The Beginning

German Row Houses

It’s a very good place to start. We’ve begun repeating a phrase in our family: Everything in Germany is hard. Our internet is installed and it felt like a very long 3 days without internet. Oh, and furniture. So, I give you a bit of … venting? that I composed after 72 hours in Germany. I wrote this on Saturday evening and it’s certainly all with a grain of salt… oder ein bier. Take your pick. 🙂

[The photo above can be seen from our upstairs windows in our home. I’m really falling in love with the exterior look of German housing. Side note, though, we looked at houses like these and the insides were often dark and not appealing. But isn’t the outside absolutely charming?!?]

We’ve been here 72 hours. But who’s counting. It felt like for three days nothing went our way or went smoothly. Today I went to the bank and successfully pulled out all the cash I needed. The machine didn’t beep or yell at me and I understood what I was supposed to do. After 48 hours in Hamburg, this was the first thing that seemed to go smoothly and I shed a couple of tears on the way home… I was so happy. Like—exhausted happy. (Not to mention it was my first car ride alone, which was slightly like therapy.)

Why did we need cash? Well, when you go to another country, it’s not just a change in currency… it’s a change in customs. Germans buy almost everything with cash. “You won’t get far with a card” our friend Delia said. And she was right. (She said this after covering 1/2 of our lunch costs… because we didn’t have enough cash.)

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Speaking of Delia… DELIA. This kind and wonderful lady has helped us in so many ways in three days. She is our relocation company agent and I love her. We met her in person for the first time at 9 a.m. on Thursday at our new home. We’re renting a brand new townhouse near our school and Delia was here to communicate with the landlord. In fact, she deemed our shower water pressure to be too soft, and communicated that it was not acceptable and they needed to fix it. BAM. It was done. I love her. (You should visit us just to enjoy our shower water pressure, by the way.)

Townhouses

When the landlord left, we had four sets of keys and a beautiful home—but no time to drool! No! Delia had more paperwork ready to go. She had us sign for registration with the government and then we drove over to the registration office. (Side note: almost every business here has a play table for children. It’s stunning.) She communicated with the government official and got us all registered. BAM. I love Delia. (Another side note: our town has a market twice per week! I’m ecstatic!)

We took a lunch break (see story above regarding cash) at the mall in our town (we have a Mall! And it has TKMax! Hah. Yes. Same company—I think.) Then, we drove to the bank. Delia communicated with the banker and got us all set up with a bank account. BAM. Delia’s awesome.

At this point, we’re like spaghetti noodles. Overcooked ones. We have no brain energy left. The toddlers have been barely tolerable all day while we did administration jobs and we crawled home. The end of the first (exhausting) day.

For our second day, we drove over to the new house and tried to think clearly about what we needed in order to camp in our home for three nights without our stuff. In short:

  • Bedding of some kind
  • Cutting board and knives
  • Egg pan and spatula
  • Coffee mugs for our awesome new espresso machine
  • Scissors—You know, to open the knife packaging.
  • Towels for showering
  • Chairs would be nice.

And then there was the grocery store list:

  • Trash bags
  • Dish soap and sponge
  • Hand soaps for the bathrooms
  • Paper towel
  • Toilet Paper
  • FOOD

We also replaced our electronics for the new type of electricity:

  • Toaster
  • Hair dryer
  • Heating pad
  • (Still need new baby monitor and sound machines)

But really, forget the lists. This is what’s amazing about being in a new country that speaks a different language… Let me count the ways. You want to park? Go figure out how to use a parking machine… In German. You want to use a credit card in a store? They ask about three questions in German before swiping with a huff and puff because you don’t know what they’re asking you. You don’t have any Euro coins, so you schlepp a hand-held basket while trying to grocery shop for 4 people because the carts are coin-dispensed. You go to check out in IKEA and your card is rejected. And no one speaks English. And you stand there for 30 minutes while they call the credit card system company to fix it. You want to buy meat but all they have is sauerkraut… and brats. You have one working phone. ONE. When our party separates—one of us is left in the early 1990s. There is no way to communicate, no assistance to call and ask an opinion and no way to make sure you find each other at the end of the night. And the men all have man-bags. It’s amazing.

It’s a firehose and I’m drinkin’ from it. My mouth is sore from being open-wide. We pulled into our driveway tonight and I thought, “It’d be nice to meet one neighbor on our way to our door tonight.” But then I thought, “Nevermind. Not unless they speak English. I’m tired.”

So, day two was IKEA (see household list above) and signing up for our TV/Internet/Cell Phones. The end of the second (exhausting) day.

Day three had a different pace. We moved out of our Airbnb, which I was very happy about. The best thing about that stay—and this was so very important: they had toys. The kids were ecstatic and left us alone to play independently, which is a gift we haven’t seen much of in a while. But, it was more on the Harvard graduate housing level of comfort than it was our first family home level of comfort. I think that stung a little more after seeing our beautiful home. I got itchy to move on. And it’s the end of day three—and we’ve moved on. We’re sleeping on mattress pads from Schulenburg (a furniture store) with blankets and pillows from IKEA. And our home is beautiful. You guys. BEAUTIFUL. 

Our Kitchen

I can’t wait for you all to come visit! The cabinets and drawers in the kitchen have that cool slow closing feature. The bathrooms are gorgeous. The top floor has a skylight in the hallway. The windows have this pop-open feature at the top which is so very normal in Germany (though I’ve never seen it!) The third floor has a balcony and our living room window wall faces South. Oh the green thumb joys! (Side note: if our original contract hadn’t fallen through, we’d be facing West—a much less desirable direction! That’s a blessing.) We are also a short walk  from the Lidl- an Aldi-like grocery market—which is wonderful.

The real icing on the cake was getting to go to the ISC Welcome Event at the end of our third day. We met countless people who were unbelievably kind and open. The community around this school was like a tall glass of water in the desert of transitioning our family. People who can speak English, who have recommendations on where to find bedding and meat. It was so nice to break into the community at ISC so early in our stay.

Next on my list? Learn more German. Simple things like:

  • “How do you say _____?”
  • “Where is the _______?”
  • “How are you?”

I said my first sentence in German this week: “Do you accept credit cards?” and the cashier lady looked at me like I had 8 heads… so you know. It’s going great. I also ordered three of something when I meant to order two. Hah. Everywhere I go I try to use Spanish. So unhelpful. And I’m not even partially fluent in Spanish! Ack.

I can’t wait to share more with you. It’s been such a wild ride. My admiration and respect for anyone who has moved to a new country that doesn’t speak their native language has SKYROCKETED. It is so isolating. I’m crossing my fingers that tortillas, peanut butter, and raisins are in some store. Somewhere. We live on this stuff and I’m not sure sauerkraut and brats will easily replace them! In the meantime, the cappuccinos are really helping our mornings, our home is beautiful, and our stuff will be moved in today! (And the washer and dryer on Thursday!!) As soon as some of our stuff is in our home, I’ll post some photos!

Tschüss!

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3 Replies to “The Beginning”

  1. Mary, Make a list of things for care packages. Also what’s your address What’s does Tschüss mean? Keep in touch, Love your letter, grandpa bud was a fan of this sort of communication! Love, Maz Sent from my iPhone

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    1. Tschüss means “Bye!” It’s more sung than spoken. It’s cute 🙂 I’ll send you our address and care package ideas–you’re the kindest!! Glad to hear that Grandpa Bud would’ve liked it–I hope to become more and more like him!

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