Taking your baby to the beach with the Germans

Photo: Erin Porter

Practicing for our island vacation in Berlin. Photo: Erin Porter

We just got back from a week of vacation in Corfu, Greece and I can barely get over it. Plebs like us! Vacationing! For a WEEK! In Greece!

Being in Europe allows you to make affordable vacation choices to unbelievable destinations. And it was unbelievable. The island vacation of my dreams with perfectly clear waters, boat tours, fine sands, mouth-watering Greek food – all finished off with a shot of Ouzo. Heaven.

Despite our excitement, there were some reservations. Were we crazy for taking a 9-month old on a beach holiday? It seems to go against what some Germans feel is necessary when raising a child. Because – oh yes! – there are rules. Unwritten. And this expat has a knack for running into every one of them

First of all, you must get outside when the weather is agreeable. God forbid you spend a summer day inside. There is no easier way to earn a Berliner’s scorn than to merrily say you binge-watched BoJack Horseman when the sun is shining. So leaving when the city is at its best seemed a little counterintuitive.

It also occurred to us that taking our very little German on a swimming vacation may not be the wisest. The baby is not quite up to earning her German swimming badges (how I love that there is a Seepferdchen/Seahorse level). But we have been hard at work getting Matilda acquainted with the water and hoped throwing her in the deep end of the Ioanian Sea (don’t worry – not really. Safety first!) would further her appreciation of the water we miss so much. There is a big difference between the wildness of the sea and the placid German lakes our baby has started to splash around in. Swimming in the ocean felt like connecting with something missing from our lives since moving to Germany. It may have been a different body of water, but jumping into open water felt altogether more freeing than a respectable swim in the well-mannered German Sees (lakes).

I also found that yes, you should be outside, but your baby should be as covered up as possible. Our ventures to the local pool introduced me to the mandatory baby hat – even in water. Your baby should never be without a hat covering their delicate little tow head (startling how many blond kids there are). Germans, who are usually averse to excess clothing on a warm day, are single-handedly supporting the UV-protective clothing industry. My little ladybug looked painfully nude out there in the pool with the other babies covered from head to toe. We quickly pulled out a hat and put it on (note her hat in the Berlin pool at the top of the post) – despite our baby’s insistence she would rather not. Half of our time in the water in Corfu consisted of me swimming after a hat Matilda had gleefully tossed off.

(As a side note – this behavior is actually not isolated to the beach. In general, I feel Germans dress their children very warmly. Too warmly? I’ve seen newborns sweating in full sleeves and pants this very hot summer and stared in wonder. Maybe they fear the killer draft or that pesky cold kidney ailment. Whatever the case, I know I have gotten a few looks and some outright condemnation for my daughter’s clothing – or lack thereof. When I brought her in to my husband’s KiTa for the first time I expected coos, not tutting comments about short sleeves in fall. “She was wearing a coat on the way here!” I exclaimed. They touched her bare arm and seemed pleased to report her skin was cool. Can’t win.)

Photo: Erin Porter

The orange monstrosity. Photo: Erin Porter

As if the full-body cover wasn’t enough, I noticed babies in Berlin were under cover out of the water as well. Tents for babies dot the Freibad’s (open-air pool) lawn and we quickly realized sporadic tree cover wasn’t enough. Not sure exactly what we were looking for, we wandered into a sporting goods store off of Alex and found a selection of fine mini-tents. Proudly, we carted this collapsible beast to our chosen Greek island and set it up by our beach chairs. I think the Greeks, Italians and Brits were confused by our instance at ruining the view with this orange monstrosity, but I thought I saw approval in the eyes of our fellow German visitors.

Germans, I am learning.

Any other families have tips for this newbie mom?

Leave a Reply