How a Global Pandemic Changed My Views on Living in Germany!
As any expat will express, our emotions yo-yo between happy to be here and can't wait to get out of here. But the recent global pandemic has drastically changed my views on living in Germany.
Under normal circumstances, we would be moisturizing our freshly sun-kissed skin from Greece and prepping for our annual trip home to the States next week.
However, Germany began to close its borders and the US halted all unnecessary travel from Europe a few weeks ago. Even though we can easily prove our citizenship, catching a flight home suddenly isn't so fluid anymore. Our local airport is currently shut down to passengers. Only freight is allowed through.
Cancelling our plans to celebrate the long weekend in Greece for my birthday was a downer, but facing the reality of not hugging loved ones back in the US that I hadn't seen in over a year was heart-wrenching.
I've wallowed in ALL the what-ifs while simultaneously trying to figure out how to entertain (yet keep quiet) my 4&5 year old boys, so Josh can work. Nowadays, my glazed over facial expressions might often read traumatized more so than at peace.
My love/hate relationship with living in Germany has stared me in the face in recent weeks, and it's developed into more of a thankfulness than anything. While mulling over the multitude of what-ifs, I've come to realize how truly fortunate we are to be where we are in this moment.
Five Reasons Why Living in Germany is a Gift RIGHT NOW:
1.) Sick Leave
If I were to become ill and unable to care for our kids, Josh has six weeks of paid leave + 10 extra days allotted per child that he could use to care for our family. The best part...if he becomes sick beyond his paid leave, he would still receive some level of paid sick leave for up to two years if need be. Very generous from all aspects.
A benefit to paying higher taxes is having faith in the government that they will take care of you. Not only in times of crisis, but in the general everyday times. Kindergeld is one way the German government looks after the welfare of it's citizens and even immigrants. Think of it as Social Security for kids. Every month, we receive a few hundred bucks from the government to assist in costs of raising children. This is huge in times of uncertainty. Knowing you will have money to help feed your children if ish hits the fan is priceless. Those funds do not discriminate either. Everyone is equal. Every household receives the same amount for each child every month. You do receive a tad more for each additional child after the first two, though.
We are not German citizens nor permanent residents- only common tax payers and fulfilling our legal obligation of living in Deutschland.
Want the full scoop on Kindergeld? Child Benefits in Germany
3.) German Works Council
This organization was founded to protect workers in Germany. If your role is diminished, then you immediately become a priority for any available position. They will work with you to get you re-hired as soon as possible. In the US- most companies will walk you out that same day, or graciously give you a two weeks heads up. I've experienced both back home, and neither are fun. Here in Germany- you have several months notice, and the employer will still help you as much as possible.
"The GWC is also the organization responsible for making it illegal to work more than 40 hours in a week. Yes, you read that correctly. Hello, quality of life!"
My heart aches for those losing work back in the States though. The lucky ones receiving a week or so notice. Others, being told that same day their job no longer exists and they have to go elsewhere for work. Our situation would undoubtedly look vastly different work wise if we were currently in the US.
4.) Our Personal Situation- let me paint a picture for you...two pictures in fact:
- In the States, I would be teaching, Jack would be in kindergarten, Evan would be in Pre-K, and Josh would more than likely have a long commute and even longer (expected) work days. The reality over that situation in quarantine looks like this...I would be stressing over Jack's e-Learning, formatting digital lesson plans for my (130) 7th graders, while simultaneously figuring out how to entertain Evan quietly, because Josh would be working from home all day. Madness. Pure madness. I have teacher friends back home who are living this, and it is utter chaos. Stressssss!
- In Germany, I am a SAHM. Jack and Evan are in public preschool every day. Evan goes half day, and Jack goes full day to prep him for real school in September. And the boys' school is essentially free through various government programs. Much the opposite back home! In Germany, it's incredibly common to be a SAHM with kids attending the preschool. It's amazing, really. I can take care of all housing tasks, run errands, manage doctor appointments, etc and still have free time to intentionally be with my kids in the afternoon and spend quality time with my husband in the evening instead of doing laundry. The quality of family life in this culture is sacred.
- Mandatory schooling starts much later here than back home, so no distance learning lessons for Jack right now. I do a few educational activities here and there. But for the most part, we play all day!
5.) House Doctor- this is ridiculously huge at the moment, but it wasn't invented due to our current global crisis. This unique service is provided and built into our healthcare system for everyday use. It's brilliant, really, and I actually used it last year. In fact when I used this service, grateful couldn't possibly touch how thankful I was for her. The call was made at 11pm, and she was at our house examining me at midnight. She wrote me a prescription to be filled for the next day and gave me a shot in the bum for instant pain relief so I could get some rest.
Right now, if one of us is feeling sick, it is recommended to call the house doctor instead of making an appointment with your regular doctor. If indeed anyone is confirmed with Covid-19, it limits exposure and increasing spread of the virus by the doctor making house calls. Thankfully, we haven't had to call the House Doctor while we've been home, but I bet they've been busy! What a blessing that service is - not only during this time but year-round as well.
We have our ups and downs with German living much like we did while living in Singapore. However, our current life and times have given me a fresh perspective on my unique reality.
I have safety. Job security. Incredible health care. A government force which cares for her people. Precious family time without unnecessary additional stress. Access to the outdoors and nature. Simplistic freedoms which I will never take for granted again.
"Thinking about moving abroad? Be sure to check out this life-changing post below!"
And even after our curve is beginning to flatten, the government is extending lockdown restrictions a while longer. Honestly, I don't mind the additional measures and extra precaution. Germans are known for their efficiency, and this pandemic has solidified their cultural norms even more.
Unfortunately, it took something as heavy as a pandemic to straighten up my thankfulness... but it did. And I'm grateful for my kick to the face attitude adjustment. It rubs off on my kids, my marriage, and breathes new life into my every day.
How has this situation changed your perspective on where you live?
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