How to find a Kita for your child in Germany | Expat Guide

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Tender beginnings for the  little ones 

Guys, after almost 9 months of waiting, finally, we got a spot for my daughter in a Kita here in Germany!!! 

I know, I know, I heard you, you might say that this is such a normal thing,no big deal, but hey NO! not here in Germany. Believe me, once you got a spot in the Kindergarten or Kita for your child here, you’ve got to be jumping for joy and saying thanks all over again. Because I am telling you, It’s not EASY. It was never EASY.

Okay, maybe I am overreacting, but yes, it is quite a relief when we got the letter from the municipality informing us that my daughter was selected to join a Kita this coming September.It was a long wait and therefore we loooove this  news. A new chapter for my child’s life, and as well as for us parents. Finally,an end to long days and months of waiting.Of course, as a disclaimer, this is purely based on my experience. Maybe someone got so lucky that they immediately find a place for their child in Kita, a case to case basis. But I observed this phenomenon for long months now and therefore have established my opinion about the complicated system for childcare and Kindergarten schools especially here in our area in Bavaria, southern part of Germany.

So how did we got the spot? What techniques did we do?

If you are an Expat parent like me, I am so sure that the moment you moved into a new country and you’ve started to explore your new neighborhood for parks and playgrounds, the next thing you want to establish is joining a playgroup, Nursery, childcare or a Kita /Kindergarten for your little ones especially if you are a working Mama. It is very important to get a support group for your children. This is one of the natural ways in “re-potting the uprooted child”.

“So here’s the truth: Getting a spot in the Kita/Kindergarten for your child here in Germany REALLY ONLY depends on LUCK, or in logical terms-written in the stars, destiny, or some may call it fate, or your blessing!”

What you need to do as a parent ? Here are practical ways ( which I did!) on the course of our application for Kita in a span of almost 9 months;

  1. Do your research. –  I don’t speak German yet but I did a lot of research even prior to arriving here in Bavaria. I made a list from the schools which I saw online even while I was still in Kuwait and then mapped their location once we got here. Depending on the area where you live, find as many Kita that you can in your vicinity. If you apply for 2, the chance is almost zero, but if you apply for at least 8-10, then at least you can have a chance. For complete listings of Kita per area, you can always refer to the information provided online by your local municipality or ask from the Rathaus. For residents in Ingolstadt, there are so many information provided by Stadt Ingolstadt and there is a department who is really in charge of finding a space for every child to be put into a Kita/Kindergarten.There are persons there which main job is this; helping you get that slot for your child ( Freie Plätze in Kindertageseinrichtungen).

 

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My Pre-schooler tiny Goblin

2. Explore and visit the Kita/ Kindergarten in your Area – You need to be out and find the location of the school. As soon as we have the list, we started walking and exploring and visiting the school one by one. It is always good to personally inquire from the staff for any vacancy.

3. Write a formal “Anmeldebogen” ( Application) in Deutsch ( German) and send by post or email– This one is very effective, at least it works for me. Most of the staff I’ve talked via phone always told me that they don’t speak much English so when they read my letter and my inquiry written in Deutsch, I got concrete answers, even quick replies.

4. Follow Up. Every single Month. If you are forceful like me-make phonecalls  to ask for progress. Take time to follow-up. Sometimes, there might be a chance that someone left the Kita or moved away so a vacant space is available. The Kita that we’ve got is the one we’ve got on the opening day and not the first one we’ve applied or visited.Also, take note that depending on your area, you are most likely to get a spot on the place where your local address is linked to.

5.Attend the Opening Day – All Kitas and Kindergartens have an opening day held during the month of January where you can write the application once again for your child at the same time take a tour of the facilities of the school and their profile. This is very important. They have an announcement on this on their websites so pay attention for updates and changes of dates.

In the Kita, it compose normally of 2-3 groups, with around 25 children.During the opening day, I have asked the teachers what are their criteria in choosing a child to be in their Kita and here’s the information I’ve got :

  1. Parent’s status – If both parents are working, single mother/father .
  2. Location of residence, and if you work on certain companies ( like Audi , Schanzer etc.) then you can have some benefits or privileges.
  3. Language of the child/ spoken at home and the age of the child.
  4. Decision by the Municipality ( Department for Children and Families – Kitaplatzkoordinator)

With all these, all you can do is wait for a confirmation from any one of the school that you’ve applied, and nobody knows when will it be.They will give out confirmation around March and have the meeting with parents of the children who were chosen by month of June to prepare them for the  start of semester in September.

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Repotting the Uprooted child

So what are your options if you can’t find a place for your child?

Today, kindergartens here in Germany are an integral, yet voluntary, part of the early education system: Over 80% of all children between three and six years attend a kindergarten in Germany. The state supports parents with monetary incentives, such as tax reductions and child allowance (Kindergeld). The basic concept of Kitas and Kindergarten here are all “play based”, which is totally opposite from the American and English system which has more emphasis on academics. Now, I have written before how kid-friendly Germany is and how it is more AWESOME to be a kid living here. But then have a shortage of Kita really sucks!

Generally, in every area, there’s plenty of Kindergarten to choose from but it seems that it’s still not enough to accommodate the number of children who needs to be enrolled, add the fact the number of migrant’s children and the booming Expat population, especially in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg or in Munich.The staff have always told us that the waiting list is too much and “kein frei platz “( or no vacant space) .Even if there are many options for parents on where to put their child, the competition is still tight.

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Eager to learn..

Here are the childcare options for children ( 3 months up to 6 years old) here in Germany ;

Tagesmutter  ( or Day mother) – yes, you can hire a “Mother“in Germany. The Tagesmutter takes care of 3-5 children in her home, like a small daycare. Tagesmutter take care of your child in their home while you go to work. In most cases they care for additional children as well, so your child is guaranteed to have contact with peers.A Tagesmutter needs to be certified by the youth welfare office and most of them have a Pedagogy background and have a great experience with children.

Nannies-  are also an option in Germany. In contrast to in-home daycare providers, nannies come to your home to care for your child. In-home daycare providers and nannies are not required to be trained early childhood educators.  For a 20-hour week, in-home daycare providers charge an average of 300 to 600 euros per month.

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The long wait is over…

Here in Ingolstadt, in South Germany ( Bavaria) , you can contact the Mobile Familie e.V if you are interested for alternative options. There are equivalent of these services depending in the area where you live.They have the following services available all throughout Germany:

  1. Tagespflege (Daycare)
  2.  Kibeno ( Childcare Emergency Call)- supports parents in emergency situations where a caregiver is needed for the child / child at short notice.
  3. Kinderfrau – ( Childminder) -A childminder regularly takes care of the children in the parents’ household over a longer period of time. The Kinderfrau is employed by the parents.
  4. Au-Pair ( Nanny/Governess) – An au pair lives with a family, supports them mainly with the care of the children and helps in the household.
  5. Notmutter – (Emergency Mother) -An emergency mother takes care of the children of a family in emergency situations, especially when the mother is ill.
  6. Babysitters 

I hope the above information have helped you in a way to have an idea how it goes here when it comes to applying for a Kita/ Kindergarten for your child.

If you have more questions, please feel free to give comments or share your own experience for your child.

For Expat Mamas and Papas who are in this stage, good luck with your application !

 

First signs of Spring ( Frühling) in Bavaria

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Wildflowers in bloom  in Neues Schloss : Early signs of Spring { Photo credit to Sabine Hartmann

A week ago, we tossed our heavy winter jackets and opt for our light jackets and surprisingly,  we managed to enjoy outdoors sans our gloves and bonnets but only when the sun is out. Last weekend, my daughter was back in the saddle and enjoyed cycling once again. After the Karneval season, it seems like the temperatures started to creep high, at least now it’s not negative and no more Glatteis. We’ve had one to two days in a row of lovely sunny days, but often times it’s  still grey and cloudy. The sharp winds brought chills and rains visits us occasionally and you know how it feels when it’s cold and raining at the same time–It sucks!  Weather can be so unpredictable as ever! The snow has  finally melted and the frozen lakes were back to its current again. Despite the obvious signs of spring, winter is still all over here in Germany, especially here in Bavaria.

Although the true arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere does not happen until the spring equinox on March 20, there are signs of the end of winter and the arrival of warmer weather. If you’ve been out, I am sure you wouldn’t miss it.

And yes, our winter gears needs to stay a bit longer more…

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Pussy willows ( Palmkätzchen) ,usherettes of Spring and  the first bush to blossom.

These ‘Pussy willows‘ are all over the place and they are sold everywhere. The best ones are in  the weekend markets. They are perfect home decoration for the coming Easter celebrations. Every Bavarian household makes an ‘Osternbaum‘made of  twigs from ‘Palmkätzchen‘ with plastic Easter eggs hanging on them. I saw these wild  bulbs on our way to the park  last sunday and I couldn’t resist but to take a close up shot!

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These lavender lovelies gives such a happy vibes to the brownish almost barren gardens.

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And look what I’ve met the other day, a gorgeous snowdrop among  bunches of dried leaves in the garden! I am looking forward to find a field of these little beauties. It is so refreshing to see them after the long cold winter days and their color totally remind me of the Winter wonderland in Austria !

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Fresh lilac Crocuses

So many wildflowers are sprouting and starting to bloom. The lilac Crocuses are little wonders, small as they can be. But for the bees, they are the source of inspiration for the coming warmer days.The other day, I saw my daughter playing with a ladybird (Marienkäfer) in the garden and a wasp is hovering over her.

Wilkommen wasps! (or  Bees ) your season will soon be  here!

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Oh wow! Sprouting Daffodils  in our garden!
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Bird houses in every tree!

If taking a hike in the middle of the  woods is your thing just like me, you will be rewarded with an amazing orchestra of the singing birds. A sure sign that feathered animals are coming back and start to nest once again. Bird houses are a common sight as well, even from the porches and balconies of apartments. Also, Wildlife watching is one of the prettiest sights  I have seen nowadays. It’s my first time to see real black swans here, crazily fighting over the breads we tossed, they are prettier than from the ones I saw in movies or internet. Wild birds are in frenzy manic chirping, perhaps they rejoice since they can easily find food nowadays .

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Bright sun shining day !

Daylight saving time  (DST) will soon be back (March 26)  and Huuuuurrayyyyy that the sun is up until 6pm now.Here in Germany, when its bright and sunny like the photo I took last Saturday, everyone is out, walking, cycling, running and exploring like crazy! Germans go out in herds! I see people in scarf and eating ice cream and I have the same cravings as well.

Do you know how Germans look forward and getting ready for Spring?

They are up early, clad in boots and gardening gloves with a rake, cleaning up their gardens and mowing their precious  lawns, and on Saturdays, they all rush to Dehner to grab new planters and seedlings! Yes, it’s true, my neighbor just did this.

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While waiting for Spring : Enjoying a Leberkäse sandwich with some sunshine 

With all these early signs of Spring, who wouldn’t be excited?

I can’t wait for my first German winter to be over and to start shedding all these winter clothing in layers one by one. Unfortunately, most trees are still bare and leaf-less, beer gardens are still not in sight and yes, Brrr,  it is still cold outside!

What about you, what’s your favorite sign for Spring?

 

 

 

Pussy willow home decor

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Twigs with bulbs with fur-like an animal- Wow!

A typical Bavarian home decoration during early days of Spring up to Easter is a bunch of pussy willow branches decorated with painted plastic eggs hanging on them. But it can also be a great home decor to create a “Spring-y“ambiance. The name of pussy willow in German-Palmkätzchen  translates as “palm kittens” or “willow kittens.” Same thing. Since they don’t have many palm trees in Germany, so they use pussy willow for Easter decorations.

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These delightful branches of pussy willow were sold at the local ‘Wochenmarkt ‘ ( wet market)  we visited  this morning. I don’t wanna go home without grabbing some because I really adore these branches at first sight. I didn’t even know what it’s called so we just asked the woman who’s selling these twigs. It’s Palmkätzchen, she said. My husband called them sticks but for me they are so much more. I mean, they really look nice, in a very unique way. Most important thing, here in Bavaria, they are a real sign of spring! Most locals I have seen today are carrying a bunch in their hands, from out and about and even while cycling way home.

The silk-like buds that cover the branches appeal to the Chinese apparently, who use them as a major display at Chinese New Year.  In Northern and Eastern Europe and in America they are often used as a replacement for palm leaves (a practical issue rather than aesthetic, I think – palms don’t grow naturally that far north) on Palm Sunday.But in Philippines, we grew up using palm leaves during Palm Sunday.The blessed wreaths are placed in doors, believing that the household will be protected from tribulations, or natural disaster like lightning strike.

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The pussy willow is the first bush that blooms after the harsh winter. No wonder it is a prominent Easter symbol because out of its dry twig, bursts a beautiful flower of life.It has many uses beyond decoration and spanking.  Willow branches have long been used for weaving baskets and furniture, and even coffins.  The ancient Egyptians as well as back in the eighteenth century, and Oxfordshire man used ground willow bark to cure rheumatic pain and this eventually led to the development of aspirin. A more recent use is in biomass burning to generate electricity, for example at the Drax power station in Yorkshire.

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Easter is a big thing here in Germany and Germans take the egg-decorations seriously. The shops are flooded now with so many Easter decorations, especially the painted plastic eggs, easter bunnies and other mementos.The busyness of having an Ósternbaum (or  Easter Tree) is also one of the traditions which every household look forward. I guess every house also have a vase of these pussy willows.

If you are into decorating your living room, or you want to create a centerpiece for the coming Easter, you can try Pussy willows for an ideal minimalist home decor.Put it in a white transparent vase without water and allow them to dry. If you got them shipped, simply remove them from packaging and allow them to start drying.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and all is well.

Thank you for reading my friends. Stay tuned for more local sightings stories. Oh by the way, did you know that here in Germany, the egg box which normally comes in 12 pieces only comes in 10? Dunno why but I only found out today…

What surprising things you have learned lately?Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

Parks & Playgrounds in Ingolstadt

To tell you frankly, I didn’t appreciate parks & playgrounds until I had a child of my own!

If you have an active toddler like mine, I am so sure that playgrounds have become your best friends. Either indoor play yard or an outdoor sandpit, it always saves your day. It’s one happy place where your kids just let go of their  steam and for a moment, you’ve got the chance to inhale and breathe. I know I’m not alone in this,but when your child is happy, you are happy too!

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Sandpit, play area & wasserspielplatz in Baggersee

There are play areas for Kids..Everywhere!

As a new Expat, you search for grocery shops or bakeries, but for me, one of my early priorities is to look for playgrounds for my daughter to play. Well, Germany is famous for its abundance of outdoor activities and play areas for kids & toddlers. I must say that being a kid here is awesome and has a lot to offer. I was really surprised to find that in almost every neighborhood, there are Spielplatz or play areas for kids. Isn’t that amazing? In the Bike shop, supermarkets and groceries, in Biergartens and restaurants, they always have a  play area where kids can play. There are trampolines & rockers along the busiest shopping streets . Some even have a changing area where you can breastfeed, feed or change the diapers for free!

The one in dm-drogerie is our favorite because you can shop while your kids play. Great thing about dm is it’s absolutely free and very convenient. Did I mention that even in the Rathaus ( or the Town Hall) they have kid toys placed in the walls along the corridor. Very kid-friendly especially during waiting time.

It’s beautiful, natural, safe ,full of creative spaces, and best of all, it’s all FREE!

 

Life being an Expat is challenging. You’ve got no friends yet,you barely speak the language, you don’t even know your neighbors, but your child is screaming out for tiny humans company. A bored child is a whining child so the best thing to do is take her out! Searching for parks & playground is also a perfect chance to get acquainted with the new neighborhood and making new friends.It is actually easy to make friends when you have a kid,it’s less intimidating. The moment kids starting to play with each other, it’s easy to start a conversation. This works well for me so I’m sure it can work with you too.

So here in Ingolstadt, we have discovered quite a number of  parks and playgrounds which has helped us a lot in trying to integrate in this new culture. Here’s our list for our favourites ;

Klenze Park

Klenzepark is a huge oasis for kids (and for adults too). This place has a large field and beautiful park I must say, with trees surrounding it and has luscious  rose gardens with fountains. It is the site for the 1992 Bavarian Garden Festival and has a unique open air museum of German fortification architecture. It will host the 2020  State Flower Show so that’s something to look forward if you love nature & flowers.  Ideally located along the  Donau river, it’s a scenic place where you can take your kids for a lazy stroll, cycling or play in the playground.With the view of the historical Neues Schloss and with the love-lock bridge, this is our favorite spot so far.There is a fountain  (Wasserspieltplatz) with huge rocks where children can enjoy playing in the water especially in Summer.The whole field is also surrounded with small water canals where children (and adults!) splash their feet in Summer.

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Wood basics playground – Eliminating all plastics .

Just beside the Wasserspieltplatz is the Natural Playground. It has  wooden slides, climbing areas, rockers, swings and fun activities for kids. In the center is a sand pit where toddlers & kids  playing in the sand. .It’s very accessible by bike,by walking or by bus. There is an ample underground parking and comfort rooms.Inside the park are Biergartens, cafes, and museums.

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Wasserspieltplatz & Fountain in Klenze park

Luitpoldpark

Luitpoldpark is ideal for all ages and the entire family as  well. There is a forest where you can take your kids to have a short trek, stroll and have quiet walks with all the towering trees above you. This is a secluded place to jog, run and or just taking your dog for a walk. In the center was a playground with slide, rockers, and sand pit where your child can play while parents can have a picnic. I have seen many families having their birthday parties here and meet-ups.Adjacent was a football field where bigger kids can enjoy a football game as well. There is a small hill that is great for toddlers to climb up and run.

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Sun rays peeking in the trees

 

Further down Luitpoldpark is the Biotoperlebnisfad and the Nazi victims memorial park. The paths are ideal for skate boarding, cycling plus  exploring through the woods can let you learn more about the trees and its history &  age. If you like Forestry & Foliage, then this is a great place for you.

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Learning about the Trees in Luitpoldpark

 

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Playtime in a windy day!

Fort Haslang Parks and Playground

We discovered this playground by chance. While we are looking for a Pediatrician for my daughter, we decided to let her play a bit and we found this play ground nearby. It has a scenic field full of short shrubs and flowers, a cycling path with apple trees and forest flowers and in its center is a play ground with sand pit, slides, rockers & plenty of space for children to run around. A bit further is a place for bigger kids where they have ramps for bicycles, ziplines, and table tennis areas. This playground has benches for parents too. Surprisingly, almost all parks & playground in Germany always have an area for parents to sit, drink their coffee and a trash bin. You won’t even need to worry about where to throw the soiled diapers.

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Picking summer flowers in the field of Fort Haslang Parks & playground
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Fort Haslang playground

Wildpark am BaggerseeOberschüttweg

This beautiful wildlife escape is just 15 minutes away from our home. Ideally situated near the Dam and you will have  scenic views of the River Danube and lush forest, a lake, and a Lakehouse with lots of Biergarten & cafes. Discovering the beauty of Baggersee last Summer was one of the highlights of our first Summer here. This place is best for campers during summer, and ideal for cycling. It has 54km stretch for you to cycle til you drop. If you have a kid’s seat attached to your bike like most Germans does or an Anhänger ( Child chariot), then you can easily explore this place thru cycling while having panoramic views of the Auswaldsee.  The Wildpark & Baggersee play area are absolutely free. The wasserspielplatz for kids is one of my daughter’s favorite and I like that it has an active water pumps where parents can do some activity and exercise.

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Wildpark 
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Building sandcastles and playing with sand 

Biergarten Künettegrabenalong Jahnstraße

This Playground is adjacent to a Biergarten. Yes, in Germany, there are Biergartens which has a playground beside it. It has lovely views of the winding bridges, old fortifications, and the ponds filled with ducks.  Go here early in the morning and you can enjoy the peace & quiet. Perfect for nap times too.The playground itself is frequented by pre- schoolers  on their outdoor walks & play times because it is surrounded with trees, and has lots of creative games areas. There is a sand pit, water pipes, slides, swings, turntables, see-saws and table tennis & basket ball courts. They have swings made of old tires.While your kids play, parents can have a happy hour in the Biergarten as well or just feed the ducks!

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Up close with the wild deers in Wildpark

Zoo WassersternGerolfinger Str. / Aloisiweg 19

This small Zoo is a one of a kind attraction for kids. It is a non-profit zoo which houses different animals which look more like a private collection. The place is a combination of a Botanical Garden and a zoo. There are reptiles and birds on the ground floor, an Aquarium and sea animals in the basement and wild birds, monkeys, and birds like parrots, owl and other birds located in the garden. It is frequently visited by Kindergarten students, visitors, and people with disabilities. Ideal for a family getaway on weekends. There are tables & chairs for parents to rest and a changing room for babies.

 

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Climb steps in St.Anton Spielplatz

St. Anton play ground & Park-Münchnerstr.

This playground is very close to the Haupbanhof and just across the St.Anton Church . It is in front of a Pet Zoo shop and has a shady park & play area for the little ones. We love to walk going here. It has a huge field where people do yoga, train their dogs, or just have a lazy weekend picnic. It has a pebble & sand pit, rockers, slides, and a wooden climb & maze paths. It is one of our favorite playground because it is shady and quiet. It is surrounded with ample trees as well.

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Close to nature

I am so thankful that we live in a place where these playgrounds and parks are accessible. As a parent,there’s a lot more to write about playgrounds here in Bavaria, they are really something to be proud of. We keep on discovering new ones each day. Play areas doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. In Germany, the approach for more green, natural, simple & safe play outweighs farther the confines of an indoor play areas.

How ‘s it been Expat Mamas? How was your move so far?

 

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Goodbye Oktoberfest, Hello Lebkuchen!

Today was the last day of  Volkfest here in Ingolstadt and although the weather was  grey, it didn’t stop us from visiting once again the Volksfestplatz.  This has been my first taste of Bavarian  Oktoberfest and so far, it’s really good. It’s really more than just   Beer, sausages and huge Pretzel, it’s one of a kind festival , for all ages &  family oriented, cozy and Gezellig as the Dutchie may call it.

Before we say Auf wiedersehen to Oktoberfest, I grab something that really interests me, the German Lebkuchen-the original Gingerbread! Now who wouldn’t be captivated by this yummy looking  heart-shaped cookie? Hmmm Lebkuchenhertz

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Bavarian Lebkuchen, with writing “I like you”

I had my first taste of Lebkuchen when my husband brought some from his business trip in Munich last year. Here in Bavaria, Fall season comes along with abundance of these threats which is clearly seen in the shelves of local supermarkets, along with German baked cakes and pies in food stalls in the city center, and of course, a crowd pleaser in every Volksfest. There’s something very festive when you see these Lebkuchen hearts hanging in Fruhshoppen. You just got to grab one!

The one country that takes gingerbread making to a whole other level, especially for the holidays, is Germany. Of all the countries in Europe, Germany is the one with the longest tradition of flat, shaped gingerbread. Christmas season is when gingerbread makes its most impressive appearance. The German practice of making Lebkuchen houses (gingerbread houses) has caught on worldwide and is a fun and festive tradition in numerous countries around the world.

They range in size from small saucers to large platters and are strung with a ribbon for easy wearing. Of course they are decorated with the obligatory messages of love: “I love you” (Ich liebe Dich), “You’re my sweetheart” (Du bist mein sußes Herzchen) and “I think only of you” (Ich denke nur noch an Dich) and of course, since we lived in Bavaria, the famous Bavarian phrase,  I like you “I mog di”.

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Lebkuchen, the original Gingerbread cookie

Nuremberg, Germany is considered to be the mecca of gingerbread. Each bakery keeps its recipe a secret. The Lebkuchen (gingerbread) has a Protected Designation of Origin and must be produced within the boundaries of the city. In 1643, the city officially recognized the Lebkuchen-Baker profession by creating the “League of Lebkuchen-Bakers.” In 1645, the league created strict guidelines that commercial bakers had to follow in order to sell their lebkuchen.

Did you know that in Nuremberg, Germany, the quality of the lebkuchen gingerbread was so high that it was used as currency?

Leaving the Oktoberfest grounds without one of these for your sweetie is against the rules. So if you’re in Germany and have seen these yummy threat hanging in one of the stalls and bakeries, go ahead, indulge and have a bite. It is Goodbye for now for Oktoberfest but definitely a warm Hello to Lebkuchen season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprising things that German parents do

 

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This is a typical sight in Germany. Mama on the bike and baby on board in bike seat. Photo credit to : Young Germany / Michael Reichel

The first time I saw in Amsterdam a mother cycling with her 2 kids inside a rather impressive ‘ BakfietsBakfiets‘ and’ Kinderzitje’ ( Kid’s seat attached on the rear end of a bike)  I almost shrieked and laughed! How could this be,  in Philippines, Bakfiets or the modern SUV in Holland could resemble much like the Kariton  dragged by an animal ( mostly carabao)  with the harvest from the farm, mostly sacks of rice. In the fields, kids play  while riding it, but purely for fun. In Holland, it’s functional. Bakfiets are attached to a bike and in it, is your child, along with bag of  groceries, plants, toys, you name it, it’s all in there! Such a surprising part of Dutch culture that Dutch are known for.

Here in Germany, I saw something else. As I roamed the streets getting to know our neighborhood, I saw and witnessed more and more surprising things about Parenthood that only German parents do with their kids.  To tell you frankly, before coming to Europe, I thought  Germans are strict, cold, and severe people, let alone being parents, but I was completely mistaken. Here are the reasons why ignorance doesn’t pay and why I love just how  German Parents doing it, the German way.

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Why ‘ free play’ is important in German kids.

Play comes first (until 6 years old!)

I saw from my friend’s feed that their toddlers & pre- schoolers are already being taught how to scribble, write, draw, count and do the academic side of learning. Do you know what German  Kindergarten kids do ?

They play, play & play.

As I was applying for a space for my daughter in a Krippe  & Kindergartens , we were invited to visit and have a look at their school and this is where I got the whole picture of playing as the best form of learning for toddlers until 6 yrs. of age here. Kindergartens  in Germany are based on the concept that  learning is a game of mind (or  lernen ist ein spiel der sinne).

While Kindergarten normally starts at the age of 3, most parents who are urged to go back to work immediately can already put their child ( from 6 mos) in a Krippe or Kita. I saw that the kindergarten is full of different play-areas, fun games and interactive media for kids to just play while learning. Learning to  read, write and count is not being pushed. I was shocked at same time  totally impressed to see a tiny 2-year-old toddler struggle to put on her socks and jacket in the corridor, all by herself. All kindergartens have a spacious outdoor playground with sand pits, climbing areas, ball pits, slides and natural maze that kids can enjoy free-play,while having fun! When they get tired, they have a nap room.

Most kindergarten kids are taken out for a walk touring around the city or just a walk in the woods for an outdoor learning. They also visit nearby playgrounds to play, outside their classrooms. They really give a whole new meaning for playing while learning.

As they say, You are only 3 once in your life, so I find this whole thing of “unstructured playing” very beneficial. Seriously, being a kid is more fun in Germany!

Take their kids Outside-Everyday!

Germans just love the outdoors so they take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” which sounds logical to me. The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious in Germany’s numerous playgrounds. In our neighborhood alone, you can go to 3 different playgrounds within 2 hours!  No matter how cold and grey it gets, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own. I see babies napping in the forest, parks and in the busy streets. Kids are taught subconsciously the value of nature to overall well-being. Walking and strolling everyday is part of every family’s routine.

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Enjoying outdoors

Freedom and Independency is encouraged as early as age of 2

Along the streets you see mothers walking with their kids on their walking bike at a very young age. Almost still toddling and yet learning how to balance and to pedal the bike. It’s not unusual to see toddlers already cycling at the age of 2.5 y/o and preschoolers cycling going to school. When they eventually learned to cycle, they took them cycling almost everywhere. German parents instill in the minds of their kids to be independent by equipping them with skills to explore by themselves,alone & unsupervised. As research have proved that walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility”  is good for kids. Nobody follows a kid in the playground. If you see a mother following wherever her kids go, then she’s a foreigner! I tell you, this is what surprised me the most, I am the only mother who runs after my daughter while all the other mothers are just sitting in the bench.

In the parks & playground, mothers are often drinking tea, coffee and chatting with their friends while they let their kids climb and play. They are so lax in parenting because the safety measures and security is highly efficient. They already removed all the risks even before a child touches what’s in the play areas. Playgrounds are very safe for kids, mostly made with wood, with sand and plastics are mostly omnipresent.

Giving them Bikes instead of iPad or Playstation

German parents give less regard on tech gadgets to entertain kids such as iPad or Playstation or XBox , psp etc. I seldom see kids playing with iPad or computer games. This is because of great emphasis on playing outdoors. Almost everyone owns a  Bike carrier, kid’s seat and a big part of toddler life is owning a kid’s bike. Why? because it promotes being active, functional & again, independency.

If the Dutch  have Bakfiets, then Germans have  their carriers. Of course, take it on German efficiency. I  observed that  kids are brought into an early exposure to be part of the society. The kids are tucked into their carrier, in a kid’s seat at the back of the bike or in a stroller and off they go in everyday life. There is no excuse for German parents for not bringing their kids along. I love the fact that having a kid in Germany shows that a child is not an excess baggage that you bring along with your chores or errands. Add up the efficient transport system then parents doesn’t need to worry about bringing along a baby in a stroller. Even if public transportation isn’t your thing, Germany is a very bike-friendly country.  Even if with kids.  Especially with kids.

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My daughter enjoys the limitless fun in one of the Wasserspielplatz in Germany.

Bringing their kids to Biergarten

German parents knows how to enjoy  before and after the baby comes. We all know that they love (adore)  beer and Oktoberfest. I was shocked to see locals bring along their kids while they socialize, drink beer and relax.In our place alone, you can find Biergartens almost in every corner. Nowadays they are transformed  into a great family destination. Who doesn’t want to do things as a family on a Friday night?

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German kids are exposed to responsible drinking at an early stage since Beer is a big part of their culture. Parents don’t get wasted just because they go to a Biergarten. (Photo credit to ExtraPrimaGood)

Biergartens have become a go-to destination for family outings, play dates and toddler birthdays. On weekend afternoons, many transform into Gymboree-like spaces with multiple brews on tap. If beer is not your thing, then don’t worry, there are juices, lemonades and hearty bites for you. The great thing is, having a kid doesn’t hinder your social life.

What do you think of German parenting?

Do you think you can raise your own child the German way?

 

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25 Surprising Facts about living in Germany

 

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Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Germany. Deutschland. Alemanya…

This is the place where I called my second home now. The land famous for its scenic landscapes, Beer and Sausages ( Wurst).Known for its long winters and beautiful Christmas markets.Well,  everyone knows that Germany doesn’t need any introduction about their cars. The name speaks for themselves. BMW. Audi, Porsche, Mercedes- Benz, and Volkswagen .

Before I came here, my knowledge about Germany is so little and living here now, I have found so many odd  (new!) things that I found surprising that eventually becoming a second skin to me.

Just like what they say ;  Wie wollen wir  leben ‘? or  { How do we want to live? } .

The German way. Like for example, do not wish anyone a ‘Happy Birthday’if its not yet their actual Birth date because its considered as Bad Luck!  These things are based on what I have encountered from the locals and observations from day-to-day living here. Most of what I’ve wrote are stereotypical local sightings here in Bavaria, a very traditional German neighborhood.

Here’s a post that I hope would help any Expats learn about  Germans and their way of life.

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Pretzel with Würst and Beer -Typically German
  1. There is just so many Wurst (Sausages). So.HUGE selection.From Weisswürst, BrühwurstCurrywürst to Salami and the very well-known Bratwürst. They love pork so dearly.In different sizes and colors and shapes. The cold cuts (Aufschnitt)   and sausage section in the supermarkets are way larger than any areas inside any supermarket I have ever seen in my entire life.
  2. Germans love Sparkling water or Seltzer. They loved to mix it with apple juice, beer & wine.Expect a huge line of mix-up drinks in the beverages section in the supermarket like  Spezi (Cola +Fanta ), Radler ( Beer + Sprite or 7 Up).  In a restaurant, don’t wait for the waiter to serve you water, you won’t get any.Better order a bottled water and you need to say if its carbonated or not.
  3. A Frankfurter or commonly known as Hotdog is actually not the same as Bratwürst
  4. Germans take their Recycling SERIOUSLY. Expect to have at least 4 Bins in your house and learn how to do it properly and correctly. I am still learning and still at my wit’s end many times. When its time for collection, the bins are out there, standing in attention in the sidewalk.Glasses are sorted as per colors. The brown glasses have a separate bin out there, walk a little bit further in your neighborhood and you’ll find it. Nobody throws drinking bottles, its being returned with refund from the supermarket you bought it so you can use on your next purchase.
  5. Saying Hello upon entering a shop and Tchüss ( Bye) upon exiting is like an automatic voice prompt . Not saying these words will give you crazy death stares sent directly at you.
  6. Be quiet on Sundays (Ruhetag) or else…Jeder Tag is Ruhetag!!
  7. Nobody JAYWALKS! No one. Shame on you if you beat the red light.This Little Green Man is the Boss .
  8. Everything is closed on Sundays. Yes, so you better get your supplies on time.The busses barely run,the whole town becomes so silent. It’s tough when you found out you ran out of bread!
  9. There’s no Bagger in the supermarkets in Germany. Expect that the Cashier already finished scanning all your goods even before you grab your wallet and get your bag. Be quick or else you’ll receive  deadly stares from the persons behind you.
  10. Walking is a lifestyle. You walk .Even the old people keeps on walking.Everyone takes a walk, serioulsy, everyday.From the parks or to just around the neighborhood.The dogs are being walked even in the rain. You need to walk everyday. It’s healthy.
  11. Don’t think that all those in the Carrier (Kinderanhaenger farrad) attached in a bike are babies. Some of those are for beloved pets like dogs being taken for a walk in the park .
  12. Oktoberfest is not in October. It’s in September, ends the first weekend of October and it’s also not only celebrated in Munich (however, the Munich one is the largest).
  13. The amount of Public Holidays is so many compared to other countries. This is also depending on the  state you are living in. In Bavaria, they tend to have more.
  14. Germans work when its time for work and relax when its time to relax.
  15. The public transport is excellent. The busses are on time and the trains are reliable . Everything is so convenient from  A to B.All buses have handicap and baby friendly with an assigned place for strollers.So convenient. Even the taxis have child’s car seat handy if there’s a child passenger.
  16. Riding your bicycle becomes your most prefered method of transport from A to B. Children as young as 3 years old learns to ride a bike.
  17. Children in school normally gets out from the classroom and takes morning walks and city tours as part of their school activities. Talk about outdoor education!
  18. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!
  19. Beer! You will drink lots of Beer. Prost!
  20. Germans love to go in Biergarten ( An outdoor seating /garden while drinking beer & enjoying a meal). Even toddlers are welcome to join in there.
  21. Germans apologize for speaking not so fluent English, but in a way they are speaking just well.If you’re an Expat trying out your German skills, expect that they will reply in English!
  22. The Public toilets and bathrooms are  CLEAN. There are baby changing rooms in almost public shops and restaurant.
  23. Don’t forget to bring your own bag, basket or backpack whenever you shop or else you’ll end up paying for each plastic bag you need for your purchases.
  24.  Germans love gardening and making their garden so cozy. No matter how small it is, It’s always nice to see each houses with plants and flowers.
  25.  Nobody loves BBQ more than the German does. Every sunny weekend, expect that you smell grilling right outside from your window.People having BBQ even from the upper balconies. We joined this bandwagon and get ourselves an electric grill too!

So ,what do you think of German living and lifestyle? Do you think you can live here? Have you ever tried their famous ‘Pretzel or Breze ‘ ?

If you knew of anything that seems like a culture shock to you,or clarify anything, feel free to write in the comments below. I would love to hear yours!