Back in Germany!

Re-entry: A five-month rollercoaster ride

About more than 400 boxes, cutting lines, a lemon lantern and a broken door. Why an American attitude helps us settling down in Germany and how baking brings us back to the US – even though it’s been anything but a cakewalk.

It’s been a while ago – almost five months to be exact – since we said good-bye to you and our life in the US.

The past months have been quite an experience – it has been pretty overwhelming sometimes and I felt more like hiding under a rock very often just like a skinned insect waiting to get a new carapace. We are not quite at the finish line yet but still on our way to routine here in Germany.

Going back – a home game with the devil in the detail
Going back to Germany was definitely different from going abroad to the US. This time the language was not new to the kids (which helped a lot), no one lost his speech (as Paul did in his preschool in Morristown), we came back to our family and old-established circle of friends here and there were no real cross-cultural clashes to be expected (ok – hold that thought…). Even the German quirks wouldn’t come as a real surprise to Marc and me, e.g. cutting lines (as a national pastime), grumpy faces (without any particular reason), pretty aggressive car drivers (never mess with a German behind the steering wheel) and gloomy weather, to name just a few.

However, within the 2,5 years we really got used so much to the „American way“ (in the widest sense) that knowing about the „German Way“ has not always been of too much help while trying to settle down again.

Honeymoon in the first weeks
In the first weeks after our arrival we didn’t realize that this was for real now. It was really good to see our family and friends again, but it felt more like a summer vacation. It was like living in a bubble – without all the people, the language, the things that had been our lives day in, day out in the past 2,5 years.

But, of course, life goes on and with four kids on board you hit the road running: shopping, cleaning, organizing, household, entertaining kids, signing them up for so many things – no time for contemplation or for missing anything from the US.

And apart from family and old friends, there were all the things we had missed and we had been craving for in the last years to make us happy: many activities in walking distance (e.g. organic farm, zoo, playgrounds, city), sidewalks everywhere, more independent kids, bike rides, German chocolate, good German sausages, longer daylight at night, …

Ok, there were also some bad surprises: A moldy basement, leaking water pipes, broken electrical devices, … and we didn’t really like our house any more (from the inside) and decided to change it.

Five weeks after we got back our boxes (more than 400) arrived in a huge truck – and although it was a bit chaotic at first in the house it felt so good to be surrounded by our own things again. We finally had pictures and small things here and there from our life in NJ for everyone to see – some kind of proof that we had really been away (this might sound a bit strange but during the first weeks you wonder sometimes whether you have really been away because everything looks more or less the same as it did before we left for the US).


Frustration and bittersweet nostalgia
Then, when everything was finally back in place in the house, the initial commotion was over and we got our first routine here it slowly dawned to me that this was it – no more going back. And instead of calming down because the actual move was over I was getting homesick and really started to miss everyone and everything. Feeling really sad inside helped me to get the connection to our time in the US again (which felt good because it was missing before)… I was almost constantly thinking about our life in NJ then.

At the same time I got a bit rebellious with respect to some of the German characteristics. My favorite one here is „Why are the German people so serious and pessimistic almost all the time?” (do we really need this trait to build so advanced cars???) – no answer found yet – if you have any idea feel free to help me out here.

But after some time you realize that being homesick and being defiant cannot be the final stage of the transition. We had overcome it once before.

Moving forward – finding a new balance
One of the things I admire the most in American people is their positive attitude towards difficult situations and their ability not only to make the best out of it but to do it with great calmness and confidence.


So, that’s what we are trying out right now while we re-organize our lives (although we are not always 100% successful, it is going up and down): Getting the kids back into German schools (catching up what they missed), getting used to the different rhythm of our daily life here (e.g. kids are out of school around noon), re-organizing our professional lives (Marc wants to break into a new market, I want to work as a Highschool teacher again, not too easy to reconcile these two plans), re-modeling many parts of our house – our life resembles a construction site at the moment but we go for it!

Our connecting links to the US
Still, we want our experience in the US also to be part of our new life here – so we wish people a nice day (which is not common in Germany), we give grumpy faces a big smile (even if they look surprised or even skeptical), we have pajama days at home and we listen to Pandorra and watch Netflix (which you usually couldn’t do in Germany but you know that Marc is a wizard in this respect). Another important “connecting link” is Sarah, 22 years, from Minnesota, who came in September and is spending her au pair year with us. She talks English to the kids and so we finally have the English language as part of our family again in our current life. And this feels really good!


How are the kids coping?

German school life – lanterns, cones, cursive and Latin

Paul (5 years- spent almost half of his life in Morristown): He was the first one to start here with his new German preschool. In the first weeks he was not too happy and seemed somehow confused. One day he told me indignantly: „This is not a „learn kindergarten“ but a „play kindergarten.“ – and he is right since in Germany kids don’t learn any academics before 1st grade.


So yes, he misses his ABCs and his numbers because that is what he loved so much in his preschool in Convent Station. But luckily Paul is pretty laid-back and takes life as it is. So he has gotten used to the different rhythm here and doesn’t complain openly any more. He is absorbing much of the German culture (all of which is pretty new to him) and is happily singing and dancing kids’ songs in German now.

One thing hasn’t changed though: his fondness for drawing – and in his pictures you still find the US and the German flag side by side.

Ole was the one of our boys who had missed Germany the most while we were in NJ. Even after he got used to preschool and kindergarten in NJ he used to ask me pretty often when we would finally go back.


He started with first grade in Germany this year and since he did the kindergarten class in Morristown while his German classmates can hardly count to 20 school it is pretty easy (if not boring) for him – but he doesn’t mind. He has a full-time aid in class to help him with the social things so he can attend a regular elementary school (though he is the only special needs kid there). For him there are other things that matter – things that he missed a lot in Morristown:
He enjoys walking to school every morning while he is doing “expert” talk with Marc about LEGO, trains and other stuff. Moms don’t really seem to know a lot about (sorry!). Since he is a very active kid he is happy that he is allowed to run around a lot (even on the schoolyard) and to use the sandbox there (which he missed so much in the US). He enjoys riding his bike to the playgrounds and his favorite weekend activity is going to the public indoor pool with the whole family.

Tim (8 years – 3rd grade) – Tim, our little perfectionist, had a pretty rough start. He was really getting nervous over the summer break because he had never been to a German school (unlike Theo).


He had never read or written a word in German (we were too busy coping with the English in Morristown) and instead of just trying to write or read a word he preferred crying in the beginning. We had a lot of chocolate cake, Tim and I, to get over the initial bumps. He learned to write cursive over the summer (an absolute must in German primary schools) and was pretty good at it by the time school started so that he gained more self-confidence. By now he has caught up a lot in German and, what is more important, he believes that he can succeed. And this makes all the difference. The other subjects are easy for him and in English he can lean back and enjoy ;-). Apart from school he takes drawing classes (he is a natural) and he just started with the piano recently.

Theo (10 years – 5th grade) – Theo is in secondary school now – and he will stay in the same school until graduation (different school system here). The first days of school were not easy – 31 classmates, only one teacher (and teachers can be very bold here sometimes) and everything in German (also the writing). He was pretty mad at us for bringing him back to Germany (we had a kicked-in door already).


He insisted on starting with Latin as a foreign language (we were wondering whether this had something to do with his obsession with Harry Potter but true – to start with English as a foreign language would have been a bit boring). So he is finding out right now that his third language is nothing like his first and second. But he is o.k. with learning words the hard way and getting to know the cases. He makes all his magic spells in Latin now (they still don’t work luckily) and he is o.k. with reading Harry Potter in German now – his German spelling really needs to be brushed up.

He reconnected to some old friends and found some new ones already. So that is o.k. but he is still wondering why the kids at school are fighting so often and why no one really cares (things are a lot more physical between the kids and teachers often go with it). He and Tim are still talking English most of the time which I find funny since in the first weeks here they talked a lot more German. But since Sarah (our American au pair) arrived in September they picked it up immediately as if they were relieved to have the opportunity to use it again.

Waiting for Thanksgiving
So, now you know what’s going on in our life.


We would be happy if you would also let us know about what is happening in your lives at the moment 🙂

I will be back tomorrow for a seven-day trip to my favorite American Holiday Thanksgiving. There will be time to re-connect and catch up.

If you see a full-size turkey running around Morristown with a big smile on its face that will be me. Still time for you to join in the Turkey Trot, the 5K race bright and early to get space for the big feast on Thanksgiving morning.

I’m so much looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Warm regards
Britta and the rest of the Family


Happy Thanksgiving