The Answers, part II: living in Germany, living in general, and kids

by Christina Geyer on April 4, 2008 · 17 comments

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What is the best part about living in Germany? What is the hardest?

The best part about living in Germany is probably the socialized medicine. You hear stories about illnesses making people bankrupt in the US, and I don’t have to worry at all about that here. If, God forbid, Oliver was autistic, or Rainer had a heart attack, or whatever, we wouldn’t need to worry about affording treatment.

The hardest part is living so far from the US/my family. Although, with my annual 4-5 week vacation back, I probably spend more time with them now than I would if I lived in another part of the US from them, I can’t just hop on a plane for a weekend at home like I could if I lived in the States.

Can you see yourself living forever in Germany?

Yeah, I could. In fact, that seems more likely than not, and I’m totally cool with that. I like Germany, and think that maybe it’s the better place to raise a family. I like that there isn’t this culture of fear. Every time I watch the US news, I feel scared. I don’t like that feeling. I didn’t notice it when I lived in the US, but I guess I must be much more relaxed now, since I do notice it now. I also like that Germans seem more easy-going when it comes to child-rearing. You don’t have German moms scrubbing down the house with antibacterial cleansers. Or thinking that if their kid isn’t in 500 different after-school-activities, it’ll stunt their intellectual growth and they won’t get into the right college. You can see six year olds walking to school alone (not always, but often enough). The ten year olds here even take the train on their own in to Regensburg for school. Can you imagine ten year olds taking a train 15 miles on their own in the US? Studies show that kids in Europe are healthier, more intelligent, and taller than their American counterparts – so I guess I’ll be happy to stay here for at least the next 20 years or so!  If the Euro stays strong against the US dollar though, retirement in the US probably wouldn’t be that bad, unless the US National Debt has caused a financial collapse.

Do you think that Regensburg is the final destination and if yes, what makes it feel right to stick around a little longer. If no, what places could you imagine to live? Back to the roots (The States, that is?)

I don’t know if Regensburg will be the final destination, it all depends on Rainer’s work, but I would be happy if it was our final destination. I like the city and I like the people here. When I lived in the east, people told us how Bavarians are stuck up and snotty, but I haven’t found that to be true at all. I think many people take the stereotype of Müncheners (which is just that, a stereotype) and apply it to all Bavarians. There is a bit of an Italian feel to the city, with people sitting at sidewalk cafes and hanging out in the squares. And the food here is pretty darn good.

I could imagine living a lot of places. I’m pretty adventurous. I could imagine living back in the US too, but I think if we did end up moving back there, I would have reverse culture shock and would require a long readjustment period. I’m pretty content with Germany and our current area.

I have read a bit about the vaccine debate in the US , so I was wondering if there is anything like that here?

I’ve read about the vaccine debate in the US too. I haven’t heard much about it here. Vaccinating your child is voluntary here. When it comes time for the scheduled immunizations, the pediatrician will give you a pamphlet describing the risks and benefits that you take home and read over. You sign a form that you understand the risks and benefits, then your kid gets the vaccine. All of the moms I know, including my Babytreff group, have immunized their kids. I haven’t heard much argument against doing it here, although I have heard of people delaying the immunizations because their kid was immune-compromised, etc.  Funny enough, I was just talking to someone about this and about autism.  If you’re interested in reading about autism rates in the EU, here’s an article from the European Commision.  It seems autism rates here are slightly lower than in the US:

…existing information suggests that age-specific prevalence rates for “classical autism” in the EU could vary between 3.3 and 16.0 per 10,000. These rates could increase to between 30 and 63 per 10,000 once all forms of ASD are included.

The average ASD prevalence among 8-year-olds in several areas of the US was 6.7 per 1,000 in 2000 and 6.6 per 1,000 in 2002, or about 1 in 150 children in the communities measured. Most ADDM Network sites found a prevalence of 5.2 to 7.6 per 1,000 8-year-olds with ASD in 2002. Prevalence was much lower in Alabama (3.3 per 1,000) and higher in New Jersey (10.6 per 1,000) in that year.

Based on your thoughts currently–As Oliver grows up, what do you think will be the main benefit/advantage for him in growing up in Germany that he would not receive if he were growing up in the US? Besides the German language skills!

I think the main advantage would be growing up with more awareness of the world. In the US, I think it’s easy to think of your locality as your world and not pay much attention to what’s going on outside of that world. I expect he’ll grow up knowing more about world geography and politics than he would growing up in the States.

Other than compatibility with both languages, what led you to choose Oliver’s name, and what other names did you consider?

We wanted a name that was pronounced the same in both languages. That was our main consideration. But we had a terrible time trying to come up with a name we could both agree on. I wanted Jamie and Rainer wanted Joe. We had agreed on a girl’s name (see below) and in the book The Baby Name Wizard (good book), Oliver was a suggested sibling name for our girl pick, and it was the first name we both loved.

What would his name have been if he’d been a girl?

Ella Iola. Ella after Ella Fitzgerald, Iola after my grandmother Ila Iola.

What was your favorite subject in seventh grade?

It’s difficult to remember back that far. I can remember 8th grade, but for some reason, 7th is harder. I’m guessing my favorite class was probably either English or Science. Even in college those were my favorite classes. I considered doing an MFA in creative writing (my college of choice would have been ASU), but statistics won out in the end due to being financially more lucrative.

As the daughter of a restaurateur, what irritates you most when dining out?

Rudeness from the waitstaff. After living in Europe, slow service doesn’t bother me at all, and I can forgive bad service most of the time, everybody has a bad day where nothing goes right, but being rude or snotty is unnecessary. Oh, and trying to cheat me, I will never go back to a restaurant that tries to cheat me. That’s why I won’t be going to San Daniele again. I’ve noticed this more in Germany than the US, probably because they just write down what you had at the end. I’ve had waitstaff try to charge me for more drinks than I drank, and try to charge us for meals that were already paid for by group members who already left (that was San Daniele). That’s an unforgivable sin.

Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

I think if we had unlimited funds, Paris would be awesome, or southern France. I loved Montpelier.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

It’s hard to come up with a perfect day, my days seem pretty darn good as they are, for the most part. I guess a perfect day might be somewhere on vacation with Rainer and our families, with nice weather, spending the day outdoors, maybe an hour or two on the beach in the morning, having a walk through a historic town in the afternoon, and an evening of sitting around chatting or playing games in the evening. that would be pretty ideal.

  • Maria

    Great Q&A!

  • Blythe

    I love this stuff.
    Hear hear on the best/worst parts of living here.
    I have met very few American couples here who can imagine staying forever (B. is an exception). I can imagine that being married to a European, particularly a German, makes it much easier to think of a long-term life here. Obviously you suspected settling in German would be a possibility when you got married, but also having a built-in language and culture expert and having family (even in-laws!) nearby are huge pluses. If I had both those things, I can much more easily imagine settling here. Do you think that’s true in your case?

    Also, thanks for correcting my spelling! And to think I came in fifth in the state spelling bee in eighth grade. Guess what my favorite subject was?!

  • sunil

    Hi everyone..i was looking for some english speaking community in regensburg and i got this link from toytown germany. i am living in germany from past 5 years. I like the country because i feel so much secured here unlike other countries but probably i can`t think of settling down in germany because personally i feel its very slow life here. Having a family here is kind of bit difficult until and unless she becomes good enough in german and gets some job else it will be very difficult to adjust. anyways i just wanted to put some views here and introduce myself. i am from india and new to regensburg. will keep checking for the updates on the website. thanx for taking the initiative of creating a website. sorry for grammatical mistakes..i am too tired today to correct them.

  • Christina G

    @sunil: I wasn’t always able to imagine myself here forever. I think it took me 3 years till I felt happy here (not just okay), and it wasn’t until Oliver was born that I started thinking about a lot of these other issues, like the social system.

    @blythe: I’m not sure having a German hubby makes things a lot easier. I think there are positives and negatives to both. With an American hubby, I think it would be more like we are in this together and we could talk as much as we wanted about our frustrations with the country. With a German hubby, there is only so much “annoyed at Germany and Germans” talk that they can handle. Plus, German hubbies are not all that helpful with adjustment. Sure, you can ask them, what’s up with what this guy said to you, is that normal? etc. But I find that many are very unhelpful with things like calling utility companies, etc. Rainer could more easily talk to the folks at Deutsche Telekom, but since I am home all day and he needs to work, he thinks I should struggle through it. That can be frustrating, since I hate talking on the phone in German. But it probably is easier to settle here with a German hubby than with an American.

    And nearby inlaws is not so much the case for me. Rainer’s parents are 5 hours drive away, and his brothers are a bit further. I definitely see them less than I see my family. I do wish it wasn’t so far away. I would love to have family nearby, either his or mine. I have no problem in pestering my brother to watching Oliver, but I feel uncomfortable asking friends to watch him, even when they offer, and it’s not because I’m uncomfortable leaving him with them, I just feel like I’m bothering them. I know, it’s crazy, but I *think* that’s normal, oder?

  • Ed Ward

    With luck, you can drop by Montpellier to say hi to me after this summer. It’s a *lot* better than Berlin, I gotta say!

  • Maria

    It is VERY normal. It took six months alone and a lot of desperate moments before I started taking friends up on their offer, and quite honestly, it started only because they forced me by saying that I would bring The Boy over every Thursday at 1700.

    BTW– I don’t remember subscribing tot his thread, but I got the emails. Are you testing a new feature on me?

  • Diane Mandy

    I really enjoyed this post because I feel I learned so much about you. I also have a renewed appreciation for living and raising children in Germany. I agree with the culture of fear pervasive in the U.S. as well as the notion that Oliver will grow up with a much better understanding of the greater world in general by living in Europe. But can I add another question to the list as a recent expat? Have you always felt this way? If you had been given some of these same questions back when you first moved, would any answers be different?

  • barbara

    Hi Chrisitna,
    How are you doing ?
    Yes; great questions from everyone !
    i hope that you are doing fine.
    Take care.

  • Christina G

    @ed: Awesome! I would love to live there. Good luck! Hopefully the next time we’re in the area, we’ll be able to look you up!

    @maria: Not a new feature, but it wasn’t working before. There should be a box to subscribe to comments, that is checked by defaultr when you make a comment. Is that annoying? I always found that helpful because when the box wasn’t checked, I’d always forget to check it, then I wouldn’t be subscribed and usually lost track of any answer I might have received.

    @diane: I definitely didn’t always feel this way. I was desperately homesick the first 1-2 years. It took 4 years till I was really happy, and it was only just recently that I started thinking it would be better to live here. I also lived in Berlin when I first came, and while Berlin is a lot of fun to visit, I woudn’t want to live the rest of my life there.

    @barbara: I’m doing great! It’s nice to hear from you. I hope things are wonderful in France!

  • Maria

    Not annoying at all. I forgot that I had already commented once, which is why I was getting the emails. I thought maybe the “subscribe without commenting” was tested on me, but really it was my own stupidity shining bright for the world to see! LOL! :)

  • Cecilia

    Thank you so much for the answers.
    I will look at the Baby Name Wizard too (we have the same problem in choosing a name for our baby).
    And if it is not too much asking… how do you call a mesh laundry bag in German? (for washing lingerie)

  • Betsy

    I just came over from Momformation, where I do some blogging. I am soooooooo envious that you live in Germany. I have spent quite a bit of time over there, I taught German, brought an exchange group to Stuttgart and also did a lot of snowboarding in the mountains of Germany and Austria. I always imagine what it would be like to raise my children over there. I love all the walking and fresh markets and the fact that you don’t need a car. America will always be here. Enjoy this experience while you can.

  • Christina G

    @cecilia: It’s a good book, check it out. And sorry I took so long, I’ve been sick and now the little monster is sick, but a lingerie bag is called a “Wäschebeutel” in German.

    @betsy: Thanks for visiting Betsy. I’ll probably be here for the rest of my life, so I’ll be sure to enjoy it 😉

  • NJ Dude

    I can imagine that their are considerable advantages to socialized medicine. My only concern would be how to afford something like that. But, with a new president in office in the US, maybe now is the time that will become a reality.

    NJ Dudes last blog post..Sea Isle City in the Fall

  • ali

    hello every one wow so glad I am to find an English community here in regensburg badly need it one.. anyhow my name is Ali and I come from Kuwait working here in Regensburg Universität for 3 months now I am a dentist and hoping to get my master degree in surgery. I am trying to find a good pediatricion for my daughter here in regensburg who speaks English cuz my wife speaks zero German..I am open to any ideas.

  • Christina Geyer

    I’m not certain, but I think Dr Gudrun Fleck speaks English. I think most doctors in the area (at least the non-ancient ones) should at least be able to understand English. I’ll ask around if anyone knows of a doctor who for sure speaks English.

  • Josef

    I read that you were a statistician in health research in both the US and Germany, so I was wondering if maybe you had some statistics on the Autism rates in Germany. I looked all over the Internet and i found nothing on the rates in Germany, so i would really appreciate it if could send me some statistics on the autism rates in Germany, or even anything you have on autism in Germany.

    Thank you Christina

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