Holy Crap, I Just Moved To Germany!

Yep, we're in Germany alright...

Yep, we’re in Germany alright…

 

Hey Guys!  I know it’s been awhile, but I just moved my entire family from California to Germany.  It was actually 8 months ago and I’ve actually re-written this blog post a thousand times as things have changed, but here it is.  Finally!

Last year in May (ish), my husband came home from work and asked what I thought about him interviewing for a new job in London.  I told him to go for it.  I knew he was bored to death getting restless at his current job and needed to make a switch.  He was itching for something new and the London job sounded interesting.  But London??  At the very least I thought, it’d be good for him to see what else is out there.  And, who knows?  I’ve never lived in a big City and one of my best friends from college lives in London.  It could be fun.

The next thing I knew, I was completely head over heels obsessed with moving to London.  I was on the computer 24/7 Googling towns to live in, Googling schools for the kids and planning out all of my European travels.  I wanted in.  London, here I come!!  Over the next week ½, my husband flew out, met with the team and had several more interviews.  After some thought, he decided it wasn’t the right fit for him.  Wait, What?  No London?  I suddenly felt so disappointed and let down.  Like I just “lost London”.   Suddenly my life in California felt a little boring and a little ho-hum.   Same old thing, another year.  I needed a change.  I needed an adventure.

The next thing I knew, my husband was interviewing for a different job – in Germany.  Whoooaaaah there buddy.  Who said anything about moving to Germany?  They don’t speak English and we don’t speak German!  I do really like sauerkraut though…

And, here I am.  Typing this blog post, from a tiny little village in Germany called Haimhausen.   Within about two months, we closed down our lives in California and set up shop in Haimhausen.  We packed up and rented out our house, found a home to rent in Germany, found an International, English-speaking school for the kids and shipped out a bunch of our belongings.   We set up a German bank account, got new cell phones, got new cars and figured out where to get groceries and coffee.  (None of this was easy by the way.)  We visited Ikea about 100,000 times and spent nights putting together cheap furniture.  For weeks, Quincy and I would just look at each other and say “Are we seriously living in Germany right now?”

Living in Haimhausen, Germany

Living in Haimhausen, Germany

 

Everything here is different.  And when I say everything, I mean everything!  The food, the weather, the signs, the people, the way they do garbage, the way they set up bank accounts, cars, eating out, health insurance, grocery shopping, the rules, the beer, the clothing – I could go on and on.  If you are planning on moving to Germany, I’m your girl.  I’ve been through it all.

So, here I am in this quaint little Village called Haimhausen.  Most German’s haven’t even heard of this town it’s so tiny.   I love it though.  It has all anyone really needs.  A small grocery store, a small post office which includes flowers & office supplies, three small restaurants, an ice-cream shop, an Apothecary (German for drug store) a Dr.’s office and a bank.   Oh, it also has a shoe store and a bike shop.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever seen those last two places open.  It’s been a huge adjustment and an exciting adventure all at the same time.

Here are 10 things I’m really missing about CA and 10 things I’m enjoying about Germany… so far.

Things I Am MISSING (in no particular order besides #1 & #2)

1)  All of my “people” back home.  (So, so much)

2)  BBQ’s, dinners, movies and time with friends & family.  I miss having people I love to do stuff with, all the time!

3)  Starbucks or Peets Coffee and normal size coffee cups.  The cups are really small here.  Like, your coffee is gone in 4 sips small.  Sometimes I order 2 or 3 just for myself, and pretend like I have “people” back at home waiting for them.

4)  Food.  Germany has certain things like beer, sausage, sauerkraut, pork and snitzle mastered.  You won’t find it anywhere better than here. BUT, the food is seriously lacking in variety.  There is no good Mexican, no good sushi, only decent Chinese, etc.  We’ve actually found a few great Italian places thank GOD, but I am missing the larger variety of great stuff.  (No offense to any Germans who are reading this!!)

5)  English Speaking TV.  I’ve got my IT guy (husband) working on this, but so far we don’t have TV set up.  I am missing my reality TV, my dramas, my crime shows, Ellen, Jimmy Fallon, Judge Judy and all the rest.  Plus, I am way behind on the latest seasons of Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, The Real Housewives, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.   I have some serious catching up to do.  Serious, people.

6)  English Magazines.  I also love to read magazines and can’t read them here because they are all in German.

7)  California weather.  I don’t understand the weather here AT ALL.  One minute it’s hot as hell, the next it’s freezing, the next there are thunderstorms and it’s pouring rain or snowing.  Currently, it’s early April and sunny.  But let’s be real.  I’ve still got my rain coat, my thick winter coat, my umbrella and gloves waiting for me in the car.  Because now I’m prepared for this schizophrenic weather out here!

8)  Good wine.  I know there’s good wine all over Europe and I’m sure there’s good wine in certain areas of Germany, but we haven’t found it yet.  When you go to the grocery store, the wine selection usually has about 3 choices of each type of wine, and it’s usually around $3-6 euros per bottle.  Yes, I am definitely probably saving a lot of money on wine, but still…  I am missing my good wine.

9)  Getting my mail (even bills) in English.  Can anyone please send me some mail that I can read?  Good old-fashioned letters maybe?  Please for the love of God?  All of our mail comes in German, and it ALL has to be pain-stakingly translated.  All of it.

10)  The familiarity of everything I’ve known my whole life.  I’m constantly lost out here (even with a navigation system) and I never know where to get anything.  I know this will come with time (I know!!!), but it’s so hard not knowing where the F to go for things.


Things I Am ENJOYING
(in no particular order except #1)

1)  My husband’s vacation schedule and traveling all over Europe.  The Germans have the whole vacation thing down pat!  Everyone out here gets approximately 26 days of vacation per year.  Yes, I just said twenty-six.  And that does not include about 10-12 public holidays they get to take.  Not only that, they are really serious about taking it.   In the US, you feel “guilty” or “bad” for taking your (earned) measly 2-3 weeks of vacation because your team needs you and you have so much work to do and blah blah blah.  In Germany, vacations and “wellness” are taking very seriously.   ALL SEVEN WEEKS OF THEM.  Mandatory!  Oh, and, while you are on vacation – there’s no calling in or checking emails.  You actually get to relax and enjoy vacations.

2)  There are fields of fresh, gorgeous flowers everywhere.  You can go pick as many as you want and then leave a few euros in the bucket.  I always have scissors in my car and fresh flowers in my house now!

3)  The German beer.  Seriously, it’s really good.  Oh and in Germany, you “cheers” by saying “prost” with the BOTTOM of the beer glasses (not the top like in the US) and you also WANT FOAM.  Foam is a sign of a really good beer apparently.   How weird is it that in high school in the US, we used to wipe the grease off the sides of our noses and stick our fingers in the beer to reduce the foam.  Gross.

4)  The Lakes.  I had no idea how green and gorgeous Germany was.  There are trees and forests and castles and parks and beautiful bike paths everywhere.   There aren’t beaches in Germany, so everyone spends their time out on these gorgeous lakes.   (Oh, and it’s not a big deal to go naked, so there are naked people everywhere at the Lakes.  My 10-year-old son is in HEAVEN.)

5)  Everyone here drives fast.  Sometimes on the freeways there is no speed limit.  If you are on the freeway in the left lane, WATCH OUT!  Seriously, people go so fast they are practically flying.  For those of you who knew me in high school, I won the prestigious award in the back of our yearbook “DMV’s Most Wanted” along with my speed racer buddy Jon Lipson.  We were so honored.  Who wants to win an award like “most popular” or “best looking” when you can get DMV’S MOST WANTED!!  I like to drive fast.  I like to lean into my turns.  And here, it’s perfectly legal.  Jon, if you are reading this, I know you must be jealous!

6)  The SPA scene.  O.M.freaken.G.  Spas out here are like nothing I’ve ever seen before.   Imagine a football field or two, filled with all different types of water features.  Think various hot tubs, huge warm pools with seats and jets and swim up bars, dozens of different kinds and temperature and yummy smelling saunas, whirlpools, massage areas, “rest” areas with lounge chairs and “sun-like” lights above them, quiet resting/lounging rooms with different themes, steam rooms, cold plunges, tanning areas, muscle relaxing machines, etc. etc.   Most of the spas are for 18 years and older, and most are NUDE.  As in mandatory nude.  As in you feel like a fool if you aren’t nude.  Everyone just cruises around totally naked in these places, letting it all hang out like it’s no big deal.  At first, as a Germany spa “virgin”, I was so uncomfortable.  I wanted to walk around with a towel covering my privates everywhere I went.  My wide eyes couldn’t help but zoom in DIRECTLY to all the different shapes and sizes of PENIS I was seeing.  I had no idea there was such variety out there!  I kept repeating in my head, “Oh My God.  Oh My God.  Be cool.  Be cool.“  But then, after a few cocktails and about 30 minutes, the weirdness just went away and I felt totally liberated.  Remember how good skinny-dipping feels?  It’s kind of like that.  Now, after being back several times, going naked is no big deal anymore.  Not at all.  I actually really like it.   Oh, and there are NO pervy weird guys walking around.  Sure, I get the occasional man-stare here and there, but generally people are totally respectful and mind their own business.

7)  My small house.  My house is about ½ as big as my house in CA, and I have to say it’s really nice.  It’s easy for me to keep CLEAN.  Less space, less crap.   I have an entire storage unit filled to the brim waiting for me in California.  I’m highly considering burning the whole thing down.  What’s IN THERE anyway?

8)  No credit cards.  Many places in the big German cities (like Munich) accept credit cards.  But, many still don’t so you have to use cash.  Also, in all the little villages, credit cards ARE NOT accepted.  So, it’s virtually impossible to get into credit card debt.  We actually have to live off our cash.  It’s sometimes frustrating but also pretty awesome.  We only spend what’s in our wallets.  Dave Ramsey would be proud.

9)  Sundays.  Sundays here are “Quiet Days”.  That means no playing loud music, no mowing your lawn, no drilling or roadwork.  Also, nothing is open.  NOTHING.  If you are out of Advil or milk or diapers, you are screwed.  No stores open.  I like it because Sundays here are truly a day to just relax and be with your family.  No running errands or packing the day with sports.  It’s a relaxing, lazy, “nothing” day.

10)  Oktoberfest.  Holy Crazy Party!  It’s seriously the biggest party I’ve ever been to in my life.  Before coming out here, I didn’t understand what Oktoberfest really was.  I knew a bunch of people drank a bunch of beer, but that’s about it.   Oktoberfest is like the most gigantic carnival you’ve ever seen, with all the rides and fun houses you can imagine.  There are beer and pretzel and food booths everywhere, and every single person is dressed in either Lederhosen (for the guys) or a Dirndl (for the girls).   We are talking millions of people dressed this way.  Then, there are about 14 tents that are all just amazing and gigantic.  Each one is decorated differently and has a slightly different vibe.  Each one can hold anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people and each tent is more awesome than the last one.  It’s very hard to get tables in the tents but if you do, you sit, drink lots of beer, eat lots of food, listen to the music, enjoy the atmosphere and have a good time!  Oh, and BTW, it’s easy to get drunk very quickly so you have to pace yourself and be careful.  The beer at Oktoberfest is specially made just for Oktoberfest.  It has 50% more alcohol content that normal beer, is sweeter and is less carbonated.  So, it goes down quickly and smoothly and the waiters are all-too-eager to keep bringing you more and more.   There are grandmas and grandpas chugging beer and dancing on tables.  There are thousands of Italians belting out their National Anthem.  The tents are packed from 9:00am – 11:30pm, 7 days/week with happy, drunk people everywhere you look.  It’s fun.  If you ever come out to visit, come out for Oktoberfest.  It’s definitely an experience!

We aren’t sure how long we’ll be out here in Germany, but it definitely won’t be forever.  We miss our friends and family and good old California way too much.  In the mean time, we’re enjoying the experience and will try to travel throughout Europe as much as possible.

I’m still going to blog, and I’m still going to be the one and only Silicon Valley Mommy, because that is truly where my heart is.

Here are a few photos!

Our sweet little house in Haimhausen, Germany

Our sweet little house in Haimhausen, Germany

 

My gorgeous & fun Mom was our first visitor! Here we are at a local beer garden loving our pretzels & beer.

 

Biking all over and checking out the endless number of gorgeous lakes

Biking all over and checking out the endless number of gorgeous lakes

 

The Germans Take Garbage & Recycling Seriously.  Every family has these 5 bins!

The Germans Take Garbage and Recycling Seriously. Every family has these 5 bins!

 

Sampling of the Fresh Flowers on My Table!  Love!

Sampling of the Fresh Flowers on My Table! Love!

 

This is my ENTIRE closet.

This is my ENTIRE closet.

 

My Tiny Refrigerator - most German families have fridge's this big and shop daily!

My Tiny Refrigerator! Most German families have fridge’s this big and shop daily!

 

Our First Time at Oktoberfest!

All decked out for our first time at Oktoberfest!

 

Inside Hippodrom Tent at Oktoberfest!

Inside Hippodrom Tent at Oktoberfest!

 

Quincy and I just starting out...

Quincy and I just getting started.

 

It's normal to see people like this all over the place at Oktoberfest. Yep, totally normal.

Post Oktoberfest. Yep, totally normal.

 

Clearly, Oktoberfest is rubbing off on our sweet little girl.

Clearly, Oktoberfest is rubbing off on our sweet little girl.

 

Checking out the castles in Germany

Checking out the castles in Germany

 

Austria - so pretty!

Austria – so pretty!

 

Our Second Visitors!  My mom back with dad this time.  It rained the entire time they were here!

Our Second Visitors! My mom back with dad this time. It poured rain the entire time they were here!

 

Fantastic skiing and snowboarding everywhere!

Fantastic skiing and snowboarding everywhere!

 

Italian Ocean Fun!

Italian Ocean Fun in Sardinia

 

My third visitor, my amazing friend Ginny.  We traveled to Austria and had so many laughs!

One of my very favorite people on this Earth, Ginny, was my third visitor. We had a solo girls weekend in Austria and an amazing time! We laughed so hard and so much my stomach still hurt after she left!

 

We loved visiting our friends Megan and Christian in beautiful Amsterdam! It’s such a cool, lively city! Here’s a shot of Megan and I walking through the open markets. So fun!!

 

That’s all for now!

Love and kisses, and thanks for reading!

xoxoxo,

Jen

Ps – If you are a German and are reading this, please don’t take offense to anything I’ve said or may say in the future.  These are just a few of my California-Girl, 8- month in impressions.

Pss – If you have a minute, please leave me a comment below.  I love reading your comments!

Psss – If you think you might enjoy reading my blog posts, my rants and ravings or hear more about my time in Germany, “like” my Facebook Page HERE!!!  Also, Facebook has changed it’s settings recently.  So, if you actually want to SEE my blog posts in your feeds, you have to go to the “Notifications” tab (on my facebook page on the top right) and select “All Posts”.  Otherwise, Facebook picks and chooses what you see.

 

Comments

  1. So glad you’re back to blogging! Glad to hear everything is going well. I know you are missed greatly in CA but you are having an amazing once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy every minute, and keep us updated!

  2. Very entertaining and interesting Jen!

  3. Jon Lipson says:

    Cindy and I just finished reading your great blog update ! Lakes?Check. Great Beer? Check. Autobahn? Check. Heck your town even has a bike shop. Yes, I am envious.

  4. Cat Wofford Miller says:

    Jen,
    I LOVE reading this! Sounds like you’re all having quite an adventure. Keep up the posts! P.S. I’m newly married and have been living in Menlo Park. So if you ever do come back home, we’ll be neighbors!

  5. OMG, live you Rayd!!!! Keep exploring and get to Ruttenburg!!! Xo

  6. Loved your post Jen You didn’t talk much about the beer gardens that you and Quincy treated me to when I visited. They are so fun and the people are so friendly. I love how all the kids play together while their parents visit and drink. Remember how Drew and I shared one of those BBQ’d whole fish they had at the beer garden near your house? It was delish!!!!! Very happy memories for me. Love, Mom

  7. Great Blog Jenny!!!

  8. Barb Michel says:

    Hello Haimhausen friend! Great blog, very entertaining. Some tips for the things you miss…

    There is wine shop just next to the bike shop. I haven’t been in there but Dan has and he said the owner is happy to speak English and is super helpful. Dan bought some nice Italian reds. You can also taste olive oils there. I think he’s done some tastings before so maybe we could get a group and do one.There is also plenty of decent wine at Edeka but certainly in Munich shops there is a load of good wine. You just need to know what to buy. You are probably so tuned into the Californias but now you are in Europe girl, start tasting your way through Germany, Austria, Italy and France. South African are really popular here and are super yum. We’ll have to fine some shops in Garda and do some tasting!

    TV…Apple TV + VPN + Hulu Plus and/or Netflix. Connect Apple TV to an ethernet cable, don’t rely on wifi out here. Hulu and Netlix each cost 7.99 per month which isn’t bad compared to a cable bill. Hulu has most of the new stuff (it had the Oscars in three parts, just after it aired) and Netflix for the Disney crap and kid stuff they like to watch. Works great for us.

    You can get American and English versions of magazines at the Hauptbahnhof or airport but they are about 20euros each. 🙁

    Well done Jen!

  9. Barb Michel says:

    Oh and don’t forget Cellino’s for the gelato and their super Aperol Spritz. An after school treat for kids and mums!

  10. Garima Kanodia says:

    Moving to Munich soon. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post 🙂

  11. So fun reading your blog! I love hearing about everything.
    We love you all and are so happy you’re enjoying Germany!

  12. I haven’t laughed so hard in a while, Jen! So cool to read about some of y’alls awesome adventure! As I think about studying in Europe for grad school (though probably not in a small German village), this is a really inspiring read — even though there are things one misses, the adventure sounds totally worth it!

  13. Ashley Cheechoo says:

    Hi Jen!
    My family lived in Zagreb, Croatia for the last 8 months and many of the things you wrote I also experienced. Leaving our life, renting our home, donating or selling 85% of our possessions and not missing any of them, small coffee, no syrup, fantastic chocolate croissants, daily food shopping, great traveling, many memories and adventures and meeting wonderful people. Its definitely an adjustment and an experience, (especially the naked spas eh?) but one I wouldnt trade for the world. Looking forward to more blog posts about your adventure!

  14. Cathy Rayden says:

    Great blog Jen! Awesome to include photos. You are a terrific writer. I look forward to more stories and can’t wait to see you this summer

  15. Wow, you’re from Silicon Valley and you’ve never lived in a big city? That sure shreds some of my assumptions about Silicon Valley or about what a big city is. San Jose has more residents than Amsterdam, which is the biggest city in the Netherlands (where I live).

    I understand you iss some thing sand many people about California. I do relate to the small coffee cups, as our Starbucks has really small cups. I thought this was American. My husband lived in Germany for a while (near the Germany/Netherlands border) and I can relate to the cuisine not being great (but then again the Dutch cuisine is worse, at least they have real meat in Germany).

    It’s great to read your experience having moved to Germany, as I just convinced my husband not to apply for a job far into Germany and to try to get a job closer to the border so he doesn’t need to move (we don’t live t ogether).

    • I know, right? I really do consider myself a “valley girl” though. Always lived just on the outskirts of the City! Thanks for reading Astrid!

  16. Jen–LOVE this detailed blog! I can see and smell the sites….I envy the vast amount of time you have to write such details…another thing you are missing in Cali–we r too busy!

    Can’t wait to see u this summer.

    Love and miss u so much,
    Kathy

  17. Emily Marenghi says:

    Jen, this makes me miss you more than ever. I love all your observations and I confess I am envious of all that your family is experiencing over there! Can’t way to see you this summer. xxxx

  18. christine dew says:

    Love hearing about Germany. It sounds like an amazing experience.

  19. Hi Jen,

    I have just discovered your blog and it was a very entertaining reading!! I am actually moving to Haimhausen starting from August. Hope my family and I will enjoy it as much as you do.

  20. My family and I just moved to Haimhausen from Seattle a few weeks ago, and your blog is so thorough and matches my experience so accurately, I don’t think there’s a need for me to blog, now!

    • Kate – Let’s get together! We always love meeting other US families in Haimhausen. Send me a private message through Facebook! You can find me at Jennifer Rayden Carroll. Also, what is your blog? —Jen

  21. Amazing post! I am so happy I have found your article! I love how long i your list with the things you are enjoying. Best regards!

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