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From the USA to Germany: Royal Little Lambs

18 April, 2016 08:24  Erin Erin

Royal Little Lambs Jennifer holds a M.Ed. in secondary English and is an introvert, geek, military wife, beer connoisseur, foodie, homeschool mom and international traveler.

1.    Why did you move abroad?
We moved to Germany almost 2 years ago when my husband transferred with his job in the US Air Force. We were told we’d be moving to New Jersey, so this was more exciting! It’s always been my dream to travel to or live in Europe.

2.    How do you make a living?
I left my job as an English professor about 10 years ago when I got married and we moved across the US. I began homeschooling my daughter, then we added 2 more girls to our family within 2 years! We now have a son also.

I write a blog and dabble with an essential oils and natural skin care home business.

My husband is an Air Force medical laboratory officer.

3.    How often do you communicate with home and how?
We keep in touch with family by email and Facebook. We do have international calling capabilities for emergencies and holiday greetings.

My eldest daughter chats with her cousins and friends on Instagram and Spotify.

I think it’s very important to keep in touch with family and our friends from all over the world. We realize what a small world it is when we get to travel to see more of it. We don’t know when we’ll see each other again, what the future holds, and technology makes it more bearable.

4.    What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Germany?
We love being able to travel easily all over Europe. We’re so close to so many countries that we can spontaneously take day or weekend trips!

We love the quality of the food here. I don’t have to pore over the labels, worrying about chemicals, dyes, and artificial flavorings. Almost all the produce is GMO-free. Even the cheaper meats are fancy upscale butcher-quality compared to many grocers in America. We do like to eat.

5.    What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Germany?
The worst thing about living here is that we know our days are numbered. We know our overseas tour is only for three years. The military is often denies requests for extensions. We love it and we don’t want to go “home”!

6.    What do you miss most?
We actually joke about how little we miss the USA.

STORAGE. We have much less storage. But we have a built-in walk-in closet in the master bedroom and I don’t know anyone else here who has that!

The potatoes are different here. We have to buy nitrate-free bacon and holiday hams at the base commissary. We miss real Mexican food.

It’s been hard getting used to radiator heat. We’re often bundling up indoors on the coldest days. We’ve always lived somewhere warm and sunny, so the climate is dreary, but we take advantage and get outdoors lots when the sun shines!

7.    What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
We know we have to jump in immediately when we move to a new location. There’s no room for shyness for military families.

I join Facebook groups as soon as we know we’re moving to a new location.

My teen daughter brought her Civil Air Patrol uniforms with her and joined the squadron here the week we arrived!

We met homeschoolers on base by walking to an event I read about online.

As soon as we arrived here, we joined a field trip to learn how to shop on the German economy and I met my new best friend there.

My kids play at our village park almost every day and meet lots of other kids (and I meet their moms) that way.
Facebook is a great way to look up events or join location-relevant groups for information and meetups.

8.    What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Almost everything is cash only. I have to plan well ahead for shopping. I used to rely on using our debit card for everything. We did acquire a “pin and chip” credit card for travel expenses. American banks need to get on board with those!

The internet is slower DSL (instead of cable) and cellular phone data plans are not available in “unlimited usage.” And it took almost 6 months to set up these accounts.

Everything is closed on Sundays and holidays, so I have to plan ahead to get errands and shopping done and if I forget something, oh well. I grew up in the Bible belt, so this isn’t really that odd for me.

Also, people don’t really line up here. They just sort of mingle about. My kids like to do things for themselves, so I often stand a bit away and watch as old ladies shoulder them aside to buy a Wurst or Baguette at the Bäckerei.

My kids won’t speak up in English or German because they’re worried to appear rude, so they’ll just wait until they’re noticed or I step in to help them.

We have to crank up the heat and open the windows for a few minutes every morning. Even when it’s super cold out. But we don’t want mold, so we do it anyway.

9.    What is a myth about your adopted country?
“Everyone here speaks English.” While it is true that most German people have more of a working knowledge of the English language than probably 98% of Americans have of the German language, many feel just as embarrassed trying to speak non-perfect English to me as I do trying to speak German to them. And for the record, I took 4 semesters of German 20 years ago, at university. So I can pretty much ask for more beer and where the toilet is. The important things.

I was prepared for the typical German directness and I like it since I don’t sugarcoat anything.

I’ve heard there’s little sense of humor here, but that’s so not true. Most have a dry, sarcastic wit and I fit in just perfectly.

I love that most Germans are handshakers and not huggers or kissers, but we have met some who grab us and love on us every time they see us. And that’s ok.

10.    Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
I would say that the cost of living is a bit higher than the US, but we get COLA and VAT reprieves as a military family. We also have the benefit of buying a monthly ration of gasoline on base at a discount.

We often choose to buy the better quality food on the economy than the commissary on base. We are at the mercy of the exchange rate for our COLA.

We were able to ship our household goods and minivan here on government expense. We get a housing allowance and utilities allowance. We maintained our US auto and rental insurance.

11.    What advice would you give other expats?
Read everything you can about where you’re going. Join forums or online groups for help in every area. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Jump in socially immediately after you arrive.

Go exploring! Take advantage of every opportunity you can to learn about the culture, cuisine, nature, whatever you’re into. We often just hop into the car to find new parks to have picnics or watch the birds.

Don’t be afraid of language barriers. I don’t speak perfect German or French or Spanish, but I can almost always find a way to communicate with someone. I once had a conversation in French when we traveled to Greece because he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Greek!

And, it’s not all exciting. We do most of the same things we’d do if we lived anywhere. Most days are ordinary. My husband still has to go to work. I homeschool our four kids.

We just get to see castles or thousand-year-old cathedrals any weekend we want to.

12.    When and why did you start your blog?Royal Little Lambs
I began blogging in 2005 as a way to keep an online scrapbook of our homeschooling journey and it’s expanded to include articles about parenting, military life, and our travel experiences!

Blog LinkJennifer's blog, Royal Little Lambs

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