Missing America

We have made it to the 6 month mark! We are slowly but surely settling in to our new lifestyle and are adjusting to the German ways.

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(Like living in a snow globe)

There are some things we love about Germany and some things we miss about the US. So here is a list of a few things we truly miss about the good old United States of America:

  1. Target- This one is pretty self-explanatory for all the Target lovers out there. I miss having a huge store that has everything there from food to diapers to clothes. Somewhere I can just stroll around in and do one stop shopping. There are a few places like that here but it just isn’t the same as my favorite Target.
  2. Parking Lots- Speaking of big stores, I also miss the big parking lots. Parking is at a premium here. So when there is a parking lot (or more likely a parking garage), the parking space is tiny. I have 2 kiddos that I have to get in and out of the car with one in an infant car seat. I need some space! I miss you American parking lots!!
  3. Drive-Thru- Specifically I need a Starbucks drive-thru. I am not much of a fast food eater so that doesn’t impact me but I would love, love, LOVE to get some caffeine via a drive thru. Particularly right now with a newborn (aka Midnight Crib Raver) and a toddler, it would be awesome for someone to hand me some hot caffeine directly into my car while the 2 of them are strapped down in their car seats. Oh well. At least we are saving some money by not buying as many $5 drinks. Ha!img_0921                                              (Kinder Eggs make everything better)
  4. Ice- I know I have mentioned this one before in previous blogs but it is worth mentioning again. They don’t serve ice in drinks here. I still find it strange and every once in a while you just want a super cold drink over ice.
  5. IPA Beers- This one is from Gavin. Germany has great beer don’t get us wrong but they are not into IPA beers. We aren’t being depraved here of awesome beer opportunities but Gavin would love a few IPAs in the mix.
  6. You- Most of all we miss our friends and family. It is fun being on a new adventure but we also miss all of the good times with all of you.img_6148                                                              (The fun continues)

One Month

We have officially been here for a full month. We are still in the thick of transitioning and things have been a little slow. Moving in the month of August is bad timing. August is a very popular month for people to take vacation (holiday) so things that would normally take a short amount of time to complete (like having a handy man come to the house) is taking us twice as long as everyone is out on vacation. However, we have had some amazing support from our relocation assistant and she has been able to help us through all the chaos.

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(Empty house waiting for our things to arrive)

We have moved into our home and our stuff arrived 3 weeks ago. We are still getting things out of boxes but we are slowly getting there. We were able to set up our internet which is why we are back to blogging! I think our downsizing worked out well as all of our furniture fits into the house nicely. However, we did not downsize our clothing and books enough. There is minimal storage (most houses do not have built in closets) so we have already filled most storage areas and still have 2 boxes of clothes to go! IKEA is becoming a frequent trip.

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(View from the Kitchen as our stuff arrives)

The other hurdle we are dealing with is the language barrier. We didn’t think it would be so hard since most people here speak English but we have found our nemesis: the automated computer answering service. Most people do speak English but when you call places such as the cable company you have to talk to that silly automated machine first. You know the one that says “Press 1 for customer service, press 2 for billing”, etc. Of course this is all in German and there is no “Press 1 for German, Press 2 for English” option like we have in the US for English and Spanish. The technique that I have been using is keep pressing 1. I attempted pressing 0 for operator but that didn’t work out so pressing 1 is my go to. It has worked out so far with the cable company. When that doesn’t work what I have done is sent an email to the company and that email usually gets passed around until someone who speaks English gets ahold of it and calls me back. Not the most efficient method but that has worked too. Which brings me to the word of the month: “Patience”.

Patience is a virtue we have been working on hard this month. We are “Type A” people who like to get things done. We make a list and start checking things off as quickly as we can to reach our final goal. Well that hasn’t happened the way we planned at all. Things are getting done but just not at the pace we want it to get done and are used to it being done. We are learning that things move slower and that is ok. We need to take a deep breath and take it all in.

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(Taking it all in)

On the positive side, we are in our new house, we have connections to the outside world and we are slowly settling in. I assume that as soon as we finally feel unpacked and ready baby #2 will arrive to throw everything back into chaos. That is what makes this an adventure though right! Off we go….

Leasing a House

We have found a home and have been going through the leasing process. It is a bit different here in Germany and we are lucky to have a relocation company that is helping us through everything including translating all the documents to English so we know what we are signing. I have mentioned before how you have to apply for a house that is available and then you wait to see if the landlords like you or not. It is a rather competitive market and we lost our first house option due to that (not everyone is excited to rent to Americans). However, we did make it through the process to our second house and have the keys in hand! All we need now is for our furniture and all those goodies to arrive so we can move in. Can’t wait to get out of this hotel!

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I thought I would share a couple of comments that were added to the lease by our relocation company to make sure us crazy Americans followed all the rules.

  1. To avoid mold and damage in the house, it is appropriate to air the home 3-4 times a day for 10 minutes each. If you are not home all day then you should air the home in the morning and in the evening for at least 15 minutes each time. They went into very specific details about this. Like the windows must be fully open for the entire 10 minutes. This is expected to be done year round which means wide open windows in winter. This is mentioned 8 times in the agreement. 8 times! This is apparently very serious business.
  2. Renovations: If you get a home with freshly painted walls and redone floors then it is expected that you will paint the walls and refinish the floors before you move out. This means every single room. You have to be careful with this a bit as our home was listed as completely refinished but the walls were not painted so we had to make sure to document this so that we don’t have to paint the walls when we move out.
  3. “Carpets, blankets, bed rugs, furniture etc. are only allowed to be cleaned outside between Mondays and Saturdays at the designated area, but not between the hours of 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 7a.m.”
  4. “It is not allowed to leave items, particularly bikes, baby carriages etc. in yards, in hallways, staircases and drying rooms unless otherwise specified.” So you can’t leave the kiddos bike out in the backyard. It must be put away and not in the hallway.
  5. “On Sundays and public holidays it is not allowed to hang laundry outside. It is not allowed to hang laundry in front of the windows or on balconies facing the street”
  6. “The main entrance to the house / apartment block must be kept locked between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and between 2 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Sundays and public holidays.” The relocation agent also made a point to tell us both locks (the regular door lock and security lock) must be locked.
  7. “A “period of quiet” is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. (This is a legal regulation in Germany and has to be followed). If the tenant listens to music or uses any other mechanical devices (e.g. washing machine) it must be ensured that no other tenant is disturbed.”

That is it for our quirky new house rules. I think we can manage to follow those though I do think keeping the kiddos quiet from 1-3pm might be a little rough but that might just be our new nap time.

The recycling system here is also INSANE. If recycling was an Olympic sport then all Germans would get a gold medal. But that is a story for another day.

We’ll keep you posted when we can finally move in!

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First Week

To celebrate our first complete week in Germany I present to you a Top Ten list of things we learned. The good, the bad and the awkward.

  1. You have to pay to pee. If you are at a public location such as the park, train station, etc. then you better have some spare change if you have to tinkle. We had a heads up on this procedure from our adventures in England but it is still surprising to any American that you would have to pay to pee. As a pregnant woman, you better believe I have an entire change purse fully loaded and at the ready.
  2. The first German word I learned was Ausfahrt (insert giggles here). The word Ausfahrt means exit. It is absolutely everywhere. Follow the Ausfahrt signs to get out of the parking garage, exit the Autobahn, etc. Now maybe I have the humor of a junior high boy but come on! You know that word looks like a$$fart. I mean seriously! How can you not giggle a little every time you see a giant sign that says Ausfahrt. Hilarious and helpful word to know.
  3. Amusement Rides are dangerous (sort of). We ventured to a fair down by the river that was for younger children. They had the traditional fair food (cotton candy, giant pretzels, slushies, etc.) but when it came to the children’s ride everything changed. One of the rides was children riding in a crate down a track that looks like it was made to transfer boxes out of a truck. No guard rails in case they fell off the sides. I must say they all seemed very happy though. The bounce house was also there but there is no net or walls on the side. Instead parents kind of gather on all sides and its your duty to protect any child that may fall your way from making it to the ground. O LOVED this. IMG_0607And then the mother of all craziness: climbing beer crates. With this activity there is a harness and an automatic belay, so not super dangerous it just looks terrifying. They start standing on like 3 crates and then once the child gets their balance they are handed another crate and they must add it to the stack and then climb up. They get rather high. It looks very challenging and from a physical therapy perspective looks like a great high level balance activity. The overall goal is to get to the top and ring a bell. In all of these rides, no one got hurt it just was a little shocking to see because there is NO WAY any of this would happen in America. In the end though, everyone was having fun and that is all that matters.IMG_0613
  4. Eggs are not refrigerated. I looked all over the grocery store to find some eggs until I finally realized they are not in the refrigerated section. They are sitting on the regular shelves like a box of cereal. Still taste good!
  5. No such thing as a free bag. Europe has started an initiative to get rid of the plastic bags that you get everywhere you go. They started this recently (a year or so ago) so when you go to the grocery store you need to bring your own bags, purchase reusable bags or buy paper bags. I think its like 5 cents per paper bag. I saw a news article the other day that stated that England alone has dropped its use of plastic bags by 80% over the first year that this tax was in place. This is a country that was originally using 7.6 billion plastic bags per year so that is SUPER impressive. I think America should get on board with this idea. I think it is brilliant!
  6. No one drinks tap water. No one! When you go out to a restaurant no one will bring you a free glass of water. You can order water (still or bubbly) but you can’t get a glass of tap water. I looked into this a little bit and there seems to be no clear answer to why Germans do not drink tap water. Some people theorized that it is due to the poor water quality after World War II so there is a generation that grew up not being able to drink tap water and they passed that tradition down to their children. This is just one theory but doesn’t mean it is the answer. Tap water in Germany is perfectly safe to drink and is heavily regulated but the tradition continues. Either way you have to buy bottled water at the restaurant in order to drink water.   Which brings us to our next point…
  7. Beer is cheaper than water. No joke. At the restaurant the bottled water is typically 2.50-5.50 (euros) small to big sizes. A glass of beer is typically 2-4 euros. Beer is cheaper than water, which is a cruel, cruel twist of fate for this preggo lady but hubby doesn’t seem to mind one bit.
  8. Never leave home without an umbrella. Seriously though. Never!
  9. Google Translate is everything. When using Google Chrome as your Internet browser, a handy dandy tool called Google Translate will pop up and offer to translate pages from German to English. Yes! Yes! A million times yes! This has been extremely helpful. It has its own quirks but I don’t know what we would do without it.
  10. German Chocolate is amazing! But you already knew that. It is seriously super delicious and it makes everything better. It was worth the trip!

First Few Days in Germany

After a 9.5 hour flight, we finally arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. We left Denver at 5:40pm on a Wednesday and arrived at 11:40am on a Thursday. The Frankfurt Airport is HUGE! It is the 3rd largest Airport in Europe and 11th overall just behind Hong Kong and Dallas. There was walking, more walking, passport check, escalator, escalator and more walking before finally finding baggage claim. Luckily all signs are in German and English but let me tell you that is a test of your mental fortitude. Get off plane after 9.5 hrs with minimal sleep and maneuver your way around a massive airport. Just to make things interesting lets add a 2 year old who thinks he is in charge, one misplaced gate checked stroller and GO!

We were very blessed in that Gavin’s new co-workers met us at the Airport after baggage claim. They helped us maneuver our way to the rental cars (more walking and elevators) and helped us find the parking garage where the vehicle would be (again more walking and surprisingly not close to the rental car area). They also helped us manage all of our luggage. They even helped us find the hotel, get us lunch and help us settle in. We are forever grateful and cannot express how thankful we are for this kind gesture. It made a HUGE difference on our first day.

Time Change

The next struggle for us has been the time change. They say it takes 1 day for every hour difference in time. There is an 8 hour time difference between Colorado and Germany so it is supposed to take us 8 days to adjust. 8 days. Let that sink in for a minute while I cuddle my screaming toddler. 8 days!

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We have been through 2 nights here so far and they look like this: fall asleep at 5:30-6 pm as unable to keep eyes open any longer, wake up wide awake at midnight, stay awake until 2-3 am and then fall back asleep until 10am-noonish. I should add wake up starving at midnight because you fell asleep before dinner and have no food options open. Poor hubby has dealt with hangry pregnant wife on very little sleep. We have learned our lesson. Today we ventured to the grocery store for midnight dinner options and are attempting a more strict sleep schedule to attempt to slowly change our internal clocks. Fingers crossed!

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Finding a Home

As mentioned above we got in Thursday afternoon and then the very next day we were scheduled to meet with our “relocation assistant” to help find us a house. There’s nothing better to cure jet lag hangover then making a huge decision about where to live. It really couldn’t be avoided though as we have to find a place before all of our stuff gets here. We met with a lovely woman named Stephanie who was able to show us around our new town and show us several properties. The housing market in Wiesbaden is rough (right now). Rents are high and options are limited. Fortunately we were able to find 2 homes that we really liked. The process of renting a home here is rather interesting. After you decide you would like to rent a home, you must fill out a tenant form. Basically a form that says who you are, what do you do for a living, how much money do you make and where do you bank. You then submit this form to the landlord and they get to just hold on to the form until they decide if they want you as renters or not. They can say yes right away or they can wait and see who else might come along. I feel like we are trying to find a date on Match.com . We submitted our paperwork on Friday and now we wait. I hope they like us!

Final Thoughts

The first few days have been chaos but overall I think things are going well. We have been able to order food (most people speak English), the kiddo has only had a couple meltdowns (he is 2! Its going to happen), we attempted to drive the car somewhere (but didn’t succeed and came home and walked it. Haha!), we have managed to get on the right train (and back!) and we’ve been to the grocery store.

IMG_0594(O loves the train!)

All in all, not too bad. I look forward to the days when everything comes easy, but that’s not what we signed up for now is it. Our first few steps into European waters have been shaky but I think we are finding our way. Stay tuned for more Littleboy Shenanigans!

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Moving Day

Moving day has finally arrived. Everything happened so quickly from the job offer, to quitting my job, to packing up that moving day came upon us fast. This is the first day that I have truly felt like we are moving to Germany. Since we accepted the position, I have been so consumed with finishing things off at work, getting paperwork filled out, getting rid of our belongings and compiling to-do lists and packing lists that I have not taken the time to actually sit down and think. We are moving to Germany. This is happening!

 

With this move, we had movers hired to box everything up and move it into the moving truck. This is a first for me. Moving usually entails us sweating like crazy, getting cranky and having a meltdown by the end of the day with only half the house packed. This time it was AMAZING. Three guys showed up on Tuesday morning and with lightening speed they had everything wrapped up and boxed. Everything divided and labeled by room (we’ll see how that actually works out on the other side). The only thing we had to do before hand was pack up what was going on the flight with us and set aside what was going on the air shipment. They did the rest. Though I must admit we were scrambling around Tuesday morning as we realized last minute things that needed to go in different shipments.

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The movers were here for 4 hours on Tuesday and 4 hours on Wednesday. Boom done! They brought the gigantic freight container for shipping on a truck. We filled up less than 1/3 of the container! I guess our downsizing plan worked out! Hopefully we’ll see it all on the other side. We’ll keep you posted!

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Downsizing (Minimally Minimalist)

As we prepared for our move overseas, one of the major things that had to be addressed was our STUFF and let me tell you there was a lot of STUFF.   We live in a fairly large house in the suburbs with a 2 car garage, not exactly European living. Here is what we did to start getting rid of our stuff.

First, we started off by doing some research (because we are nerds like that). Of course there is the random internet advice (see Google). My husband follows a nice podcast called The Minimalist (www.theminimalists.com). This offered some great advice on how to get into the right mindset as your prepare to get rid of things and also offered advice on how to get that done. One example we used is using a service to scan your old photos to get them digitalized. Then you can finally get rid of the ton of old photo boxes you have hanging around.

I did my part too! I read the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. Super popular book right now and can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-Decluttering-Organizing-ebook/dp/B00KK0PICK Now everything offered in this book is maybe not reasonable for the traditional American lifestyle but it did offer some great ideas that we put into practice.

  1. One of the first ideas I absolutely loved was waiting until the end to go through sentimental things like old photos and mementos. Start with easier stuff like clothes and books. The thought is that the sentimental stuff will pull you in and you will start reminiscing and stop decluttering.
  2. Organize by category not room. So get all of your coats/outerwear and get them in one room so you can see every single coat you have. If you did the bedroom and then the coat closet, you might convince yourself you need a couple extra coats because you forgot about the ones you already went through and kept in another room.
  3. Which brings me to the one that I think is the most important. Get everything in one room and pile it up. This is a big step! I put all of my shirts in one pile and my immediate thought was “Why in the world do I have this many shirts?!?!” This really makes you realize how much stuff you really truly have and is a gut check on how this stuff is burdening you.
  4. Only declutter (aka throw out) your own stuff. I can’t just go through my husbands closet and throw out what I think needs to go. That just causes sore feelings. However, I can mildly coax him in the right direction J

The book also promotes only keeping things that “Spark Joy” (which also became the title of Kondo’s 2nd book). She recommends holding each item in your hands and determining if it truly brings you joy. The idea is to take the time to really appreciate each item you have and realize that it is serving some purpose in your life and if it isn’t then it is time to get rid of it. I may have not fully deployed this tactic during my downsizing. The book is a quick read and I think everyone who reads it can take out a tip or 2 that works for their lifestyle so why not give the book a try.

Ok so what are the actual steps we took after all this “research”:

  1. First we got rid of everything we haven’t used in the last 6 months (think clothes, kitchen appliances, beer glasses from college). Thank you internet advice.
  2. Next, we got rid of everything that plugged in. Everything electrical had to go! Converters really don’t do the job so most minor appliances had to go. You should check on your TVs, computers, etc. as most of these items today can have a new power cord and ta-da they work in Europe. Always double check!
  3. Then we went back to the clothes and other stuff and did the plan mentioned above inspired by Kondo’s methods. Getting everything out and in the open makes you realize that you don’t need 42 t-shirts in your life. The sentimental stuff takes time and paperwork is such a pain!
  4. Speaking of paperwork. I felt like we were drowning in random lose papers! This is even with a filing system. We waited until the last minute for this job as it was the most dreaded task on the list. Give yourself lots of time for this step. We did an extensive amount of scanning and making items digital in order to reduce clutter. We used accordion binders to keep our most important documents in order and ready to travel with us.
  5. Go back to the clothes, books, toys, etc. one more time. This is called the Last Ditch Pitch. If in the final hours of packing, you don’t feel like the effort of packing something outweighs the importance of the item (meaning I don’t even want to bother packing this) then just through it away (or donate it). If it isn’t worth the trouble of packing it up then it wasn’t that meaningful/useful to you. Ditch it!
  6. Take a deep breath! Doesn’t that feel better! The weight of all your stuff has been lifted from your shoulders. You made it!

Quick thought, don’t forget to keep your receipts from Goodwill. You can claim up to $5000 on your taxes for your charitable donation. Just make sure to keep a list of the items you donated and the Goodwill website has a list of how much you can claim each item is worth for your taxes. A little legwork but sometimes this is easier than actually putting together a garage sale and dealing with all that hassle.

First blog post

First blog post ever! Mark another item off the list. For those of you that know me, I am notorious for making extensive lists of everything. Needless to say, our sudden move to Germany has put me into list overdrive. Instead of just a list on a sheet of paper, I just went ahead and bought a notebook so that all my lists could be in one place!

The first big question is probably “how did you guys end up in Wiesbaden, Germany?”. The answer is luck and good timing. A position opened up at my husband’s work and we were lucky enough to be offered the opportunity. We accepted the position at the start of May and are scheduled to move end of July/early August.

To prepare for the move, we have sold our house, sold one vehicle already and given away a significant amount of our belongings. We basically gave away everything that plugs into the wall due to conversion issues. We are currently in a 3000ft+ house and are anticipating significantly less room on the other side of the pond. The interesting thing about downsizing is the realization that you really don’t need all the stuff you have. Once you get rid of the clutter, you feel almost relieved. But we’ll talk more about that in a later post.

Oh one more thing, we couldn’t just move to Germany. We had to add some sparkle. In the middle of all this chaos, we also found out that we are pregnant with baby#2. Our little bean will be born in Germany. Here we go…