Dressing your Kid for German KiTa

Photo: Erin Porter

My latest haul from another expat family. Photo: Erin Porter

When my baby started Krippe last fall I thought I was ready. I was distracted with moving apartments, loads of typical German paperwork and internet disasters. We had steeled ourselves for our baby spending time away from us for the first time. We thought we had this.

However, suggestions from the Erzieherin started coming in slow and haven’t stopped. Continue reading

Food at German Schools

Photo: Erin Porter

Photo: Erin Porter

Every morning I scramble around our kitchen, looking for appropriate snacks for a 15-month-old. Cucumber? I think she is eating that lately. German roll, or rice cake? Blueberries are always a yes. Is Würstchen trying too hard?

Blearily, I stash these goods in her little green lunch box and send her off to Krippe. And even if she doesn’t eat my lovingly packed breakfast and Vesper (snack) I know she is getting a warm lunch at school everyday.

Continue reading

Preparing your Child for Preschool in Germany

Ready to play

Ready to play for a living.

Do Germans have a saying for “When it rains, it pours”? After months (and months) of house hunting we finally got a place, only to be offered another Wohnung right after that. Now we just need to find a Nachmieter (a renter to take over our current lease), move, clean and settle into the new place…all while our baby is starting Krippe (baby daycare). Easy, right?

Her first day of school is October 1st and I am almost thankful for the housing chaos.  With all this madness I don’t have too much time to think about my baby leaving me.

Continue reading

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

Take my baby! Please? Applying to Krippe

Applying for daycare in Germany

PHOTO: Erin Porter

About two weeks ago I found myself sitting in a school office with my husband and 4-month-old in her most respectable onesie. We were applying for a spot in next fall’s class and doing our best to look like an upstanding family they would want in their KiTa.

But – wait! Wasn’t I just writing the guide to have a baby in Germany? Wasn’t I just having my baby? How are we applying for schools already!?

Continue reading

Being “Normal”

Tonight I had dinner with a friend who has been living here in Germany for about as long as I have. We first met virtually through a Facebook post of a mutual friend and discovered we were both in Heidelberg. The commonalities continued when we talked on the phone for the first time. She was pregnant with twins and basically immobile, so we had time to chat. She had spent her high school years in my home town, went to the rival high school, attended the same university I did at the same time, and studied at the same university in England at the same time as my best friend. She also had a German husband and her son was close to Olivia’s age. Whenever we meet up, which due to our busy lives is not as often as I would like, it feels a bit like I found someone who “gets” me.

After years and years abroad you tend to forget what it is like to talk to someone with the same or similar background to you, not only in the sense of being American, but also speaking to someone who grew up around the same time and has the same pop cultural references, for example. K. gets the jokes about Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock. She knows what a Trapper Keeper is. These may seem like small things, but no matter how long you live in a particular country, you will never have that same history with the people who grew up there.  Continue reading

Nude bathing and traffic signs: 10 things that didn’t fall with the Wall

Lichtgrenze - East Side Gallery, Berlin

Temporary Lichtgrenze in Berlin to celebrate 25 years since the fall of the Wall
PHOTO: Andrea Goldmann

Last Sunday (9th November) Berliners celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A momentous occasion movingly marked by temporarily dividing the city again with a 9-mile “Lichtgrenze” made up of illuminated white balloons along the old division, which were then let off into the misty night sky at the same time the first people crossed the border all those years ago. Though the few remaining stretches of the Wall in Berlin are only there for the sake of history and tourism, not all aspects of GDR-life have been so thoroughly dismantled. From politics to bathing habits, what has survived these past 25 years? 

Continue reading

All Day School (Ganztagsschule)

Here in Eppelheim (near Heidelberg), there has been a lot of controversy about the new Ganztagsschule that started this school year. There had been talk of it for ages, but it finally came to fruition for this school year. However, many, many people are unhappy with the way it was implemented and with the results of that.

Last year sometime there was a survey of all parents asking who would be interested in sending their kids to all-day school. Apparently 51 parents said they would be interested in the school, but the survey was unverbindlich (non-binding). The next thing we heard, they were closing the Hort and no one had a choice any more. We always knew that the first graders would have to do Ganztagsschule, but the 2nd – 4th graders were supposed to have a choice in the  matter. Now, for working parents, there is no choice. There has been an uproar since, especially because they changed the pricing scales for the so-called Randzeiten (7-8am and 4-5pm, plus Fridays from 12 noon and during school holidays). Because the state is no longer subsidizing the care, and is instead putting money into the all-day school, many people are paying a lot more for a lot less. The costs worked out well for us because they based them on the number of kids under 18 in the household. But I can imagine that single parents or parents of only one child will really be forking it over for the child care. What a mess! Continue reading