Learning How to Manage a Household in Germany
Our household goods arrived early last week. We weren’t expecting them until the end of June (60 days from pickup), so it was a super exciting day for all of us.
Since then, we’ve been working to quickly put our house together, and, for the most part, all of the boxes and wrapping paper are gone, and everything is already in its place. Three duty stations in four years means we’ve got unpacking down to a science.
The only thing left to do, really, is set up the guest bedroom (we actually have a special room just for our visitors in this house, and I’m so very excited about this!), hang curtains, and decide how we want to decorate the walls and fill the bare corners, but all of this can be done little by little. Now, I’m working to get into a good routine with the boys and figure out what a typical day is going to look like around here. A part of that is learning how to manage a household the German way.
In my last post, I mentioned things are different here. Slower paced, yes, but also different in other little ways that tend to make otherwise ordinary parts of my day a tiny bit more interesting. For example…
I’m still learning to speak our washer and dryer’s language.
Two years of German in college provided me with a foundation that has helped me get by well enough on a basic conversational level here so far, but figuring out how to decipher the settings on our new appliances has thrown me for a loop. The simple task of doing laundry has become a let’s-try-this-and-see-what-happens learning adventure.
Which brings me to cooking…
Translating recipes and trying to convert measurements, along with Farenheit to Celsius, is another kind of experiment, altogether.
Eventually, I trust that I will come to an understanding with my oven and stovetop, and, together, we will create tasty meals for my family that are neither slightly burned or undercooked. Until then…
At least I’ve gotten a hang of the trash system (I think)!
Germany is extremely mindful of its waste, and, unlike most places in the United States, recycling is mandatory here.
We have four trash cans, which keeps things interesting.
One is for clean paper, one for packaging (aluminum, milk cartons, plastic, etc.) which we must wash and dry before discarding, one – not pictured – for biodegradable trash (banana peels, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grinds, paper towels, etc.), and one for pretty much everything else (except for things like glass, furniture, clothing, shoes, batteries, and electronics – they have to be disposed of in designated drop-off locations in the villages).
Packaging and residual waste are picked up together every other week where we live, alternating weeks with biodegradable trash, and paper is collected only once a month.
Although a little confusing, the system requires us to be more thoughtful about what and how much we are throwing away. We’ve already noticed a large portion (over half, I would guess) of our trash is packaging and clean paper, all recyclable materials. It has definitely been an eye-opening experience.
Our house came with a tiny (by American standards, anyway) refrigerator that is not much bigger than a gym locker. It’s cute as a button, and made to blend in with the rest of the cabinetry. I just love it.
Grocery shopping is done every couple of days here, as the products are fresher and have fewer preservatives which means shorter shelf-life and smaller packaging. We tend to only use our military-issue American refrigerator for large or bulk items (like meat) and frozen goods that we get on trips to the commissary on base.
Trips to the grocery store are not on the top of my list of favorite things to do with two little boys, but I’m getting used to the idea of making several quick stops for things like milk, bread, and produce throughout the week instead of shopping for everything all at once.
Finally, a new chore has been added to my list of daily household management tasks, and it’s one that I’m both excited and anxious about. Tucked into one corner of our little backyard is a garden with strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry bushes. Every day for the past week, we’ve picked bowls full of fresh fruit, and it has been wonderful.
Before we moved to Germany, I didn’t know a thing about how to care for a houseplant (I’ve killed more than I dare to admit), much less a thriving garden. This little space of green is now our responsibility, and I want to nurture it as well as I can. Thankfully, the climate here seems to be extremely kind to growing things, so at least we’ve got that going for us!
Honestly, the past couple of months have been a struggle for all four of us. However, now that our house is starting to come together and we’ve begun to get in sync with this new and different rhythm of life, we’re feeling less like a tourists and more like we belong here. As guests, of course – we will always be guests – but, for now, Germany is home.