CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
There’s a lot of talk about how the birth rate in Germany is dropping, and how Germans are choosing to have fewer kids (or none at all). The truth is, though, that it’s awesome to have kids in Germany!
1. An absolute ton of activities available.
From special museum exhibits, to castles and bike rides and live puppet theaters, Germany has an absolute avalanche of entertainment for little ones. There are special film festivals for kids, special indoor parks for kids, plus all those opportunities to explore hiking, swimming and playgrounds in the summer! If you like sports, there are sport camps, teams, and plenty of major and minor league games to watch.
2. Public Services
Until recently, public daycare was offered to all children starting at age 3. Now it starts at 12 months (if you want it). Since it’s publically funded, it’s extremely reasonably priced, and since German daycare workers are required to do training and internships, the quality is usually rather good. Besides that, there are family services to support needy kids, as well as funding for those that can’t afford child care.
Note: If you are stationed here with the military, all of these public services may not be available under the SOFA status. Check with your local base, post, or Rathaus.
3. Free Pretzels at the Baker and a Free Hotdog at the Butcher
Smaller bakers and butchers will usually give an extra little treat for your kids when you buy a large order. Our little ones sometimes get an extra pretzel or a little piece of sliced meat when they come along. (Not every establishment does this, but the smaller ones usually do as a thank- you to customers).
4. Public Drinking
I know what you’re thinking. Kids aren’t allowed to drink, anyway, except maybe in Bavaria. This one is really for the adults. Nothing takes the edge off a loud, hot, animal-filled day at the zoo like a cold beer with lunch, and in Germany it’s usually available and stigma-free. The same goes for outdoor festivals, concerts and other events. No one is going to give you the stink-eye for having a glass of wine while listening to live music in the park or a beer with your schnitzel on Saturday afternoon with your kids.
5. Public Transportation
What kid doesn’t love choo-choos and buses? In most cities, children under 6 years old travel free with the ticket-holding adult. Plus, trains and stations are getting better and better (slowly but surely) about things like stroller access. Sometimes it’s even preferable to traveling by car since you don’t have to worry about car seats or folding and unfolding the buggy. Just roll right onto the train or bus. On the high-speed trains, there are family-designated cars where you can reserve a spot so that your kids don’t bother the other travelers and can play and laugh as loud as they like. When you get to your destination, there are often wide sidewalks and pedestrian walkways where there’s minimal traffic and kids can walk a little more freely. (Just watch out for those cobblestones!)
6. All-Weather Outdoorsiness
Okay, stick with me for this one. There is no “bad” weather in Germany, only inappropriate clothing. When it rains, kids get decked out in rain pants (basically rubber overalls), rain jackets, rubber boots and tights, and get out there and play. There’s nothing more satisfying than really splashing in a big, muddy puddle, all warm and dry inside the boots and rain pants. Parents can buy heavy foot muffs for strollers to keep baby legs warm and nice, thick rain covers to keep the rain off while everyone goes for a walk. Snow? Sleet? Muddy playground? No problem. Fresh air and exercise are top priorities here, and a little drizzle is no excuse for staying in watching t.v. all day.
7. Fresh Food
Farmers’ markets are active in most towns year- round, and are usually open one or two days a week. You can get fresh produce, seasonal foods, baked goods, local items like fresh eggs, fresh flowers (because your mom deserves them), and lots of other specialty items. The sellers are usually friendlier than the usual shop worker and are usually happy to chat and/or give recommendations. Plus, you might even score a free apple to eat on the way home!
8. Children’s Flea Markets
These are seasonal, so it’s important to watch out for them. Typically held in March (for spring clothes) and October (for winter clothes), these markets sell everything for kids. Some are organized and sorted, and some are more like garage sales where people set up their own tables. It’s possible to clothe a child for very little money, pick up some cute European brands and have a fun time negotiating and looking around (plus, it’s good for the environment!) It’s easier if you look up the European sizes ahead of time so you know what you need. Some of these markets focus on toys, games, riding toys (like bikes and scooters) or on books. Kids with a little pocket money can really get a lot of “new” stuff! Bonus: usually they’re fundraisers for the local school or church, so you’re also helping the community, and double-bonus: there’s almost always a bake sale with amazing cake, too!
9. Public Medicine
If you’re covered by German insurance, pretty much all medical needs for kids are covered, from doctor’s visits to prescriptions. Take it from someone that has spent a lot of time in the pediatric ER: the medical services for children here are rather good. And don’t forget the free kids’ magazine full of awesome animal pictures that you can get at any pharmacy!
Note: If you are stationed here with the military, all of these public services may not be available under the SOFA status. Check with your local TriCare office. Kari writes more about using German health care in conjunction with TriCare here.
Germany loves to parade cute children for your amusement. From St. Martin’s festival of to Fasching parades full of costumes and witches, to boots full of chocolate on St. Nikolaus to decorating the May Pole, there are plenty of cultural and religious celebrations for kids to participate in and have adorable pictures taken by their parents!