Life in Europe – 6 Months In

How has it already been 6 months? 6 months ago, we were being driven to the airport by our family, working our way through multiple security checkpoints, two different airplanes, a long layover and two flights to arrive in Germany and start our international living. We had no idea what would come or how our lives would change, but we were ready for that adventure.

It’s safe to say that 6 months in, this move has been nothing short of an adventure. We’ve made the most of almost 5 months of hotel living, made the most of learning the culture (still learning!), attempting to begin to learn the language (have a long way to go on this one), and are homing in on what travel looks like for our family. We’ve almost finally gotten settled in our house, made some new friends, and are embracing that “European” lifestyle.

When we got off that plane we jumped right in to our new adventure, choosing to travel as much as we could – 7 countries already!- and be out of our hotel, and later house, as possible. This isn’t a place that we wanted to choose to stay home, as we would normally, but one where we wanted to experience everything possible.

I figured something that would be fun today, 6 months in, would be to reflect on some of the things that I’ve learned or that have surprised me at this stage of our move. Living in Germany is just similar enough to our westernized culture, but still different enough that there is a little shock to the system of moving here. I will say though; I don’t think I really experienced a true “culture shock” until I tried to do a full grocery shop on the local economy. I’m getting better and better the more I go, but those first couple trips were rough.

Before we get into the “surprises”, I just quickly want to say that I didn’t entirely expect how beautiful it is here. It is absolutely gorgeous just about anywhere you go and we cannot get enough of getting outside and exploring even just the little towns near us. The area is full of country roads, with little towns, and fields of crops all around. The agriculture scene is huge in our area and we also have a fair share of animals around as well. We love it here and can’t stress that enough.

To start this off, we are going to chat about Water Closets…or restrooms. Yep, something I don’t typically talk about, but it’s a bodily function and something we all need. You pay to use public restrooms here. Not necessarily all of them (for example a lot of stores and restaurants will often times have a restroom for the guests), but if you stop at a service stop off the Autobahn chances are you’ll have to pay the .70Euro charge to use the restroom. The nice thing is, at least for the service stations, you pay the .70 and you’ll get a .50Euro voucher to use in the station itself. The bathrooms are also very well maintained, so I don’t mind paying the slight fee for them.

*I will say- the one exception to the “paying for the bathroom” bit is changing rooms. A lot of service stations will have an entirely separate room for changing babies that can be used free of charge. Don’t think you can get away with using it as an adult, often times they are locked so an attendant is needed, or they don’t have a toilet, just the changing station. But also, just don’t be that person. From a mom, please don’t be that person.*

Another thing that is, I think, unique to Europe is the no rush eating out. When you go out to eat here, the emphasis is placed on company and quality of time spent at the restaurant, rather than hurrying you through the ordering and eating process. Often times dinner lasts several hours, and you only see your waiter intermittently to serve you the food and drinks. It’s a very relaxed feel and you could sit at your table for as long as you’d like. It’s something we have gotten used to very quickly and something that we really actually enjoy. You get a chance to enjoy your meal, your company, and it just makes it so much more pleasant. I don’t know how we are going to go back to the states and back to being rushed through our meals.

Also- in regard to eating out, be prepared to pay for water and to find that in most cases ordering alcohol is cheaper than water (or even soda in some cases)! The beer is, obviously, very good here, and sometimes even getting a glass of wine or prosecco can be less costly than having a bottle of water. Also, at your typical German restaurants expect to find meat and potato’s to be the brunt of your menu and dining experience. One final dining experience, your portion size will be quite large. While we were in the hotel, when dining in the hotel restaurant, often times I would simply order the main meat portion, no side and they would put together a miniscule side salad for me (because they thought there was no way I was only eating a giant portion of Wiener Schnitzel).

It’s a real blast to eat out here because of the experience (and the food IS delicious), but just be aware of what you are really getting yourself into J

In Europe, Germany especially from what I’ve been seeing and hearing in travelling, there is a high emphasis on recycling and taking care of our planet. Germany is actually a very very clean place. You don’t see a lot of litter about, trash cans are cleared out frequently, and you can tell that it is very well maintained. The cleanliness aside, Germany is very focused on sustainability and what is best for our planet and environment. A perfect example of this is the windmills, solar panel farms, and recycling program. We recycle EVERYTHING. Just about the only bits that go into the trash are food waste and Kleenex/dirty paper towels (rare in our house) and such. There isn’t a lot that actually goes in to the trash and subsequently the trash only gets picked up twice a month! Think about that for a minute. We have a total of 5 recycling bins (that’s what our family uses the most of, some families can have upwards of 7 or more if need be) and we run to our sort center every couple weeks. It’s been a real good lesson in learning what we may be don’t need to waste and where we can do better in our own home with re-usable goods.

Europe is very much a family friendly, outside adventure style country. There are a lot of walking areas, parks and pools for full families are in an abundance, and everyone, in Germany in particular, have really loved the kids. There is always some sort of a hike, cruise, bike, athletic event going on in the good weather and even if there isn’t something going on, there are plenty of places that you can explore outdoors for yourself. I’ve been really surprised at not only how many there are, but how many are actually family friendly and have activities for old and young alike. We’ve found so many options that we can do with the kids, where they can also be kids instead of being told to shush all the time.

Something else that Germany in particular is famous for is its festivals. There is a festival of some sort always going on it seems, and they celebrate everything from the German American partnerships, to religious holidays, to random just because days, to Octoberfest (in September). The festivals are great ways to jump right in to their culture as food and alcohol are a big part of life out here (not the only part, just a big one). The festivals will be anything from a little food festival with different vendors, to full on carnivals with rides, food, drinks, and music. It all depends, and it is quite a lot. We’ve loved the couple that we have attended and look forward to going to many over the next couple years.

I know there are so many other bits that I want to touch on, but I think I’ll have to save those for another post! In our short 6 months here, we’ve already managed to do so much, and we still have so much more that we want to do.

A Cuppa Cosy Heads International – Vacation Time

Good morning! I figured I would give you a chatty little update on how our move is going (the real how our move is going, not a fluffy sugar coated answer). I know that I have been getting a lot of advice and I want to share what I’ve found to be helpful in the hopes that it may help someone else.

First off, I want to clarify some things.

 

  1. We are moving due to my husbands job. My tidbits go between specifics relating to that and general information that is good to know.
  2. Currently in our move process we are on vacation at our In Laws. We planned about a 3-4 week vacation in between the move to see our family before heading out of the country.

Our timeline has been about a span of 8 months (ish) from the earliest time we got an inkling that we could be moving overseas until now. It started with a phone call and an email. My recommendation to anyone out there who is potentially moving out of the country is to bank on enough time. Sure, you can move at the drop of the hat and make it work, but having a good amount of time on our side has been a big help.

We started with medical. Getting checked out by doctors, verifying if we needed any shots or tests done that are specific to where we are going (there weren’t) and getting any prescriptions updated. This is always the best place to start because if there is anything that you do end up needing to do, you have plenty of time to do it.

Once our medical stuff was done and we were cleared to go (meaning we got approval through his work to move, and got their paperwork), came the process of setting up our actual work. This is the bulk of the move process and it means A LOT. There is so much to sort through, to figure out, to plan for.

I made immediate use of Social Media. Getting into contact with folks that we knew who had lived overseas, joining Facebook groups for the area we are heading, talking to people who had just recently made this type of move. In some ways it became overwhelming (as there is just so much information from so many different sources), but it was a big help. In fact, because of Social Media we know exactly what we are going into in terms of housing.

I highly recommend that you do the same when you are moving somewhere you are unfamiliar with. Social media can be very effective when you are trying to figure out what exactly you are moving to. With that being said, also be aware that what you are finding (or being told) may not apply to your specific situation. Also, people will bring their own bias into what they are saying. Just keep an open mind while you are taking advantage of this.

Among all of the things that we needed to account for, the actual moving and shipping of our house hold goods, car, and personal belongings has been the easiest part of our move (ironically enough).

**At this point I’ll further clarify that my husband is in the military and most of the shipping, plane travel, and such has been organized by them. We handle the actual company and day hours, but they do more of that portion of it. If you would like to me to do a post specifically dedicated to that and organizing all of that, please let me know. **

We slowly (over a period of 3 months or so) worked through our home; getting rid of/selling what we didn’t want or couldn’t take, determining what would stay behind in storage, what would actually go with us. In a way it is hard to do this as we don’t know what our space will look like in our new home, but we’ve just decided to take 90% of our belongings with us.

We checked the guidelines for our packed and carry on luggage and found out the standard answer- each person can have two checked baggage (more is extra cost) as well as the standard one carry on and a personal bag. For our family, we were allotted 8 bags total (plus any carry ons).

I think the hardest point of the move was the Holiday’s. We were in kind of a holding cycle where it was too far out to pack anything, but we had finished what we needed to do prior to movers coming. It was one of those times where you feel like you need to be doing something, you want to be doing something, you are ready for the move, BUT there isn’t anything you can do. This was a period of a few weeks and honestly was probably the worst few weeks of the move itself (as of now, I can’t tell you what the next few months will be like). I got really short tempered during this time and was just ready for everything to start happening. It felt like we were just waiting and waiting.

I don’t know if these types of updates really help, or provide any insight in any way, but I want to have them for my own reflection and memories. I’ll do a couple more updates as we go along as well.

Round The Kettle Episode 6: Almost Christmas and A Special Visit!

IMG_7036.jpgI don’t want to cause any panic for anyone (see my earlier post this week about Holiday Stress if you feel panicy), but we are just about one week away from Christmas…

Have you finished your Christmas Shopping? Wrapped your gifts? Mailed any that needed mailed?

I hate to say that we got lucky this year, with our move coming so closely following Christmas, but it has certainly made this year a bit different for us. We didn’t put out any of the normal decorations we would have (because they will simply have to get packed back up ASAP for the movers to get up), we aren’t doing a normal amount of presents (because again, just for the movers to take with them), and I’ve been grateful for that.

This season of Christmas has become so centered around the decorating, the baking, the presents under the tree, but with 2 out of those 3 things essentially being removed, we are being able to focus on what is important to us. The time we get together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together. This is #1 in our books and I am grateful that this year we are being reminded and getting the chance to have that.

Not too mention that next year we will be in Germany for Christmas- and they DO NOT hold back when it comes to Christmas.

We’ve been a little frazzled when it comes to move related things. We’ve been loading up the things that are not going with us (being stored), trying to coordinate last minute appointments that have to be handled before we leave, deciding little things (like clothes, suitcases, toys that are going with us, not the movers). All of this on top of our standard jobs,  parenting, and out of town family visits. It’s all been a bit…much. Not too mention trying to keep a running tab of everything that has to be done.

I’ve been trying to take advantage of the bits of time that are not devoted to packing, working, or other standard home things, and getting us out of the house. My car will be getting shipped within a few days, so I’ve been making it a point of us going places. There will be a few weeks (while we are still here) that we will be down to one car and I want to make sure that any non important things get done now. That includes…visiting Santa!

That’s right, we went to go see the big man himself this past week. It was Andrew’s first visit and Colton’s second (we missed a year). The visit was a fun one and we got to scope out some big toys at the same time as we visited Santa at Cabela’s! The boys reactions were a bit surprising, my outgoing talk to anyone Colton did not want to sit on Santa’s lap (although he did run up and talk to him) and my shy, cling to mom Andrew gave a smile and might have actually sat on his lap! You can see the picture below and , despite Andrew’s face, they had a lot of fun seeing both Santa and all of the treats at Cabela’s.

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So, how are you? How are you feeling about it being so close to Christmas? Are you ready or are you just letting the time go and soak up the family time?

A Cuppa Cosy Heads International!

Yep, you read that title right! We are heading out of the United States and are so incredibly excited to do it! For the next few years we are going to be residing in Germany, learning about the culture, the history, exploring all over Europe, and blogging all about it!

I don’t normally speak about what my husband does, or really talk about him much at all, and that is both for privacy and security reasons. He is a relatively private person and I definitely respect (and love) that part of him, BUT I do want to say that the reason we are moving is to do with his job. He is in the military and we jumped at this opportunity when it presented itself.

We are so incredibly lucky to be able to move out of the country and explore somewhere completely new. It is not something that we are taking for granted, nor something that we are approaching lightly. We plan on truly absorbing everything that Germany (and Europe as a whole) has to offer. I can’t wait to share our experiences over the next few years and see where this journey takes us!

I will touch a little bit on our process for anyone that is wondering or is looking at a similar situation. For us (aka for military families) it’s all about timeline. The preparation stuff so far hasn’t been so bad. The biggest thing is just handling it early enough, so you don’t feel a bottleneck of stuff to do close to your move. I know that sometimes this isn’t a possibility, thankfully it is in our case, but if you can handle as much as you can as early as you can then that will really help the ease of a move. I will share once we get closer to our actual move date more tips and tricks that I have found in a single post.

We are both very excited about what the future holds for us and what this new path is going to be like!