Today is January 15th. That means that it's now been 6 years [6 YEARS!!!] since we arrived in Germany.
Coming from the US with a 6 month-old in tow, we were a bit bewildered at first to find ourselves in such a seemingly remote and... dark part of the country. We live in the North-Eastern part of Germany, in the former DDR, on the Baltic Sea (just across Denmark). So the dead of winter took a bit of getting used to. But even in the winter, there are still good times and incredible surprises to be had, like that one time the ocean had frozen over:
Then, a few months later, we discovered the joy of Scandinavian summertime near the sea. A 20-minute bike ride along a wonderfully pretty canal takes you to the beach, where the still and shallow waters mean that you can (almost) leave the kids splashing around unattended. We've had so many beach picnics followed by lazy, slow afternoons.
And this small town just happens to have kid-friendly everything: great playgrounds, ice cream at every corner, playing area in many restaurants and coffee shops, lots of daycares (relatively speaking, compared to many places in Germany where they are scarce), the most wonderful little zoo, old sailboats along the canal...
So we've settled into a very wholesome, family-centric, relaxed way of life. Pool or bikes rides to the forest on Sunday mornings, or walking to the coffee shop for some fresh pretzels and cappuccinos. Racing bikes down slopes, scaring many a duck and passerby... In the summer, barbecuing or gardening on our deck, perfecting cookie and key lime pie recipes... Ingesting a good amount of Sekt and pistachios. Finding bugs and snails, collecting dead leaves. Dreaming of unearthing dinosaur bones.
Of course it hasn't been all puppies and rainbows. Learning to navigate things when there were (at the time) so few expats around to guide us (thank you to the few who did!!) and without the benefit of a proficient German speaker in the family (oh, how my high school German felt inadequate!) has at times been painful and peinlich... Building a successful business with such a language barrier for all things administrative wasn't easy. Figuring out what's done and not done, said and not said was an everyday learning experience -- but that's what all expats and immigrants (should) do.
Another hard thing: juggling three languages every day. And the myth of the multilingual kids who absorbs all languages equally, rapidly and with sponge-like passivity (propagated mostly by non-trilingual-kid-having people)... This myth led to much anxiety during the first few years of language struggles for our eldest, which came with a side of behavioral issues, due to language-related frustration and insecurity. We were almost going to throw the towel in and leave, feeling that we had failed him by hampering his communication and learning skills with all these difficult languages to be learned AT THE SAME TIME.
But then... things sort of clicked (with a LOT of effort and family involvement). The trilingual thing is no longer a source of worry. We had a second child here (who had none of her brother's language difficulties), bought a place, got a car (after years of riding bikes everywhere!). And just like that, we're home. For now ;)