We all dream of living abroad at least once in our life, but what does the expat life actually look like? Bébé Voyage’s very own Emily Briggs shares her family’s experience living in Braunschweig, Germany.
Q.Can you tell us a little about you and your family?
A.My partner is German and I am American. We have a 2-year-old son who was born in the US.
Q.When and why did you move to Braunschweig, Germany?
A. My son and I moved to Braunschweig, Germany in April 2019, so we have been there for just over a year. My partner was living in Germany and I was in the US when we had our son (he was a bit of a surprise), so we had pressure to figure out which place we were going to live so that we could all be together. One of the biggest factors was that it was much easier for me to get a resident permit in Germany than for my partner to get one for the US since we are not married. I was also drawn to Germany because in many ways I think it is more family-friendly than the US with better policies in place for affordable childcare, significantly longer parental leave policies, and in general, a better work-life balance.
Q. What is your favorite thing about living in Braunschweig?
A. I love how family-friendly everything is, the number of playgrounds in our area is incredible! I also think that the childcare system is great for children and parents.
It’s also great to be able to visit different cities in Germany or throughout Europe with a short flight or even a car drive.
Q. How do you find the lifestyle in Germany? Did you manage to adapt to daily life easily?
A. Aside from the language barrier, I found it fairly easy to adapt to daily life. In the beginning, I found myself overwhelmed at the thought of going out to run errands such as a trip to the grocery store alone as I was afraid I would have problems because of not being able to speak German. I had to kind of force myself to get out to do those things because I was spending too much time cooped up in my apartment with a 1-year-old, while my partner was at work. Since my partner obviously does speak German and his family is mostly living nearby and can help out, I do have a lot of help available when it comes to calling to make doctor’s appointments and things like that. But I still hate the feeling that I cannot do such basic tasks on my own.
Q. How is family life? How did the kid/s find living in a new place and culture?
A. As I mentioned above, family life in Germany is wonderful. I think it’s an amazing place for children. Since my son is so young, he doesn’t know any other way of life, but I think any child would be happy here.
Q. What do you miss most about your home country?
A. I miss being close to my friends and family the most. Especially now with everything happening because of coronavirus. I kind of feel stuck here sometimes and unable to see my family. We haven’t visited my parents since last September so it has almost been a year and sadly I don’t think my son even understands that he has another set of grandparents.
Also, as a generalization, I find Americans tend to be very friendly when out and about whilst Germans tend to keep more to themselves. I miss those greetings from cashiers at the grocery store or random small talk with strangers as you go about your day.
Q. What are the biggest challenges you face whilst living in Braunschweig, Germany?
A. Definitely not speaking the language. A lot of people speak some English but since we are in a small city and most people don’t need to keep it up after school, it’s hard to get by without help. For example, when we go to the doctors, the doctor is able to speak English so that’s great, but the receptionists usually do not so that makes it difficult to call and make appointments and can make the check-in process a little confusing.
I have been able to meet up with other English speakers through Facebook groups which is great.
Q. If you could move to Germany again what would you do differently?
A. In general, my move was very smooth, but I do wish that I had brought or shipped more of those products that I cannot get in Germany, like my favorite brands of stick deodorant, tampons with strings, brown sugar, and mac & cheese.
Q. Can you give some useful tips to families who are looking to move to Germany?
A. I would definitely research the areas in Germany as there can be a lot of variation with the cost of living and the ease in getting by if you do not speak German. It’s also important to research the options for obtaining a residence permit. I had an easy time obtaining a temporary 3-year permit because I have a German child. My understanding is that to stay beyond 5 years I would be required to pass a B2 level language test.
Q. Would you move back to the US? Why?
A. Yes, I am hoping to move back to the US in a few years. I can’t imagine staying so far away from my family and friends for too long. Also, while I am currently taking German classes and learning quite a bit, it has been a struggle and I really can’t see myself getting to the point where I am fluent, unfortunately.
Q. What would you miss about living abroad?
A. I would definitely miss the adventure of it! While sometimes it can be really stressful navigating a new country, once you start to get certain aspects of the new life down you can feel really proud of yourself.
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