Madrid or Berlin

(11 Posts)
wherewhere Thu 18-Aug-16 10:51:40

If you could relocate to either, which would you choose?

I will be alone with the kids A LOT - husband works away and sometimes we only see him three times a year.

I don't speak either German or Spanish, but can learn.

I have a six-year-old, and a baby.

I know Madrid very well; Berlin less so. I spent a lot of time there in my twenties, hanging out in coffee shops until 4am, but life is different now . . .

I currently live in a hot and sunny climate, but there is limited opportunity for the children as they grow.

My soul leans towards Berlin, but I feel as though Madrid is easier with young kids, and also easier on the older one who will be going to school. I like the sun!

Any thoughts?

Archfarchnad Thu 18-Aug-16 21:46:38

Berlin is generally a really nice place to bring up kids, plenty of lovely playgrounds, parks, children's theatres, subsidised nursery places – but the school education system is, erm, very much work in progress. Would your DC be going to state bilingual school or could you afford private (bearing in mind that private schools are often a lot cheaper here than the UK - could easily be less than 5000 euros per year depending on your income)?

Berlin is generally also a lot hotter than the UK in summer, but of course not Mediterranean hot. And this summer has been a washout.

wherewhere Fri 19-Aug-16 05:16:06

Thanks for the reply.

We may well end up going the private route, but for various reasons I'd prefer not to. If we do this move, it will be my "final" one. My preference would be for my kids to go to the local german primary (and if that doesn't work out we will change, but that's where I'd rather start).

Is that possible, with a six-year-old? Will he suffer horribly if he doesn't speak German? Is there any support given to non-German speakers?

I'm not too worried about the standard of education - we basically homeschool (although he goes to school as well, as where we are now it's compulsory from five). I like the idea of no formal school in the afternoons. And I'd want him to become fluent in German as quickly as possible.

I am, however, worried that he will feel lost and lonely - do you know how things work with non-German speakers in local German schools?

Thanks again!

ShotsFired Fri 19-Aug-16 06:15:51

In terms of your children's future, I'd say Berlin - Germany has far more economic opportunities than Spain, especially post Brexit. I know people living on both countries and the German set are much more content and well off (financially and with regard to future optimism etc).

Madrid always seems a bit "remote" from "professional Spain" too. More flamenco than finance.

Laptopwieldingharpy Fri 19-Aug-16 08:27:32

We just visited Berlin and i lived it! It is very unique and is still very much in the making. So much energy and potential.
Madrid seems very dull in comparison.

That said, having lived like you under hot and sunny skies for the last 10years, we all agreed that it would be very difficult for us to reajust happily to the very urban lifestyle and climate.
We also spent a week in barcelona visiting schools and accomodation. It is fab location. Mountain, sea, city, countryside all wrapped within a neat under 3h drive.
Vibrant local and expat working environment. Airport within easy reach, lots of bilingual & trilingual ( catalan/french) schools. Reasonnable enough fees should you want to go private.
It really ticked all the boxes for both of us and our 8 & 12 year olds.
It has a lots more soul & gusto than Madrid.
Rents slightly cheaper than Berlin.

Archfarchnad Fri 19-Aug-16 11:15:07

"My preference would be for my kids to go to the local german primary (and if that doesn't work out we will change, but that's where I'd rather start)."

OK, that WILL be more difficult for your DC than a bilingual school, where they're absolutely used to kids with multiple languages and with highly-mobile families. OTOH, your DC will also learn German through immersion that much quicker - should be pretty fluent in 9 months or so. Kids in Berlin take a German language test when they're about 4, with the idea that any who don't have enough German get intensive 1 to 1 lessons in preparation for 1st class. I would imagine your DC would get the same support - what I'm not sure about is whether they'd go into a special 'welcome' class for a while to learn German intensively, or whether they'd go into their normal class and take the lessons around that. You'd really have to push with the headteacher to make sure your DC does get the necessary support and isn't just left to wallow. A lot of resources are understandably being taken up now with newly arrived refugee children - a friend of mine teaches them in special classes until their German is good enough for normal schools.

One problem is that many German teachers see a second language as a hindrance, not a bonus, and make little allowance for accidental language mixing or bilingual errors. In a bilingual school they're more prepared for that sort of thing. For instance, German numbers are the other way around 'one and twenty, two and twenty' etc. It's a classic thing for English native kids to get this wrong when writing maths numbers at the beginning - I fear a German teacher in a monolingual school would just dismiss them as 'bad at maths'. You WILL need to pay for extra private tutoring in German and maths (the language side), as teachers don't see it as their business to help struggling pupils.

"I like the idea of no formal school in the afternoons." Berlin is having a big move right now towards 'Ganztagsschule', which means from 8am to 4pm - that's obviously tough on little kids. If you specifically don't want this you'll have to look around for a Halbtagsschule. Education is guaranteed from 8am to 13.30, I believe - that's the minimum in state schools, unlike other schools in West Germany where kids gets sent home at 11am if there are no lessons.

wherewhere Fri 19-Aug-16 11:25:06

Thanks again for all the detail - much appreciated.

Hmm, this is making me lean more and more towards Madrid . . .

Interesting to hear your thoughts, laptop - I also know Barcelona quite well and I'm not taken by it at all. I do love Madrid though.

I think that we too would struggle with the dark and the winters in Berlin. I still love the idea of the city, but it's a whole different ballgame when taking into account schools.

Lots to consider .. . .

Archfarchnad Fri 19-Aug-16 12:52:36

Sorry to be putting you off - especially because in many respects (and this sounds quite contrary to what I've said above), Berlin is actually a lovely place to bring up kids. Germany is just a lot more relaxed about parenting, much more 'let kids grow up by themselves' instead of the constant neurotic over-parenting you get in the UK. Berlin has great kids' theatre, cheap workshops, loads of parks and playgrounds, my kids were able to ride because the local riding club was a registered charity, so we could afford it. It's a much more socially sustainable model than the profit-driven US/UK model - but the school system is the big Achilles heel.

One thing to consider about private schools is that they're often MUCH cheaper than in the UK, and often the fees are income based. The Kant school in Steglitz, for instance, has a fixed fee for everyone of 440 euros monthly, including lunch. We pay less than that for DD2's private school. The private schools will obviously have smaller classes and your DC is likely to receive more individual attention.

Nothing I can say to convince you about the dark winters, though. Getting up at 6.30 to get a kid off to school in mid-Jan is miserable. The tobogganing is great, but with global warming we don't necessarily get that every year any more.

TheFirie Fri 19-Aug-16 22:33:20

what about working hours? They are way longer in Spain. We lived for years in Barcelona and DH was never home before 8pm, more likely 9pm

wherewhere Sat 20-Aug-16 04:14:06

I will be a sahm for the first few years. DH works all over the world and will only be coming home to visit us when he is off work

TheFirie Sat 20-Aug-16 07:14:56

What made you pick these two cities if they are not linked to any job location? And what do you mean by little opportunities for the kids? What kind of opportunities do you have in mind? Nowadays with internet opportunities are virtually on your fingertips.

I speak both Spanish and German. Spanish is easier to learn and is spoken in far more countries, so this is a point in favour of Madrid. having lived in Barcelona, I am not overly mad about Madrid, both on the cultural and lifestyle side. In Barcelona, you can be on the slopes in 3 hours in winter and enjoy the beach six months per year. More cosmopolite as well .

BUT and it is a big fat but, Catalan is dominating now. You have both British and American schools .

I know you said you didn't like Barcelona. Can I ask you why? Barcelona is not the Ramblas, we lived in the Zona Alta, in Pedralbes, absolutely stunning. Many friends lived in Gava or Castelldefelds. Beach cities at 20 minutes from Barcelona/

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