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please talk to me about living in Berlin for 6 months with DSs aged 7 and 4

(14 Posts)
lingle Mon 26-Jan-09 10:23:03

An opportunity has come up for DH to be at the Max Plank Institute from February to July 2010.

I am trying to keep an open mind though the prospect of the dislocation (especially re the English schools and my business)makes me feel faint!

Please can someone talk to me about life in Berlin living near Max Plank with no existing friends there and such young children. At the moment we live in the Yorkshire Dales and spend our times walking in the hills so it would be a big change. Schools for DSs? Kindergarten for DS2? Ds2 has language delay so feel he should be in a English-language nursery and might need access to speech therapy/ learning support.

I lived in Prague for a while. We've visited Berlin once pre-children (got to visit Liebeskind's studio before he became a superstar!). I have O-level German.

Am worried about whether we'd really benefit from what Berlin has to offer with such young children and about being lonely there. And about DS2's language. But I want find some positives!

If it was the Mediterranean my fears would be overwhelmed by my excitement!

PuzzleRocks Mon 26-Jan-09 21:30:18

Bumping for you. Best wishes.

ZZZen Wed 28-Jan-09 11:23:43

Hi there, depends which Max Planck Institut, there are various ones specialising in different fields of research and I don't know where they are all located. The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft for instance is in Dahlem which is a nice leafy green suburb so living round there would be pleasant enough. Your dh may be working somewhere totally different though.

Your ds aged 7 could attend either the British school in Charlottenburg-Neuwestend (nowhere near Dahlem) to keep on track with the NC (Achtung: yearly fees around 15,000 Euros and all the extras) but he would get in no problem because classes are small, school day is 9-3pm, uniform etc. Or you could go for the International School just outside Berlin - BBIS - Berlin-Brandenburg International. Same kind of fee structure, good facilities, follows the Int Bac curriculum.

If you want to try a bilingual option, he may fall behind v.a.v. the British curriculum because school starts later in Germany (aged 6 and the bilingual schools do not rocket ahead IME). As options you have the American-German John-F-Kennedy School in Zehlendorf (so near Dahlem). I hear good and bad. They do have better facilties than the regular German schools and an active parental involvement, lots of afternoon activities on offer. They cater for people coming and going with little or no German BUT they essentially want only German or American families. Apply from outside, directly to the head of Elementary (and bypass the secretary if at all possible) and see what they say if that interests you. Will be practically impossible for you to get in if you apply when you are in Germany since you are not American.

There are also so-called Europa schools. These are state-run bilingual schools. For English there is the Quentin-Blake in Zehlendorf, not far from the JFK. In Charlottenburg- Neuwestend the Charles Dickens (shares playgroudn with the British School) and the Nelson Mandela centrally in Wilmersdorf. Apply from overseas. They will all take your ds because they generally don't have enough English speakers. Same problem here, essentially they are behind the ENC because of the later start, they are not phenominally academic but I find nicer than the standard German schools. THey are in theory free but you do have to pay for various things, however it doesn't break the bank. The dc in the English language streams have English together (small class) whilst the German stream has German, then they swop. THe whole class does maths (in German), art , PE etc together. School day is long - 8-4pm compulsory which includes scheduled play-time under the supervision of a carer (sort of trained nursery worker). The grounds are generally better than your standard German school (exception being Nelson Mandela) because they were built as schools for the English/American military in the past, so different concept of what a school has to look like.

There are a few other bilingual options, schools recently opened by frustrated parents etc. I think for you they aren't a reasonable option. They are geared towards promoting language skills of German dc.

Is that any help? To summarise:
Expensive and English only (but I think good)
1. British School (prob best but classes can be very small)
2. BBIS international (IB not ENC)

3. JFK (German-Am you may not get in)

4 Europa schools Quentin Blake (Dahlem)
5. Charles Dickens (Charlottenburg)
6. Nelson Mandela (Wilmersdorf)

There are bilingual nurseries and the British school has a preschool. If you can afford it , I would send your ds there - or keep him at home if he has language problems atm.

ZZZen Wed 28-Jan-09 11:27:40

ok ugh that was the schools (worst bit)

I think 6 months which included a lot of winter I would say NO straight away. Feb to July is crap Feb-March, from April on it's quite a nice time to be in Berlin. Winter in Berlin is cold, gloomy, depressing, short dark days and bad-tempered folk.

For a European capital Berlin is surprisingly green. Plenty of lakes which you can generally swim in, nice outdoor pools, lots of cheap activities for dc and nice outdoor cafes etc. I think you could get in an action packed 6 months if that is what you wanted. It isn't Yorkshire and everywhere you go there will probably be crowds of other people there too - swimming at Lake Wannsee or flying kites on the Teufelsberg or wandering through the forest. There is quite a lot of forest in Berlin. I never grew to like it, for me those forests had soemthing creepy but it is just what you're used to, isn't it?

So on the whole I think you can have a reasonably outdoorsy life in Berlin if you are willing to drive a bit to get there IYSWIM

admylin Wed 28-Jan-09 11:30:50

Honestly from February to July I would just let dh go and you could visit in the school holidays and he could come over to UK a few times. It wouldn't be worth disrupting your ds's schooling as he would be very bored in his year group in Berlin.

ZZZen Wed 28-Jan-09 11:33:15

The last point I wanted to make was 6 months is not a long time if you personally have the hassle of getting yourself set up. Germany is very organised (i.e. bureaucratic) so this means you need to get a lot of things organised and this is a hassle without much German. IF you are going to be doing all that on your own, I frankly wouldn't bother for 6 months. If the Max Planck is taking care of it, ok.

Specifically I mean (and don't think you'll get through in English, German bureaucrats often have next to no English): getting an apartment, registering with the Buergeramt, organising health insurance, telephone, getting insurance for the home (required), opening bank accounts, car papers, schools (if you are not sending your dc to the zoned school, you need to go there in person and fill out a form in the office (in German) about where your dc is going to school,organising your child benefit payments etc (well you get the picture)

None of it is impossible but it is not all straight forward either and for 6 months it is a lot of hassle. You need some helpful person who speaks German who will accompany you everywhere.

ZZZen Wed 28-Jan-09 11:50:38

do you think I am doing a good job of selling Berlin admylin?

Just clicked that I wrote the British school is English only but that's not strictly true, they do teach classes in German as a foreign language, not sure how many times a week.

pooka Wed 28-Jan-09 11:54:04

Golly - I wouldn't go to be honest, because the upheaval of moving the children for such a short length of time would seem unnecessary. I'd stay put and visit in school holidays/odd long weekend. You'd have Feb half term and all of easter and then may half-term. And it's not so far that your dh couldn't conceivably come back for the odd weekend.

pooka Wed 28-Jan-09 11:54:05

Golly - I wouldn't go to be honest, because the upheaval of moving the children for such a short length of time would seem unnecessary. I'd stay put and visit in school holidays/odd long weekend. You'd have Feb half term and all of easter and then may half-term. And it's not so far that your dh couldn't conceivably come back for the odd weekend.

admylin Wed 28-Jan-09 11:54:27

No sorry not selling it well - or maybe I'm reading between the lines because I know too much!

ZZZen Wed 28-Jan-09 12:09:06

well I am not trying to knock it actually so I wondered.

About being lonely. I have not found it difficult to make friends in Germany and there are SO MANY English speaking families there and so many activities run in English for grown-ups and for dc that really you needn't feel lonely if you make an effort to find out about those things and drag yourself off to soem of them. The embassy staff are generally well-informed on arrival so they are quite involved in various clubs and sports and things and seem generally happy enough IME.

Anyway, come back and ask us if anything is unclear.

admylin Wed 28-Jan-09 12:12:53

I know, you are such an expert on the place aswell. I think I probably didn't venture out of my little area enough when we lived in Berlin. What you were saying about it being green - it's true. You get on the train at the Hauptbahnhof going west and within 5 minutes it's a lovely green, leafy drive out to the suburbs, very inviting even.

ZZZen Wed 28-Jan-09 12:30:36

I am not an expert at all, I just know friends who are very well informed about the expat world and once you take your dc to swimming in Egnlish, you find out where there is scouting in English and from there you learn about ballet in English and women's groups and all the rest of it.

Embassy spouses are in an entirely different set-up, they are generally well taken care of and introduced to life, they try to make it sociable for them when they arrive. I have met some very unhappy ones for all that though

virtualrealityfreak Mon 03-Aug-09 15:03:48


I have just come accross this site on the web and wondered if anyone could assist me please?

We are currently living in Chalottenberg area, Berlin and will probably be here for about six months (we have already been here for about four in another area).

I have a two and a half year old daughter who I have been trying to sort out a suitable Kita for. We have already sampled an extremely bad state kita in the previous area and have begun a new bilingual kita but are unsure if she will be able to stay there. This is due as I have found out to my cost to some doubt over correct notice periods when it comes to kita contracts. Has anyone else had this experience and / or could give me some advice please. I am feeling extremely negative about Kindergardens in general at the present and don't want to put my little one in another bad one. However my little one needs something as is a sociable, enquiring little girl.

Also, does anyone recommend or know what the Charles Dickens kita is like and if they have places please? We are in Richard Wagner Platz so are unsure where Charles Dickens Kita is in relation to this.

Thanks in advance.

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