Posts Tagged ‘expat life’

Hey expats, I need your help!

I am still in contact with one of my college professors.  I adore her.  She was the reason I chose the college I did and has influenced my life in many ways.

I have been speaking with her about the many differences in healthcare I have experienced here in comparison to the States.

Would any of you be willing to share some of your experiences?  or do you know of some good (reputable please) online sources that carefully explain what the system really is like here in Germany?

She is very influential on campus and active politically.  She’s trying to understand that we do pay monthly for our insurance, the care (especially hospitals) isn’t so cushy like in the States (unless of course you are privately insured from what I understand … we’re not, we’re IKK) but the level of medical experitise is top notch (or at least comperable as a whole).

Your thoughts or experiences?

Do you prefer the medical/insurance system in one country over another?


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My mom arrived last week.  After her flight from Cleveland was cancelled due to mechanical failures, she was rerouted through Chicago instead of DC.  That meant her Frankfurt to Muenster flight was delayed.  Which meant we would meet her later in the day.  We didn’t know this due  to well, to put it incredibly politely (you can thank me later sis), a miscommunication.

Since arriving, she’s been the extra set of hands we needed to find a piece of sanity.  Bubba Joe has taken to her as has Little Girl.  Of course, Little Girl gets held lots, so she’s more than content.

I’ve missed my mama’s cooking.  And her innovativeness at using up leftovers in a way that was different from the first.  She insists these things are simple – I do believe her, honest I do – but I just don’t have that much energy to spare on thinking! (I’d rather spend that brain power on shaving – which in spite of living inGermany, I still do!  and as a matter of fact, am about to do after I finish this blog post.)

One of the MANY things she brought us was good bouillon.  As Bubba Joe  was sick on Saturday (and is still fighting a cold … we’re back on breathing treatments, but this time with the added bonus of a nasal spray, eye drops and allergy medicine – his ped thinks Bubba Joe is not only fighting a bacterial infection but perhaps also allergies) I made soup using this bouillon.  I love it.

But we hadn’t used it up. 

Until today.

Mom insisted that we could make a great soup from the leftovers (which BTW almost no one ate the first time around – turns out my mom doesn’t like soup and BJD wasn’t in the mood for soup at the time.  Side note: BJD is sick.  Just got back from his doc with antibiotics for a throat infection. Another plus for Germany – he has a written excuse and cannot work for the rest of this week.  And he took off most of next week to spend time with mom.)

So here’s what mom made:

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

She used up the soup from Saturday’s lunch, the grilled chicken breast from Saturday dinner, flour tortillas from yesterday’s dinner, added a bit of tumeric and topped it all off with some chopped scallions.

It was delish.

I love having her here.

Oh yeah – here’s the bouillon.  She says she’ll send some with my sis when she visits this summer.  (In case you were not aware, there is no ready-made broth available in Germany.  The only thing you can find are bouillon cubes – very salty and just, well, gross.)

Better Than Bouillon

Better Than Bouillon

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Reflections on Expat Life

I’ve been contemplating this for a while.  And while I will  try my best to not complain, let me start off by saying BJD and I made the decision over 2 years ago to pack up our Ohio life and move to Germany.

But little did I realize how difficult life would be here.  Or how good life would be for that matter.

Let’s start with the bad and end with the good.

The bad … Germans are notoriously horrible at making new friends.  They’re not even good at maintaining an acquanitance type relationship.  BJD showed me an article once that stated Germans are some of the best travelers – they truly embrace a culture when they visit.  That might be true when visiting other countries (my experience in the States would support that – we had qute a few Germans coming over as either students doing their internships, who had transferred for a few years internally or visiting for board meetings in my company.  But let me tell you, when you actually invade their personal space, that openness fades quickly.

I’ve been here in Duelmen for almost 2 years.  Prior to that, BJD and I visited here at least 2x a year (up until the year Bubba Joe was born).  I enjoyed every visit, and found the people here well, normal small town folks. 

But moving here … I have no friends.  Well, with exception to other american expats – and they all live some distance away.

I realize this on occasion – and this week was one of those occasions.  Perhaps it’s the absolute sleep deprivation, perhaps it’s having a child with stomach problems (little girl is having problems  … and her ped is out on vacation until next week), or perhaps it’s simply the weather here has been so spectacular I feel almost like I’m home.

A side note: I never realized how crappy German weather is.  Seriously, it’s terrible.  I come from NE Ohio, where we actually have all four season.  A rainy spring (although I hear they’ve gotten snow in April – he he he), a hot summer, warm, colorful falls and cold, snowy winters.

Let me describe to you the weather here in Duelmen: spring is cool and rainy, summer is slightly warmer (high of mid-70s tops – and that’s only in the sun) with rain, fall is cooler with rain and winter is cold and rain.  Do you see a pattern here?  Rain.  And not even nice rain.  It’s dreary.  It’s cold.  It’s depressing.  I’ve even seen rain with a blue sky here.  No kidding.

Now back to my original point – I’m lonely.  I’m depressed.  Not that postpartum depression I know from my first birth experience.  No, this is from life as an expat.  You see, just this week I was telling BJD that I needed a break … and he suggested I get away, go out or something. 

Where to, I asked.  Where can I go, when my language isn’t that great, I have no friends and well, the only place I can go is grocery shopping.  Well, I do enjoy  shopping of any kind, but please a girl can only enjoy grocery shopping as her highlight for so long.

I find it difficult to fit in.  And while my hospital stay truly was a crash course in the German language, it’s the culture that I’m now finding hard to embrace.

I could go on about the bad.  Perhaps I will in another post.

But now onto the good.

We pay a buttload in taxes.  But we also receive a lot in return.

For example, medical care.  While we still pay a montly premium for our government health insurance, we’re covered.  100%.  We pay only for prescriptions for BJD and I.  Our children, until the age of 18, are covered by our insurance.  Prescriptions, doctor’s visits, test, etc.  All covered 100% for Bubba Joe and his lil sis.  Considering what we spent for Bubba Joe in his first 14 months between doctor’s visits, prescriptions, ER visits, much less his NICU stay, that’s huge.

And me. I am a SAHM.  I stay at home to raise our children.  It’s not that I couldn’t work here – no, I’m quite certain I could.  I have my MBA and am fluent (enough) in German.  Besides, I worked for a german-based company and feel confident I could work IF I wanted.

But I don’t want to.  And why should I?  I receive a monthly stipend for having our little girl.  Yup.  For a full 12 months. 

Oh yeah – I also receive money for my retirement account from the government (I can’t really explain this one because it was a total surprise to BJD and I).

And then there’s the Kindergeld.  We receive money from the government for our children.  And a 75Euro extra amount until Bubba Joe turns 3 – that’s an extra 75Euro for having two children under the age of 3.

And life overall, is much much slower.  Customer service here is non-existent, but Germans seem okay with that.  Seriously.  Sundays are quiet days – no working allowed.  No lawn mowing, no noisy stuff … and then there are laws (yes, LAWS) mandating quiet hours during the day.

That’s all I can write right now.  The children are calling – rather climbing and demanding my attention.

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Before we moved overseas, BJD and I ensured that all legal documents were in place: last will and testament, establishing legal guardianship and living wills. 

We’ve since made the decision to change who we had originally chosen as legal guardian for our children.

In Ohio (don’t know about other states), whoever is written on that piece of paper is pretty much it.  They’re who the parents chose, they’re who the children go to.

We hired an attorney in Ohio to properly file all the paperwork.

In Germany though, it doesn’t work that way. 

Guardianship is established by the courts.  Sure, as parents, we have written out our wishes on a piece of paper, to be updated anually, with both our signatures, dates, pertinent info, etc. for legal guardianship if anything happened to the both of us. 

BUT – and here’s where I get scared/worried/concerned – the courts can override the parents’ decision.  The court (i.e. judge) can determine that the children do not know or have a relationship with the person the parents choose.  And the court can give custody to someone else.

And then, if the child is over the age of 12, well, they have a say too.

We’ve chosen my sister and brother-in-law as legal guardian.  But if anything happened to both BJD and I, they may have a legal battle on their hands.  Our inlaws here could fight for custody.  And the courts could override our wishes.

I knew having an international relationship could be complicated.  I never considered that a court would have the right to determine the best for my child without knowing me or my wishes. 

BJD spoke with an attorney here in Germany yesterday and he confirmed all this too.

… yet another thing to think about as an expat.

Now I have to go back to singing and dancing with Bubba Joe.  Little milchmmaedchen is upstairs, sleeping in her chair, while her daddy (who BTW is completely wrapped around her tiny little finger) is arbeiten (working).

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