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5 things I wish I had known about moving to New York

NEW YORK CITY – JULY, 2018: People and cars cross a busy intersection on Broadway along Union Square Park in Manhattan New York City.

When my husband asked me if I could imagine living in New York for a few years, I felt a tinge of excitement and adventure. I envisioned extraordinary modern architecture, the skyline (still breath-taking, especially by night), the hustle and bustle of a city that never sleeps and thousands of yellow cabs. I pictured myself riding my bike over the Brooklyn Bridge with our dog sitting in the basket in front of me – I was happily excited.

At first, the reality behind my visions of the Big Apple truly shocked me – I found myself confronted with fenced trees, patched roads, an ancient metro system, a noise level that I never experienced before, and extremely dirty streets. (Maybe I should mention that we moved to New York from Munich where the streets and boardwalks are getting cleaned at least once a day.)

While the first weeks in our new life felt like vacation, reality caught up with me when my husband began to work and the moving container arrived. Trying to fit our belongings in a way smaller apartment than the one we had back in Germany almost triggered a divorce. “It’s different.” Was my answer when someone asked me how I liked living in New York, and “it’s definitely outside my comfort zone”. Meanwhile I learned to adjust to my new environment, but sometimes I wish I had known a bit more about what it takes tobe an expat partner in a new city like New York.

Here are the 5 things that challenge(d) me the most:

  1. Social environment, cultural differences and making new friends

Of course, I knew that there is no way to bring all our friends and family along to the states (except one of our best friends, our dog),but I couldn’t imagine that it would be so tough to stay in touch. While I received numerous messages every time I turned on the phone in the beginning of our time in New York, replies are getting rarer these days. An even harder task is making new friends, especially if I tried to reach out to Americans. At this point, I have to interject the famous story about the peach and the coconut our cultural trainer brought up. It claims that Americans are like peaches: soft on the outside, but the core is hard to break. It’s easy to have a great time with them, a friendly chat, a laughter – super friendly but superficial (I love to be called honey or darling at the cashier though). In contrast, Germans are said to be like coconuts, hard to get through at first but soft inside. Once you break the shell, you will have a friend forever. Maybe that’s why expats always find each other – we even have German neighbors, but this was a coincidence.

  1. Grocery shopping

“Unexpectedly challenging” – that’s how I would describe grocery shopping in New York. While I used to love strolling through the ‘Bioladen’ in our neighborhood, knowing for sure I could get all the food on my shopping list I must now plan my shopping tour around the things I need and where to get them. And then I need to get them home, packed like a donkey. The only good thing about the different stores, generally in opposite directions, are the numerous steps collected on my health app. I never walked this far. Somedays it feels like collecting berries while my man is hunt…um…working.

  1. Medical system, insurance, pharmacy and doctor’s appointments

In network, out of network, copays, deductibles…to be honest, I still don’t understand the American healthcare system. When I first needed to see a doctor because of an infection, I ended up in a room with no windows or any medical devices. Believing that this is one of the most medically advanced countries in the world was hard for me at this moment. Getting the prescribed medication was a similar experience. But you get used to the fact that most of the medications you can get over the counter in Germany must be prescribed by your doctor – I even needed a prescription for prenatal vitamins. Meanwhile I’m no longer anxious to schedule a doctor’s appointment, it’s just different. Whoever visited an OBGYN here in the states knows what I’m talking about.

  1. Sustainability challenge – plastic bags, straws, coffee cups…

We moved to New York just when the debate about reusable coffee mugs was in the media all over Germany. The first time I realized what it means to get two cappuccino “to-go” every day was when I took out the garbage on a Friday night in my office. There was nothing that showed we were working there all week long, except for a trashcan full of empty coffee cups. And we were only two people too lazy to make coffee on our own. The Monday after, I got my very own reusable cup which I’m proudly still using. When we walked through the streets of New York, I was shocked to see all these people with their coffee cups – plastic, paper, and straws – I was determined to bring reusable cups to every coffee shop in the city. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but I’m determined to make up for it by avoiding plastic bags, straws, coffee cups, Nespresso and unsustainable packaging as much as I can.  What can I say…it won’t be easy.

  1. Living with a dog in New York

Before we moved, my husband always told me that there would be more dogs in New York than people. “Americans love dogs!”, he said. And I believed him. We searched for the most dog-friendly borough and ended up living in Park Slope (or Bark Slope as it is lovingly called among the residents). Indeed, Americans love dogs but not in their restaurants, bars, cafés, pharmacies, buses, trains (except when you carry them in a bag) and we even got thrown out from the post office several times (and I tried a few). I had no idea about the challenge of owning a dog in New York City compared to Germany. But the most ridiculous rule are the off-leash hours in most parks. You can let your dogs off the leash from 5 to 9 am and 9 to 12 pm, but only in certain areas. I totally understand that on a nice and sunny day, no one wants a dog to steal food from the picknick blanket, but police enforcing leash rules even when it’s raining or in the wintertime? Seriously?

 

I could easily add more things I wish I had known about moving to NYC as an expat partner, but I decided to stop complaining and start accepting instead – at least in a way that feels good for me. “It’s different”, I used to say. Indeed, it is! But it’s also enriching, eye opening, promoting tolerance, personally growing, strengthening…and wonderful, just different.

 

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4 reasons your kid doesn’t need a “Schulranzen” in the US

I loved my dark blue Scout “Schulranzen” when I was a kid all through primary school. So when my daughter was ready to enter Kindergarten (equivalent with “Vorschule”) in the US, I wanted her to have one of her own. We spent a big part of our summer vacation in Germany shopping for the perfect “Schulranzen” evaluating all the new brands, shapes, colors and character adornments on the market these days…

We finally found “the one” in pink and green with a cute hedgehog design and the not so cute price tag of 250 Euros. It was super light while super sturdy, plus, it came with a matching pencil case, a wallet, and a bag to transport her exercise clothes in. Check, check, and check!

To my big surprise none of that was necessary. On day one I noticed that all the 5-year old Kindergarteners arrived with a simple backpack (some of them so big that they were hanging  down to their knees) and soon I found out why an investment of around $30 would have been totally sufficient:

 

  1. Kids don’t carry any books in Primary school

This, in fact, is driving me crazy… we only get lots and lots of copied down paper or ripped out math workbook pages. No books to carry also means no way to check for parents what they are learning, not to mention the environmental cost…

 

  1. Kids don’t need to bring their own pencil cases

Instead you will get a list of supplies you have to buy at the beginning of the school year and the teacher will hand out boxes of pencils, crayons or other material as needed. No schlepping, but the down side is that kids don’t learn to keep their pencil case in order.

 

  1. Kids don’t change for physical education / sports

No need for that fancy sports bag. Kids are encouraged to wear sneakers on the day they have gym class, but will not change out of their regular clothes.

 

  1. Schools offer free lunch (and breakfast!)

Public schools in New York offer free breakfast and lunch for all children. Unless you have a picky eater (like me) the only thing left to pack is a light snack. And some classes especially in the lower grades also organize that for the whole class (each family provides snacks for one or two weeks for everyone on class).

 

So unless your kids (or you) have your heart set on a pretty Scout or McNeill (both of which are German companies, by the way), I recommend to go with the regular backpack option. There were a few advantages though to having a “Schulranzen”: My daughter was able to use it as a seat (I mentioned the sturdy part), it lasted 4 years (before It became to uncool), and I was able to easily spot her in a crowd….

 

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Supporting Bilingualism with Online Rental for Children’s Books in German

Do you know one big secret to raising a bilingual child? It is so simple, most people dismiss it: Read to your child every single day in German for 15 minutes or more

Research shows, parents who make it a daily routine and stick to it, will see that their children will use German more actively, have better language skills, a wider range of vocabulary in German and a broader knowledge of the world, not to mention all the other benefits of reading to your child.

Just as important as reading daily is having a steady supply of suitable German children’s books. But this can be a challenge when living abroad, time-consuming, costly and cumbersome.

And oftentimes the books gather dust in a corner after one or two readings.

KinderBooks, an online rental, offers children’s books subscriptions for children 0-10 years. For a montly fee you will receive quality childrens’s books, matching the age, language level and interests of your child. No matter whether you child is into knights or vulcanos, princesses or science, your child is a beginning or advanced reader: We offer a curated selection of 1.200 titles on a broad range of subject and genres.

They currently offer 4 plans: 2 books or 4 books a month, an unlimited plan and a Summertime special of 8 books for 90 days.

To sign up, visit www.kinderbooks.nyc, enter the age and interests of your child and the books will be delivered by mail to your door. Once you are done reading, send the books back, using the pre-paid return envelope. Soon thereafter new books will arrive. With a new package arriving every month, your children will be excited about the books.

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“New York Für Dich” – Liberty Statue – So nah und doch ganz entspannt

Dieser Park ist einzigartig atmosphärisch- ein Grund für uns, immer und immer wiederzukommen.
Der Liberty State Park gehört zu New Jersey. Das Besondere: Er liegt direkt “hinter” der Statue of Liberty. Das bedeutet, man kann die Lady von hinten sehen. Und das recht nah. Der Unterschied zur Insel, auf der die Statue trohnt oder auch zu Ellis Island ist der, dass die Atmosphäre herrlich entspannt ist. Man kann stundenlang auf einer Bank sitzen und hat den allerbesten Blick auf die Skyline. Man kann nur ahnen, dass nur wenige hundert Meter weiter sich viele tausend Menschen tummeln. So hat man es an der 2- meilenlangen Promenade doch so viel besser. Angestellte fahren hier über einen Brückenschleichweg mit dem Rad zur Arbeit nach Ellis Island. 

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4th of July Feuerwerke

4th of July fireworks display

Obwohl für den 4. Juli jedes Jahr viele Familien die Stadt verlassen, ist natürlich trotzdem immer viel los – vor allem an den besten Plätzen, um das Feuerwerk zu beobachten. Da heißt es früh da sein! Um sich die Wartezeit bis zum Feuerwerk zu vertreiben, bringen sich die Zuschauer traditionellerweise ein Picknick mit. Tipps, was ihr nicht vergessen solltet und tolle Rezepte für leckere Snacks findet ihr auf unserer Pinterest Pinnwand “Familienpicknick”.

Von hier aus könnt ihr die verschiedenen Feuerwerke im Raum New York City gut beobachten:

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Vatertag 2019 in NYC mit der Familie

Lasst uns alle Väter, Onkel und Vaterfiguren in unserem Leben feiern! Vatertag ist dieses Jahr am Sonntage den 16. Juni und vielleicht ist der perfekte Tag für euren Vater, auf der Couch zu chillen, oder aber einen unvergesslichen Tag mit den Kindern zu verbringen. Wir haben für euch ein paar Ideen gesammelt, was ihr besonderes, an diesem Tag unternehmen könnt.

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Endlich Erdbeerzeit in NY

bunch of ripe strawberries

Freut ihr euch auch so wie wir, dass die Erdbeerzeit wieder begonnen hat? Und würdet ihr gern, wie ihr es von daheim kennt, mit den Kindern selbst zum Pflücken aufs Feld gehen? – Kein Problem, auf vielen Farmen im Raum New York könnt ihr das – und noch mehr!

Zusätzlich gibt es oft auch andere Früchte zum selbst pflücken und weitere Attraktionen für Kinder und Eltern wie Heulabyrinthe, Streichelzoos oder Weinverkostungen:

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Turtle Back Zoo in NJ

Der Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey ist eine nette Abwechslung zu den Stadtzoos und ein schöner Tagesausflug in die South Mountain Reservation, nur 45 Minuten von Manhattan.

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Cold Spring: Ein Tagestrip von Manhattan ganz ohne Auto

Auf der Suche nach einem Tagestrip von NYC ohne Auto sind wir auf Cold Spring im Hudson Valley gestoßen. Wieder einmal hat uns das schöne Hudson Valley nicht enttäuscht, und wir hatten einen sehr schönen Tag. Die Zugfahrt von Grand Central dauert gerade mal 75 Minuten und ist dazu noch wunderschön. Sobald man Manhattan hinter sich gelassen hat, führt die Strecke großteils direkt am Hudson entlang.

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5 questions to ask your OB/GYN early on in your pregnancy

Many pregnant women are pretty happy with their obstetrician- until it comes to giving birth. Once its getting to the “birth talk” around 36 weeks some obstetricians show a very different side to what the mom-to-be had in mind for her birth experience. Starting from the right time for induction to discussing the position how the mother prefers to give birth – make sure to ask your obstetrician or midwife early on in pregnancy what you would like to know.

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