I am fresh off the holidays back in America and along with other oddities of reverse culture shock (how much water is in American toilets!?), I have a new one. Even though all of my experience as a parent is in Germany, I would assume that – as an American native – most of these parenting standards are ingrained and it doesn’t matter if I raise a child in Germany or China or Timbuktu, I would raise my child like an American. However, on this last visit it became clear that I am unfamiliar on what is considered a “normal” distance for your child to be from you in the USA.
Without much of a summer, it was like I turned around and it was fall. Luckily, I love fall. Adore. It is my favorite season.
But is was still shocking to see the trees suddenly aflame in orange and red. Walking became difficult as the ground was bumpily carpeted in fallen nuts. The title “Berlin Nuts” feels like I’m talking about the people (hello Berliner Schnauze), but I am being quite literal. As a west coast (USA) native I am thoroughly unfamiliar with these nuts that were suddenly EVERYWHERE.
History of Potty Training in Germany
Germany has an interesting history with potty training and – like so many things – it was done differently in the East than in the West.
I don’t want to say Berliners get a bad rap, because they can be incredibly rude. They live up to the standard German reputation of shutting doors in your face, non-existent customer service, and refusal to engage in simple pleasantries – then up the ante with Berliner Schnauze (literally “Berlin snout”). This phrase perfectly encapsulates Berliner’s unique vocabulary and dialect, coarse humor and general gruffness.
An example of Berliner Schnauze is that gut (good) becomes “yoot” and Ich (ish) changes to “icke”; das becomes “dat” and was is “wat”. Grammar is largely simplified.
The humor (yes – German humor exists) is direct, loud and can be downright crude. Heinrich Zille was a 1920s illustrator closely identified with Berlin sensibilities (example above) and giving realistic depictions of every day life from street prostitution to idyllic days out at Wannsee.
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.
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. Continue reading
Holiday Alert! It is Muttertag (Mother’s Day) this Sunday which means elegant brunches and bundles of flowers – no matter which side of the pond you are on.
Mother’s Day in Germany
But the history of the holiday in Germany, Switzerland and Austria has a unique European slant. Switzerland was one the first European countries to introduce Mother’s Day in 1917. Germany wasn’t far behind with observance beginning in 1922 and Austria in 1926.
The holiday became official in Germany in 1933 under the Nazi regime, highlighting the importance of having more Aryan soldiers. Mother’s Day still takes place on the second Sunday in May, though das Mutterkreuz – a medal given out for multiple children – has fallen out of fashion.
It is that time of year where our latest visiting family member is on their way home (bye Opa!) and we are reminded how very hard it is to have a baby abroad. We have no one to call about a sickness in the middle of the night, no family at her birthday party, and nary a date night in sight.
While there are many positives of raising a child in Germany (hello practically free child care), nothing replaces family. Though we took two periods of parental leave to stay with family in the States – this is a far-cry from being based in the same city, same state, same continent. Through no-fault of their own, our parents are trying to make Long-Distance Grandparenting work.
I’ve written about the German obsession at New Year’s with pyrotechnics for this blog before. This year Berlin was the same as always – air thick with smoke, sky alight with brilliant explosions of colour, and our ears filled with the constant cracking of bangers. After nearly seven years of living in the Hauptstadt, I’m entirely used to it. For all the bewildering bluster of the country’s firework mania, the other rather quaint German traditions for Silvester and New Year become overlooked. It’s those I want to explore here.
Popular with small children and adults alike, Bleigießen (‘lead pouring’ or ‘molybdomancy’ – to give it the proper English name) is an elaborate method of fortune telling for the coming year. It requires a bowl of cold water, a candle, a spoon, a few small metal objects (traditionally lead, but most likely tin today), and a list of interpretations – the latter two can be acquired in any local corner shop or supermarket. Each person at the party is invited to place a small metal piece on the spoon and hold it over the candle flame. As soon as the metal melts (which is very quickly with these little pieces), the molten metal is tipped into the water and whatever the shape emerges is then used to divine the future. Depending on your Bleigießen kit, the interpretations range from the charming (field = luck and happiness) to the bizarre (trumpet = you will gain public office). The whole process does make a mess of your spoon though, so be sure to use an old one! – More about Bleigießen… Continue reading