Summer night at the Freiluftkino (open-air cinema)

IMG_4642A couple of weeks ago we had night without children (they were having a sleepover in the KiTa – worthy of another blog post). But what a rarity! Seeing a film was the obvious choice – prior to parenthood we went to the movies all the time. But it had been a beautiful summer’s day and the thought of spending the long light evening in a dark cinema didn’t seem to fit. The answer? Freiluftkino (open-air cinema).

Freiluftkinos barely exist in the UK, I suppose because the weather is too consistently inclement. I do know of one: the central courtyard of Somerset House in the middle of London screens movies for a few weeks in the summer – but that’s just a big screen and lots of people sitting on hard concrete using plastic bags as make-shift groundsheets and tucking into packets of crisps. It simply pales in comparison to the properly established infrastructure of the Freiluftkinos here.  Continue reading

Learning German for Kids

We expats are coming and going, not always when we want to. My friend Ann Belle of family-friendly North Rhein Westfalia blog Belle NRW had to relocate back to the United States late last year reluctantly. After the initial years of stumbling to find her way as an expat mother, she launched Belle NRW, and was also comfortable and relishing in the positives of having her American children ages five and three in a German kindergarten. One of the biggest pluses, of course, was that they were learning the German language. So, it was with some regret that she was removing them from this daily immersion to repatriate back to America.

Before she left, she asked me for some book and toy recommendations that might help them retain their German. This is the list I sent: Continue reading

Eggs on trees – 5 favourite German Easter traditions

Osterglocken - daffodils in English

Osterglocken – daffodils in English

I love Easter in Germany. It’s full of decorations, rituals and get togethers – almost like a mini Christmas but with better weather promising the arrival of spring.

It is a bigger celebration than anything I experienced in the UK. This could be because in my childhood we were not frequent churchgoers, but I don’t think it’s just down to that. At nursery and school we didn’t do much for Easter either – the odd Easter egg competition but that was that. Mostly, we were concerned with chocolate.

But as at Christmas, the Germans, whether actively religious or not, stay loyal to older, family-oriented traditions, which start before the official Easter-time from Good Friday onwards begins.

1. Blowing Eggs 

The first Easter-related activity is decorating eggs. This takes place a good couple of weeks before Easter and involves blowing out the contents of the egg through a tiny pin prick in the bottom and top. The egg shells are rinsed and left to dry. They are then carefully painted by children and grown-ups alike in a cacophony of colours. 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

Bis Bald: 10 Things I Love About Germans

For my last official post as part of the regular writing crew here at The German Way, I’d like to be typically American and end on a positive note. Here are 10 things I love about Germans:

1. Their honesty. You will never doubt the sincerity of a compliment that comes from a German. In my first job in Germany, my boss’ comment at my mid-year review was “I have no complaints.” I am on the cusp of generation-feedback-junkie, and was a little underwhelmed at his comment. He then went on to explain that this was a typically German way of telling me I was doing my job well. Okaaaaay… so when they really compliment you, they must really mean it.

2. Their precision. This goes for all manner of things: conversation, instructions, engineering, … The list is quite possibly endless. Being out of the country, I miss the precision of engineering and design in German appliances. I am lucky to benefit from the engineering and design of the German car I drive. This precision extends to verbal and written instructions, all of which will be conveyed to you when you purchase anything. They care about things working properly, which is good. Continue reading

How I Became Fluent in German Fast

I’ve been meeting many more expats now that I am living in the heavily populated Rhineland/Ruhr region of Germany. These expats range from old timers/lifers to newbie/temporary assignees. As any expat can relate to, the newbies are grappling with learning the German language: some try private tutelage, others secure places at the local VHS, while others make the deep plunge for the Goethe Institut in Düsseldorf. Most of them ask me about my level of German and how I learned. I admit that it was a quick ascent to fluency for me, and I know that I was fortunate to not have problems with the German language as an expat woe. (I was instead confounded by the local Swabian dialect while living in Swabia.)

A glimpse of my German language text books. Photo credit: Jane Park

A glimpse of my German language text books. Photo credit: Jane Park

Continue reading

Berlin Suburbia: An Expat Guide


View of the Fensehturm from Mauerpark in Prenzlauerberg

We decided against buying a fancy coffee machine when we moved to Berlin because right downstairs from our flat is a cafe which serves a good espresso; the coffee in the cafe two houses further is even better. At the end of our road is a gloriously big park and at the other end the full spectrum of food shops – from Lidl to a high-end organic deli. 10 minutes from Alexanderplatz, 15 minutes from Mitte and its world-famous museums, 20 minutes from Kreuzberg and 20 minutes from Hauptbahnhof (Berlin’s central station): we live centrally and happily so. But friends who used to live nearby have upped sticks and moved to the suburbs. Missing them and curious to know how it has changed their lives, we ventured out to visit at the weekend. It was a lovely spot – green and quiet. Their flat is much bigger than their old one and they have something near unheard of in the city – a garden. Their children will be able to walk to school along quiet tree-lined streets; no tram-tracks, heavy lorries or police sirens to contend with. Because living as centrally as we do is not typical for most major cities, especially with a family, got us thinking about what life might be like if we too were to consider Berlin suburbia – useful knowledge for any expat considering a move to Berlin.

1. Zehlendorf

Main features: South west Berlin, formerly in the American sector, now part of the administrative district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, less ethnically diverse than many other parts of Berlin, votes predominantly CDU.

What you might like: The small but bustling high street right next to the S-Bahn station reflects Zehlendorf’s earlier history as a separate village on the outskirts of Berlin – it has everything from arthouse cinema to H&M, from fancy cake shop to rustic bakery. Continue reading

Tag der Deutschen Einheit: a view of Berlin 24 years on

As I sat looking out over the tourist boats on the Spree, drinking up the soft autumn sunshine, I had a flickering insight that this moment encapsulated much of modern Berlin. How fitting, I thought, for the occasion, and returned my mind to the conversation. This was last Friday (3rd October) – Tag der Deutschen Einheit – and 24 years since reunification. As the history of this national holiday has been written about in excellent detail elsewhere on this blog and website, I shall stay in the present. So what was striking about this relatively commonplace scene for a Hauptstadt dweller?  Continue reading