What to do when you’re stuck inside and the weather is not so great.
CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
Did you just get to Germany and you don’t really have any friends yet, but you’re sick of hanging around in the house or hotel with a kid all day, waiting for it to get late enough to start calling people in the US? Well, this list is for you. Cabin fever can really overwhelm newcomers. Besides the winter or rainy weather, there’s the unfamiliar city and language out there, too. Take heart: we’ve all been there. Here are a few things you can do to break out.
1. Go for a walk, even if the weather is terrible. Germans are big believers in the healing power of fresh air, and they don’t stay inside just because it’s cold or raining. You may have noticed people riding their bikes in the snow or pushing their strollers through the rain. You need a little gear to get started, but then you’re practically able to stay warm and dry anywhere. Regenhose are rain pants for the kids. They are like little rubber overalls that keep the water out. Put them on over a pair of Gummistiefel (rubber boots), and get a Regenjacke (rain jacket) and you’re all set. In the winter, most small children (boys and girls) wear Strumpfhosen (tights) under their pants. This keeps their little legs toasty warm while they’re running around. A good all-weather cover for the stroller is also a must. In winter, a Fusssack is also an essential item. It’s basically a cut-out sleeping bag that keeps your baby’s or toddler’s feet and legs warm while riding. If you’re really into winter walking, you can also invest in a hot water bottle to pre- warm your pram and a stroller muff to wrap around the handles of the stroller and keep your fingers warm. For snow, there are plenty of snow pants and snow suit options, too. So weather is no reason to stay inside.
2. Go to the park and meet somebody. We have honestly gone to the park when there’s snow on the ground. My son had a blast shoveling it with his sand toys. With the waterproof pants and tights, it wasn’t too cold, and you might just meet some other parents with cabin fever. A large portion of the population here (30% +) is immigrants, so you’re likely to find some common ground with other newcomers or someone with perspective on what life is like in Germany for foreigners. On our local playground we hear Spanish, Serbian, English, Russian, Polish, and who knows how many other languages, on a regular basis. German moms and dads are also sometimes happy to chat in English a little. Some will say they hardly know any English, and then surprise you with a long conversation on a variety of topics. One easy way to strike up a conversation is to offer to share your kid’s sand toys (or just say hello!)
3. Go to the farmer’s market and try something new. Most cities and small towns have an open market near the town center at least once a week. This is absolutely my favorite way to practice German 101 skills. Simple questions and phrases like, “How much does it cost?”, “How do you cook this?”, “Is it for soup?”, “Is it ripe?”, as well as names of foods, numbers and other basic skills are fun to try out in this setting. The sellers are usually friendlier than the workers in the more impersonal setting of the grocery store, and if you have no German skills whatsoever, this is a great opportunity to point and gesture your way to some delicious fresh fruits and vegetables.
4. Find a meet-up or mommy group online. There are loads of these on facebook and other platforms. If you can’t find an English one, you could go extra-bold and look for one in German. They’re usually called Spielgruppe or Krabbelgruppe (for crawlers). Local churches and city governments sponsor them, so you can find them through their websites or bulletin boards.
5. Go to an indoor playground (Indoor Spielplatz). These range from free (church- or city-sponsored) to mega expensive indoor amusement parks. Shoes are almost always banned in these places, so bring your anti-slip socks.
6. Try some child-friendly activities. There are children’s theaters, music performances, special tours through museums, story time at the local libraries, and plenty of other ways to fill an afternoon. Usually you can find them listed online, in children’s magazines or in the local newspaper. In Stuttgart, they’re all listed in the Luftballoon magazine.
7. Go to the public library. They often have a selection of books in English. In Stuttgart, there’s even a Children’s English Library. Keep in mind that German libraries often include a membership fee in order to check out books.
8. Do a transportation tour. Take a bus or a train and see where it goes. If you’re originally from a place without a lot of public transportation, your kids may see this as an adventure in itself.
Notes: Click each picture for credit.