American Versus German Parenting – The Distance

I am fresh off the holidays back in America and along with other oddities of reverse culture shock (how much water is in American toilets!?), I have a new one. Even though all of my experience as a parent is in Germany, I would assume that – as an American native – most of these parenting standards are ingrained and it doesn’t matter if I raise a child in Germany or China or Timbuktu, I would raise my child like an American. However, on this last visit it became clear that I am unfamiliar on what is considered a “normal” distance for your child to be from you in the USA.

parenting in America vs. Germany

Is this too far? PHOTO: Erin Porter

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Thrill-Seeking in Germany’s South

Now the new year is here I will start planning adventures for the next twelve months. This time last year my partner and I began organising a springtime two week road trip around southern Germany. It wasn’t what we originally had in mind for 2017, but we put a visit to Asia on ‘the back burner’ and decided to check out what our host country had to offer. As we made our way from Bremen to Bavaria, we grew closer to the attraction that we were most looking forward to. The place that shaped our journey south. Germany’s largest theme park, Europa Park.

If you’ve recently moved to Germany and are looking for thrills in 2018, I can 100% recommend you check it out. We were excited about it throughout the 695km drive to Rust and it certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, the family owned park made the list of top ten things I did in 2017.  

Europa Park PHOTO: Sarah E

It’s not the cheapest day out, especially for those with families, so best to be prepared for this. Unlike Heide Park, there doesn’t seem to be any collectable discount vouchers either. As thrifty British expats, we did our research, and then we stumped up 94 euros for two tickets. I should add this is less than Disneyland Paris.

As a large chunk of our holiday budget was being spent at Europa Park, we were determined to cram in every last ride, maybe even twice. Luckily, unlike British theme parks I’ve visited, queuing for the rides was really quick. Maybe it’s that German efficiency thing going on. Less time hanging around meant we could hop on the majority of the rides, which included Wodan, Euro-Mir and the Swiss Bob Run. I wouldn’t consider myself a thrill-seeker, but after surviving the 130km/h speeds and 73m drop of Silver Star, a ride themed on Formula 1, I felt ready to take on whatever the rest of the rides threw at me. Taking on the most intense ride in the park first was a good decision, everything after that was a breeze. Continue reading

Finding a place to call home

Moving from a culture slightly obsessed with getting on the property ladder as soon as is humanly possible, to one where renting is king has been an interesting adjustment. A lot of foreigners feel this way when they first move to Germany, but it really is A different type of renting here. Due to a lack of available accommodation my husband and I have moved six times in six years. Thankfully three short-term lets were followed by three long-term ones, but all that moving, is not something I would choose to repeat.

Consequently I have quite a bit of experience applying, viewing, being rejected and also accepted property wise in Germany. A lot has been written on The German Way about moving to Germany already, make sure to read House and home lest you end up being surprised by a lack of ‘home comforts” AKA a kitchen and light fixtures, when you move in to your first place. There are a few of us out there who brushed their teeth by the light of an Iphone for the first few days, believe me and Hyde. Continue reading

Christmas Means Cookies

For almost a month already, we have been floating in the yearly jolly atmosphere that smells like cinnamon, shines with the twinkle lights and tempts us with delicious food.

Germany is famous for its wonderful bread and it’s a very well-deserved reputation, however, there’s a lot that can be said about German pastries, cakes and cookies. Normally, people’s thoughts fly all the way to France and its delicate macaroons or éclairs as the must-try when looking for something sweet in Europe they can later talk about. I find myself much more inclined for the astounding variety of Christmas cookies that Germany has to offer, hence, here a list of my favorite ones among the sorts I have  tried so far just in time for you to judge if I have walked the wrong path, chip in with a recommendation or bolt out in search of some newly discovered variety to munch on while waiting for the holy and silent night. If you are left feeling hungry for more cookie tales, check out Alie’s earlier A Small Festive Treat blog post. Continue reading

Guide to German Nutcrackers

I had a nutcracker or two growing up, gaily dressed as soldiers and watching over me as I slept. Once I moved out, my mom pulled them out for the holidays and added a few new friends. Then a few more..til there was a horde of nutcrackers to accompany our tree for the Christmas season.

I get the fascination. More than just a way to crack a nut (in fact most aren’t very useful for their original purpose anymore), nutcrackers (or Nussknacker in German) today embody the holiday spirit.

Nutcrackers (Nussknacker) PHOTO: Cheryl Mendenhall

History of German Nutcrackers

A hammer was the original way to open nuts, but as people got fancy, so did our tools.

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My top ten German experiences in 2017

Cliché I know, but this year has flown by and I struggle to remember everything I have fitted in these past twelve months. So I thought what better way to reminisce than by writing down and sharing my top ten highlights of living in Germany in 2017. So here goes…

1.The Bavarian Alps – Since I was a small child I’ve been obsessed with seeing the Alps, I think it has something to do with watching the Sound of Music on repeat, seeing Maria float around the hills with the mountain range in the background. On a short break to Salzburg in 2016 I saw the Salzburgh Alps from afar but it wasn’t until this year on a road trip to Bavaria where I truly got to see them in all their glory. As we drove closer towards Meersburg on Bodensee (Lake Konstanz) they were in sight. Everywhere I turned there they were, watching over me. I couldn’t take my eyes of them. You can get lost in thought gazing at the beautiful scenery, it really is like something out of a film.

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Expanding the family

Adding to your family is something that is taken very seriously in Germany. Do you have enough time, space, money and energy? Have you researched classes, schools and medical facilities? Are you ready to share your food, bed and sofa space? Even with the best laid plans you’ll need to have a healthy dose of patience before you hear the patter of hairy feet on your stairs. Animal adoption in Germany can be a long process, but one that I very much recommend.

43% of German households have a pet, and whilst cats are slightly more popular than dogs, perhaps partly down to being a nation of apartment dwellers, but also that having a dog comes with additional responsibilities like micro chipping, dog taxes and classes in some cases. Our vet joked that it is harder to adopt a dog than it is a child in Germany, and don’t we all know that the best jokes are based on the truth? The compulsory home visit is a particularly nervous time for any potential adopter which another German Way writer wrote about in Furry Love Parts 1 & 2. Continue reading

Is it Germany or is it France?

If you like your French with a side of German, the Alsace-Lorraine is the region for you. Traded back and forth between the two countries as borders changed throughout time, France came out the winner with this lovely little territory.

Alsace-Lorraine might sound like a mouthful….until you hear the full German name of Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen. This is a complicated name for an English speaker, but an uncomplicatedly beautiful place that features the best of both countries. I have visited just a few times, but this is one of the few places where I linger a bit longer and think maybe, just maybe, there are other places I could live in Europe besides Berlin.

A vineyard in Alsace-Lorraine PHOTO: Erin Porter

Brief History of the Alsace-Lorraine

It was French, then it was German, then it was French, then it was German and now it is French again.

Just kidding! Brief, but not that brief:

Once the home of the Gauls, this roughly 5,000 square mile area was officially recognized by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle department of Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian War. After World War I in 1919, it was reclaimed by France. But during the German occupation of France from 1940 to 1945, Elsaß-Lothringen was German again. At the end of World War II, it found its home again as a French region as it remains today.
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