In Case of an Emergency

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

In case of an emergency, call 112 in Germany and throughout the European Union. PHOTO: Marco Fieber, Wikimedia Commons

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Babysitting in Germany

It was not that long ago that the concept of babysitting (das Babysitten/Babysitting; Kinderhüten is the old-fashioned term) was little-known in the German-speaking world. When it did happen, it was usually Oma, a neighbor, or one of the older children watching over the kids for a while.

A big change came in the 1990s, with the arrival of online and local Kinderbetreuung (child-care) agencies in Germany, when the idea of hiring a non-family member to mind the kids became more common. Today it is possible to earn fairly good money in Germany as a paid sitter. Below I’ll be writing about German babysitting both from the perspective of expats hiring a babysitter, and getting a job as a sitter. But first we need to clarify the term “babysitting.” Continue reading

Learning German for Kids Part Two

I wrote in my previous post about various toys, books, and CDs that might help kids to retain the German language they’ve acquired while living in Germany. The reason for my thinking of this topic was inspired by a conversation I had with Ann Belle of Belle NRW when she was getting ready to move her German-speaking Kindergarten-aged kids back to America. Six months later, she’s built on this list and added a number of concrete tips that are definitely worth sharing. Thank you, Ann, for generously sharing your resrouces with the German Way! Continue reading

Au Pair in Germany – the Hosting How to Guide

Like Sarah did several years ago, I mentioned our foray in having an au pair. We had had one from South Korea last summer, a relationship which ended pretty miserably. Despite our efforts to have fair and adjusted expectations of a young woman, age 20, from a culture with no nanny or babysitting culture, we were disappointed, frustrated, and fertig. Translation: stick a fork in us, DONE.

We naively made the initial compromises because we wanted a native Korean speaker who could teach our children Korean by building a loving relationship through regular contact with them. Unfortunately, unwittingly, we over-compromised as the young woman in question didn’t seem to have any real childcare experience, despite what we were lead (or wanted) to believe. It got to a point where the only expected responsibility she was able to fulfill was tidying the kitchen. Looking after more than one of my three children quickly put her out of her depth and some real safety issues came to surface (e.g., kids playing with her medication and her not telling us immediately about it). And although she was brave enough to become an au pair, she didn’t have enough courage to ride the local bus (which is a loop) to her language class alone. On top of that, even though she was a German major and we had interviewed and corresponded in German, she could only manage if I spoke (my rusty) Korean with her. Believe me, after that exhausting initial first month of Korean only, I switched us to German! No matter what language I spoke with her though, I always had a sinking feeling that we were not on the same page. Continue reading

The Zollamt and What to Expect

This post comes late as I’ve been struggling to regain balance and find spare time during these late summer weeks. Two kids out of my three were recently struck by stomach flu, meanwhile two weeks worth of holiday luggage had to be packed, and the au pair we had been counting on was such a bust that instead of staying a full twelve months with our family as originally planned, she left after two.

The Au Pair story could be a blog post in itself which I may write after I’ve recovered from this recent disastrous experience. Today though I wanted to write about our experience at the local Zollamt or customs agency that I had with this former au pair of ours that screamed, “German Way post!” Continue reading

Movie Ratings — Watch Out!

I had planned to go see the movie “Valentine’s Day” with my eldest daughter this past week in English, but the few times it was being shown just didn’t work for us. On Friday we finally decided to go to see it in German in the local theater, and because it was “ab 6“, the German equivalent of PG, we thought that it would be okay to take her sister, who is ten. Let me preface this whole thing by saying that I am by no means a prude, and have no real issues with the openness and nudity, etc. that goes on here in Germany every day. But my version of PG and the German version of PG are two very different things.

Now this movie was rated PG-13 on American screens, but I didn’t check that before we went. I should have known. This has happened before. Claire and Emma went to a movie last year called “Sommer”. I think it was also rated “ab 6“, so I figured it was okay. When they came home, Claire said she thought Emma hadn’t understood everything, which in the end was probably better. When I saw the trailer for the movie a couple of weeks later, I was shocked. It was about a couple of teenagers and their “first time”! So much for “ab 6“! Continue reading

Buying Shoes for Kids: Germany vs. the US

Just recently, I went to buy my youngest his first pair of shoes. Ty the au pair came with us to chase Olivia through the store, expecting this to be a short process. He was wrong, of course, because this is Germany, and everything takes just a little bit longer! And shoes are very important and very expensive here, especially for children.

We first took Noah to look for shoes before Christmas when he had just started walking. It had been pretty cold here and even I, the American who doesn’t ever put enough clothes on her kids, thought he might be getting a tad bit cold. But we were sent home from the shoe store. I guess kids have to have been walking for a couple of weeks before anyone is allowed to buy them shoes. Even my German husband was surprised, but around here, we must listen to the experts! Continue reading

Doing Math in a Foreign Language

Many a time I have written about German schools, which sometimes seem to be the bane of my life, but are generally pretty okay. It seems that no matter how good the non-German parent was in school (and in our case, that would be me), when confronted with German math problems, I’m lost. And unhelpful. And really really frustrated.

Now granted, my oldest daughter is not a math genius. She would probably do pretty well if she found math interesting and had a little bit of faith in herself (the classic not living up to her potential). But our problems started way back in first grade when they start adding and subtracting. They even subtract differently here. No borrowing and carrying. The little numbers go at the bottom. Division is another story. As soon as I see that math book coming out I want to run for cover. I have to relearn it, remember how we did it, and end up asking my colleagues to explain long division to me German style. Continue reading