Interview with Krista: an American in Hesse

This week I would like to introduce you to Krista from the USA who, together with her German husband, are raising their two sons near Frankfurt.

Please tell me a little bit about your family.

I am an American. I married my German husband in 2011 and we immediately started our married life in Leipzig. We actually met online, and then decided to meet in person. Spent less than a year going back and forth. 😉 We moved to the Frankfurt area about 9 months after we were married. My husband’s work is what keeps us here. However, we would like to move to the States at some point in the very near future. The problem would be his age and ability to get work over there. 😉 We have two boys (2.5 y/o and 1 y/o). They were born here.

graph_KristaWhat languages do you use in your family?

My husband and I speak mostly English together because that was the language we originally communicated in, though I’ve leaned enough German to communicate mostly. 😉 Our communication is actually difficult because his English is not that good either. Though I’d say it’s better than my German. He only learned English for a year before we met. I speak English with my boys. My husband speaks mostly English, except for a few phrases in German. So, I allow for a couple morning German cartoons for Markus, my oldest, to learn more German. We actually had a successful week long vacation at Oma’s last week. Markus really understood a lot. I was impressed. 😉 Markus speaks to his brother in English. And of course, Mikko doesn’t say anything yet.

Since you mention that your husband’s English is not that good, have you considered him speaking to the kids in German?

He is supposed to speak to them in German. And I get upset with him when he speaks to them in English, because he is teaching them incorrect English when he does. But I think for him, it is hard to speak in English to me and then automatically switch to German when addressing them. My husband and I feel very blessed that he and I have the communication (although not perfect) that we do. But that being said, he was never very good at learning proper grammar of any language he has ever learned, including his own. 🙂 Language was just not his strength in school. 🙂 

You mention that you would like to move the US in the near future. Have you thought of changing the language use in your family to preserve your sons’ German language knowledge?

No. My German is not good enough. I would do everything in my power while in the States to keep up their German. But I value my relationship with my children, and I simply cannot express myself in German the way I can in English. There will always be a need for their German to be fluent, because none of their German family here speaks English. (None!!) But I would plan to get involved in German play groups, language lessons, Saturday school, etc. Anything to help keep it up.

Are you (or have you considered) sending your children to daycare in Germany? If yes, do you intend to look for international or multilingual offers or opt for the standard German language ones?

No, my children will not attend daycare. They will start Kindergarten when they turn 3 years old. This they will only do part time because I am a preschool teacher and I want them to learn their kindergarten level stuff in English alongside what they are learning in German. I would love for them to attend a German kindergarten that provides the English teacher alongside the German teacher. However, we simply can’t afford it. So, they will attend the free kindergarten in our town.

Do you feel support in your community for bringing up your children with English as the family language? (e.g., contacts with other multilingual families, support or understanding of your choices from your pediatrician, the staff of your kindergarten?)

I have met and chatted with some German moms on the playground. They all seem impressed that my boys speak to me in English, and my older one is trying to communicate in German with their children, etc. Just today my pediatrician asked if I speak English at home, followed by questions of if I have them in contact with other Germans. She never said anything negative or against my lack in German contact. But for me, that’s good because this doctor speaks her mind. 😉 We belong to a church congregation that is in English. However, our members are from many different countries and choose English as their language of choice for church. So, within my church community, we are all mostly in the same boat as adults. What I feel separates me from them is that all their children attend international schools. And their employers pay for it, if not all, they pay half. And they don’t seem to understand why we will be sending our children to German school. Sometimes that frustrates me.

Provided that you stay in Germany for a while longer, do you expect to encounter any challenges or difficulties with passing on English while raising your sons in a largely German speaking environment?

I believe my difficulties will be in their understanding of proper grammar and written English. These two things are very important for me to pass on to them. I want them to have the opportunity to attend universities in America. But I don’t want them to have a difficult time with their language abilities.

As your sons are currently growing up in Germany and their father is German, do you wish that they form a belonging to Germany, and perhaps also an identification with it, or is this not that important to you?

Actually, yes. It’s funny, I was having sort of a conversation about this with someone I didn’t know. She did not understand my love for and patriotism to my country, nor my desire for my children to develop the same. But I feel it may be easier to nurture an identity to America because of the “shame” their father may possibly instill in them of their birth country of Germany. I hope you can understand this. My husband was born/raised in East Germany. He does not like the German flag to fly (except during World Cup). He doesn’t know the words to the German national anthem. And it is he who wants to move to America. Whereas, I sing the USA national anthem quite often. I fly my flag proudly and have taught my oldest to place his hand over his heart when we sing, etc. I would really love for them to feel an equal amount of pride for each half of who they are. 😉

Do you yourself feel integrated in the German society around you? If you can, please name a few things that were the most difficult and the easiest to adjust to.

I do not feel fully integrated. But I think that stems from the fact that I am an introvert, so it takes me a while. I can function during the doctor appointments. I can answer quickly asked questions by strangers at a bus stop. And I can definitely get myself around on my own. But there are still things I don’t do well. For example, my oldest is already 2.5 y/o, and he is not yet registered with any school to start kindergarten in 6 months. Yet, I am well aware that this should have already been done. I’ve been here for 3 years and just learned last week (because I watched a video on Facebook) that we could get fined by the police for making too much noise on a Sunday morning. This was horrible news to me because for about the first 4 months of my second baby’s life, my husband would literally make me so mad on Sunday mornings that I’d be screaming at him every single week. (Knowing full well that the whole house could hear me.)

As far as what was hardest, though, is government involvement in my life. I can’t stand it. I can’t stand all the different “taxes”, or reasons to steal our money. And it aggravates me that a country of people (including my husband) don’t care and don’t care that they really don’t have a voice in the matter. (Please don’t be offended. I really just think it’s sad.)

Easiest would be going from always having had a car in the States to not having one here. No need.

Finally, to finish on a lighter note: could you share an anecdote or a funny story from your time in Germany?

During my first 8 months here, we were in Leipzig. I was attending German class every day. One day, I stopped at a wagon to buy myself a Bockwurst. I gave the lady my order, and I distractedly looked away. Then she handed me a Bratwurst. I told her what I wanted several times, but she insisted I was saying Bratwurst….until I pointed to the picture and another customer said it for me. The lady then realizes what I wanted, but insisted I originally asked for the Bratwurst, so that is what I get. I was so angry, that I snatched my money back quickly and said something rude, in English, then walked away. In America the customer is always right, so her attitude had seriously ticked me off. But I think I was mostly mad that there is no ‘r’ in the word, Bockwurst, so how could she not understand me. Ha! 😉

On a lighter note, I often get mistaken for a French person, as my husband confirms that I speak German with a French accent. 😉

 


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.

In case you missed it, check out the first interview with Adriana from Costa Rica.

3 Replies to “Interview with Krista: an American in Hesse”

  1. adrianakroeller says: Reply

    I like the answer she gave on communicating with her kids…I feel the same way. As much German as I can speak it’s not the same as when I express my feelings of affection towards my daughter. The feeling isn’t expressed the way I want it be in German, I guess cause I’m just more comfortable in English or Spanish, it was a really good point!

    1. I could not imagine speaking German to my daughter either, and frankly it also feels strange to speak German to my husband (luckily he feels the same way), for me German just isn’t the language for affection.
      Languages are there for communication purposes and I really believe that language learning should not take precedence over successful communication, particularly with your own kids.

  2. In my opinion, it is sad that they are not giving their children the chance to grow roots in a country as beautiful as Germany. I am a Venezuelan born, American by heart who lives in Germany now. I love that my three children are being exposed to different languages and cultures. Also, I am teaching them to express on a respectful way the things they don’t like about living and visiting different countries and their thoughts about it… Harsh remarks towards a country or government should be avoided by families with multicultural bases.

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