5 Things I Can Do with a Kid in Germany that I Can’t in the USA

5 Things I Can Do with a Kid in Germany that I Can't in the USA

Baby in a Bar Photo: Erin Porter

I get asked about my experience having a kid and raising her in Germany a lot by my American family and friends. But the truth is, I have nothing to compare it to. Unlike fellow GW contributor Jane, I never had a child in the USA.

However – as an American – I can theorize about some of the differences. The little things that catch me up as a parent, as well as the big things that show how far apart the parenting cultures are. I know that there are at least five things I can do in Germany with a kid that I couldn’t do in the USA.

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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

Becoming seahorses: otherwise known as swimming lessons

Swimming course provider in Berlin

Swimming course provider in Berlin

Yesterday our children – both aged five and a half – had their first swimming lesson. That is more than I ever had: I love to swim but have little recollection of ever having learned how to do it. Until now we have relied on holidays to sunny places with nearby pools and plenty of visits to lakes, on the assumption that our children would somehow organically teach themselves to swim. Indeed, it did make them confident in water but it did not get them securely out of armbands. So when winter descended and we didn’t fancy weekly family Sunday trips to an indoor swimming pool (we are such fans of open water), we signed them up for a set of ten forty-five minute lessons, at a small local pool.

If you start asking around almost all German children seem to have swimming lessons – either organised through their KiTa, privately, or at school – certainly not the case in Eighties’ Yorkshire. But here, in Berlin, it is very much the norm. And where we live in child-heavy Prenzlauerberg that fact means contending with the swimming course waiting list. As with the last waiting list we encountered – the KiTa waiting list – this one was a rather nebulous, not entirely sure what criteria gets you moved further up it, intransparent, six-month affair, negotiated ultimately by that age-old trick of calling up frequently and asking whether it was finally our turn.  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.

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5 points of etiquette for sledging in Berlin

IMG_0792Snow, glorious snow. At last, winter arrived in Berlin and the streets were paved with white. That was two weeks ago – after an unseasonably warm December, the temperatures dropped and it snowed – for a day or two at least. Then it warmed up again and everything melted, until this weekend just past, when once again the air was biting and the skies opened. How the children celebrated. For them, waking up to a fresh layer of snow on a Sunday morning is right up there in life’s pleasures. So we bundled ourselves up, trudged down to the cellar to collect the sledge, and rushed to the park to enjoy the hill before everyone else ruined it.

But it is not quite as simple as just showing up and setting off full-pelt down the slope. If you are new to Berlin, there are a few important points of etiquette to note about snow and sledging.

1. Dress properly

Depending one where you herald from in North America, you may well be accustomed to dressing properly for winter. Not so, if you call the UK your native land. There, where the winters are mild and snows infrequent, you don’t have clue how to be comfortable in really cold weather – you’d be likely to think wellies (aka gumboots) and a heavy woollen jacket would do. They won’t – not when sledging in Berlin anyway. If you’re going to enjoy yourself and to be outside for any length of time, you need to be well dressed. Essentials include: a vest, long underwear (long johns as the Brits call them), woollen socks, thick-soled boots, a woollen jumper, thick gloves, and a down coat (which comes below your hips). Most children will be wearing proper snow boots and padded, waterproof snow trousers as well – as an adult and you have them, you wouldn’t feel out of place wearing yours. Continue reading

Bilingual Nagging

I continue to navigate my way as a parent of bilingual children. We extol the joys and merits of having children grow up speaking two languages — the cognitive agility, the tendency towards more open-mindedness, and the acquisition of the language itself. The nuts and bolts of it however are not as straightforward as we might have thought they would be while the babes are in the womb. It’s not as simple as just committing yourself to one method such as the one language one parent method (OPOL). That was the easy part, and the key to making it work has been discipline. As the kids have grown, however the bumps in the road have been appearing: we’ve been battling Denglish, and I’ve been wary of Englisch in the German classrooms. 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.

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Englischunterricht: English Class in German Schools

Your child is a native English speaker in the German school system. So now what?

Many of us expats are raising our kids multilingually. In many of these cases, our children are native English speakers. We’ve been told that this is a great thing to do, and I for one have been feeling good about our commitment to the one parent, one language method working out. My kids are indeed bilingual.

Haus house Maus mouse. The road to biliteracy might not be as expected. PHOTO: Bundesarchiv, Wikimedia Commons

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