Friday, April 02, 2010


EDITED: Well, damn. My fancypants title font can't seem to accomodate an umlaut. I foresee that causing some problems in the future...

El niño headed out today for his first day of school since arriving in Germany. Sniff. I had really gotten used to having the little guy around during the day! On the plus side, he came home having learned to count to eleven in German, while Mom is still consulting the dictionary for post titles every day.

After dropping him off at school, we picked up some supplies while still on post and took care of some limited administrative stuff in the few offices open on this German holiday. Off post, the entire city took the whole day completely off. It's really quite impressive, this German commitment to holiday. I mean everybody in the entire city took the whole day off. Hardly any of them even drove anywhere! It was really quite nice, not feeling like we were risking our lives to walk to the park this morning. I will say this about German drivers...they are perfectly comfortable sharing the crosswalk with you.

Other than that, we had a very nice, lazy day today. We wandered over to a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner - with low expectations - but it was pretty darn good. Again with the freshness and it may have been Germanized Chinese food, but that was at least some variety compared to the Americanized Chinese food we are completely used to. And it was nothing short of a total trip practicing our wee bit of German with servers with excellent German...with a Chinese accent.

And, it did clue me in to my Cultural Difference of The Day. German culture doesn't seem to be quite as "family friendly" as what seems typical in the US. In fact, we've had new friends here remark that they've found the country to be more dog friendly than child friendly. Our kids are used to eating in restaurants and don't need high chairs or boosters anymore, so we've felt free to venture out.

But, tonight, we found ourselves seated in what had to be the kid room. The restaurant was essentially split into three different rooms, and all of the children eating in the restaurant were seated in one room and every table in that room had children at it. I was thinking that really wasn't a bad idea, actually, until I noticed that a mother and daughter were seated in the room toward the end of our meal. The girl was no younger than 13! Are German 13 year olds known for public temper tantrums or messy eating!? It seemed a little excessive and rather funny.

The interesting thing is that German kids - as a whole - seem to be held to higher standards of behavior than their American counterparts. They are truly more independent - it is not at all uncommon to see kids as young as 5 or 6 walking home alone from school down a very busy road or the age of 7 or 8 biking over to the park with a friend and no adult supervision. In my limited observation thus far, they tend - at least in public settings - to be quieter and more docile than their American counterparts. And, they still don't really seem to be welcomed or appreciated in the way that seems familiar to me in the States. It's difficult to articulate, but there seems to be more of an overall appreciation of children - from smiles and ruffling of hair to comments about them and spoken to them by complete strangers - in the US than here. I don't really expect people to fawn over my children with the language barrier, but it's just a general feeling I don't really get here.

Is that something anyone else has noticed in this part of Europe?

Technorati tags: Germany, children, culture


Gen said...

I am enjoying reading about what you are going through this week. So interesting! And I just saved this to my favorites so I can keep up better. PS>>> Love that duck sign and subsequent translation :)

Alicia said...

I can't wait for you to get an address! And get a house, and get your stuff, and get friends and favorite places! Such a great chapter in your lives!

Jason (the commenter) said...

Is that something anyone else has noticed in this part of Europe?

Well, I was born in Germany, but as I have no memory of it, I can't be of help. I am enjoying hearing about the country of my birth, though.

Lea said...

Finns don't fawn over children either. They don't even smile to acknowledge their cuteness. It's weird. But restaurants and hotels here are extremely family friendly. Some places offer a children's buffet and have play areas where the kids can go play while mom and dad eat in peace. It's nice.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, guys!

I didn't know that, Jason. Glad you have that connection!

Lea, I haven't seen children's buffets here, but they do set up kinderzimmers all over the place. The hotel had a big brunch today and they had a room set up for kids to play in while mom and dad ate. Now that you mention it, there do seem to be a lot of things set up especially for kids - kindertoilletes, etc... - so maybe "not family friendly" isn't the right way to describe it. Maybe it's more a case of keeping kid things and adult things separate. And, you're right, definitely not a lot of fawning.