Taking Your Kids to the Beach Like a German

For the third year in a row, I have just returned from a fabulous beach vacation. Greece, Italy…we are apparently becoming European jetsetters (still fairly poor ones). Being in Europe allows you to make affordable vacation choices to unbelievable destinations.

Photo: Erin Porter

Despite our excitement, there were some reservations. Were we crazy to take a toddler on a beach holiday? Toddlers are the antithesis of a relaxing vacay. And how would we properly protect our girl against full-throttle elements when we routinely get the side eye from Germans in Germany on how we dress our kid? Here are the rules (as I understand them) about taking your kids to the beach like a German.

Beach like a German

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 German’s scorn than to merrily stay inside binging on Silicon Valley when the sun is shining.

It also occurred to us that taking our very little German on a swimming vacation may not be the wisest. The kid 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 her acquainted with the water and hoped throwing her in the deep end would further her appreciation of the water. However, there is a big difference between the wildness of the sea and the placid German lakes she has been splashing around in.

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 island destination 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, take it easy on me. I am learning.