I'm an American freelance writer and editor raising my three children in Essen, Germany with my German husband. I've been living in Europe for more than a decade, seven of which have been in Germany. I enjoy writing about having a family and raising children in Germany as well as other sociopolitical issues for the German Way Expat Blog.
I’ve written before about how I have been planning on becoming a mentor to a newly arrived refugee in my local community. The journey has been slow at getting started in terms of actually connecting with my mentee despite numerous thwarted efforts. Meanwhile I have attended the monthly Stammtisch (regular’s table) for all of the mentors of the organisation that has been coordinating the many efforts of welcoming, housing, and integrating the refugees arriving to the shelter in our neighbourhood. Continue reading →
Before Hyde sends me a message to “gently” remind me that my blog post is due today, I figured that I should get something up here. It isn’t my preferred style to just throw something up here, half-baked or half-thought through, but I realised that I’m on the “verge” of everything that is a hot topic right now: refugees, Karneval and the American election. Regarding the election back home, I’m not touching that one just yet. Otherwise politically engaged, I find myself wanting to plug my ears while screaming, “Make it stop!!”
Representing Miss Identified at Karneval in Düsseldorf 2016 PHOTO: Jane Park
I did talk about the refugee situation last year and how I was trying to find my way towards helping beyond donating winter coats and towels. Here I am on the verge. I’ll be meeting with the mentor coordinator of our neighborhood charity for refugees next week who will introduce me to my mentee and the person I will be sharing the Patenschaft or mentorship with. I am excited to be able to write about this experience in a future post. But I can’t just yet.
And the last topic is Karneval. My wallet is sticky from sampling Berliners at the bakery today, and I’ve already procured a bat costume, dug out a Wonder Woman costume snagged on sale two years ago, and researched and ordered a mermaid costume for my three kids. My younger adult self always wanted to celebrate the fifth season just as I wanted to check off Oktoberfest, the spas in Baden-Baden, and visiting the Beethoven House from my “while living in Germany” bucket list. (You might be scratching your head about the Beethoven House but it is just that I was thwarted twice from getting inside in the course of ten years which has only made me more determined.) My husband, my assumed partner in crime, has never been a big Karneval fan despite having grown up in the Rheinland. His extent of participating is to just remember to wear an icky tie on Weiberfastnacht. So I have never participated in Karneval in any vague sense of the word. (In Germany that is.) Continue reading →
I continue to navigate my way as a parent of bilingual children. We extol the joys and merits of having children grow up speaking two languages — the cognitive agility, the tendency towards more open-mindedness, and the acquisition of the language itself. The nuts and bolts of it however are not as straightforward as we might have thought they would be while the babes are in the womb. It’s not as simple as just committing yourself to one method such as the one language one parent method (OPOL). That was the easy part, and the key to making it work has been discipline. As the kids have grown, however the bumps in the road have been appearing: we’ve been battling Denglish, and I’ve been wary of Englisch in the German classrooms. Continue reading →
It’s that time of year again. If you were in the United States right now, you wouldn’t miss a beat in knowing what I was talking about. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Although this great American tradition is not celebrated in Germany, expats and their friends gather and have learned how to search and seek in order to create feasts in the new Heimat just like they would have back home. If you’ve joined an expat group or community of some sort, there’s usually an organized potluck. Since I’ve been in Germany, there have been years when I’ve celebrated multiple times (up to three) in a year to none at all. In addition to participating in the potlucks, I’ve hosted and invited others including all of my husband’s department colleagues one year and my German in-laws another.
In an effort to replicate the family feast, questions arise as to “where can you get … in Germany”? Access to ingredients have changed over the last decade and availability of certain foods also depend on regions, but with some planning you shouldn’t have any problem checking off everything on your Thanksgiving shopping list in Germany these days. Otherwise, it might be time to improvise and introduce a new tradition in your new home.
With some planning, a traditional US Thanksgiving can be replicated in Germany. Photo: Jane Park
…so now what. Chloë shared helpful tips on how to become involved in Berlin and Joseph at The Needle shares his own experiences interacting with refugees as a volunteer in his four-part blog series. Similar posts and newsletters with close up views and how to help have popped up across regions in Germany including my own, the Rheinland/Ruhrgebiet.
Refugees in Berlin PHOTO: Joseph Pearson, needleberlin.com
Your child is a native English speaker in the German school system. So now what?
Many of us expats are raising our kids multilingually. In many of these cases, our children are native English speakers. We’ve been told that this is a great thing to do, and I for one have been feeling good about our commitment to the one parent, one language method working out. My kids are indeed bilingual.
Haus house Maus mouse. The road to biliteracy might not be as expected. PHOTO: Bundesarchiv, Wikimedia Commons
Accidents happen. Unfortunately one happened to a child of mine under the watch of an au pair whose redeeming characteristics became harder and harder to appreciate as the weeks of her time with us went by. Rima, the tourism and gastronomy student from Kyrgyzstan whose name still makes us all shudder, was a combination of a lot of negative attributes. She was difficult to communicate with and it wasn’t just because of her low level German or English language skills. After a conversation with her, we never knew if she didn’t understand, if she was offended, if she was OK and in agreement, or what she was going to do. She had a general inability to follow simple direction which resulted in irregular punctuality, disregard for dietary restrictions and preferences, and carelessness and clumsiness (she dinged and scratched our brand new, fancy refrigerator not once but twice), and she had an inability to manage her money (having showed up from Bishkek with too little money, she asked for advances nearly every month. She needed to book her travel tickets to see Rome or Paris so in her words, it was important enough to justify asking for an advance.).
In case of an emergency, call 112 in Germany and throughout the European Union. PHOTO: Marco Fieber, Wikimedia Commons
It’s summer time and those of us in Germany have just emerged from an intense week of record breaking heat (40 degrees C/104.5 degrees F). What to do in this heat in an air condition-less country? Hit the water.
While dipping your feet into that water might be all you need, you might want to go all the way. If you’re wondering how water safe you or your child is, fear not, there is a swimming testing process here in Germany that tells you exactly what your level is.