German Impressions and House Hunting

Our short trip to Germany was utterly successful, yet in the end…life happened!

Josh and I had the most amazing whirlwind, four days in Germany! We flew out of Singapore at 1:30am on Sunday night/Monday morning and landed in Frankfurt on Monday at 10:30am. Personally, I think these are the best flights! You are going to tell me I’ve lost my mind, but seriously, they are. Here me out…we were on the plane for 14 hours and (even though we were sitting straight up) we were able to sleep through the night, keeping in line with normal time. Although, it was almost dinner time back in Singapore…and 4am where our families live. Traveling through different time zones always amazes me. It’s also plenty of time to watch a movie, read a book, type a blog post

I have to say our visit made me quite excited to take the leap of faith. First impressions are huge, and lots were made. The biggest thing people kept telling me was Germans are very efficient. And they didn’t lie! We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and the hall was dark when we stepped out of the elevator. But as soon as we took that second step, all the lights switched on. Money saver. They are also huge on recycling. Every bottle of water I got out of a machine was glass. They don’t melt down the glass and repurpose it; they sanitize the actual bottle and refill it for the next purchase. You could tell, because there were multiple scratches around the upper part of the bottle. Every public garbage container had various recycling slots attached. This was wildly fascinating to me. On the road, there is basically no speed limit, but you can lose your license for one month by running a red light. I like this! Haha!
My favorite part of their claim-to-efficiency fame is work/life balance. You cannot legally work more than 8 hours in one day. If you do, then you get that time back elsewhere, and even that is capped at 20 hours. By law, no one is allowed to work more than 40 hours/week. Josh’s office has a hard stop at 5pm each and every day of the year. It’s vastly different than the US perspective — the longer you’re at work (whether you are accomplishing anything or not) makes it seem you are working hard, and most companies relish how that is perceived within an American company. Germany believes you have adequate time during the work day to complete tasks, and then they expect you to enjoy your personal time. Happy employees make for happy workplace! I like this!

Back to our trip…

 

If you read my previous post, then you’ll understand why our very first order of business was heading straight to the mall!

 

 

The only “coat” I own is a NorthFace fleece that’s over ten years old. I grew up in the mountains with freezing temperatures and snow, but I lived in various places around the south after college. It’s what happens when you get a flurry or sheet of ice, but rarely ever anything substantial. Oh and being pregnant through the winter in Texas, I never touched a coat. Hah! I am now the proud owner of fleece lined ankle booties and a puffy coat that comes down to my knees. Josh bought one as well. Hello?? The man had on shorts and a t-shirt when we landed! Thankful for H&M and TK Maxx. Yes, you heard me correctly- TK Maxx. H&M also gave me a fantastic German lesson. The first floor is 0, and the second floor is 1. Even though I learned this early on, I was still confused later on in our trip.

 

 

Overall, the mall was an overwhelmingly humble experience. I went in four stores and each time the sales person initiated conversation in German. I was sifting through a stack of shirts on the entrance table, when one lady spouted off a solid 30 seconds of German which I smiled and nodded my head before running out of the store. Josh watched this interaction from afar and laughed his head off the entire time. Best I gathered was she was telling me about the sales and other offers they had in the back. Glad I look German, but my ancestry isn’t doing me any favors. Now I KNOW, I need to learn the language!! Very few people we came across spoke English, and the ones who did had very broken phrases. The picture in the bottom right corner was in the dressing room. I understand free wifi!

 

 

Our first night there, we visited the world-famous Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. This place was something else! The enticing smells of mulled wine (gluhwein), bratwurst, and gingerbread fill the air. Trinkets, ornaments, clothes, toys, and a plethora of German food  were around every corner.

 

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We both had brats and cups of gluhwein. By the way, gluhwein was not my favorite. It’s like boiled, spiced, STRONG, red wine. Drinking something hot was nice, but not alcohol. Some things are better off in the chilled variety.

 

 

I couldn’t feel my fingers, but I was happy as a clam!

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The next morning, we met with a relocation specialist Josh’s company had set up for us. We had one of these in Singapore, and they are a life saver if you ever make an international move! Not only do they show you homes like a normal real estate agent, but they are like a walking Google —spewing tons of vital information. How to pay our power bill, the fact that air conditioning is rare in homes, and how we need to go about taking the written and physical driving tests. Yikes!
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Her name is Maartje, and she moved over from the Netherlands with her husband and four kids about five years ago. I had all sorts of questions about schools and the way they worked in Germany. Even though she has bigger kids, she was spot on about answering all the questions I had. It’s very rare to have two working parents in the household, so most kids stay home with that parent until compulsory schooling begins at age 6. Say what?! It’s the exact opposite in Singapore. Almost everyone sends their kids to full-time/all day school from age 18 months, and most are just as expensive as my out of state tuition at Clemson. It’s crazy! A few people thought we were insane for not doing the same with the boys. I split the difference and sent them to a bi-lingual Montessori school M/W/F, 9:30-12:30. It gave them some socialization and independence. And man, are they social little beings now!! Those few hours also gave momma a chance to pop in the gym for a workout class and stop by the grocery store before picking them up and walking home. We had a pretty good routine down pat, especially these last few months once Evan started going to school with Jack. However, Germany will be a horse of a different color!! I did check in with a few kinderkrippe and kindergartens, and unsurprisingly they are completely full until September.
Click the link if you are extra curious about the education system.
 https://www.expatica.com/de/education/Preschool-in-Germany_107640.html
Not only will they both be with me all day, every day…this also means momma has to change around her “me” time. Laundry might get bumped with working out at home while they are napping in the afternoons. This will be entirely different for me all the way around, because I’ve always lived in fairly good size cities where I have my pick of gyms to attend.
While house hunting, I absolutely fell in love with getting back to a slower-paced life in a rural town. And rural towns don’t have commercialized gyms. Our time in Singapore was amazing, but having small children made me nostalgic for my boys to have a similar childhood to my own. Growing up, mine and Josh’s hometown had roughly 3,000 people. I grew up on a dirt road, Main Street had one red light, and we had to drive into the next town for doctor appointments, shopping, restaurants, and cinemas. Herzoganaurach is small but not that small. Population is around 20,000. There are things for the kids to do, restaurants, some shopping, and tourist attractions. I mean, it has a watch tower for the castle in Nuremberg, which was built in the 1500s. As a history nerd, I thought it was pretty freaking cool.
Speaking of house hunting, we started in Furth, an area just outside of Nuremberg. We looked at an apartment in a building that was constructed in the 1800s. Parts of it were neat, but overall it was downright creepy. The layout was quite bizarre compared to today’s standards. All the rooms were massive and weren’t distinguishable by area- such as, bedrooms looked the same as dining and living. There was a door in the center of each wall which connected you through to the next room. Very strange, since we are use to entering rooms from a hallway— keeping the privacy of each room. Elevators are almost as rare as air conditioning, so this apartment was on the second floor in a “walk up.” Not terrible, but still not ideal for having two small children. One of Josh’s colleagues lives in an absolutely gorgeous apartment similar to this one. It had been fully renovated but was on the fourth floor. With my two boys, it would take me an hour just to get them up the stairs, especially if I were carrying groceries.  See for yourself…
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Creepy/cool ceilings
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Middle of the room walkthroughs
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The walk-up
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The view
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The apartment is the entire floor above the restaurant on the second floor.
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The market across the street- you can see it in the view photo from above
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The second home was located in Erlangen, twenty minutes from Josh’s office and about 30 minutes from Nuremberg. It was a semi-detached house and had everything we needed inside. The area wasn’t spectacular, and it wasn’t walking distance to anything. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you are in a smaller town, you kind of expect that luxury. And to be honest, living in Singapore spoiled me in that regard!
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SO much storage in the kitchen…for European standards
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Dining
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Living
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Stairwell to the bedrooms and basement
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The last house we viewed, was a small yellow, semi-detached house in Herzogenaurach. I didn’t so much fall head-over-heels at first sight; it was one of those I had to sleep on. Honestly, we didn’t need to make a firm decision on this trip, because we had the promise of temporary housing upon moving over. But I kept thinking to myself, it would be one less thing we would have to stress over. When the next morning rolled around, I immediately told Josh I wanted the house. To be honest, it wasn’t the house at all that made me second guess. The enormous lifestyle change had me hung up. Herzo is a very charming, little German village. It looks like something straight out of Hansel and Gretel.
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The watch tower located in Herzo’s city center for the castle in Nuremberg.
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As much as I love to cook, I had to check out the modern grocery shop in town. It was awesome. SO well organized and clean! I still have to learn German though…
Check out the signs!
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By choosing to live in Herzo, Josh can bike to work in 5 mins or walk there in under 30 mins. I can also stroll to the market with the boys. The town isn’t as small as my hometown, but it does make me feel like I can exhale a bit. As much as I loved the amenities at our condo in Singapore, there was zero grass for the kids to run and play.
Our new home sits on a dead-end street and has an amazing front yard which is boxed in by bushes all around. I’m excited for the kids to be able to play until their hearts’ content and not sweat to death every day of the year. We can have a grill, patio furniture, and string up twinkly lights again. The wall-to-wall windows in the living area will allow me to give the boys the gift of independent play, and there is a door in the middle of the windows so I don’t have to constantly go around the house to get outside. The narrow, four floors gives us more than enough space. The house is heated with oil, and the massive barrels are housed in the basement beside what would be our guest room. Main floor has kitchen, living, and dining. Second floor has four rooms, master bathroom, and one half bath. I say “rooms”, because Europeans don’t have traditional closets. You have to purchase wardrobes to hang clothes or dressers to hideaway folded items. And the tip top floor is a semi-finished loft. It has windows and heat but no real flooring. Good for storage or extra guests! I feel like the oil heat will be the biggest adjustment. Like we had individual AC controls in each room of our condo in Singapore, we will have individual radiators to warm each room in Herzo. Josh already warned me how refreshing it would feel to open the bedroom door on winter mornings. Oh dear… Imma have to buy a fluffy house robe!! Brrrr!!!!
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This will become Jack and Evan’s haven!! It’s much bigger than it appears!
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This room is massive, and I cannot wait to decorate it!
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Y’all..the rectangular box in the middle of the tower of cabinets is our refrigerator AND freezer. I kid you not. The freezer is the size of a shoebox, and the fridge isn’t big enough for leftover food containers. Eeep!
The doors above and below the fridge are cabinet storage.
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It’s not the prettiest kitchen, but I’m so thankful the house HAS a kitchen!!
Hear me out…
Most houses come with a shell of a room for a kitchen. Apparently, it is common to rent for decades in Germany, so the owner will let you outfit the kitchen however you want, but then you must take it with you upon moving out. We only requested to see places which renters had left the kitchen.
As fun as it may be to build out a kitchen, it was not on my to-do list nor part of our budget.
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Alright…you guys laughed when I mentioned converting our oven from Celsius to Fahrenheit on House Hunters…?
Well…go ahead and get your laugh on with the dishwasher!!
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Pic from the bedroom — upstairs is the loft and down is the kitchen
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Bedroom
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All the way in the basement are the oil tanks to heat the house.
3,000 litres of oil…I can already tell you, they will be put to good use!
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Aside from house hunting, Josh was able to introduce me to a few of his colleagues. These fine folks were recipients of the same Talent Carousel program which moved us from the US to Singapore. Most of his friends were married with one or two young kids just like us. I had heard heaps about them over the past two years, and it was such a pleasure to put a face with a name. We met at their homes or went out to dinner. One couple is from Argentina and had recently welcomed their second son the week before we flew over. It was eye-opening to gather everyone’s perspective and especially the wives who also agreed to this crazy lifestyle. I loved every second of our conversations. It gave me a reassuring sense about moving, especially since we didn’t know a soul moving to Singapore.
To wrap it up, life happened!
I had tons more photos of the surrounding areas and Adidas’ HQ campus, but my phone decided to die before I could upload them onto my computer. It wouldn’t charge nor turn on. I lost all contacts, photos, my Whats App conversations, and Singapore phone number. This sets a GRAND scene for when we returned to Singapore and had to deal with all things surrounding an international move. More on that next!
The man, the legend, Adi Dassler himself
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Three Stripe Life
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Looking forward to all things to come in Germany!
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