Raising kids as an Expat in Germany

I've been an expat for nearly 10 years. Although I have only been an Expat Mum for 2,5 years and only been in Germany for 3,5 years. Even though it hasn't been that long, I have had quite a few challenges with being a parent here, as an expat. But hey! I'm sure you guys don't just want my word for it. So I thought I'd ask some other mums and dads who are raising kids in Germany, and who just happen to also be expats.

I wanted to know what the biggest challenges are with raising kids here. And of course, as you all know, we have like 2 weeks of summer throughout the year and I have been stalking Pinterest to find activities to do during winter months. So I thought I'd ask the same parents what they do when the weather just isn't that great. Here is what they had to say:

Peter from Amsterdam said:

"My wife is German. Our first boy was actually born in Amsterdam after which we lived in the UK for a year and now since 1,5 years here in Düsseldorf. He is 3 now and last April he was joined by his little brother who is now 7 weeks old. The biggest challenge parenting wise is dealing with all the bureaucracy, rules / regulations and paperwork involved. It's not that it is difficult, but it is a lot of work and certainly quite the test of patience. Especially since "the system" does not allow for much flexibility in terms of dates, kita-schedule, opening hours of institutions, availability of staff, etc. On top of that, the level of English is very very back most of the time, which can be frustrating for non-Germans I can imagine. Luckily I speak German and my wife of course as well, but there is VERY limited availability of staff and documentation in English. On top of that "the system" is so rigid and institutions don't talk to each other, resulting in long waits and often duplicating information from one agency to another, rather than filling paperwork in once and all agencies being updated.

What we do when it rains is a fun question actually. There are 3 things really: 1. indoor activity: such as swimming; trampolino; zoo etc. 2. visiting friends or family. 3. stay indoors; chill; play Duplo; bake a cake, etc"


Lucy and her husband are from the UK and have lived in Germany since 2010:

"We have one son who turned 2 recently. When the weather's bad we tend to head to indoor play cafes (particularly Kipken in Düsseldorf) or to swimming pools. I spoke with my husband and we both believe our biggest parenting challenge since being in Germany is the lack of family support close by. None of our family lives in Germany so in the early days we had very little help with the little one. It's a little easier now we have finally found a babysitter we are happy with which allows us to a night on our own every now and again"


Ditti is part of a Hungarian-French family:

"We are a Hungarian-French family, with a 20 month old boy. The biggest parenting challenge is to ensure he learns our languages as native in a German-speaking environment - and that requires a lot of extra logistics of bilingual-kita, babysitter from our countries, etc.

If the weather's not good, we play inside the house, with books, puzzles, Duplo, etc. We try to avoid the Spielhauses as long as possible, just too much kids and noise."


Hannah is originally from India and her son was born in Dubai. They now live in Germany:

"My biggest parenting challenge in Germany has been primarily the language barrier and finding a Kita for my special needs son (extremely hyperactive and non-verbal - can speak but doesn't speak or understand much). Getting doctors' appointments has been an absolute horror!!! Many pediatricians said they were "full for the year, so try next year" I had to practically land up unannounced at a doctor one day and keep requesting to be seen, after being turned away by many, just to get a referral for a SPZ for my son.

My hyperactive kid needs to be taken to the park everyday so he can use some of his energy, and honestly the parks / play areas here aren't too impressive compared to the ones he is used to in Dubai and India, so he gets bored of a play area too soon. I can't really enroll him in activities here, as he is too aggressive with other children to the extent of possibly hurting them. In short handling my son here has been a lot more challenging than in Dubai or India.
Iv only been here 4 months so don't know how i will deal with the extreme climates but initially when it was too cold I would just take him out for walks and to the parks , and on weekends indoor play areas like Bobolino so far.
Still awaiting assessment and therapy for my son, so in all quite stressful life here I would say . But hope it will get better soon."


Lila from Slovakia says:

"My biggest challenge is probably just language barrier. Other than that I don't find parenting in Germany more difficult than in my home country. Sure, some practices are different, but I am not feeling marginalized or bullied when I do something differently than the rest. I am missing indoor playgrounds a bit.

Regarding the weather, well we do various things, crafts, we go out in the rain too, we cook, .. When the weather is bad during the weekend, we clean the house, when it's good, we don't and go for a trip"


Deepika is originally from India and says:

"Biggest challenge for me as a parent in Germany is not getting the needed information at the right time as lacking German Language skill for e.g. Enrolling to certain classes etc.

When weather is not good we plan indoor games; invite friends with children home and sometime visit indoor Spielplatz like Bobolino."


My thoughts:

So I think we can safely agree that the language is often one of the biggest challenges when moving to a different country. And for me personally, I also feel it sets the tone for when dealing with the authorities or people who are in charge of things that you need. When I arrived here, I was literally thrown into a classroom with 20 other non-Germans for 7 months learning the language and culture. That helped, especially since I then became pregnant with Miss E and so required medical attention, which is not the best done in a language that you don't know.

I have been lucky to have made a few good friends, who have translated documents for me and helped me complete forms. Without them, I would not have been able to open my own Small Business. Now that I speak the language better, I feel that my biggest parenting challenge in Germany, is forcing myself to get out of the house on the bad weather days. My kid loves running around in water puddles or wet grass. She enjoys trying to catch birds who have landed on the grass for food. And she oh so loves petting the goats at Duisburg Zoo. Fresh air never hurt anyone. So that is my challenge for next winter (which, lets face it, is around the corner again - did someone say Game of Thrones: 16th July?).


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