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Pick your own flowers, or Blumen selbst schneiden

Pick your own flowers, or Blumen selbst schneiden

For our first six weeks or so in Germany, we’ve been living in a little town one over from the larger one where we found a flat. That means to get things done, including banking, going to interesting shops, or just little adventures, we tend to head into Heidelberg rather than the sleepy bedroom community where our temporary flat is located. The stretch in between the two towns is full of small farms and pastures.




We kept passing this one field with rows of flowers right by the road, and a sign advertising Blumen! with ‘selbst schneiden’ underneath. A quick google turned up details about this lovely practice all across Germany. Blumen selbst schneiden or selbst pflücken are like little u-pick fruit fields but for flowers. They are equipped with some knives hung from a post and some twine, and a secure box for leaving your cash.


I finally had a chance to stop this evening, and there were lovely zinnias and dahlias ready, as well as a huge row of sunflowers. Flowers were priced at a reasonable 30 cents a stem (or so, I think the sunflowers were more), and everything was clearly signposted. But what a lovely idea! This is so common there are websites dedicated to mapping these fields across the country. I’m looking forward to finding more of these around our new home.


All things Middle Ages

All things Middle Ages

There was a Pinterest board full of clothing options on this past weekend in the grounds of a small castle nearby. Elliot loves everything sword and archery related, so we knew he would enjoy it.

Of course, we also play quite a few video games with him that relate to this period in some way, and right now the audiobooks he’s going to sleep to are the How to Train Your Dragon series. So he’s pretty steeped in this whole thing to begin with, but to see the look on his face when he saw his first grown man in full fighting regalia was priceless. Followed by non-stop requests for swords, axes, or a bow and arrow. Please!


He had a chance to watch a sword fighting show, a joust, and some period puppet and magic shows, though these loose their appeal if you can’t follow what’s going on (everything was in German of course). There were probably 40-50 stalls, it was much bigger than I was expecting. In the end, Elliot came home with a pair of wooden swords and shields with his name hand-lettered on, as well as a crossbow set – with the understanding this was fulfilling his birthday gift quota. In true German form, everything is made of proper wood, and will probably end up being heirlooms.


So off I go to fill a Pinterest board full of clothing options for our next visit. There’s one before Christmas, so I only have a few months to go.


Oh yes, we actually moved here

Oh yes, we actually moved here

We’ve turned the corner now from everything feeling like a long holiday to more like a new home. Though we’ll be in our temporary flat for another month, and I know I’m royally sick of everything I packed. We ordered a pile of new books for Elliot, as I didn’t really pack all that many for some reason.

We’ve met some American families in our local playground, though Elliot was doing well figuring out how to play without much of a shared language too. Once he starts school and picks up some German, it won’t be an issue. Other families we’ve met are all on fixed-term contracts, so I’m aware we’ll all be saying goodbye in a year or two. We’re here on a permanent transfer, and that changes our outlook somewhat. It’s funny how our years in England have helped us feel less at sea. Even if it’s just knowing what a TV license is, and what paperwork will probably be required for various things.


The weather has been hot and sticky, and air conditioning is not really a given anywhere. Living in London and Vancouver, though, where it also gets periodically hot and AC isn’t standard, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for us at least. Having a washing machine in our flat is lovely though, considering how much of our small stock of clothing we work through when it’s this hot.


Nothing is open on Sundays when it comes to shops. It’s incredible how much I depend on grocery stores being open whenever when I suddenly realize I need something. We’ve quickly learned to do a checklist on Saturday morning – do we have enough food? Is there anything we were planning to buy this weekend? Because it better happen on Saturday or it’s not happening at all! IKEA is closed, the hardware store is closed, everything is closed except places like pools. It’s meant to encourage family time, and in a way it does, because there is literally nothing else you can do. We are learning to save up activities to do on Sundays. This weekend, we’re heading out to a medieval fair to watch jousting and sword fighting.


Language learning for kids and adults

Language learning for kids and adults

Our favourite language learning app for kids, Gus on the Go, has free language printables.

We’re counting down the weeks until the big move to Germany, and I’ll answer the third most often asked question: do you speak German?

Um, not yet?

Our nearly seven year old has been in French immersion, so his reading and writing education has been entirely in French so far. He speaks quite well, and understands loads, and though it might seem a bit crazy to pile on another language now, he’s been taking it in like a sponge. Thankfully French and German have quite a few parallels.

We’re not pushing hard on the German with our son quite yet as he will be attending a bilingual German English school, and I suspect he’ll be better than we are a few months in. However, just to get him going, we downloaded our favourite language app for kids, Gus on the Go, in German. They also have a terrific set of free printables on their site as well – fortune tellers, flash cards, and more.

Look at my 9% fluency! Whee!

My husband and I have been spending about an hour a day on Duolingo, and for a free app, it’s incredible. We have access to an earlier version of Rosetta Stone, and while it’s helpful and a bit pickier when it comes to translation, we’ve both found we spend the most time on Duolingo. My husband also likes using Busuu, it focuses more on conversational German.

Our favourite complement to Duolingo, however, is German Pod 101. Their audio lessons are hilarious, and I’ve learned a few basic rules that make it so much easier to get through intermediate Duolingo lessons. The Accent Improvement lessons are excellent, and having transcriptions of everything readily available has been a lifesaver. The little cultural tips are invaluable to us, as we’ll be making Germany our home for the next few years. They have a free option where you can get access to the audio lessons, but it doesn’t cost much to get a membership that includes transcripts. They have an app as well. The Newbie series of audio lessons have been a big hit in the car on the way to school too.


The next move: Germany

Our amazing neighbourhood in Heidelberg

For someone who doesn’t like to travel, I move a lot.

Back and forth across Canada a couple of times, then to England for seven years, and then back to Vancouver for five years, and in a little over two months we’re moving to Germany.

We’re lucky in that both our move to England and this move to Germany has been through relocation programs with my husband’s company. Though the first time we did this, we were in our mid-twenties. Now we’re older, and have a child. A few more moving parts to the whole thing.

I had never been to Germany when I said yes to this move. After many years in England, I knew a little bit what to expect. And the opportunity to live in Europe again, for our son to live there and gain a wider understanding of the world – it was just too good to pass up. I am again giving up a job and a network. My mum is here. You would think, as a person with anxiety issues, doing something as bonkers as volunteering to move across the world to a country I have never seen that speaks a language I don’t know would be completely off the table.

Trust me, there are moments my anxiety takes over and I think I must be completely nuts to do this. But I think that’s normal human anxiety talking, rather than my extra special brand of worrying.

Somehow, this is okay. More than okay, an adventure. So follow along as we prepare for yet another giant move, and I fill you in on our second round expat journey.