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I moved from the US to Germany 11 years ago. A lot of things have surprised me about living here with my kids.

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  • I’m from the United States but I’ve lived in Germany for over a decade and had my three kids here.
  • In Germany, kids are given a lot of independence and they go outside all year.
  • Giving birth was nearly cost-free and my necessary tests and checkups were covered by insurance.

I’m originally from the United States, but I’ve lived in Germany for over 11 years.

Moving to Germany was not necessarily an extreme culture shock, but many things have surprised me — especially when it comes to raising my three kids, who have all been born here.

My 3 pregnancies and births were nearly cost-free

Thanks to a universal multi-payer healthcare system, Germany is an excellent country to be pregnant and have a baby in.

Other than a few optional tests, everything in my pregnancy was covered by insurance, including a 3D/4D ultrasound in my second trimester and all of my checkups and hospital stays.

I had a private room at the hospital after I gave birth to my older two children, but that was the only thing I paid out of pocket for in terms of birth — my insurance covered everything else for all three of my kids.

It’s been possible for us to live car-free in our German city, even with kids

Kid putting lock on bicycle

Our city has comprehensive bike lanes and drivers are attuned to watch out for cyclists.

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As a family who tries our best to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum, I love that we can live car-free in our German city.

It saves us money, keeps us in shape, and is much better for the environment. Plus, no sitting in traffic or looking for parking spots.

German cities typically have great bicycle infrastructure and the country’s public-transportation system is very comprehensive, safe, and (usually!) reliable.

We get around primarily via bike, using a trailer and extra seats to transport our younger kids. The bike trailer also doubles as a stroller, so it’s very convenient for lengthier outings.

Cargo bikes, which have large baskets or carts, are particularly popular among German families with young kids. Some German cities even offer a financial rebate for purchasing one.

In Germany, kids are independent at a young age

Germany has been a culture shock for me when it comes to kids’ levels of independence.

In the US, letting your elementary schooler walk a few blocks to the grocery store alone could lead to a Child Protective Services call. In Germany, that’s super common and accepted.

German kids regularly walk, bike, or take public transit to school or to visit friends at very young ages. I’ve seen parents have their 7-year-old kids walk to school alone.

I think a lot of it has to do with the general safety and low crime rates in my part of Germany combined with the ease of getting around with out a car.

Preschool isn’t super academic focused — and kids learn about taking care of their teeth

Colorful tote bags hanging on hooks with cups with one toothbrush above each in a German preschool

Many kids brush their teeth in German preschools.

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German kids get a year of preschool before they start elementary school, but it’s pretty low-key with some basic reading, writing, and math.

I’ve noticed that the emphasis on preschool in Germany is creative play and exploration. Kids are encouraged to use their imagination.

And, in German preschools, kids are taught about dental hygiene. Most daycares and preschools have toothbrushes and the kids brush their teeth every day.

Some of these institutions also have dentists visit to talk to the kids about taking care of their teeth.

Kids are outside year-round, no matter the weather

The general German mindset is that there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes — and that applies to kids. I’ve learned a lot about rain pants, snow pants, and merino-wool layers.

Daycares and preschools throughout the country take kids out regularly in the winter, even when there’s some rain or snow.

I think it’s great for my kids’ health and development to be outside year-round. It’s also helped them develop an early love of nature.

My kids will happily splash in muddy puddles, sled at a park, or hike for hours in the mountains without complaining — it’s what they’re used to.

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