Katja lives with her husband Malte and two girls in New York City. They left their native Germany to live in the USA in the summer of 2016. They will return to Germany later this year. Last year Katja launched her blog www.momof2girls.com about family and expat life, recipes, DIY and travel. Her idea was to show other families their “American” way of life.
As a mum, living away from home, what do you miss the most?
To be honest, after a short period to get settled in, I miss nothing anymore in the US. It is more the opposite case, that I think living in the US with kids is much more enjoyable than in Germany. For example, where we live it’s common to see other families with two, three or four children. Everyone is used to live with kids, who are sometimes loud, screaming or crying. It’s not like in Germany when your kids are screaming everyone is looking critical or blaming about the noise. Going to a restaurant with kids in the US is much easier: the people there are so friendly, highchairs are normally available, kid menus on offer and free tap water.
You decided to stay at home with your girls in New York. Was this decision due to your move to the States or would you have stayed home with your children in Germany too?
In Germany, my plan was to start working when our little one turned one. Now I’m a stay at home Mom and for me, it is the best decision I have ever done. The kids grow up so fast and I enjoy spending so much time with them every day. Also, if we both worked here we would have to pay for full-time childcare and that would be expensive.
If you compare European and American parents what are the most obvious differences when raising children (positive and negative)?
Based on my experience, American parents are on the one hand much more relaxed, on the other hand much more anxious than German parents. I see parents here who are more “buddies” to their kids and make the most of the “quality time” they have with their children because it’s usually very limited. They have fun with their kids, love to play sports together, or stay for hours at the playground. At the same time, they worry more than European parents. They see danger everywhere and worry that other people may hurt their children.
What are the biggest obstacles for an Expat family?
It has not been easy to settle in. Our time is limited here and I think this is the reason why it is not so easy to become integrated. If you tell someone that you are an expat sometimes they do not think it is worth the effort to build up a true friendship. They know your time is limited. But I think this is so important for your daily life abroad. In the beginning, it was our biggest challenge.
You know that you have limited time in this place and there are many things that we want to do and see before you leave so it becomes quite stressful making sure you plan activities and don’t miss out on anything!
How did your children adapt to the new situation?
The beginning was hard for our 3-year-old daughter. She went to her new preschool and could not understand one word. Language is so important at this age and she was thrown into a new environment plus a new language at the same time. The cultural difference affected her as well. A German “Kindergarten” and an American Preschool are very different. So, it was a challenge for me and my husband to drop her off every morning. She was crying when she woke up and when she was dropped off at preschool. It took half a year for her to adapt. This was a hard time for our whole family. Our 9-month-old daughter on the other hand did not realize that she was not in Germany anymore, because she was to young.
How have you kept in contact with family back in Germany? (especially for the girls)
Nowadays it is easy to be connected with family and friends with Whatsapp. In Germany, we did not live in the same city as our family anyway, so it was not a big change for us. In the beginning, Mima missed her friends from her German daycare so we viewed photos and spoke to friends and family via video Whatsapp.
In which way do your kids profit from your family time in America?
I hope primarily that they benefit by learning to speak English well. Living abroad has meant that we have become very close as a family. The family unit is the constant part of their lives while so many things around them are changing.
Where did you get the idea for your blog, are you enjoying writing it?
I had the idea a long time before we left Germany. I like to read other Mom, Travel and Food Blogs. But with my normal job and two little kids I had no time to construct a website, write valuable content and to interact with my followers.
How would your life be different if you had stayed in Germany?
The main difference is that I would be working in Germany and therefore would not have so much time with my family.