Few more days & it’s Halloween!
Time for Jack-o-Lanterns to adorn the doorsteps and for giant Pumpkins to spice up the chilly Autumn days, for little kiddos to put out their creative costumes as the tale of Frankenstein awakens once again.
We all know that Halloween is typically an American thing. But Halloween in the place where The Walking Dead is filmed is even more special. A sure threat for horror & zombie enthusiasts! In Atlanta,where they host a zombie walk, zombie run, zombie convention, the Buried Alive Film Fest, and Atlanta Horror Fest. Even the movie Zombieland was filmed in Atlanta.
But how does a Southern Girl from Atlanta, Georgia a.k.a Zombie capital of the World turn her own tiny balcony in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin into a pumpkin patch for her little Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) to do trick-or-treating during Halloween ?
It’s time to meet the LeBlancs for us to know.
For our 6th series in our amazing Expat-Mamas around the World, we are featuring Christy LeBlanc, an American Expat Mama in Berlin, Germany. From the land of Big Peaches, Coca Cola and famed Hip hop capital of the world, Christy spreads her Southern charm into the Street Art kaleidoscope– Berlin. Christy moved into Germany last year with her husband Adam,whom she met during her college days, and her 3-year-old Miss Payton plus their King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Macy.
Here’s my Interview Story with Christy about her new found second-home & fascinating adventures as a Trail-blazing wife and first time Expat-Mama in Berlin .
Expat -Mama in Berlin : Adventures abroad with the LeBlancs
Christy is the Blogger behind the Our Adventures in Germany. She’s an Elementary School Teacher and a hands-on home maker. She loves traveling ,Crafting, Monograms, Baking & being a personal photographer of Miss Payton. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia in the US. Christy was raised in a traditional Southern home and surrounded with lots of family and grew up with home-made cooking.
On being a Southern Girl native
From a young age, I was taught to always respect my elders, have the best of manners, and above all get a good education. After graduating from high school, I moved to Athens Georgia to attend The University of Georgia. Little did I know that when I walked into Snelling Dining Hall just two weeks after starting college, I would meet my future husband! Adam and I dated all through college, began our first jobs after graduating (Adam is a CPA and I was an elementary school teacher at the time.) We got married on the 4th of July the summer of 2009 and four years later welcomed our sweet daughter, Payton, into the world.
On being a First time Expat-Mama & Expecting,again!
When Adam’s job asked us to move abroad to Berlin Germany in 2015, we jumped at the chance to travel Europe and experience life in another country! It was difficult at first adjusting to such a different lifestyle, but now we love it! We are also expecting another baby girl in November.
On Living in Berlin and getting used to walking
Living in Berlin has been such an amazing experience! We made a big change moving from a house in a quiet suburb of Atlanta to a flat in the much more urban environment of Berlin. One big change was getting used to walking everywhere and taking public transportation. We sold both of our cars when we moved to Berlin and have actually gotten along quite well without them! It is so easy to use the public transportation out here, and I have thoroughly enjoyed walking all over the city!
Life in Prenzlauer Berg, Christmas Markets & Kindercafes
We are in love with the beautiful neighborhood that we live in, Prenzlauer Berg! Our flat is located on a breath-taking cobblestone street with a view of the TV Tower and of a historic water tower from the 1800’s. We live in a traditional Altbau (prewar apartment) that is over 100 years old. Our neighborhood is very family friendly! There are “kindercafes” (child-friendly cafes that have toys and activities for children) everywhere and playgrounds on almost every block.
On German Childcare
When we first moved to Prenzlauer Berg and began looking into childcare, we had no idea how difficult it would be to find a spot at an available kindergarten or “kita” in Prenzlauer Berg! Apparently our neighborhood has one of the highest birthrates in all of Europe, so practically everyone here has to put their names on waiting lists for months before securing a spot. After waiting about 2 1/2 months, Payton was finally accepted into a public kita only a 10 minute walk from our flat! It is an all-German kita, and Payton is the only American child! The benefit is that she is picking up the German language very quickly! I was surprised to learn that German kindergartens are very different than American preschools. They are less-structured and favor more of a Montessori Approach. They also do mixed-age grouping, which is not as common in the United States.
On Play-comes-First approach in learning
Payton’s classroom is very child-centered and focuses mainly on free play and socialization. American preschools traditionally have more of a disciplined, academic environment than German kindergartens. As a former preschool teacher I struggled with the differences initially, but now I have embraced it! Payton has learned so much, and she is so happy at kita! In Berlin they teach the children to be independent from a young age, and I was amazed to see Payton drinking out of a cup, using the bathroom by herself, and even serving her own food at lunchtime – all at age 2!
On Germany’s generous support for Children or Kindergeld
One of the other incredible things about living in Berlin is the financial perks! German kindergartens are completely free for children to attend until they begin primary school around age 6! In the United States parents have to pay hundreds of dollars on daycare and preschool before sending their children to primary school! Berlin also has something called the “kindergeld” which entitles parents to around 180 euros per child to offset the financial costs of raising a family!
On Quality of Life for Expats and their family
The quality of life here is amazing! The living expenses are very affordable in Berlin! It is also so much more relaxed than the fast-paced life in the United States. Adults tend to work fewer hours, families spend more time together, and everyone is outside all of the time enjoying the weather! During the warmer months the cafes are packed with people enjoying glasses of wine and cups of coffee, and the playgrounds are filled with children. The companies out here offer a generous amount of vacation time and paternity leave, which is a huge difference from the United States! Also, everyone out here travels all of the time since you can easily take a short flight or train from Berlin just about anywhere in Europe for a long weekend! We have seen so many amazing places since moving to Germany!
How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country?
On being pregnant in Berlin
It has been an interesting experience being pregnant with our second child in Berlin. The medical care in Germany is excellent for pregnant women! A majority of women in Berlin see a doctor and a midwife over the course of their pregnancy. After the birth, the midwife takes on the primary role of providing care for the mother and baby. I love that the midwife will come to your home for up to 8 weeks post birth to do medical check ups and even give helpful advice on infant care and breastfeeding! I have also felt a lot more involved in my pregnancy here in Berlin as compared to the United States.My doctor and midwife both work at small practices with very personalized care. My doctor does ultrasounds at every appointment, so I have gotten the privilege of watching our baby girl grow and change over the months of my pregnancy. In the U.S. I only had 3 ultrasounds during my first pregnancy. My midwife comes to our flat for most of our appointments and has spent so much time with me explaining how healthcare in Germany works and what to expect when I give birth in Berlin.
On German Mutterpass as the Lifeline of every Expecting Mama
Another thing that is different in Germany is you are given a “mutterpass” at your first prenatal appointment which is a small booklet where the doctor and midwife record your medical history, tests results, and appointments throughout your pregnancy. You are supposed to carry it with you at all times in case you are in an emergency situation and need to provide information on your pregnancy.
On bridging the cultural Gap
It is tough raising our 3-year-old and preparing to give birth thousands of miles away from our family. It’s probably the biggest sacrifice we made when we moved out here. Luckily, our family has come out to visit us here in Berlin on multiple occasions, and we have been able to make a couple trips back to the U.S., as well. Thanks to technology we are also able to stay in constant touch with texts, e-mails, and Facetime!
What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?
On the Laid back parenting of German parents
It has been interesting adjusting to raising a child here in Berlin! Adam and I were both raised in the south where parents are very hands-on and expect good manners at all times. We were expected to say “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” to our elders and to be gracious and kind to everyone no matter what. In Berlin, parents tend to be a bit more hands-off compared to Americans when it comes to raising their children. If you go to any Berlin playground, you will notice that most of the parents are sitting on the sidelines instead of hovering over their children. Parents in Berlin believe that the best way for the kids to learn how to get along with others is by working things out on their own. Unlike American parents you generally won’t see Berlin parents intervene when children get into a disagreement with another child (unless of course it escalates to something more physical). Berlin children learn from a young age to be independent and to stand up for themselves, which are definitely great qualities!
Since we will be returning to the United States next summer, I do worry sometimes that I don’t do a good enough job of balancing both cultures. I want Payton to be able to adjust well to being in an “American style” preschool and be able to get along well with her American peers. My hope is that Payton will end up being a very well-rounded child after being exposed to more than one culture!
On raising an Independent Bilingual Kid
Overall, I think Payton has truly benefitted from the German culture! Not only is she soaking up a new language, but she has acquired so many new skills just from attending kindergarten! The teachers at kita expect the children to do daily tasks on their own and encourage creativity and independence in everything the kids do.I have watched Payton’s confidence soar over the last year. I know she is going to be very sad to leave Berlin when we move; she loves our life here and gets homesick whenever we travel back to the United States for extended visits.
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
I think I make a difference as an Expat Mama in Berlin by not only being open to learning all about German culture, but also by sharing some of my own American culture, as well! I have done my best to have an open mind from the start, and I have tried to embrace the new language and customs. Southern hospitality is very important where I am from in the U.S., and I love sharing that part of my American life with Germans that I meet here in Berlin. I try to do small things like deliver hot meals to new mothers (as is customary in the U.S.), bring small gifts and thank you notes to Payton’s teachers at kita, and invite neighbors over to take part in our American customs like Halloween and Thanksgiving! One of the best parts about living in such an international city like Berlin has been meeting new people from all over the world and sharing our different cultures with each other. I feel that my time here in Berlin has really expanded my views. It has been an incredible learning experience that will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on my life even after we return to the United States.
Thank you so much Christy for allowing me to share about your life as an Expat Mama and being part of this wonderful series.You have a beautiful family & I am glad to be in your circle.
P.S. All photos are of personally owned by Christy LeBlanc and should you wish to use it or ‘borrow’ it, please do mention her out of courtesy.
Follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany for more of my Expat stories and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, you might want to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.