Another opportunity - Germany(37 Posts)
A few years ago we almost moved to Germany for dh's job. A combination of factors meant we didn't go ahead.
We have been offered the opportunity again and we are in a much better position all round to accept.
But I'm so worried about the dcs. I know it's a great opportunity for them but how can I make it easier for them? They will be 11, 9 and 5 by the time we go. They are resistant to the idea but I'm hoping that they will realise that it's a better life for all of us.
Should I get them German lessons? What else can I do to prepare them? Any tips on living in Germany? What do I need to know?
I've visited the town we would move to and dh stays there one week a month and loves it. He has good friends there who I have met and get on well with so I've no doubt we will have good support.
It depends on where you are moving to. Will your dc go to a state school or a bilingual school or an international school? For the state school, I'd definitely try and get some German lessons in. (It does take time, though. We moved in April and DH had quite a few lessons. He understands a lot more but still struggles to speak.)
I teach at a bilingual school and while I have some children, who are native speakers, most of the children are fluent in German rather than English. They speak German at breaktimes, to each other, whenever they aren't talking to me.
The situation is slightly different in international or purely English-speaking schools. DH teaches nursery at an English-speaking school and his pupils are a lot more fluent.
It's been quite a struggle to start with. A lot of the paperwork was tricky initially but I guess it would be for anyone moving countries.
DH is, however, very impressed by the emergency medical care he's received recently and the fact that instead of waiting for three hours at A&E or OOH, we only had to wait two minutes to be seen on a Saturday.
As Fizzyhedgehog says, it depends where you are going to be and if you are looking at state or private/international schools.
E.g. your 5 year old would not necessarily go straight into school but may have to do one year at kindergarten depending on what town you are in and whether state Grundschule or not. Our catchment school has what is called Eingangsstufe where children start at 5 and do the first school year at a slower pace over two years, but regular school starts at age 6 and some even defer til age 7. In our region where there are many expat kids and also lots of refugee children there is excellent provision for help with the language in the first few school years. It might be more difficult for the older children and language lessons would surely be helpful.
In general I find Germany a great place for kids, lots of outdoor activities and a bit more independence...you can enjoy a high standard of living although rent/house prices are very high in cities like Frankfurt & Munich, salaries tend to reflect that as well. As above, health care is excellent.
Shops are closed on Sundays which I still find annoying twenty years later but big supermarkets like REWE now offer online delivery which is great.
When would the move be happening?
We moved when DS was nearly 5 and he has integrated fine in terms of language. He did 2 years of kindergarten, which in hindsight was too many, he would have been fine at school after one but the assessment they do wouldn't have passed him with his lower language level 6 months before the starting date.
9 and 11 might be tricky in terms of school selection because at 10 most German kids move to secondary school and they are all streamed in some kind of incomprehensible system which is massively stressful/confusing to foreigners. DS is 9 so we have this all to research just after Christmas.
However school woes aside it genuinely is lovely and brilliant here for kids, I am so glad he has the kind of lifestyle/freedom that German kids have, it's wonderful. The summer holiday activities are all fantastic as well - there's so much choice! We're also doing assessment at the moment for ADHD for him and I can't fault it - it's been really simple and supportive whereas friends back in the UK have had an awful time with waiting lists and generally having to wait until the DC show really serious issues before they can get anywhere with it. I've also had excellent experiences with the healthcare here in general. DH and I both had quite serious accidents last year which have been dealt with well and I'm expecting DC2 now and I've been impressed with the care I've had regarding that as well. Everyone has always made us feel as though they had infinite time for us - quite the opposite of harrassed/rushed NHS staff
What you need to know:
Bring your own tea and get it posted regularly because the tea here is all terrible - but the coffee is nice. Typhoo is good to import because even their massive packs are individually divided into sets of 40, whereas a 260 box of Yorkshire Tea will go stale unless you drink loads of it.
People can be quite blunt but you get used to it and I kind of appreciate the straightforwardness now even though I can get annoyed at the time.
Paperwork is horrible and the bane of your life. Just swear at it a lot and use google translate or be really nice to some German native speaking friends, offer to bake them a Victoria Sponge or something and hope they will help you. It doesn't come up that often so it's not too much of a hindrance.
Use an online software thing to file your taxes - DO NOT try to do it yourself using the official one. It's absolutely worth paying the €30 or so for the software to find all of the little loopholes, things you can claim back etc. Or use a tax advisor. But I find the software approach is the best value for money.
You need to get a form from the Jobcentre when you leave the UK confirming that you're no longer receiving child benefit. This will enable you to receive German child benefit (Kindergeld) for your DC which is a bit more generous than the UK one and they'll backdate it - but you need the paper. You might have to ask a couple of times because half of the jobcentre staff don't know that it exists.
When people post stuff to you if you have any 7s in your address, make sure they cross the 7s or print the address from a computer, otherwise your post will go completely AWOL and you might get it in a few months or never at all. Germans write their 1s like we write our 7s.
Thanks everyone for all the advice. We would be just outside of Dortmund in a small town. We are looking to move around summer next year, before school starts after the summer hols which is believe is mid August in the area we would live.
I'm glad to hear that the ADHD assement is going well as ds1 has this diagnosis.
Dh's friend is massively helpful to us and will continue to help us with everything we need, as will his wife. But they are German so I was looking for an English person living in Germany's perspective.
DC's will go to local German schools. Think this is best for integration. Tbh I'm massively worried about the older kids. Dd is very quiet but actually has good confidence in herself which is great. Ds1 is shy, anxious and sensitive.
We moved to Germany last year - I think I might be in the same state as Welsh. Our son was 7 when we moved and so was able to go into the first class at German school - he has done brilliantly and now chatters away in German.
With regards to your 11 year old - might she/he be able to go back a year or 2 and do the last year or 2 of Grundschule? Because Germany streams into totally different schooling systems at secondary age, I can't imagine how a non-German speaking 11 year old would fit into it? I haven't had any experience of it though...
Otherwise, I can only agree with others - we have a much better standard of living here (even with me not working) and we much prefer the quality of life. In general, people are much more outdoorsy and children have massively more freedom, which we love. We have also found the healthcare system to be excellent.
Our only negative, really, has been with DH and I struggling to learn German - DH is less bothered as he works for an English speaking company, but, even with 1-1 tutoring several times a week, I am picking it up incredibly slowly. Much slower than I expected. We've been here a year now and I still feel that normal conversation is massively out of reach. It frustrates me hugely. <sigh> I don't even seem to be unusual...everyone seems to say the same thing... German is a particularly hard language to learn!
I must admit my German is shocking but I can communicate now. I actually don't think much of 1 to 1 tutoring, based on my experience teaching English. I recommend trying a group class because I think it gives you a much more natural way to use it and then you have the skills to be able to go out and use it in the real world too which is basically how you will actually learn. Its just getting past that hump of oh he's going to think I'm stupid/they're going to laugh at me, which IME never ever happens. Shamefully I've never got around to going to any classes! It's my plan for the next year, though I say that a lot
It's like driving IMO - if you were learning to drive, one to one lessons are like driving with your instructor in a deserted car park. You'll get really good at parking and manoeuvres and the technical side of driving. But actually going out onto the road with other drivers (your group class, or speaking in real life) will teach you much more as you'll have to react to others, make yourself understood, come across different turns of phrase, etc. And in the end being brilliant at parking is no use if you tend to panic at a traffic light and not take your right of way. You can get along being crap at parking as long as you can basically manage it. It's all about relating safely to other road users - and languages are a bit like that too. There is no use being able to beautifully conjugate verbs if you can't tell your waiter what's wrong with your meal.
I've been here for 3 years now. Dd is bilingual she speaks German to dp and English to me. Yes. Bring your own tea. And they don't sell bleach either.
I must have become too German because I don’t mind the tea here but you can definitely get bleach...Danklorix and sometimes Domestos in larger supermarkets.
Bertie I love your driving/language analogy! It’s so true!
Bertie Have you had any lessons at all? I actually don't think it's the fault of my tutoring as such, as we do concentrate on phrases/words/scenarios that I can actually use in my day to day life. I find that I am okay with scenarios (so can manage in shops, restaurants, cafes etc...), but it is getting beyond that which is so difficult. I really miss being able to have meaningful/interesting/random conversation with people.
How safe is his job post March next year? That would be my main consideration.
Would it be a permanent move or on temporary contract? Because imo that changes how you approach things things somewhat.
It would be a permanent move. His job is as safe as a job can be I think. He's worked for the company for 11 years, has been working in Germany for 4 years. It's an American owned company.
11 year old could go back a year I suppose. I would have to talk to our chosen school about these things.
I'd have a look whether you are close enough to any of the bilingual state schools in Dortmund. I think the secondary schools offering bilingual sessions are Gesamtschulen, which might be more suited to someone starting without the language skills.
I think there are also state primary schools in the area, which are bilingual.
We usually bring loads of stuff with us when we visit the UK. DH brings back loads of peanut butter and squash and while it's possible to buy cider here, it's really expensive.
Dh's friend/colleague said he has to learn German. Not many people in the office speak English. We also found that generally the area we would be in most people don't speak English, although they are very friendly!
Thank you Fizzy. We are around 15 minutes drive from Dortmund. Less on the train. So that might be an option.
If you can have the children learn some German before coming (and you too!), that would help them enormously. I know people are often fans of the immersion method, but it can be very hard to make friends and fit in if you don't understand anything.
But apart from that I don't think there's anything else that you'd need to do to prepare before coming over.
It's fab here. I love it
Im just outside Essen, we’ve been here 10 yrs now so the kinder are more German than not (14,11 and 8) we’ve been through the full range of school — kindergarten, international school, grundschule and Gymnasium so if you’ve any questions i may be able to help.
Gosh I don't generally weigh in with negative opinions, but just to get this straight: you are a non-German speaking household contemplating putting a 9 and 11 year old into local school in a country with a severe streaming system (and imo a fairly socially brutal school culture full stop). What are you thinking??!!
Well Goose, we have almost a year to prepare so I'm assuming we will all be able to speak some German by the time we arrive if I was start with lessons in September. And yes, we are contemplating local school We are also looking at the other options. Like a pp suggested, a bilingual school.
I always thought that local school was the best option. But as a few years have passed since the last time we considered this move we have realised that it may not be the best option for them now.
There are online courses on "Deutsche Welle", their German web page. But I'm inpatient and go straight for the "Media center" and "Sendung verpasst?" to watch their "real" programs, I have a tendency to get stuck on programs such as "Quadriga"... took one year of German in school back in 1981.
^I can't speak myself, though, that is really a shame...
Well, you could try this one for the older one (depends on academic attainment, though...it's a grammar school):
They appear to offer sessions for pupils, who aren't fluent enough in German and their website also has links to primary schools in the area.
Whether the local school is best will depend on your children's proficiency in German when they are starting. I have a new pupil in my class, who doesn't speak any German. Since we are bilingual, it's not so much of an issue and our pupils will switch to English to talk to him. He will need to learn German, though, since our teaching materials are in German and he only understands half of what's going on at the moment.
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