This month in honor of Mother’s Day, I am hosting a guest post series called Real Moms Real Challenges that features a different mom each Wednesday. Today I’m excited to have Diana Longoria of Diana Elle Blog share the challenges she’s faced as a mother in a foreign country. I got to know her over the last two months, when we were paired up together during the March/April Solidarity Sisters Challenge. Diana writes about her family’s travel adventures around Germany, and her blog always features interesting places to visit in her new country!
My husband had applied for a scholarship that would send us to Germany in the fall of 2012. Since I knew we really wanted to go, I started putting on kids shows in German for my then two-year-old daughter. I figured I would get her used to the language a bit. As soon as the scholarship was approved, we each packed a 23 kg suitcase and moved from Mexico to Germany.
Living in Hamburg has been a challenge for me both personally and as a mom. We went from living with the help of my husband’s parents to being completely alone. This was hard for me because Avi really missed her grandparents. She would always mention them almost non-stop, and would Skype with them on a daily basis. This eventually died down and I was happy when she finally stopped calling me grandma (by accident, because that’s who she would rather be talking to).
Since I really wanted Avi to learn the language during our (originally planned) two years here, we decided to integrate her to a German kindergarten (kita). We knew this would be the best choice for her and started looking for one. We luckily had the help of our landlords, who knew someone who owned one, and we were able to get a spot relatively fast. The good thing about Avi is she is an independent adventurer. Even at such a young age, she was able to enter a German kita not knowing a word of their language and make friends in minutes. Her teacher told me that she would just speak and speak with the other kids in Spanish, not caring that they didn’t understand.
Acclimating to a Different Language, Culture, and Traditions
As for me, I was not one of those moms who got into a German course right away. I did not reach B1 in my first year here, and I still have a long way to go with the language. However, I was still able to take Avi to the pediatrician when she was ill and go shopping by myself without getting lost in translation. I did buy the wrong ingredient once, though, and destroyed our meal!
I started researching and found a Facebook group with a bunch of English speaking moms in Hamburg in our city who met up once a week for a play date. The friends I made during this time really helped me out and gave me useful information to help make the transition easier for me. One of them even guest posted on my blog last week!
Our first Christmas here was a different one since we didn’t yet know about German traditions. Our neighbors left chocolates for Avi on Dec 6th, on behalf of St Nicholas (but we didn’t know that was the reason). They also told us that Germans don’t put up their Christmas trees until Christmas Eve, and then they also told us to make sure to go shopping on Dec 23 and 24 for enough food for three days since the stores are closed on Dec 25 AND Dec 26.
One of the biggest challenges of living in a different country is integrating the German traditions I want my daughter to know with our own culture. This is something that I still need to work on. For instance, this past Valentine’s Day she asked why there were heart decorations everywhere. I explained it to her, but I don’t think she grasped the concept of what “Valentine’s Day” was. I need to make sure I expose her enough to our culture while we’re living abroad so that she could reintegrate herself at any given point, but also teach her enough of Germany’s so she can thrive here.
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