City life or village life?

I get a lot of emails from potential expats asking where they should live in Germany. Is the city the place to be? or would a village be better? If I have experience in the place that they are asking for I feel able to give them a decent idea of what to expect but elsewhere in Germany, honestly, your guess is as good as mine. However, I have now lived in the city and in the middle of a village so I feel well placed to pass on my observations on what life can be like.

Choosing where to live when I moved to Germany was easy to start with, both my husband and I had long commutes to work in the UK and were happy to have the opportunity to try something different. Landing in one of the most bike friendly cities in Germany meant we exchanged our four wheels for two and the journey to work was less of a commute and more of a quick windy wake up every morning. The good transport links also meant exploring our new home country was cheap, easy and relatively convenient, even without a car.

Moving in the city,
with five flights of stairs Photo – Alie

Heading to a city on arrival meant that we were close to all the main attractions. Language lessons were easily sourced. By happy accident we fell into a local expat circle, unsurprising considering the number of international companies nearby, which really helped during those first few months.There was plenty to do on our doorstep. There was plenty of choice in many aspects of city life, but as with anything in life compromises have to be made too.

Accommodation, always a topic that comes up when you get a table of foreigners (and locals) together. As is probably true of cities the world over, the closer you are to the action, the more competition and the more you’ll have to pay. Add on that for the price you don’t get a lot of space inside or from your neighbours (tenants and businesses) and the general extra noise of city life. Germany is very protective of its quiet times but they do little to protect the tenants of a house with paper thin walls.

Speaking English, whilst not always met with a smile was usually accepted, especially if I attempted German first. English speaking services were available, the number of them Is always increasing which makes city life more comfortable for newcomers, short term expats and learners of German. In addition to the plentiful jobs in teaching English as a foreign language, plenty of expats make a living providing services for the non German speaking community too.

When we moved from Bavaria to Baden-Württemberg we cast our net for potential properties further than ever before. Having the confidence that comes with ‘we’ve done this before’ meant we chose differently and actively looked at places outside of the city (but still with that necessary transport link in). Yes we were back to being commuters but cleaner air and being able to see a sky filled with stars at night mostly makes up for an occasional train delay.

The winter commute is pretty picturesque in the village Photo -Alie

If you choose a village be prepared for everyone to know who you are. In those first few weeks I swear I was as famous as I’m ever going to be. The estate agent introduced us to the neighbours, the local restaurant owner (and most of the clientele), all his friends and recommended the best of the few shops on the high street. I knew maybe two of my neighbours previously on a completely ‘parcel taking in and awkward small talk’ basis, now even the post lady stops to stroke the dog and compliments my new haircut.

This acceptance didn’t happen overnight though, in a village you get out what you put in, I’ve never been so involved in community activities. You can end up feeling like rather a bunter Hund (colourful dog) ‘Er is bekannt wie ein bunter Hund’ He is known all over town. When there is less choice on offer you find out quickly where the best is (Hint always join the longest queue) and the money you saved on rent ends up being used for travelling further to find more choices.

There are of course elements that are common to everywhere, the Oma Politzei (grandma police) for one are probably the most well known. Not actually an organisation, but rather the grey haired old ladies who watch over their street, usually from behind their net curtains or well appointed balcony shrubbery, and enjoy shouting out of windows at anyone who does something wrong. Littering? ‘Pick that up!’ Listening to loud music? ‘Turn that down’ Fender bender? Guess who wrote down all the number plates?

My favourite parts of city life are the anonymity, blending in and not sticking out as a foreigner is sometimes just a necessity and the choices, the sweet sweet choices. Conversely, my favourite parts of village life are the complete lack of anonymity, yes I’m foreign and everyone knows it but it’s just a part of who I am (I’m multifaceted me) and that feeling of really belonging.

As always, if don’t like where you live, you can always move (eventually).

A Nine-To-Fiver in Germany – What’s in the Bag?

What’s it like to be a nine-to-fiver in Germany? A very hard question to answer since everyone has had their very own experiences, but after a while in Germany, and more than one job in this land behind me, I feel like it could be safe to make some general comments about it. But don’t be negatively surprised if your experience is different from mine; leave a comment with your stories instead!

I will start by rejoicing over the fact I have learned tons working here because the German work dynamics and style are something very different from what I had known in the past. Also important to say is that if the nice experiences have taught me a good deal of stuff, the bad ones have been even better teachers for the kind of things you don’t get to learn in school. So far, Germany has allowed me to work part-time, freelance and full-time (not all at the same time!) and these observations are the common ground I find between my experiences so far: Continue reading

Best Swimming Pools for Kids in Berlin

On days like today (the end of Ostern or Easter holidays with no family nearby and only medium-nice weather) there is a question of what exactly to do. We’ve already had 3 glorious days off, admired our Osterstrauch (Easter tree), celebrated the holiday with enough chocolate to fit in with the Germans.

So for today we decided on a visit to the swimming pool. My little girl is three and few things give her greater pleasure than splashing around in a pool. Sames for me.

But going to the pool in Germany can be a bit odd. A few things always stand out that we’re not in Kans…erm, America anymore. Here are some of my top observations about swimming pools in Germany and my favorite pools for the whole family in Berlin.

Wellenbad am Spreewaldplatz PHOTO: Erin Porter

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Reasons to love Germany in spring

Der Frühlingsanfang (beginning of spring) holds lots of special memories for me. My first time in Germany was in the spring of 2016. There was a lot riding on this visit. It wasn’t just any long weekend away in Europe but a chance for me to check out Bremen before deciding to move here with my partner. The city had to sell itself to me, and much to my partners relief it did. How can you resist living in a city with picturesque windmill, a Bürgerpark to explore and the Weser River to stroll along?

This is my third year of experiencing spring time here. Before I go on, I should congratulate us all for surviving the winters months. Other Germany cities may differ, but here in Bremen it’s been a pretty grey, cold and miserable few months. Everyone hibernates. There’s not much to do other than console yourself with Kaffee und Kuchen and numerous box sets. In my opinion, Bremen is definitely best enjoyed when you can take part in outdoor activities without losing feeling in your fingers and toes. Time has moved very quickly since Christmas, I’m very glad for us to be three months in to the year and seeing the temperatures start to rise, for the evenings to become lighter and for the blue skies and flourishing Blumen to bring colour and life back in to our surroundings.

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When it snows in Germany…

…the country does not grind to a halt. Granted life is a lot colder and a good deal more slippery than usual but snow is apparently no excuse to shut schools and businesses. Coming from a land where the mere mention of a snowflakes’ possible arrival is enough to close the entire country down, my first winter in Germany was somewhat of a shock to the system.

Snow was one of the reasons I was excited to live in Germany. I purchased snow boots and a thick ski jacket in anticipation of the day the temperature would drop and that first winter did not disappoint. I’m also aware that some people *shakes head in disbelief* do not enjoy snow in the slightest. It’s a cold, wet inconvenience to an otherwise normal day. The thing is, in Germany, it isn’t really. Here life carries on as normal. Continue reading

The Top 4 German Signs you have gone from Visitor to Resident.

When you move to a new place it takes a while before you start getting the feel of belonging, the sensation that you are on some sort of vacations or just visiting takes some time to start wearing off and in my experience with Germany, this is a job that’s done both by your efforts to establish a routine and get acquainted with the place AND the reaching of certain very German milestones that left you with the feeling they have taken you in, this is it, you made it: Germany is talking to you! Here my top 4 epiphanic moments: Continue reading

Going to the Dentist in Germany

For years as a freelancer, I survived on the bare minimum of private insurance. I am now on public insurance in Germany and taking full advantage. Yearly check-up? Yes please! Eye exam? Why not? And the dentist? Sign me up.

So, clearly, it had been some time since I had any type of dentist visit. And I wasn’t sure what to expect in Germany. I had already been through the initial shock of a doctor’s visit in Germany with its mandatory greetings and brazen nudity, so how painful could a dentist visit be?

I’ll go over what I experienced going to the dentist in Germany, how to find a dentist in Germany, how much dental care costs in Germany, and helpful German vocabulary for the dentist.

der Mund PHOTO: dozenist

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How Kohl is that?

If you’ve recently moved to the north of Germany don’t be alarmed if a group of people pass you in the streets playing Schlager music from a Bollerwagen (wooden pull along wagon). It won’t be the last time you witness this. From the end of January to March, Kohlfahrts will take place in the areas of Bremen, Oldenburg and Osnabrück.

What is a Kohlfahrt? In basic terms, it is a brisk hike that is accompanied by Schnapps, which is soaked up by a warm kale cabbage dinner afterwards.

Mid way through the Kohlfahrt PHOTO: Sarah E

This year was my first Kohlfahrt and based on what I had heard I was a little nervous about what to expect from this German tradition. It wasn’t the brisk walk that was alarming but the taste for Schnapps participants tend to have. Last year during the first few months of the year it was significantly notable the amount of small glass bottles of spirits that littered the streets! Continue reading