Time for another interview in my A Kid’s Life series. This series is a way for all of us to see how families from other countries and cultures live their daily life. It’s surprising how similar some of our daily habits are around the world!
This time we chat with Petra who lives with her family in Germany. Petra is one of my all time favorite people . We met in university a long time ago and have kept in touch all these years. She’s kind, down to earth and so hilarious. And the fact we both ended up in Europe is such a bonus. We’ve caught up in person a few times over the years and it was wonderful. When together we revert back to our young (and slightly immature) selves. Petra is super creative and spends lots of time doing amazing crafts and art with her kids. I have many fond memories of sewing evenings with her in snowy Quebec City during our university days.
After reading Petra’s interview I’m in shock at one particular aspect of German culture. People, school ENDS for the day at 11:50am. How do parents manage? And it’s amazing to think that the German kids get only 6 weeks of summer vacation while the Italian kids get 12 weeks of summer vacation.
Petra talks about her multi-lingual and multi-cultural household with such humor and let’s us in on daily life in Germany. Enjoy!
What country do you live in?
We live in southern Germany, near the French border.
Are you and your husband the same nationality?
No, I am Canadian and my husband is French. We found each other in Germany.
Do you both work? Or does someone stay at home?
We both work. My husband works full time and I work part time in a kindergarten. I work mornings 4 days a week and one afternoon; that way I can be home for the kids in the afternoon.
How many languages are spoken in your house? What one(s)?
I speak to the kids in English and my husband speaks to them in French. My husband and I speak French with each other because, well, his English is just not as good as my French. The kids speak mostly English with each other, but German is becoming more and more used. We all speak German fluently.
How many kids do you have? What are their ages?
We have 2 kids. Alexis, our son, is 7 and Nellie is 5.
At what age do kids start school in your country?
Kids start school at 6. Kindergarten is not obligatory, but most kids start going at the age of 3. In the state where we live, kindergarten is free of charge starting when the child is 2 but in other states, such as in the one where I work, one must pay the kindergarten fees.
During the school year what time do your kids usually wake up?
The kids get up at 6:30 and then the race begins. Usually they are fed, dressed and their teeth have been brushed by the time I shove them out the door at 7:20. There is, however, no extra time for such frivolities such as fancy hairdos nor last minute homework corrections with this schedule.
What do your kids typically eat for breakfast?
Alexis normally eats about a half a loaf of bread (good, grainy, German bread) with butter and jam in the morning and drinks cold milk (Germans don’t like the cold drink thing, but I’m Canadian, eh, and grew up drinking stuff cold). Nellie always starts off by trying to get some candy (yeah right) and when that doesn’t pan out she ends up eating a piece of cheese, a piece of fruit and drinking cold water. There is a morning snack at both kindergarten and school (prepared by yours truly) so there she gets some bread (who are we kidding, it comes back with the jam licked off and I can see where she scraped the butter off with her teeth) and Alexis eats another 2 pieces of bread and probably eats the leftovers from any classmates who are not big eaters.
Click to read the rest of the interview…
What time does school start? What time does it finish? What is the weekly school schedule?
School starts here at 7:40. It finishes at 11:50. Yes, you read correctly, 11:50. A.M. So all the kids with SAHM (which are plenty in our village) get picked up and my son gets to go to what is called “Betreuung” – after school day care. There are different forms of this offered at his school and I picked the flexible one, which means I can pick him up whenever I get home from work (normally around 12:45).
Do your kids learn a second/third language at school? From what age?
The kids learn English at school, but this is only one hour a week. It is done is a playful way, and is seen as a first contact with a foreign language for most kids. I think Alexis teaches it.
Do your kids eat lunch at school or home? What is a typical lunch for your kids?
Both kids are signed up for meals in their institutions 4 days a week and the one day that I work in the afternoon I usually cook something for them. We always eat warm at lunch here. This can be anything from meat and veggies or pasta dishes and fish on Fridays. Alexis will eat anything and everything except cheese and Nellie is picky, although you wouldn’t think so when you look at her. It must be the fact that she eats all the cheese her brother doesn’t.
My husband normally cooks on the weekend. He is a great cook and loves to make typical French dishes. These are also high in calories but do the soul very good.
Do your kids do any after-school activities?
Each child has 2 activities – Alexis goes to soccer and judo and Nellie does ballet and music. I am trying to get them to reduce to one activity each, but both are so thrilled with their lessons that it is too hard for them to choose one.
What time do you eat dinner? What’s a typical dinner you would eat?
We have an “evening bread” called Abendbrot at 6 p.m. This is, as in its name, bread (once again this dark, grainy fantastic German bread that I wouldn’t give up for anything in the world) ,cheese and cold cuts. Because none of us could be considered skinny by any stretch of the imagination, we eat a plate of raw veggies before getting any bread. This plate is normally a whole cucumber, a red pepper and a few tomatoes split between the 3 of us (my husband never makes it home before 7).
How much television/computer time do your kids have on a daily basis?
If it weren’t for my husband, we wouldn’t have a tv. I grew up without one and I believe it was the best thing my parents could have done for us. Anyway, here I am with a husband who can’t live without it, and I can’t live without him, so we got rules. Normally, the kids watch a half an hour a day, if they watch at all. They watch maybe 3 days a week and I encourage them to watch a DVD rather than the garb that’s on the tube. On the weekends we might watch a movie together. Of course when I am sick or have been having a particularly bad day and need some quiet time, I have no qualms about bending my own rules on the TV bit. They don’t do much on the computer yet.
What time do your kids go to bed?
They go to bed at 7. They read and talk and fight until about 8 when I or my husband go up and get serious. It has become somewhat of a bedtime ritual.
What are some typical family week-end activities?
Before my husband had his knee operation (one year ago and since then 2 more operations) we were very active on weekends, mostly going hiking in the Pfälzerwald (Palatinate Forest) and going for long bike rides. Now we are more confined to home, but are enjoying this as well. There is always lots to do in our big wild garden, festivals and activities in our village or crafts at home.
When do your kids have vacation from school?
Alexis has 2 weeks off at Easter, 6 weeks off in the summer, 2 weeks off in the fall and another 2 weeks at Christmas. The kindergarten is only closed at Christmas and for 2 weeks in the summer.
What do your kids do during the summer vacation?
Last summer I sent Alexis to a day camp for the mornings during the first 3 weeks of vacation. He loved it and wanted to go even longer. I also have 3 weeks off in the summer and during that time we travel to France or stay at home and spend time in our garden. We also like to go to the public pool in our village. On the weekends we love to go camping in Alsace, the region of France closest to us. There are fantastic camping sites and lots of beautiful villages and great hiking trails to discover (if you’ve got a good knee that is). It also helps that they have something called Flammkuchen which is like a pizza, only with cream, bacon and onions on it. Sooo good.
What are the typical “first foods” for a baby to eat in your country?
Rice cereal, carrots, potatoes and parsnips are all first foods here. My midwife offered a class on baby’s first food which was one evening. There I found out that you should add a tsp of canola oil or sunflower oil to every meal and that it is best for baby to start out with one veggie and to give it for a week before adding another veggie. To be honest, if left to my own means, I would have done everything wrong but I think my babies would have turned
Thank you dear Petra!