What to do When You Find out You’re Pregnant in Germany

PHOTO: Erin Porter

Pregnancy Test Vending Machine

When I first found out I was pregnant in Germany, I freaked out. I was married and happy, we were kinda trying but I was still terrified. I suspect I would have been apprehensive no matter where I was, but there were so many questions about how this would go in Germany.

I dug into the German-Way archives and their experience calmed me. I had seen the mobs of hip, strollered woman parading around Prenzlauer Berg. I could do this. I did do this. And you can, too. Here are the first few steps of what to do when you find out you’re pregnant in Germany.

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A Tramp Abroad: Observations of a Former Expat and Frequent Traveler in German-speaking Europe


As I find myself rediscovering many aspects of daily life in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, I can’t help but think of Mark Twain, who wrote so masterfully about his travels in Germany and Europe in A Tramp Abroad (1880, translated into German as “Bummel durch Europa,” including his essay on “The Awful German Language”). As I was zooming along the autobahn in my leased Peugeot the other day, the same thoughts entered my mind that occur to me when I motor across the vast deserts of the American West: How did people do this before there were cars, trains, planes, and the Internet?

Mark Twain’s mode of travel was certainly much slower, giving him a lot of time to contemplate the culture and sights he was experiencing. Mr. Clemens wrote with paper and pen. I’m writing on my laptop. He exaggerated and invented things at times. I may also exaggerate for effect, but I’ll try not to invent. Like me, Twain in A Tramp Abroad is no longer seeing Europe for the first time. “[A Tramp Abroad] has not the fresh frolicsomeness of the Innocents Abroad; it is Europe revisited, and seen through eyes saddened by much experience of tables d’hôte, old masters, and traveling Americans…” – William Dean Howells in The Atlantic.

That said, here are some of my own observations and rediscoveries, colored by long experience. Continue reading

A new wine season has started

Did you hear the klaxon? That’s the sound of a new season arriving and with it all the delicious seasonal food and drink Germany has to offer. The pumpkin spiced latte has nothing on the colourful Rote Bete (beetroot), creamy sauce coated Pfifferlinge (Chanterelle mushrooms), fresh Brombeeren (blackberries) picked from hedges and the wonderful sweet Federweißer (‘feather white’, new wine) that appears everywhere for a few short weeks and then disappears, until the next year.

A delicious local Federweißer -Alie

A delicious local Federweißer Photo – Alie

Federweißer or Federroter, Neuer Susser, Junger wein, Bremser, Most (and yes there are more names too) is a wine which has begun, but not completed, the fermentation process, it has an alcohol content of 4-10% and will have a cloudy appearance (hence the name ‘feather white’) when agitated, as the yeast is still present and visible. The wine itself is a sweet slightly sparkling grape juice and available in white, red and pink, surprisingly refreshing and the perfect accompaniment to the traditional savoury Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake). Continue reading

How to Prep Your German Home for Long-Term Vacation

Lon-term Travel

Day 1 of parental leave Photo: Erin Porter

I am nearing 30-days away on my latest vacation. Well, Elternzeit (parental leave) is more accurate. We have almost 2 full months re-connecting with family in the big ‘ole US of A.

My American counterparts are in awe that people in Germany can take so much time off for simply having a child. Elternzeit can be taken by both parents for a total of 3 years up until the child’s 8th birthday for 64% of your regular pay (for the 1st year). It is a luxury and I am taking full advantage by spending time in my hometown, admiring the fabulous Americana. From the many, many old-school burger joints to the cheerfully advertised conceal and carry fanny packs I saw at the county fair tonight (Oh, America), I am enjoying.

But it is not just squeezing every precious ounce of time we have in America I needed to worry about. I also had a lot of prep on the Berlin home front to ensure we were able to enjoy our time away. Here are a few of the steps you should take to prep your German home for long-term vacation.
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On the Road Again: Renewing my Acquaintance with the German Autobahn


Today I drove from Frankfurt am Main to Berlin, a distance of about 550 km (342 mi). Most of that drive is on the iconic German Autobahn, and the trip reminded me that German drivers can be just as bad as American drivers, only at much higher speeds.

Autobahn A5

On the A5 autobahn headed for Berlin from Frankfurt am Main – with about 500 km left to go. PHOTO: Cheryl Flippo

It wasn’t the first time I’ve zoomed along the autobahn behind the wheel of a rental car. Over the years I’ve logged many kilometers on autobahns in Austria, France, Germany, and Switzerland. But the German autobahn is unique in two ways: (1) There are sections with no speed limit, and (2) you don’t need to pay an autobahn toll, as is the case in Austria, France, Switzerland, and many other countries.

There were stretches where I could really find out what my Peugeot 3008 diesel can really do. My cruising speed in those wonderful sections of the autobahn with no speed limit, and three lanes without a bunch of trucks was about 160 km/h (close to 100 mph). The car felt comfortable at 170 km/h (105 mph), and there were a few times I noticed I was hitting 170 or a little more. But even at 105 mph, some cars were passing me! Normally my standard speed on the autobahn is about 130 km/h (81 mph), but today I was tempted by some wide open spans of concrete and a desire to get to Berlin before dark. Continue reading

Brexit – notes from a Brit in Germany


Brexit 1 We found out the Brexit result at the top of mountain in Italy, the alpine hotel’s shaky internet connection making it almost impossible to read more than the headlines. Our reaction was disbelief. Like me, most people, whether Remainers or Leavers, couldn’t have predicted that Britain would vote to leave the EU. “Shocking news from the UK this morning,” I said to the six London bankers in the hotel’s breakfast room, a passing statement which felt pointless but important. They sat glued to smartphones piecing together market developments before one of them shook his shoulders and announced, “Right, this is too depressing. Let’s get out walking.” We happened to be driving back to Germany that same day, with me reading the news all the way through Austria, relaying the plummeting pound, the resignation of the Prime Minister, the incredulous disappointment of most people in my predominantly pro-remain social media bubble.

The ensuing events have been well reported – how the public faces of the Leave campaign scuttled under rocks as if they hadn’t really wanted to win at all, how the Labour Party plunged into (still ongoing) turmoil, how the first analysis suggested that old people had voted young people out, but then it turned out that too many young people didn’t bother to vote at all. The anger of the side that lost is well known too. The Leavers call them sore losers, but in the wake of a political gamble to satisfy a decades’ old internal party conflict, a campaign marred with tall stories and manipulated statistics, only to be capped with the desertions of its most prominent advocates, and with the rise in hate crimes against migrants immediately after the result, the soreness felt justified.  Continue reading

Moving in Berlin – UBahn style

Moving on the Berlin U-Bahn

Moving on the Berlin UBahn.

I have moved a lot in Germany. Like 6 times in a year a lot. This is mostly due to poor planning, short-term sublets and an inability to commit to things like buying a full kitchen, but the positive byproduct is that we got really good at moving on the cheap.

As we initially moved to Berlin with just two suitcases, it was possible to make our moves purely by public transport. Nervous about our limbs simply falling off during these moves, we limited our purchases and kept our possessions down to 2 or three loads …at first. But, inevitably, we managed to accumulate more and more (like a baby) until our hobo moving method was no longer an option.
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Staying cool in the German summertime

Summer in Germany is a humid and sweaty affair, especially down here in the landlocked south. For a pale, sea breeze loving Brit my first summer was indeed a baptism of fire. When I heard of a beautiful place where you could swim and laze away a day it seemed to be the stuff of dreams. I grabbed my swimsuit, towel and sun cream and followed the directions I’d been given on my recently acquired bike. Unfortunately it was 19th April, and even though the temperature was 35°C outside the pool would remain firmly closed, until the safe date for open air swimming, May 1st.

Early morning Freibad - Photo - Alie

Early morning Freibad Photo: Alie

The Freibad (lido or open air swimming pool) is open to all and can range in size from a simple rectangular 50m pool to a complex of various pools with slides, diving boards and water features. My local is famous for its wave pool, in addition to its, sometimes stinky, sulphurous mineral water, which you can drink and thankfully don’t have to swim in.

Anything goes at the Freibad, speedos have never gone out of fashion here in the south anyway, but feel free to wear what you want, some kids are still wearing wetsuits well into July. Temperature wise I’m not sure I’m the best judge of what is considered cold since I’ve swum outdoors in the UK all year round, but the pool for swimming is generally the coolest 21-24°C whilst the more family friendly pools with slides, whirlpools and waves tend to be a little warmer at 25-27°C. Continue reading

The German/Austrian-Hawaii Connection


NOTE: This is an updated version of a blog I first posted in May 2010.

I’m currently in Hawaii. As usual, I’m on the outlook for Germanic connections, and even here, so far away from Europe, there are many. First, I wanted to see if there were any direct historic ties between the Sandwich Islands (now better known as Hawai’i) and the German-speaking countries. I didn’t have to look very far. Aboard the Resolution, the ship that took Capt. James Cook to his discovery of the Hawaiian archipelago in 1778, were a German-Swiss artist and three German sailors.

Since Cook’s discovery, Hawaii has been influenced – positively and negatively – by other haoles (outsiders), including Americans, British, French, Portuguese and Asians. It turns out that people from the German-speaking parts of Europe have played some key roles in Hawaiian history. If you study Hawaii’s past, you’ll run across many German names: Hackfeld, Hillebrand, Isenberg, von Chamisso, Lemke, Pflueger, Scheffer, Spreckels, and Zimmermann. At one time, the island of Kauai in particular had a sizeable German population. The island’s main town, Lihue, was nicknamed “German Town.” There were German Lutheran churches and schools in Lihue and Honolulu (Oahu).

World War I pretty much put an end to the German presence in Hawaii, but I want to concentrate on two enduring legacies: one German and over a century ago, the other Austrian and much more recent. Continue reading

Best Low Key Dance Spots in Berlin

Dance moves at a Bad Taste Party Phot: Erin Porter

Vintage Dance moves at a Bad Taste Party Photo: Erin Porter

I am not a cool kid in Berlin. Never was. And now I am a mom – the ultimate in uncool.

The truth is, I never even tried to get into Berghain (reportedly the coolest club in the world with an infamous door policy and no camera rule). I certainty wouldn’t make it in. Even though Berlin is one of club capitals of the world, I don’t feel guilty that I never partook.

Not going to clubs did not prevent me from staying up so I late I saw more sunrises in a year than the rest of my life; it didn’t stop me from dancing my way through the city’s bazillion festivals; and it won’t stop me from partying wherever I find myself. I’ve never needed a club to have a good time. I much prefer to forgo the long lines, critique at the door and expensive entry and despite the city’s reputation, there are plenty of low key dance spots in Berlin where you can avoid the stress and just dance.
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