Struggling with move to Berlin(50 Posts)
I recently moved to Berlin with DP and our small baby (DP got a job here). I have always wanted to try living abroad and loved our holidays in Germany, but now that I'm here I'm not enjoying it all that much. I don't speak the language, which is causing me more anxiety than expected, I thought I'd just 'muddle through' and get on with things. I am taking German lessons (3 hours per week) but it's hard to fit in enough practice around the demands of my baby and a lot of what I've learnt so far isn't very relevant to my life. I have not yet needed to ask for a pencil sharpener!
I've found a couple of English speaking baby classes to go to but not really clicked with anyone there and it's only 2 hours of my week taken up. The rest of the time I feel really lonely, we go out for coffee and cake far too often just to get out. Then I feel bad because I should be happy to be having this adventure and spending time with my lovely baby. Has anyone else experienced this isolation and managed to make it work? Any survival tips would be welcome! I want to be happy here but right now I have a strong urge to run for the UK hills.
Oh well. I've clearly posted in the wrong section. Should've said 'AIBU to hate living in Berlin?...' Live and learn
I don't have any experience of Berlin so can't be helpful with that but I did live in Frankfurt am main for two years. When we arrived I had no German but DP was fluent, had already secured a job etc. I found it much tougher than expected and it was only after six months of a three hours a day mon- Fri German course that I started to enjoy myself. It is hard with a baby but any way you can up your course hours? I also got a job teaching English which helped me to meet people and advertised at the English bookstore for a language exchange partner and met a great friend. All these things really helped. Keep going with the toddler groups as you only need to make onem good friend to turn things around. Don't be tempted to stay home as the more you get out the faster it will better.
Firstly, I'd say that being at home with a small baby is pretty tough anyway, without the new country. That said,this is a situation I've been in a few times and I can tell you for sure that the when the weather improves you'll enjoy the city soooo much more. Do you cycle with your baby in Berlin yet? If not, make that your first mission. Get on your bike and explore. Doesn't have to cost a lot- make it your mission to find treasure in second hand shops, or exotic stores to find great world words to cook a nice meal or whatever. In the warmer months you'll find great places to swim, wonderful train excursions to areas around Berlin. Do the things YOU love. This is where you'll make the quickest connections in your brain to learn the language. It's a couple of years since I lived in Germany (not Berlin) but I'll have a think of other things which saved my sanity in the early days.
I lived in Berlin for a couple of years. Really didn't like it and I didn't have a baby (mine was a lot older and more independent). I can't even say exactly why I didn't like it there and I've lived in lots of places.
Anyway, tips. Learning the language - TV and/or radio on local language channels helps you absorb the sounds of the language. I kept the radio on quite a lot even though I couldn't understand it. It then helps you learn it much quicker. Download some language learning stuff onto an iPod or whatever so you're learning outside of your course.
It can take a good few months to get used to living in a different country.
Keep looking for activities out of the home.
A bit radical, but the only thing that helped me survive Berlin was the amazing forests and walks around where I lived. And my dog. A dog seemed to help open conversations much more than a kid over there! I wouldn't say I made friends as such, but did regularly meet people for a short chat during dog walks. It helped me keep sane.
Even if you don't want a dog, get out walking with your baby and explore the lakes and so on. There are lovely cafes and restaurants by lakes, many have play areas so there will be other parents there.
My brother lived in Berlin for 3 years and had a tough time. The language barrier is tough. He watch lots of German television, did Rosetta stone as often as he could after working through the offerings on the BBC website.
Have you tried Duolingo? It is free, good and designed in very small chunks so easy to fit in around the baby.
There are lots of English speakers and English-language meet-ups in Berlin, could you get your DP to babysit once a week and go out, even if just for a couple of hours?
I love Berlin. I've only been once but my sister lived there for ten years. It's better for those who can stay out at coffee shops all night I think rather than at home with small babies, but still, it's great for children - as your little one gets bigger, things are bound to improve.
My sister was au pair to a family with three children including a baby and she absolutely had a whale of a time with them.
I think wherever you move to it can take a while to settle in...we have lived here for a year now and I still only speak to the neighbours, never go into town, and feel lost in general.
Big sympathy. But it will get better.
Thanks for the helpful replies
I don't have a bike yet but thinking of getting one in time for summer. Bit nervous of riding with baby (pfb!)
I've invited a baby group acquaintance for an aquarium trip so feeling a bit more positive today! I'd love a dog but can't make the commitment at the moment. I had to leave my cat with my sister when we moved and I miss him loads. Older people approach me to talk about the baby but I don't understand what they're saying apart from 'how old?' And 'girl or boy?' I'd like to increase my Deutsch lessons but not sure if I can at the moment, going to look into maybe hiring a tutor to come in the evening. And I'm going to get a radio!
You're not alone!
Having a baby anywhere can be very isolating. Try and keep going with the baby groups. I used to force myself to go reluctantly when my DC were tiny and even though I had nothing else in common, we all had small babies. And in your case, they are also expats. I bet if you dig deeper you will find most are like you, they just hide it
their misery well.
It's very easy to say "learn the language" but it's bloody hard if you don't have anyone to speak to. Can you try something like Duolingo? Quick 10 minutes sessions whilst your baby naps.
Can you skype regularly with friends back home? Watch funny films. Not Paddington! Read lots of funny books. Jilly Cooper got me through some dark patches. Go and eat cake and drink coffee. Don't feel guilty: see it as a time to indulge yourself in this kind of stuff.
I'm using duolingo too, it gets a bit annoyed with me if I don't use it for a couple of days though!
I know it does nag a bit!
My 70+ year old teacher often meets me for a coffee just to chat and improve my lingo. I've also discovered a couple of women (one a neighbour) who want to improve their english and we meet for coffee and do 5 minutes english, 5 minutes French.
They are all positive steps! If you're unsure about the bike seat try a Christiania type bike, three wheels with a box and a baby seat insert. They are pricey but in Berlin you can hire them, and they often come up second hand. That said, you'll get used to cycling with a baby very quickly on an ordinary bike. Just take it slow and steady at first. I learned a lot of German from the Berlitz kids fairytale books with an accompanying cd ( your local library will probably have these). Sounds odd I know! But basics first ;)
Cheers for the support. I knew it would be hard but I've never felt this lonely before in my life! And I enjoy my own company. I speak to friends back home and my sis via whatsapp which helps and I'm definitely not skimping on the cake. Currently in my pjs with a baby sleeping on me, eating strudel for second breakfast..
This really is the hard bit though. Short dark cold days, a military operation to get wrapped up warm enough to leave the house. It has an effect! It will be better in a few weeks, I PROMISE you this! When the weather is better (and it gets utterly gorgeous in Berlin in Summer and Spring) you'll be out and about, you'll find forest trails, cycling routes, you'll find little pools outside to take your baby to. You'll pick up more of the language through being outside more, and everything will improve for you. And please, find just 5 mins in your day to indulge any hobby/ passion/interest that you have... And do this religiously. Maintaining this thread of self is vital otherwise it is easy to become resentful of the move.
Hang on in there
Thanks for your replies Malermalergoni
Everyone says Berlin is lovely in the summer so I'll hang on for some sunshine!
Moving abroad is unexpectedly hard. Each time done it I've had rose tinted glasses yet the reality is that the first year or two is incredibly hard.
I've found english speaking local fb groups have been total lifelines. Plenty of information posted and people keen to meet up.
Try the German mother and baby/toddler groups (Krabbelgruppen). Most Germans speak English and would probably try to integrate you. It might take a few tries to find a group you like but it is worth persevering.
See if there are any English speaking facebook groups in Berlin or toytown groups. Try creating your own English speaking parent and baby group or any other group which might share an interest with you - running, board games, reading , cooking etc.
The key as I see it is to be active , create a few contacts and a social life should snowball from that.
I was a trailing spouse in Berlin before I had DC and the first few months were tough. When I was there very few Berliners could speak English compared to other German cities. It was only decade after the wall came down so about half the population had learned Russian in school not English. The character of the city is also a special kind of grumpy, which can be hard to take until you get used to it. For instance there was a cafe near me that I went to regularly, at first it took me ages to order starting with hardly any German while the waiter sighed with impatience at how long I took to get my order in. After a while the waiter decided that I was a regular and worthy of recognition and, guess what, he spoke almost perfect English. (I didn't forgive him and continued to subject him to my dreadful German, which in hindsight made me an honorary Berliner.)
Are there any organisations of expats around? I joined the American Women in Berlin (or something like that) group and went to a few mixers and chatted with other newbies. Some of them became quite good friends.
I went to German classes for the first six months, which I know would be hard for you. But I also learned a lot by watching soaps which were really good because they have a lot of regular daily conversation as well as the high drama.
Have just checked the toytown Germany website. They have some regular meet-ups in Berlin. It won't help your German as it is for English speakers but it might help banish the loneliness. Good luck!
My advice would be to join a running or walking club while your DH/DP babysits (or take your baby along in a buggy) - it's important to get out of the house and do things that make you feel wonderful/energised. Being 'forced' to speak to the locals can also bring on your language skills in leaps and bounds. Every day it will get easier.
I will have a look on toy town, thanks. I find it hard to get out to non baby related stuff as I'm completely knackered by the evening, but for my sanity I'm going to have to try. DP has baby during my German lessons, sure he'd do another solo bedtime per week if I found something. I went along to a winterspielplaz in a church hall, no one spoke English and I felt really awkward. It's put me off going to local groups until my German is better! I do find the grumpy Berliner attitude difficult at times, of course it's not all Berliners, but I'm getting used to it. I have been told by 3 different women that my baby's face is cold, they should be wearing gloves (pulled them off & lost one) and that they are 'panicking' (teething)..
Oh yes you will have all of this. People will be concerned about your baby if it doesn't have a hat. No matter the weather. No hat? Bad mother!!! People will worry if you don't have a full on pram instead of a buggy. People will worry if your baby is not under a giant duvet, laid flat until 2 years old. You will run into full on arguments with folk because you request something seemingly simple but not 'on the menu'. It can be exhausting. My advice here is to actively cultivate a reputation as eccentric and/or artistic. Germans seem quite tolerant to the unconventional ways of creative types. Sehr trendy!
But DO NOT take a long latte spoon with which to stir your (short cupped) cappuccino. This is a step too far, and you will be publicly humiliated for your crime. Voice of experience
Haha noted. I'll leave my latte spoon at home! I can do eccentric, maybe I need a big colourful hat or something so it's obvious. I don't have a massive pram duvet and baby hates lying down when awake so has a fully reclining pushchair rather than a pram. I'm a dreadful mother by Berlin standards!
If you're a church-goer then there is St George's church in the west of Berlin, a few of my H's colleagues used to go on a Sunday and we went a couple of times. It seemed fairly friendly, I don't know whether they have a mother and baby group, but many anglican churches around the world do so they might.
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