It is high time for another interview with an expat family living in Germany. This time let me introduce you to the exuberant Flor. Originally from Venezuela, this family lived in the USA for over a decade, and now are about to mark their first year in Germany.
Please tell me a little bit about your family.
We are a family of five, my husband 36 years old and our children Eddie 10 y/o, Miguel 9 y/o, and Veronica 7 y/o were born in the United States. I am 34 years old, was born in Venezuela and have a Law degree and a Master’s degree in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language. The majority of our family, grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings and cousins live in Venezuela. At home my husband and I are very proactive regarding teaching our kids both cultures, the American and the Venezuelan, and we tell them all of the time that they are BOTH, American and Venezuelan as well. Now things have become more interesting since we are living in Germany and we wish to immerse our family in the local culture and learn the language, the way of life and traditions.
How long have you lived in Germany? What brought you here?
We lived in Texas for 12 years until we decided to move to Germany when my husband accepted a job offer in a German company. He is an Industrial Engineer specialized in quality control and now works in Hünfeld. We have a beautiful house in Fulda, Hessen, and we have been learning German since our arrival in December 2013. We arrived in Germany the 17th of December, 2013…. Oh my! I can’t believe we have lived here for almost a year now!!! His work position is permanent. We do not have to leave the country in a specific date and at the moment we enjoy living our day to day lives without knowing what comes next. We want to stay in this country at least 3 years, enough for our children to absorb and master the German language and for all of us to visit different places around Europe.
What languages do you use in your family?
In our house we speak Spanish and English. My husband and I speak with each other Spanish. I talk to the children just in Spanish and my husband does half and half, sometimes English and sometimes Spanish. Our children use English between them. With regard to the German language, the kids go to normal German schools, where they have received all of the support of teachers and friends regarding understanding and speaking the language. It is amazing how my offsprings have gone from knowing ZERO German to being fluent conversational wise after just 10 months. I strongly believe that immersion has played a key role in the whole acquisition process of the language. Now present we all are fully bilingual English/Spanish and have a intermediate level of German that would represent our third language… still a long way to go until being fluent…
Putting your kids in a German language school with no previous knowledge of the language sounds like a very brave move. What motivated your choice? Did you encounter any difficulties at the beginning?
My husband and I debated for a couple of days about enrolling the children in a English language school. However, we always knew that the best way for our kids to learn a new language was to be immersed in an environment where they would feel the need to communicate and be part of the group. I am very proud and happy to say that our three offsprings understand, speak, read, and write the German language very well now. It was not easy in the beginning, but today it is unbelievable that just 11 months after our big move, the kids are capable of reading a book in German with no mayor problems.
What has been the easiest and the most difficult to adjust to for you and for your family so far?
The easiest part of the adjustment process has been to live in such a beautiful place. Germany is a very beautiful country; being able to drive around it give us the amazing opportunity to fully appreciate all the pretty scenery this land has to offer. Also, Germany is located in the heart of Europe, so we have taken advantage of this point and visited so many different countries during this past 11 months, that we can’t complain!! The difficult part could be not being able to communicate well in certain situations. It was very difficult at the beginning to not understand anything at all in German, it was like being a baby with no way of communication at all. Now, everything is easier although sometimes our accent make his way between what we say and what people understand… I guess we still need more time… Totally worthy!
You mention that your children are both Venezuelan and American, would you like them to also form an attachment to Germany?
I have always believe in the power of gratefulness. For this reason, I would like my children to form an attachment to Germany. They can’t forget that this country has given us the amazing chance of growing career wise, learning a third language, visiting so many new places, and making new friends. More than a chance, this is a blessing! They most be grateful to this place. Around our house is common to see our kids doing German homework and reading about Caracas, capital city of Venezuela, at the same time… Also, we celebrate the American traditions even though we don’t live there for now.
Finally, could you share an anecdote or a funny story from your time in Germany?
It is very common in the United States to go around smiling at people and asking “How you doing?”. However, here in Germany the story is pretty different. It has been funny to see some peoples faces change from surprised to very serious when I have dared to salute and ask “wie geht’s?”… The first three times, the lady from our local market would not even answer to my greeting. Today, she gives me a tiny hint of a smile… Hopefully, she does not think I am a crazy person…
In case you missed it, check out also the other interviews in this series:
- Adriana: Bridging Costa Rica and Germany
- Krista: an American in Hesse
- Robyn: Embracing New Cultures
- Emma: a Multilingual Adventure
I am looking for more interviewees so if you are a foreigner living in Germany or know someone who is I would love to hear from you! Click here for more details.