Mahlzeit!

MahlzeitFor the first time since we moved to Berlin over five years ago, I am required to go (most days, at least) to an office with lots of German people. Up until a few months ago, I’d either worked from home or from a small co-working space. But now, from behind computer screens and over the kettle in the shared kitchen, I see Germans at work – a novel and culturally enlightening experience for many reasons, not least because of “Mahlzeit!”

Have you ever heard a German say “Mahlzeit” and wondered what it meant – sitting down to a meal perhaps or some time around the middle of the day? Why should they be reminding me it’s a mealtime, you might have thought, if you’d understood the word but not really grasped what they were getting at. Read more »

Long-Distance Grandparenting

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Soaking up the rare in-person grandparenting

We knew one of the hardest parts of having a baby abroad was going to be the distance from our respective hometowns. While we call Berlin home, we have no idea what being a kid in a big city is like, what challenges our little Berliner will face.

I grew up in a small town in Washington State once known for its farming. My life was all horse riding and soccer (not Fußball). The “big city” of Seattle was about an hour away, but I only got there on special occasion.

Then we uprooted our life to move to the German capital. Though Berlin has an unusually relaxed atmosphere for a major metropolis, it is still city living. What is it like to have a bilingual child in a language I am still too shaky in? Is she going to confidently travel the city by herself like those roving gangs of 10-year-olds I see? What do I do when my 15-year-old orders herself a beer?

Even more than these (possibly petty) worries, we wonder about the effects of raising her away from her grandparents. All of them are still based in the States. Though we took parental leave for almost 2 months over Christmas and spent everyday getting showered in new grandparent love – this is a far-cry from being based in the same city, or even the same state, the same continent. Through no-fault of their own, our parents are trying to make Long-Distance Grandparenting work.

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Babysitting in Germany

It was not that long ago that the concept of babysitting (das Babysitten/Babysitting; Kinderhüten is the old-fashioned term) was little-known in the German-speaking world. When it did happen, it was usually Oma, a neighbor, or one of the older children watching over the kids for a while.

A big change came in the 1990s, with the arrival of online and local Kinderbetreuung (child-care) agencies in Germany, when the idea of hiring a non-family member to mind the kids became more common. Today it is possible to earn fairly good money in Germany as a paid sitter. Below I’ll be writing about German babysitting both from the perspective of expats hiring a babysitter, and getting a job as a sitter. But first we need to clarify the term “babysitting.” Read more »

Learning German for Kids Part Two

I wrote in my previous post about various toys, books, and CDs that might help kids to retain the German language they’ve acquired while living in Germany. The reason for my thinking of this topic was inspired by a conversation I had with Ann Belle of Belle NRW when she was getting ready to move her German-speaking Kindergarten-aged kids back to America. Six months later, she’s built on this list and added a number of concrete tips that are definitely worth sharing. Thank you, Ann, for generously sharing your resrouces with the German Way! Read more »

Amis and Abis: Roadblocks to Getting your Bachelor’s Degree in Germany

Source: Felix Kästle/dpa (c)

Source: Felix Kästle/dpa (c)

My student advising service, Eight Hours and Change, was recently featured in a story on National Public Radio’s Marketplace in a story that discussed the German university system. The main takeaway from this piece for most readers and listeners in America was the astonishing revelation that German universities are (mostly) tuition-free, and, as a result, I’ve been inundated with inquiries from every state and several territories.

For bachelor-seeking students, this can be an awkward conversation. After confirming that the vast majority of subjects can be studied at minimal cost, I have to move on to the caveat. Yes, its possible for Americans to study here for free, but that doesn’t mean everyone can do it.

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It’s not quite cheese, it’s not quite yoghurt

Quark 2

I first heard of quark (such a wonderfully German name) 7 years ago in the “exotic” dairy section of a high-end UK supermarket in London. I was with my German husband. “Oooh” he exclaimed, with tangible excitement, “Look, quark – shall we get some?” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and when I asked what quark was he couldn’t really tell me. “It’s a bit like yoghurt,” he said, “Only thicker, more like cream cheese.” Nevertheless, we took home this mysterious dairy hybrid and I was an immediate convert. So what’s the excitement all about?

If you’re new to living in a German-speaking country, the chances are you’ll have noticed quark. A staple of German cuisine, it features prominently in supermarket fridges, bakery counters, cafe menus and Kindergarten meal plans alike. But to call it a cross between cheese and yoghurt is to do it a disservice. Quark is unique. True, technically-speaking it is somewhere between the two. Like yoghurt, it’s made from soured milk, but the starter culture used for quark is different and provides a significantly less sour taste. Like cream or cottage cheese, it’s mild and creamy, but it is without salt. Being salt-free is only the beginning of its nutritional qualities; it’s higher in protein than yoghurt and, in its full-fat form, is a great source of vitamin K2, which helps keep calcium in your bones. Amazing!  Read more »