the other day, when visiting my husband’s family in Hesse. For the first time in ages I found myself thinking in the middle of a conversation “what an interesting word.” When looking up said word’s meaning later, it struck me how rarely I get a thrill from simple, but educative and revealing, exchanges. And what a shame that was given that I have a genuine interest in language structure and did study German (and History) at university after all.  Read more »

Pregnancy Scans in Germany

Pregnancy in Berlin

BY: Erin Porter

I am only (only!) 7 months pregnant, but I’ve already seen my baby yawn. At this point, I’ve actually had 7 ultrasounds (Ultraschalluntersuchung) in Germany, including a feindiagnostik (fine diagnostic) 3D scan to get a peek into what is happening in my belly.

How many ultrasounds do you have in Germany?

As this is my first pregnancy, I wasn’t sure what to expect from pregnancy in Germany, the USA or anywhere else for that matter. So I was a bit surprised when I realized that this amount of scanning was unusual for my stateside pregnant mamas. In the US, it appears that a total of 3 scans is considered normal – an early scan to verify dates, nuchal screen at 12 weeks and then a 20 week anatomy scan to check for issues.

While some people are concerned about the safety of ultrasounds on their unborn fetus, my research reassured me that the German doctors knew what they were doing and I was pleased to get a glimpse of this thing changing my whole life every time I went in for a visit.

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