Reader Case Study: Screenwriter + Software Engineer + Baby in Munich, Germany
Jane and her husband Kurt live in Munich, Germany with their six-month-old son, Oskar. Jane works as a software engineer and Kurt is a screenwriter for a popular German television series. The couple love living in Munich, save one fact: Jane is American and her family all live across the pond. Thus, they’re contemplating a move to the Northeastern United States in order to be closer to Jane’s family, in particular, her parents with whom she and Kurt are both very close. Let’s hop over to Germany today to help Jane and Kurt analyze this decision!
What’s a Reader Case Study?
Case Studies address financial and life dilemmas that readers of Frugalwoods send in requesting advice. Then, we (that’d be me and YOU, dear reader) read through their situation and provide advice, encouragement, insight and feedback in the comments section.
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Reader Case Studies intend to highlight a diverse range of financial situations, ages, ethnicities, locations, goals, careers, incomes, family compositions and more!
The Case Study series began in 2016 and, to date, there’ve been 72 Case Studies. I’ve featured folks with annual incomes ranging from $17k to $200k+ and net worths ranging from -$300k to $2.9M+.
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I’ve featured people with PhDs and people with high school diplomas. I’ve featured people in their early 20’s and people in their late 60’s. I’ve featured folks who live on farms and folks who live in New York City.
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I probably don’t need to say the following because you folks are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not condemn.
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I encourage everyone to do their own research to determine the best course of action for their finances. I am not a financial advisor and I am not your financial advisor.
With that I’ll let Jane, today’s Case Study subject, take it from here!
Hi Frugalwoods! My name is Jane, I’m a 29-year-old American, my German husband Kurt is 30, and together we have a son, Oskar, who is almost six months old. We live in Munich, Germany where Kurt is a screenwriter for a popular television program and I’m a software engineer for a small e-commerce company. We’re also both pursuing master’s degrees, fully-remote and part-time, at present: computer science for me and political science for Kurt.
I’m currently on maternity leave with Oskar until next fall! Kurt and I have been together for six years and got married in 2019. I’ve been admiring the Frugalwoods from afar for several years now and am honored to have the opportunity to receive advice from Mrs. Frugalwoods and her readers as my husband and I plan a move to the U.S.!
Although I’ve been living in Germany since I graduated from college, I grew up in a suburban town on the southern shore of Long Island where I had a wonderful childhood. My parents were both teachers, and owing to our identical school schedules, my siblings and I enjoyed a considerable amount of quality time together with them when we were growing up. In the summers, we would venture out on my parents’ boat for weeks at a time, and we often spent our winter vacations skiing in snowy Vermont. I went to college in Boston where I studied computer science. On a whim one semester, I took an introductory German course, and I enjoyed learning the language so much that I spent a summer, as well as a study abroad semester, in Munich. After graduating from college, I decided to take a job as a software engineer in Munich, hoping to spend a year or two exploring Europe some more before returning to the States. Those plans changed soon after I met and fell in love with Kurt!
Jane & Kurt’s Life in Munich
While neither Kurt nor I would define ourselves as “city people,” we love living in Munich and find that it fits our lifestyle pretty well. It’s said that “Munich is the largest village in Germany”–all of the buildings in the city need to be built lower than the Frauenkirche (the cathedral in the city center)–and the traditional Bavarian culture courses through the city.
If you were to be randomly dropped somewhere in Munich, it’s likely you wouldn’t know that you were in one of the largest metropolises in Europe! Although we live only a twenty-minute walk from the city center, our historic old neighborhood is quiet and clean, and we are only a couple hundred yards away from a park and the refreshing, sea-green Isar river. Just minutes away from our apartment we have access to a beautiful trail for running, cycling, and cross-country skiing.
We love Munich’s proximity to the Alps too. The mountains here seriously fulfill all of my childhood Sound of Music dreams! Pre-pandemic, we could easily buy a cheap partner day-ticket for the trains and ride an hour south to go for a hike or trail run or cross-country ski. This is something we’ve missed the past two years as the cost of a rental car makes these activities prohibitively expensive to do at the frequency we did them before.
Jane & Kurt’s Hobbies
Besides the aforementioned outdoor activities, some of my other hobbies include reading, film photography, knitting, cooking, baking bread, and listening to and playing classical music. Kurt’s favorite pastime is reading in various forms–newspapers, magazines, literature, and non-fiction–and he also watches a lot of soccer, baseball, and winter sports. He is also an avid language learner; in addition to his native German, he speaks English and Dutch, and is beginning to learn French. We both enjoy spending time with our friends here–playing board games, watching films together, and visiting beer gardens on balmy summer days. Pre-pandemic, my parents–now retired and whom we are very close with–would spend a couple months a year with us, and we often traveled with them quite a bit throughout Europe.
This past summer, we joyously welcomed our son, Oskar, into the world. It’s a delight for us to watch him grow and observe how he is beginning to interact with, and learn about, the world around him. The quiet moments are the ones we cherish most right now–cuddling with him in bed in the morning, discovering new ways to make him laugh, and suppressing our own laughter when he gives us an adorable pouty lip!
The first couple months of his life were not without challenges though. Shortly after he was born, our midwife discovered that he had a cleft of the soft palate, and he was whisked away from us and transported to a different hospital with had a NICU. We were so overcome with emotions–joy over his arrival, distress about the sudden separation, and extreme concern about this condition we knew so little about. As we soon found out though, a cleft palate makes it difficult for Oskar to eat properly; it would be sort of like if one had to drink from a straw with holes in it.
The condition is routinely managed and relatively common (about 1 in 700 babies are affected with cleft lip and/or palate); however, we were not without many, many conflicting opinions at the start (“He can only eat from a bottle!” / “There is no baby that cannot learn to breastfeed!”/ “He needs a feeding plate for his palate!” / “A feeding plate won’t help at all!”). It took us some time to figure out how to feed him, but essentially, he needs a special needs feeder, and I have to pump all of his milk. He will need to have surgery in the spring to close his palate, and in the next several years, we will likely need to work with a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals to monitor his nutrition, hearing abilities, and speech.
What feels most pressing right now? What brings you to submit a Case Study?
We feel so grateful for the life we have here in Munich. There is, however, one huge piece missing for us: proximity to my family. While some might understand this as relocation out of obligation to aging parents, this is only a small part of it. Most importantly, we truly consider my parents to be among our best friends. Really! No one seems to believe me when I say this, but one of the things I love most about my husband is the relationship he has nurtured with my parents.
It’s for this reason that we’ve experienced decision fatigue for years now about whether we should relocate to the U.S. to be closer to my parents. Prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t so pressing–my parents had the wherewithal post-retirement to travel often to Europe and visit us for extended stays. During the height of the pandemic, we felt a great deal of sadness about being separated from them and also anxiety (especially before they were vaccinated) about them becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 and us not being able to be there at the drop of a hat. I personally experienced a lot of feelings of guilt over the choice to live so far away from them.
There are several other reasons why we feel that now might be the right time to try out living in the States. While we don’t plan to saddle my parents with childcare responsibilities, now that Oskar is here, we would appreciate having more help with him when we occasionally really need it (and Kurt and I would love to have a date night one of these days!). We’d also simply like to give them the opportunity to spend more spontaneous and informal time with their grandson.
We are also experiencing some growing pains with our current apartment, so a move is likely on the horizon in any case. Our tiny 645 sq. ft. two-bedroom apartment has a pretty unbeatable rent for its location in Munich, and it is perfect in many ways; however, once Oskar is moved into the second bedroom, we won’t have room for my parents to stay with us when they visit. This would make it very expensive for them to visit for extended periods of time, plus we enjoy when they can stay right with us in our apartment. Ideally, we’d want one more bedroom, but this would likely mean we’d have to look for a place further outside the city and pay higher rent by several hundred euros.
Finally, moving now (we think) would be easier before Oskar is in school at which time we would be less flexible to do such a move. We see this move not necessarily as a permanent decision, but as an opportunity to try out what our life would look like in the States and to spend more quality time with my parents and my siblings’ families.
For a long time, we thought we might like to move to my hometown, but when we visited this past fall for several weeks, we really tried to see it through the lens of what our life might be like living there. Long story short, although I loved growing up there, we don’t think the suburban lifestyle is for us, and we don’t have the impressive nautical skills my parents have to enable the memorable excursions of my childhood. Besides that, we find the prices of homes to be simply exorbitant. We want to move somewhere that would be less expensive and would better fit our lifestyle while still being within reasonable driving distance (let’s say, less than seven hours).
Right now, we’re most interested in rural (but not remote) locations in Vermont, western Massachusetts, and possibly New Hampshire and upstate New York (the latter two seem to me to have a lower cost of living). My parents have a vacation property in northern Vermont, so we have some familiarity with this part of New England, and we think it could be a good fit–it’s forested and mountainous, has four seasons, is liberal, and the people seem kind and down-to-earth. I also love so many Vermont products! Cabot cheese, Ben & Jerry’s, maple syrup, King Arthur flour, Green Mountain diapers, Darn Tough socks, did I mention maple syrup? And as any good residents of Germany, we love beer. Judging from Mrs. Frugalwoods’ blog, it seems like we’d find a lot of good beer in Vermont.
We applied for Kurt’s Green Card this past fall, but we expect it could take till 2023, at least, until it is finalized. Therefore, we want to use the next year to think thoroughly through the move from all angles, especially the financial aspects, which is what brings me to submit this Case Study! I’ve never lived and worked in the U.S. as an adult (beyond college, that is), so it’s not entirely clear to me how our budget would translate across the pond. It’s important for us to be fairly certain that we can maintain our financial health and goals after moving costs and life in the States.
What’s the best part of your current lifestyle/routine?
Quality time at home. We both worked primarily from home during the pandemic and, although there were some social drawbacks, we experienced a lot of benefits to this style of work. We are introverted homebodies, preferring cozy time at home with ourselves or with close friends rather than going out to noisy restaurants and bars or socializing with large groups of people.
- Great work-life balance. We have six weeks of vacation and we rarely, if ever, work overtime. I appreciate that people’s lives don’t revolve around their jobs here.
- Outdoor lifestyle. We love recreating outside in all four seasons!
- Walkability, cyclability and excellent public transportation. We can easily walk or cycle (now also with a baby in tow!) to most places within Munich, and there’s great public transportation when we need it. Neither of us enjoys driving, so this is one of the things we will definitely miss most if we no longer live in a city.
- A society valuing (mostly) free childcare, generous parental leave policies, (mostly) free healthcare, immigration, and reasonable working and living conditions. Okay, this is a generalization, of course, and Germany certainly has its own challenges, but in broad strokes, I find it to be true.
What’s the worst part of your current lifestyle/routine?
- No family close by. As mentioned, my family all live in the U.S., and Kurt’s parents live about seven hours away by car or train and are still working, so we cannot easily call upon them for help.
Feeling like we can’t settle down. In the apartments we’ve lived in, we’ve always had the feeling that it’s not going to be the one we live in in five years’ time. We’d really love to give our children the stable feeling of “home” we both enjoyed growing up. But perhaps this is the tradeoff for letting our children intimately experience both cultures. We hope by doing this experimental U.S. move that we might have a better idea of where we’d like to base ourselves.
- Living in the city. I know I’ve just sung Munich’s praises at length, but Kurt and I would like to live in a more rural setting. A lot of the appeals of the city–nightlife and plentiful shops, bars, and restaurants–are not a major draw for us, and while we enjoy the cultural attractions–museums and concerts–these won’t be high on our agenda while Oskar is still young. Kurt grew up in a rural village ensconced in woodland beauty, and we also imagine our children growing up surrounded by nature rather than large buildings and busy streets.
- Lack of community. We have some truly dear friends and kind older neighbors here in Munich, but we often feel like we are lacking a larger community. It’s easy to feel anonymous in a city, and my feeling is that it is more difficult to break into established social circles here in Germany.
- Not having many friends with kids. I have only one friend with a baby, and we would love to have more opportunities for exchange with other young parents. The current lack of Covid-19 vaccination access for young children has made this understandably more difficult.
Where Jane & Kurt Want to be in 10 Years:
- We’d like to keep saving at a rate of at least 40% of our net income (during times we are not on parental leave) and preferably more. This felt very doable for the past several years without any feelings of deprivation. What this total amount of savings will look like will likely depend on where we’re living.
- We want to have the option to take potentially unpaid parental leave for the first year of our potential future children’s lives.
- We’d like to be financially independent by age 50.
We’d like to try to have one or two more children. I would also love to have a dog and Kurt would like a cat named Sebald. I’ve so enjoyed following the adventures of the Frugalwoods family’s chickens, so maybe we’d want to have some chickens too!
- Kurt and I would like for our children to spend a significant amount of time in both the U.S. and Germany. It’s important for us that they spend time with both sides of our families, feel they belong to both cultures, and are confident in both languages.
- We want to live in a location that gives us immediate access to nature. We don’t want to have to get in the car in order to go for a walk or run in nature. We’d like our children to be able to go outside for hours for safe, unstructured, independent play.
- I’d love to have time for my current hobbies, but I could also imagine them evolving depending on our location and our children’s interests. Activities like gardening, camping, sailing, sewing, pottery, painting, learning new instruments, woodworking, fishing, kayaking, and birdwatching are all appealing to me. A dream of mine would be to play in a community orchestra again one day!
- We’d like to spend a lot of time with our families and friends, and we would love to be active in a larger community through our neighbors, our childrens’ schools, clubs, and volunteer work.
- We want to continue traveling domestically and internationally.
Jane: In order to move to a more rural location and avoid an unpleasant commute, I’ll need to find a fully remote job, which shouldn’t be too difficult in my field. There are, however, other checklist items for my dream job. The best part of my current job is hands-down my kind, quirky, smart, and unpretentious colleagues. A huge negative for me, however, is that I don’t feel connected to the work the company does. I’d love to be working for a company in an industry more closely related to my hobbies or doing some kind of positive work in society–health care or education, for example. Additionally, it would be ideal if I could work from both Germany and the U.S. to give us some location flexibility even if it means just spending the kids’ summer vacation in the other country. Finally, it would be amazing if my job would have options for parental leave and part-time work. Sigh, this is probably too much to hope for, right?
- Kurt: Before Kurt was a screenwriter, he was a sports journalist and podcast host for several years, mostly covering soccer, for a large newspaper. He found the work stressful due to the erratic hours and quick deadlines, and as he was contemplating resigning, the newspaper serendipitously offered a buyout to all employees as they downsized their workforce. He then studied for a semester full-time for his master’s in political science (he will graduate in 2022) before taking the screenwriting job this past fall. He enjoys the creative writing and predictability in this job. What he will do for work in the U.S. is still a big open question for us as finding a remote job with his skillset might not be quite as easy. While he’d love to still be writing and dreams of writing novels one day, he’s pretty open to different kinds of work in the meantime and has even flirted with the idea of becoming a history school teacher in the U.S..
Jane & Kurt’s Finances
|Kurt’s net income||$3,314||Kurt’s net salary minus taxes as well as compulsory insurances for pension, unemployment, long-term care, and health care. He’s earning (net) about 1.5x as much in this new job compared to his former one!|
|Jane’s parental leave allowance||$2,032||The federal tax system pays 67% (capped at $2,032) of one parent’s prior net salary for 12 months. My previous net salary was $3,795, and when I return next September to work at likely 80%, I will earn $3,121.|
|Child allowance||$248||The child allowance is given to all parents in Germany, regardless of their income.|
|Tax refund||$170||This is what we’ve averaged the past few years with our yearly tax refund.|
|Monthly gift from Kurt’s grandparents||$90||Kurt’s grandparents generously give us money each month.|
|Item||Amount||Notes||Interest/type of securities held/Stock ticker||Name of bank/brokerage||Expense Ratio|
|Brokerage Account||$84,202||All investment income (capital gains and dividends) over $1,808 in a given year are taxed at a rate of 28%. Deutsche Kredit Bank charges us $1.70 per execution (we currently invest about $1,700 per month, every month).||FTSE All-World UCITS ETF – Distributing||Deutsche Kredit Bank||0.22%|
|Roth IRA||$40,820||As a nonresident with a nonresident alien spouse, I take the Foreign Tax Credit, file my taxes with the status married filing separately, and use the Backdoor Roth IRA option. I have made max contributions yearly since 2017.||VFFVX (Vanguard Target Retirement 2055 Fund). It’s currently at 90% stocks and 10% bonds.||Vanguard||0.15%|
|Kurt’s Checking Account||$31,316||Kurt accepted a buyout last year which is why this account is so high. With the arrival of the baby and some open questions about our portfolio, we had put off investing this money.||$11 fee per month||Stadtsparkasse||N/A|
|Savings Account||$20,363||This account is a German savings vehicle called a “Sparbuch” which German parents traditionally open for their children when they are born and contribute to regularly thereafter. We realize it’s on the higher side, but since it’s primarily a gift from Kurt’s parents and they are somewhat skeptical of the stock market, we simply consider this money to be our emergency fund.||Earns 0.03% interest||Stadtsparkasse||N/A|
|Private Pension Fund||$12,823||Our employers match (mine at 10% and Kurt’s former employer at 100%) our monthly pre-tax contributions (capped at $276) to this pension plan offered by a private German company. The plan is somewhat complicated, but basically each month’s return (positive returns capped at a measly 2.7%) are added together to determine the yearly return.||EURO STOXX 50||Allianz||I’m honestly not sure about this, so I’m asking Allianz straightaway!|
|Jane’s Checking Accounts||$8,304||No fees, no interest||ING, Deutsche Kredit Bank, Teachers Federal Credit Union of Long Island||N/A|
|Jane and Kurt’s Joint Checking Account||$6,585||No fees, no interest||ING||N/A|
|High-Yield Savings Account||$3,902||I opened this account to “park” my Roth IRA savings for the next year and gain some interest. It used to offer a great rate, something like 2.20%, but the rate has dropped precipitously the past few years.||Earns 0.50% interest||Ally||N/A|
|Rent||$1,308||Includes heating and utilities.|
|Groceries||$500||Includes household supplies. This increased quite a bit since the start of the pandemic as we’ve treated ourselves to more delicacies.|
|Baby||$375||This was very high due to some big-ticket one-off expenses like birth prep classes and cloth diapers but also because we naturally didn’t hesitate for a minute about spending money after Oskar was born figuring out how to feed him and keep him safe, e.g. breastfeeding tools, lactation consultants, pumps, a blood-oxygen monitor, every bottle on the German market.
Oskar’s health is our number one priority, so we’re so thankful we didn’t have to be concerned about spending this money! These expenses should go down considerably in the next year as we don’t anticipate many ongoing expenses besides clothes (which we buy secondhand) and food.
|Flights to the U.S.||$125||Prior to the pandemic, we travelled to the U.S. twice per year. We only went once last year, but I imagine we will go back to twice per year (likewise for traveling to Germany should we live in the U.S.).
We fly Lufthansa mostly and are terrible about participating in any sort of miles program–although we do get rewards with our Chase Sapphire card–so if anyone has advice about maximizing travel benefits, we’re all ears! (affiliate link).
|Car rental (local transport)||$125||This was very low pre-pandemic, but we opted to get around the city by car last year when I was pregnant due to Covid-19 and my ineligibility for a vaccination at that time.|
|Travel||$115||Includes car rentals for travel we did to recreate in the Alps last year. This is normally double to triple in years without a pandemic, pregnancy, and newborn.|
|Home furnishings and repairs||$103||Includes things like kitchen tools, new sheets, furniture, and decorations. I’d like to reduce here next year.|
|Subscriptions||$88||Includes yearly expenses (prorated monthly) like a frequent traveler discount card for the Deutsche Bahn train system ($9), a car-sharing service ($13), MLB TV ($10), Spotify ($11), Down Dog Yoga ($1), Board Game Arena ($2), Google Photos ($2), HP Instank Ink ($4), The New York Times ($15), The Wall Street Journal ($11), The Washington Post ($2) and You Need a Budget ($8).|
|Clothing, shoes, and accessories||$85||This could probably go down since I bought quite a bit of maternity wear last year, and Kurt bought a few nicer outfits for his new job.|
|Insurances, advising, and other fees||$84||Includes yearly expenses (prorated monthly) like a tenant association ($10), tax advising ($33), travel health insurance ($2), dental insurance ($11), personal liability insurance ($7), and a compulsory public broadcasting fee ($21).|
|Bicycle trailer for Oskar||$79||This was a big expense, but we can safely transport Oskar by bike with this trailer. Plus, we can use it for jogging, hiking, and cross-country skiing too.|
|Christmas, birthday, and special occasion gifts||$75||Kurt and I don’t exchange Christmas gifts and birthday gifts are kept small. We’d like to pare down some on Christmas gifts that we buy for my many family members.|
|Miscellaneous discretionary||$75||All the other little things we treat ourselves to.|
|Visa and bureaucratic||$74||Includes my passport renewal, Oskar’s passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad, and the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (the first step of Kurt’s Green Card process). This will likely remain the same next year with the remaining steps of the Green Card application.|
|Dining out||$64||We don’t often go to restaurants, but we do love visiting beer gardens in summer, indulging in coffee and baked goods at cafés, and occasionally ordering takeout.|
|Train costs to Kurt’s parents’ residence||$56||We visit about three times per year.|
|Medical expenses||$56||This is normally low (Oskar’s birth, e.g., cost only $34 total), but we opted for some services not covered under insurance here like prenatal testing, an IUD for birth control, and some travel vaccinations for Oskar. This should be around $20 in a normal year.|
|Running shoes||$28||In order to preserve our knees, Kurt and I buy new high-quality running shoes twice a year.|
|Tuition||$28||The cost of tuition for Kurt’s remote master’s program in political science. He only has half a year left in the program.|
|Books and periodicals||$25||We have a hard time resisting buying new books, and Kurt loves to pick up an old school print newspaper on the weekends. Unfortunately, the library system here doesn’t offer much selection for books in English.|
|Phone||$20||For data and calling on both of our cell phones.|
|Bicycle maintenance||$20||This is our main mode of transportation!|
|Adult education classes||$18||Kurt took classes last year in Dutch, French, and Croatian at our local adult education center.|
|Knitting||$18||I love to knit! Realistically, I’ll have less time for this in the new year, and I’ve promised myself not to buy more yarn until I’m done with Oskar’s baby blanket.|
|Cards and stamps||$14||We like sending out birthday, Christmas, thank you, etc. cards.|
|Haircuts||$11||I get a haircut twice a year, and Kurt’s hair is cut by me every six weeks!|
|Bank fees||$11||Kurt has a bank account which charges a fee per quarter. It kills me to throw this money away! He prefers going to a physical branch to handle his banking matters, but I’d really like to close this account and exclusively use free online banks.|
|Donations||$8||I donate small amounts to my alma mater and my hometown library each year. I would also like to start donating to a cleft palate organization, so if anyone knows of one that is reputable, please let me know!|
|Public transportation||$7||This will likely be higher in 2022 now that we feel safer taking public transport.|
|Child care||$0||I’m just adding this in here because we will have day care costs starting next September, probably around $184 per month for up to 9 hours per day of day care. We’re aware this will be much higher in the U.S.!|
Credit Card Strategy
|Card Name||Rewards Type?||Bank/card company|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Travel||Chase Bank (affiliate link)|
Jane’s Questions for You:
- How might our budget translate if we were to live in the U.S.?
- There are some additional expenses we’re anticipating like gas, child care, and medical, but I’m not sure what these amounts might look like. Additionally, can we economize on any of our current expenses? While I’m thinking that our expenses will likely be higher in the U.S., I also think my earning potential as a software engineer will be higher; on the other hand, it is entirely possible I might be the sole breadwinner for our family for some time.
We imagine our perfect home being 3-bedrooms, 2-baths, surrounded by nature, but within a 30-minute (ideally less) driving distance to grocery stores and medical services.
- We realize the housing market is not favorable for buyers right now, and if there’s a possibility we might move again after, say, five years, we wonder whether renting rather than buying a home would make more financial sense.
- On the other hand, home ownership has its appeals for us, and we’re wondering what a reasonable upper budget for our home search might be. What are your thoughts on us buying a home with the possibility of it becoming an investment property if we moved back to Germany?
- One consideration we had was looking for homes near college towns so that there would be a steadier market for renting out our property.
- Should we invest in a 529 plan?
- If Oskar wants to study at a university in Germany, he would be able to do so for (basically) free; however, if he does not attend high school in Germany and/or if he prefers to study in the U.S., then Kurt and I need to factor in saving for his college expenses.
- When we move to the U.S., I think we might want (and possibly need?) to transfer our German brokerage account to the U.S.?
- Every time I look into the legal and tax aspects of transferring or keeping an investment account in the country we would not be residing in, I feel like I am going down a rabbit hole.
- If anyone has any insights here about having a foreign brokerage account while living in the U.S. or vice-versa, I’d be so appreciative!
- The total amount of money in our checking accounts is on the high side.
- Were we to stay in Germany, we’d probably invest most of this money in the stock market; this is because we’re not so risk-averse living here thanks to a lot of social safety nets and a rather large emergency fund.
- Should we invest this money now and continue to invest our monthly savings? If we keep investing here, should we add more bonds to our portfolio? Or should we instead keep most of the money in cash?
- We’re pretty sure my parents will be able to give us a no-interest loan should we want to make a down-payment on a house in the U.S..
- Otherwise, we’ll definitely keep enough in cash for moving costs plus some for buying a car in the States.
- We’d love to hear your thoughts on how we might go about the search for our next home since there are certainly some overlaps between our search and the Frugalwoods’ homestead search!
- We will likely start out living with my parents for an indefinite period of time while we search for a place of our own.
Liz Frugalwoods’ Recommendations
Way to go, Jane and Kurt! With no debt and sizable investments, they’re in a fantastic position at a young age. I know this move question feels overwhelming to them, but they should take comfort in the fact that they’re making the decision from a position of financial strength.
By continuously saving, investing and living below their means, Jane and Kurt are able to approach this choice with their lifestyle desires top of mind–not their financial imperatives. This is a great example of how frugality gives you options.
Jane and Kurt don’t know precisely what they want their lives to look like, but they’ve given themselves the financial ability to have options because they’re not backed into a corner by debt or overspending. Kudos!
Top Line Reactions and Questions
Before diving into Jane’s specific questions, I want to propose that she and Kurt do a bit more imagining around their lives.
As I read Jane’s story, the immediate response that popped into my mind was:
Would Jane’s parents be interested in moving to Munich?
If I’m understanding Jane & Kurt’s desires correctly, it seems they already have their ideal lifestyle in many ways, minus Jane’s parents. Since Jane mentioned that her parents are retired, healthy and enjoy traveling, I wonder if this is something they’ve discussed? Or, if they might consider living in Munich for half of the year? Perhaps renting an apartment or AirBnB in Jane & Kurt’s neighborhood? I realize this may be a total non-starter, but it struck me as one potential avenue to explore.
The other two reasons for a move that came across to me were:
- A desire to live in the United States
- A desire to live rurally
I encourage Jane and Kurt to examine these three reasons to see if there’s one that’s driving their decision-making process the most. I encourage this because they could, potentially, live rurally in Germany with Jane’s parents, for example. Just an invitation to imagine broadly here!
Germany = The Ideal Place to Birth Children?
In light of the fact that Jane and Kurt have a baby and plan to have more children, I want to highlight the absolutely incredible family benefits of life in Germany:
A long, PAID maternity leave!!!!!!!
- This is unheard of in the US. One would be VERY lucky to receive 12 weeks at either partial or no pay.
- A generous monthly child allowance!
- Free (or cheap) healthcare!!!
- Very, very, very inexpensive childcare!
- Jane noted they’ll pay circa $184 per month for full-time daycare for Oskar.
- For full-time care in the US, you’re looking at something in the neighborhood of $2,000 to $3,000. Per month. Per child. More if the child is an infant, which if Jane and Kurt have a second baby in the US, will be the case unless one of them becomes a stay-at-home parent (see note above on the US’s abysmal parental leave policies/total lack of regard for parents).
I’ve chatted with a lot of parents since becoming a parent myself six years ago and every single parent I know would give their left hand for a long, paid parental leave and affordable childcare for kids under age 5. I don’t mean to hit the nail on the head too hard here, but these benefits are outstanding and Jane and Kurt will not experience anything even close to this in the US.
Hence, another question for Jane and Kurt is if they’ve considered birthing all of their kids in Germany and then moving to the US? Granted, this could be more difficult from a schooling perspective–if Oskar is in elementary school, for example–but it’s something worth mulling over.
Another salient factor is Jane’s earning potential. In the US, it’s a software engineering gold rush right now. If Jane’s very good at her job (and I assume she is), she might be able to land a US job at circa $150k-200k/year. This level of income could enable Kurt to be a stay-at-home parent, which would negate the need for the outstanding German baby benefits discussed above. But this is also a question of lifestyle, not just of income. Would Jane be happy working longer hours for a higher salary? Would Kurt be happy as a stay-at-home parent in a new country? There’s no right or wrong answer, just many different considerations and options.
I polled my husband (a former software engineer and hiring manager) and he advised that, to increase her chances of commanding a high salary, Jane should:
- Practice code interviews (you can do so at LeetCode).
- Learn technologies that are often used for modern, remote software companies, i.e. React on the front-end, Python/Ruby on the back-end.
- Develop a level of comfort with Cloud Ops.
In his opinion, if Jane can do those three things, she’ll increase her likelihood of getting a high-paying job at a US company. Since Jane and Kurt are not ready to move yet, I suggest Jane use this time to level up her skills and find a higher paying position as she’s employed in one of the most highly remunerative positions on the globe. From an earnings perspective, it makes sense for them to focus on her career potential.
The other note here is that large tech companies in the US offer some of the best parental leave policies in the US (although they still probably won’t be as good as Germany’s).
Moving From Urban to Rural
I hear that city life is not Jane & Kurt’s ideal, but I will point out that they value a lot of urban amenities that most US cities–and particularly anything rural or suburban–lack: excellent public transport, walkability, cycleability, easy access by train to other regions/parts of the country, quaint beer gardens, etc. Not to say that they wouldn’t love rural living, just a note that it’s a drastically different lifestyle.
My husband and I made the urban to rural move six years ago and I have a few posts reflecting on the monumental differences between the two lifestyles:
- Want To Move To The Country? 15 Things To Consider
- City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown
- The Best And Worst Moments Of Our First Year On The Homestead
In terms of location, I’m wondering how they envision seeing Jane’s parents with frequency if they’re not living in the same town/area? Jane noted they’d like to be within seven hours of driving, which is still a hefty distance if they’re hoping to have her parents available for date-night babysitting and frequent interaction with Oskar. Something to mull over is the fact that they stated that neither of them likes to drive, but this would necessarily enshrine quite a bit of driving into their lives.
To be clear, I’m not down on this idea and it’s true that a seven-hour drive is a world closer than an international flight. But, it’s not quite the same as being able to ask your parents to pick your kid up from school because you need to stay late at work. Just an encouragement to think through how the logistics would play out in practice.
It also seems like it’d be a great idea for Jane and Kurt to rent in their desired area prior to buying. This would give them the chance to determine if it’s the right spot for them, if they like rural living, if they like living in the US. Renting = maximum flexibility.
House Hunting From Afar
Since Jane and Kurt are pretty clear on what they’re looking for in an ideal location, one approach they could take is to narrow their search down by map. Before looking at any homes, Jane and Kurt could combine the following:
- A map of colleges in New England
- A map of voting in the 2020 Presidential Election
- A map of relative housing prices
- A housing density map
…and then crosscheck it with areas that have high-speed internet access.
This would probably give Jane and Kurt a very good sense of specific regions/towns they might want to explore. I have a series on the process of searching for our Vermont homestead that might be helpful: The Frugal Homestead Series Part 1: Why The Woods?
Let me try to answer a few more of Jane’s questions:
1) US Budget versus German Budget?
Jane is spot on that they should anticipate adding childcare and car expenses (purchase of a car, registration, maintenance, taxes, insurance, repairs, gas, tires, etc). Beyond that, it’s tough to say without knowing where they’ll be living. I imagine their grocery costs will increase once their child(ren) become full eating members of the household (I know ours did), but that’ll happen regardless of location. And I agree with Jane that as noted above, she likely can command a higher salary in the US.
2) Rent versus Buy?
This is another tough one to answer without specifics. In many rural areas, the rental market is pretty slim, but, if Jane and Kurt don’t think they’ll be living there for more than five years, it could be really tough financially to buy a place and sell it again in short order. Perhaps the home could be turned into a rental, but again, if they’re truly looking at rural properties, those are typically not hot rental markets. Additionally, if the home is on a septic system and has a well and a long driveway, that’s a lot more upkeep and maintenance than a city rental.
Jane’s idea of situating in a small New England college town could provide a great rental market–both for them to rent in and to potentially one day become landlords. That would be a less rural option, but might be more tenable for renting. It’s hard to say what housing prices will do post-pandemic, but they’re certainly not favorable for buyers right now.
3) 529 Plan?
Again, I don’t feel like I can answer this adequately at this stage. 529 plans are administered by each individual state and some states offer a tax benefit while others don’t. For more detail on how 529 plans work, check this out: How We Use 529 Plans To Save For College.
4) German brokerage transfer?
I suggest Jane find an ex-pat online forum to steer her in the right direction on this one. I recommend starting with the Mr. Money Mustache forum and going from there. This is one of those things that’ll be best advised by folks who’ve done it recently.
5) Lots of cash in checking account?
Between their various checking and savings accounts, Jane and Kurt have $70,470, which I agree, is hefty. If they wanted to think in terms of an emergency fund, they’d multiply their monthly expenses ($3,629) by three, which would be a three-month emergency fund, at a total of $10,887. And then by six for a more robust, six-month fund: $21,774.
By that metric alone, yes, they are overbalanced on cash, which means they’re potentially missing out on leveraging that cash in an investment (it’s an opportunity cost to hold so much cash). However, since Jane and Kurt are at a pivotal moment and on the precipice of change, I think holding cash makes sense. Anytime you’re planning a major life event–a move, a new baby, a marriage, a retirement, a career change, etc–having extra cash on hand is a good thing.
Jane and Kurt’s unknowns and possibilities include:
- Moving countries
- Purchasing a home
- Going down to Jane’s income only
- Needing to pay for childcare
- Needing to buy a car
- Having more children
All of these variables are exciting and new and will cost money. At this stage, I think it makes sense for Jane and Kurt to enjoy this extra cash cushion. Once things settle out in terms of their potential move, career changes, a change in their monthly spending, a new car, a new baby, etc, then they can consider a more mathematically advantageous outlet for their cash. Jane is correct that their cash isn’t doing anything for them by sitting there, but I think that’s a problem for a future year. When they’re ready to start investing, I recommend the superb book, The Simple Path to Wealth: Your Road Map to Financial Independence And a Rich, Free Life, by: JL Collins (affiliate link). I love that book.
Credit Card Strategy
Jane mentioned that they aren’t using many travel points, but they do have one of the best travel cards available, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I agree with her that if they’re going to continue traveling internationally every year (which I assume they will), it’s going to make sense for them to have a sophisticated travel rewards approach. They’ll want to dig into the best points value cards for the type of travel they do and possibly open another card in addition to the Chase Sapphire. For this research, I recommend the website Card Ratings because they make it easy to search and read about a ton of different cards (these are affiliate links).
My summary today is a bit different because most of the next steps–as I see them–are questions for Jane and Kurt to discuss. There’s not really a financial “right” or “wrong” for them to follow, more of a discernment process to walk through together.
- Is the missing link Jane’s parents? If so, is it possible to discuss having them move to Munich?
- Or, is the missing link living in the US? Or rural life?
- These are three different potential reasons for the move and I encourage Jane and Kurt to discern which one is driving their decision making.
- Would it make sense to remain in Germany for the baby-having years to take advantage of the country’s fantastic baby and parent benefits?
- Or, is Jane interested in pursuing a higher-paying position in the US, which would enable them to pay for childcare and a car, and etc?
- How does Kurt feel about the possibility of being a stay-at-home parent in the US? Could this approach be used to offset the loss of the German baby benefits?
- How often will they realistically be able to see Jane’s parents if they live a seven-hour drive away? Will this actually enable more frequent interactions with Oskar/future children?
- Jane and Kurt, go forth to discuss and know that you’re in a wonderful position. You’ve been careful with your money and now you’re able to make a decision because you want to, not because you have to. I wish you luck and I can’t wait to hear what you decide to do!
Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Jane? We’ll both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask questions!
Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) your brief story and we’ll talk.
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Such a lovely story and lovely insights from Liz:) As always:) I really think the baby caring advantages are very important so please take that into account. Also, having my parents close has been a life-saver for me and my mental health. And it is important for the children too. So try to bring your parents close, that would be my best advice as the mother of a 9-year old livining in Romania. Lots of good luck with life and with raising Oskar! Big hug!
Thank you for your well wishes, Octavia! 🙂
I understand missing your family, but the cost of healthcare , the lack of maternity leave, the very different demands put in work. I do see how living in the states would be a improvement for your family. The covid lack of traveling is slowly going out the door and your parents could spend six months out of the year in Germany, your kid(s)could spend the summer in the states. Getting a larger apartment and using the European lifestyle to the max would be my advice.
I also agree with this. They could more easily move to a rural part of Germany, buy a house there and have her parents visit for several months of the year. And with their 6+ weeks of vacation time, they can visit the states. I totally agree that they should not move to the U.S. and that basing the decision on how things are during the pandemic is not a great idea. Get to the other side of the pandemic for a while before making a decision like that.
As someone who had benefited from Canadian and Danish parental leave policies (basically, BOTH parents EACH get 9-12 months fully paid leave for each child), I suggest really thinking about whether you want to have children in the US, with its abject lack of support. The same goes for daycare costs. I think it would be a massive shock to have another child stateside.
Not to mention paid sick leave… if Germany is like other European countries where I’ve lived, you get as much paid leave as you need when your child is sick — that won’t happen stateside
Totally agree with this. I’m expecting my first child and would kill for these kinds of benefits and work/life balance. It’s rough for parents in the US!
As far as it’s my understanding you get paid leave for up to 10 “Kind krank” (child sick) days per working parent per year (pediatricians note provided) or 20 “Kind krank” days if you’re a single parent – or something to a similar extent.
I am a very burned out healthcare mom, so take this with a grain of salt. But I think the lack of child friendliness here extends beyond paid aspects. Things like not taking vacation – even if it’s offered, is it frowned on to take it? Work hours that don’t align with school hours. Need to be working constantly. Stress and cost of higher Ed. Stress about sick days when your kids are sick. Schools reopening long after bars and restaurants in the pandemic.
I would give my left foot to have a way to move to Europe. Maybe the grass is always greener but I think it’s worth thinking hard about all of these things that are somewhat intangible and hard to define. Most of the moms I know right now are on the verge.
Hope that’s not too terrifying. Good luck!
I agree with Kate. As a physician with 2 small kids, I had a rough time. If they are sick, it’s a task to ask for a day off. Employers in this country are not child friendly, day care costs are sky high. Maternity leave- I got 30 days off with my 1 st child. Please think about moving to the USA carefully.
All the economic aspects mentioned and the palpable US polarization and upcoming divisive 2024 election have me looking to Europe. A lot of forward thinking, educated people are finding ways to live outside the US. Consider this decision carefully!!
I am from Europe and my husband is from Long Island. We live here In the US. I understand what it is like to live in another country/culture. But I had a hard time understanding why you would want to move back to the US. Perhaps you miss your childhood and the long boat trips in the summer and your friends from those days. Can you find some fulfillment from moving closer to a body of water like the Bodensee or something like that? I am tired of the political climate here. It has changed so much. The shootings are so frequent and there are so many desperate homeless people camped on the streets these days. Any way you commented that you do t know how much healthcare is in the US I have a competitive plan with United Healthcare. I plan about $500 a month for me my husband and two kids and put a further $270 into a HSA fund so I can afford to cover the out of pocket expenses which is the first $13,000 of expenses. That’s right. Insurance doesn’t pay anything until after $13,000 has been paid by me. Each year. It’s called a high deductible plan. Most are high deductible plans these days. Yearly routine appointments are free though for birth control and annual exams. If you have a hospital procedure you get the MD bill, the office bill, procedure bill for X-rays, anesthesiologist bill, lab work bills and a hosp bed charge. Then maybe the ER cost…ambulance …. You get the picture.
I’m afraid most of us in the comments who are parents in the US are going to scare you considerably away from moving here while in your child-having years. It’s not a fun situation all around, and I’m in the fortunate position to work from home and keep childcare costs down. It’s still not great and I’d echo Kate and say “I’d give my left foot to have a way to move to Europe.” No joke.
Something I don’t think I saw Liz mention is maybe instead of your parents coming to stay for the summer, you’d consider just doing all-summer-vacations in the States to see them for a longer period of time? Maybe do that for a couple of years and then reconsider how it felt. All around it doesn’t sound like you’re in a rush to come here so proceed cautiously (which you’re clearly doing!). And enjoy all the perks we in the US wish we had!!!
Yes to the summer vacation ideas! We’re settling into this routine with my in-laws and IT IS AMAZING. During the school year, unless your have family very close-by, you’re likely not going to see them often. My parents live 5 minutes away from my sister and her family and they do see each other often–school pick-ups, extracurriculars, etc. But anything farther away and the schedules just won’t allow. My in-laws have a place in VT 40 minutes away from us and they spent all of last summer here and plan to do the same this summer and it totally works because the kids aren’t in school or extracurriculars during the summer.
I had the same reaction you did about leaving Europe to raise kids in the US. If I had the option to move to Europe, I’d take it in a heartbeat over raising kids here.
That said the 2-3k per month per child quoted here is wildly out of line with rates you can find in Chicago area. We were quoted around $1200 a month for full time for one kid.
But yeah. Get your parents to move there. Don’t come here.
Where we are (Central MA) it was about $1200 a month for a newborn 6 years ago. I know closer to Boston, though, $2000+ is the norm. I don’t understand how people live.
Yeah, the $2k-$3k is for the Northeast since Jane identified that as their preferred area. It’s certainly possible to find something cheaper, but nothing anywhere close to $184/month as it would be in Germany.
Also think about how expensive childcare can be for multiple children (since they indicated that’s an option). We paid $3800/month outside of Madison for 3 kids (for a short period of time). My husband is a software engineer too, but we needed my non-profit healthinsurance.
As dual US-Canadian citizens, we dream about moving back to Canada daily, but it’s much harder to leave once your family is established. Good luck!!
I live in a low COL area and infants run about $150-$180 a week. The median income here is also only $32,000.
Jane also mentioned finding a job that would give her up to a year unpaid parental leave. I just don’t think that exists in the US. Paid or unpaid, employers won’t hold your job that long.
Finally, healthcare. My family of 3 spends around $6,000-$7,000 a year out of pocket on health expenses. One of us has several chronic health issues.
I say all this to illustrate his expensive it can be living in the US. I advise staying in Germany with the social safety nets.
I would argue that would be city prices – we pay $1200/month in a HCOL area of MA for a toddler. I would say $2K is the top range outside of cities but it can go up astronomically in NYC or Boston for example. Rural VT will not command those rates but you will not have those options.
Right near Boston, childcare for a 1 year old is at least $400 per week. A HCOL area but the norm here…
In our major Midwest city, day care rates increased to $485 per week for infant and $350 per week for preschool with one week unpaid vacation only. Day care centers were hit hard the last 2 years and I expect prices to rise each year. Took put the increases into perspective, at the same day care, my infant was $300 per week in 2017. For maternity leave, you only get 3 months leave here (not always 100% paid, I only got 5 weeks paid for both of my babies and I work for a major healthcare system) and companies are slowly adopting paternity leave, slowly. If you want 12 months off with your newborn then you will probably have to quit your job.
Also, just want to say that you two are rockstars for persisting in finding the correct diagnosis for Oskar. The first baby is always the most challenging and during this pandemic, navigating health care with a newborn must have been a nightmare. You are a great mama!!
Wow, even in small town Iowa, $1200 for full time care at a daycare center would be dirt cheap. I paid $1500 in Iowa.
In the Boston area, I pay $2200 for home daycare, it would be closer to $3K for a center.
Another avid reader from Germany here! (Though from the grey wet North) 🙂
I can’t chime in on your decision to move back to the US but I have a question regarding your investment with Allianz: Is this Riester-Rente or “vermögenswirksame Leistungen” (capital forming benefits)? Because both turned out to be rather disappointing investment vehicles and your money might be better used somewhere else. If you are unsure and don’t feel comfortable doing your own research I can recommend to get an appointment with a “Verbraucherzentrale” (Consumers’ Advice Centre) in Munich – they are fee-based and give independent advice.
As for the “Sparbuch” you already noted yourself that this once beloved and still very common savings vehicle is no longer the best option. Unfortunately stock investing is pretty unpopular in Germany and Kurt’s parents are not alone in their distrust. There are rumours though that banks want to abolish the “Sparbuch” in the coming years because they are no longer profitable – I heard this especially for the Sparkassen so maybe take a look at alternatives.
Had to smile at your investments at DKB – I have the same ETF-plan and bank. 🙂
Greetings from Schleswig-Holstein! 🙂
My parents, Kurt, and I were up in Schleswig-Holstein in the fall of 2019 on a visit to Sylt. Although we had rain nearly the entire trip, we loved seeing a completely different side of Germany than the one we are accustomed to! We’d definitely like to go back at some point, maybe with the Alpen-Sylt Nachtexpress.
Kurt and I both have the “Presseversorgung” plan with Allianz (maybe it’s the same as the Riester-Rente?), and I have to agree that it is pretty disappointing in general, especially since they keep lowering the cap on positive returns. We have the option to do either 100%, 75%, 50%, or 25% index participation, and we both have 100%. The alternative to index participation is a guaranteed return which I believe is something around 1.7%. For years with large fluctuations in the market (2020, for example), we had zero returns. The other negative about this plan is the initial start-up fees (something like €2000 total over the first several years of owning the account). On the plus side, Kurt and I did get contributions from our employers, albeit Kurt’s former employer was MUCH more generous than mine (his matched at 100% whereas mine only matched at 10%). In retrospect, I’m not sure I would have participated in the plan, but since the fees are nearly paid for, and I will continue to receive a contribution from my employer and the tax benefits, I’m inclined to continue utilizing it.
That’s a really helpful tip about the Verbraucherzentrale! I wasn’t aware of this kind of advising service in Munich, so I will keep this in mind for the future. I also hadn’t heard about the possibility that the Sparbuch may be abolished, so we will definitely have a more serious conversation about this with Kurt’s parents as they are planning to set one up for Oskar as well.
Liebe Grüße aus München und danke für den Kommentar!
How lovely! My in-laws have a house on Sylt and are from the area. It’s a special part of the country! 🙂
I took a look at the Presseversorgung and it seems to be something special for people who work ie. as journalists, so no Riester Rente. The high setup fees do not come as a surprise at Allianz – to me they always came across as an expensive insurance company.
The Verbraucherzentralen are non-profits all over Germany with a state mandated duty to advise consumers. They are also great if you want to get info on insurances, banks, energy suppliers, if you have legal questions etc. Every federal state has their own organisation, you can find the one for Bavaria on their page: https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/
Liebe Grüße aus Kiel 🙂
Congratulations on having so many wonderful possibilities to explore. I agree with Ms. Frugalwoods that it sounds like you have many things about the life you want in Germany. The lack of overtime, guaranteed vacation time, and security in social nets (healthcare, childcare, education!!) sounds to me like those would all be hefty trade offs to moving to the us. Additionally, for me, the uncertainty and divide in the US makes it feel less safe to raise children when looking at other countries. I don’t know if that is a feeling that Jane and Kurt might feel as well. I do think they should also weigh the financial implications: paying more for rent to live in a larger apartment in Germany will pale in comparison to the increased money for living in the US to maintain a similar lifestyle (transportation, recreation, childcare, healthcare). As such, I agree that they should look at other angles to the source of their discomfort since the benefits of living in Germany were many positive points to their post. Their largest concern I read was their lack of connection to others where they are now. Could Jane’s parents do extended travel on Germany to be near them, that would be the best of both worlds? Could they move closer to Kurt’s family in Germany (7 hours is a long time)? Is the lack of a social network and having friends nearby the source of discontent? Does Jane and Kurt need more parent friends? Is this feeling of wanting to move in part of the pandemic and isolation?
If the answer to these questions is that they really want to move to the US, then they should start stockpiling money now. Since Jane retains her US citizenship, is it possible that Jane could start working remotely as a software engineer for a US? Expat forums would have more information about these tax implications. This could give her a sense of what work life balance and benefits she would have as well as build her resume without too much change at once.
Most US software companies are highly regulated in terms of where they will let remote employees work from for tax and benefit purposes…your best bet is finding one that has a business entity established in Germany. But some will even specify what state people can work from.
I work for a software company with a US HQ (but I’m in the UK). We have a global rule that you can only work outside of your country-of-contract for 2 weeks of the year.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. We definitely share the feeling of being troubled by the political climate in the U.S., and we often feel this painful divide nowadays in my hometown which is pretty evenly split between Democratic and Republican voters. I’m also not sure to what extent we can escape this in the U.S., but I appreciated Mrs. Frugalwoods’ tip about looking at a voting map from the 2020 presidential election.
We are definitely hoping my parents will be able to do more extended travel to Germany in the near future as the pandemic (maybe?) starts to wind down. I think you are right that our feelings of isolation were intensified by the pandemic, especially when we didn’t see many people while I was pregnant and unvaccinated (Germany only recently authorized vaccines for pregnant women). We definitely need more parent friends! We’ve mused a bit about relocating closer to Kurt’s parents, but we’ve decided for a number of personal reasons that this is not the right choice for us right now.
I’m also interested in the idea of looking for a new job after my maternity leave which would be potentially US-based. Thank you for your tip, Rachel, about looking for a company that also has a business entity in Germany!
Hi! I don’t have much advice but would like to recommend this tech company. My husband works in the U.S. for them (mostly remotely) and they began in Estonia and have offices in Germany as well as in the U.S. Check out their hiring page and maybe reach out to the german recruiting coordinator. https://nortal.com/us/careers/careers-germany/
We can’t wait to visit Germany one day and would love to live in Europe, the cultural experiences you are able to have sound wonderful. best wishes to your and your family!
Another US software company with employees in Munich – MaxLinear
Hi Melanie and Tamar! Thank you so, so much for these leads!!
Octavia, so nice to see someone also from Romania commenting here. I have my father close by to help with my 2 kids and it is a gift to me to have him stay for one or two weeks at a time during kindergarten/school vacations.
Jane, as Liz pointed out in Munich you have your dream life minus parents. Talk to them and maybe they would find it an adventure to come live in Germany for a couple months every year.
Okay so full disclosure, I’m also from Long Island and currently expecting my first child with my German partner. Needless to say I was VERY excited to see this case study. I would also never dream of relocating to the US right now (sorry family). I have a lot of questions and feedback.
1. Jane writes that you get 12 months of parental leave paid out at 65% of the net monthly salary, capped at 1800EUR per month. But the thing is, you as a couple in Germany are actually entitled to 14 months of parental leave, as long as BOTH parents actually choose to take leave. They can split the 14 months between them any way they like (as long as each person takes at least two months at minimum) and the payout will be based on each parent’s individual salary for the time they are off. How come Kurt didn’t take any parental leave with Oskar? And does he want to do so with future children? In that case, it might be better to stay in Germany for the birth of your next child, so he will have the opportunity to do this in a way that is financially covered.
2. Given my experience with the German medical system and the US medical industry (yes I am using those two different terms deliberately), I would not dream of moving to the US until well after I was 10000% sure Oskar’s cleft palate situation was absolutely fully under control with no need for further care. A move to the US seems risky to me in terms of both the cost of and potential downgrade in quality of his care.
3. Regarding Liz’s suggestion that Jane’s parents move to Germany— Sadly, it will be pretty much impossible for them to get legal resident status in the country as American retirees. Believe me, I’ve looked into this for my own mother. BUT….
4. I’m wondering if Jane and Kurt have looked at the areas outside of Munich, ideally off the S-Bahn for an easy commute, if they needed to get into the city for, say, a specialist appointment for Oskar? Or to see friends or go to a museum? There are some beautiful towns, it’s closer to nature, and most important, they could rent or buy a house and have room for Jane’s parents to come to Germany and stay with them for 90 day periods every year (thus as tourists, no residence permit required).
5. This is just a note to Jane to look into the exact terms of the German private pension fund she’s contributing to. Everything I’ve heard about those in Germany is that they are terrible. The returns are abysmal and the rules about how you can withdraw money are insane. (And older American guy, multi-decade German resident, with whom I took a financial seminar explained that if he’d invested in one of these, he would have to live to be 120 years old in order to fully use it). I’m not sure if there’s anything to do about this now, but just please check on what the rules are with that fund and make sure you’re not throwing good money after bad with it!
6. I really have no input on a move to the US except my instinct is that maybe it potentially would work the best if all the kids involved were already school aged. Just a thought though.
Totally agree, especially with #2 and was surprised it wasn’t mentioned in Mrs. Frugalwood’s answer. I’m German, married to an American for 23 years and living in the US and what I would give for German medical care!! If I was in their situation today, I most definitely wouldn’t move to the US…Also, if you’re not planning on living in the same town or very close to your parents Jane, I don’t see how some of the benefits you are looking for would actually be applicable. I understand you wanting to be closer to your parents, especially now that you have a child, believe me, but I feel like maybe this desire is clouding your judgement about what this move would mean and what your life would look like. Sadly the US is currently going through quite a bit of political turmoil and it seems like things like medical care and child care are getting worse, not better. And making friends as an adult in a new environment is a lot harder than you might think, especially if your opinions don’t align with the people around you, since the US has been very divided as of late. I hope you find the best option for your family, but personally I would not recommend moving back to the US while your son still has medical procedures coming up and you plan on having more kids. Wishing you all the best!
Thanks for your comments! It’s neat to hear from someone with similar circumstances.
Regarding the parental leave, Kurt was a full-time student when Oskar was born, so it did not make much financial sense for him to take the parental leave. We ended up getting his parental allowance paid out the first two months after Oskar was born because the amount he received at that time factored in the salary from his previous job. He actually intended to complete his masters full-time through spring 2022, but when this job offer came up in the fall, it was too good to turn down. Because he has a limited contract with this new job, it is not feasible for him to take parental leave. With a future baby–should we stay in Germany–I think we would definitely take advantage of splitting the 14 months of parental leave!
You’re right that it isn’t a realistic option for my parents to move to Germany, for a number of reasons. We haven’t done any serious searching outside of Munich, but there are definitely some places on the S-Bahn line that seem appealing to us especially in the south like in the Fünfseenland. We’d even consider looking further outside of Munich closer to the Alps. One reservation we have about rural life here, as compared to in the States, is that we find Bavarians to be somewhat insular socially (most of our friends in Munich are indeed expats) and we are unsure how easily we might find this sense of community we are seeking. I think buying a house is pretty much impossible and likely not a good investment in Munich and Upper Bavaria (Munich is repeatedly at the top of housing bubble lists).
You’re totally right that I should take another serious look into the private pension fund! Perhaps I should just cut my losses at this point…
Wishing you all the best for the rest of your pregnancy and a great start with your little one! 🙂
Hi Jane, thanks so much for your responses!
Got it re: Kurt and parental leave. That makes a ton of sense. And I’m glad he did at least get those two months paid out, that’s great! Obviously only you guys known what’s best for you, but to me this seems like all the more reason to stay in Germany at least through the birth and first year of life of your second child, so he gets to go all-in on the country’s parental leave policy and enjoy that relaxed time at home with the little one(s).
Haha, having spent a ton of time in rural Bavaria, I totally get what you are talking about. My sense is that rural Americans aren’t much more open, but then I read about Liz’s life and think maybe I ought to change my tune 🙂 Anyway, I know the ‘burbs aren’t all that appealing, but some of those West German economic miracle towns just outside Munich are surprisingly diverse! (They’re also expensive, so yeah, no great chance to buy a house there.) I know they’re not exactly historic and charming, but they are really nice and seem like an awesome place to be a kid. Maybe that would be a more chill and open place to find a community, while still having space for your parents, than in true rural Bavaria, which definitely seems hard for that.
Good luck with private pension fund! I find it shocking that Germany even allows such a terrible investment but what can you do.
Thank you for the best wishes, and all the best to you! I hope whatever you decide, it turns out great!
Do have a look at Herrsching am Ammersee. It is a small town and not a village – and very foreigner-friendly. Also full of young families with children, etc.
Unless I missed something, her parents live on Long Island while they are looking to live in Vermont or Massachusetts. That distance is shorter than Europe, but hardly close enough to meet some her stated family related goals. Will her parents relocate to be close to her family?
Hi Richard! You’re right that VT and MA are still quite a bit away from Long Island; however, in the best-case scenario, we could be only a four-hour drive away from my parents’ town, which would be amazing! Additionally, my parents have a property in VT which they spend lots of time at during the year, so that would be another geographic advantage of Vermont. Should we live in the U.S., I do believe we would cumulatively spend more time together, plus we would be able to much more reliably attend the many family gatherings we miss out year after year while being abroad. It’d really be a dream to have my parents living near us in Munich, and I’m grateful for the creative recommendation! Un/fortunately, I also need to share my parents with my brother’s and my sister’s families. 😄
Could you lease the Vermont home ( or other arrangement) for part of the year for a few years?
Hi Stacy! It’s an interesting idea. The property is a 2br timeshare at a resort, so we think it could prove a bit difficult to use on the long-term; however, it might be helpful as a jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding area more deeply!
I’m trying not to ramble on forever with this comment! In short, I think the things that are hard about parenting will be harder in the US. The huge thing that’ll make it easier is having active grandparents near by. So, I do think considering a life where you are resident in Germany but with either your parents moving nearby or some sort of arrangement where you regularly spend a few months in the US might work. Good luck and if being back in the States is what you really want then go for it. Just consider all the comments and the reality of healthcare and parental leave there.
I agree with Liz that they should consider having their parents visit for longer and explore options for living rural in Germany. As a new parent who also had a child with medical issues- we are in close to $10k medical debt from my daughters hospital stays & surgeries post birth. Maternal health outcomes in the US are some of the worst in the world relative to our GDP. It’s not just rhe monthly cost of Healthcare, which is hefty- it’s also the cost of using your insurance and worse outcomes from a Healthcare system that is at capacity. Additionally if her parents can emigrate to Germany they might benefit from a social safety net. Also working in tech as a engineer in the US will have a very different work life balance norm. Talk to some people in the field, ask about their hours worked and their salary- it might be less advantageous than you think. I’m not trying to be a Debbie downer but you are in an incredible position right now and I worry that you will risk a lot with this move. It will also be much harder to move back in 5 years- the older you your kids and your parents get the harder it will be to uproot again.
Sorry to add to the Debbie Downer vibes, but just wanted to point out there’s no legal way for Jane’s parents to move to Germany and take advantage of the social safety net, which they’ve never paid into. I’ve done a ton of research into this and in short, Germany doesn’t need more retirees and doesn’t have any kind of visa for them.
However! Both Spain and France will give long-term residency to retirees who essentially can prove they can pay their own way and will not try to take jobs in the country. Since living a seven-hour drive from her parents in the US is currently under consideration, maybe the parents can look at life on the French-German border.
The grandparents have other grandchildren and children and friends in USA. It is hard to give up your life and move away so far. I think they should just rent a larger apartment near Munich that has three bedrooms so they can continue their lifestyle.
I have been to Munich and the Christmas markets so wonderful.
We love the Christmas markets! You’re right about my parents–we’re unwilling to ask them to relocate. Not only do their friends and other children and grandchildren live in the U.S., but they also have a vibrant lifestyle (sailing on the bay, skiing in VT, etc.) and a house there that they adore.
I agree with Mrs FW, are you really sure you want to move to the US? Supporting Jane’s parents to visit Germany for a period of months or to relocate would be so much easier. Moving to the US you’d be giving up so much of what seems to make the life in Germany idyllic – the outdoor lifestyle, the assurance that health needs are taken care of, the parental leave, the education, the free time. I think the transition to parenthood really changes so much about your life, and becoming a parent during a pandemic is no joke. It’s no wonder, in my mind, that you’d feel a bit isolated and lacking community, when you’ve become a parent during a time of social distancing and reduction of many community activities. I’d say think about how best to bring Jane’s parents over and how to meet other young parents in your area – there will be ways. Regarding bringing parents over there will be things to consider like their access to healthcare but that seems way easier to navigate than vice versa. Good luck!
The healthcare costs, too, are probably hard to plan for but worth fleshing out. We pay about $500 pretax per month for family health insurance. Luckily we are quite healthy but have still have to pay costs like $200 copay on an MRI. Especially with Oskar’s medical needs the costs could be significant and I would consider staying in Germany at least until that’s settled.
I would add that access to care in rural New England is often limited and the quality is highly variable. I live in Western Mass currently and if we need specialist care, we often travel more than two hours into Boston. Given that her son has special medical needs, I would seriously consider not just cost but access to the necessary healthcare in the areas they are looking to relocate.
Hi Vanessa! Thanks for this comment. I think we will have to put more thought into what specialist care options we will potentially need for Oskar and where those might be located.
My husband is a software engineer and hiring manager, he recommends looking into WomenWhoCode. Lots of companies who are looking to increase diversity in terms of gender use this site to promote jobs. And don’t think about waiting to move to change jobs. His company would (and does) hire folks in Europe and then some move to the US or other countries. You could work for a US company from Germany and then move to the US when you are ready. If you know Ruby on Rails, his company is hiring!
Hi Elizabeth! Thank you so much for the WomenWhoCode recommendation! I had not heard of this organization before. I think it would be a dream to find a job at a company like your husband’s which offers such location flexibility. Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with Ruby on Rails, but if they ever are in need of a Python developer, I’m your gal! 🙂
I can relate! We recently moved 3000 miles to be within 20 minutes of my parents. We like the lifestyle we had better in the previous location but our family functions best (and my mental health is better) now that nana and Grampy are a short drive away for so many reasons. We paid a ridiculous amount for that proximity but it was so worth it. After we get out of the young kid stage we can re-evaluate. IMO anything over 30 mins away from them wouldn’t have given me the benefits I need as a working mother and the relationship I know my kid will have with them growing up which is priceless. Your family needs may be different but this was the decision we made that we are thankful for every day!
World Oskar’s pre-existing Health condition requiring multiple operations in the near future make it more difficult and expensive to get good insurance in the States? Perhaps it would be better to postpone moving until this issue has been solved. All best wishes for Oskar!
Pre-existing conditions are no longer supposed to be an issue in qualifying for US medical insurance. That’s one of the best things to come out of the Affordable Care Act.
It might be more comfortable to get the issues resolved before a move for various reasons. There are better and worse healthcare plans, and hopefully a future employer will have an excellent plan. But “we can’t get any insurance” should not apply..
Wonderful story! I don’t think that expecting her parent’s to move to Germany, even for half a year is feasible. She has other siblings, and as a social security age woman, my daughter pointed out (daughter lives 2000 miles from me) it is not fair for her to expect me to upend my life and finances for her, especially considering she has other siblings (who live close by me now) who may have children. It is just not fair to expect her parents to spend that type of money to relocate to Germany even half time. As my daughter pointed out, older folks need to carefully monitoring their costs for potential long term care costs in the future, and to take care of themselves so they are not a burden on their children later. To expect the parents to spend half their time in Germany is tremendously expensive, and as U.S. Citizens they are going to be expected to shoulder their potential long term care expenses in the future. As far as this young couple goes, I could see the husband getting a good job teaching public at public schools in the U.S. I also could see where they could live rurally in the Northeast, and enjoy it because it would be similar to where he is from as far as seasons and mountains. I also don’t think staying in Germany for another year or two would be a bad thing for him to get his U.S. teaching credentials in line, so he could get a job. I think, in trying to read between the lines, the wife really wants to come back to be near her parents, and the husband is agreeable, since they live seven hours from his parents now. I would plan extensive summers (when I assume he would be out of school from teaching if he teachers in the U.S.) and Christmas vacations with his family though, so that the child is connected to both sides of the family. Wife appears to have the resources to get a job easily in the U.S. I just don’t want the husband to come over here and feel alone with the baby and be sad and isolated. So, I think teaching middle school or high school might be the answer.
Hi Cindy! Thanks for the comment. We share the same thoughts you expressed about the viability of my parents moving overseas. I also appreciate your concern for my husband feeling sad and isolated should we live in the US. Although he is truly on-board with moving (potentially even more than I am!), I do have my reservations about him becoming a stay-at-home dad on the long-term as we both find some level of fulfillment through our work. We definitely need to do some more exploration of potential job options, so we appreciate the suggestion of looking into the feasibility of getting teaching credentials while still living here in Germany.
I highly recommend the British Expats forums for immigration advice. As the name suggests, it is focused on Brits coming to the US, so the financial advice may not be 100% relevant, but it’s an extremely active and helpful forum so would probably be a good jumping off point (and someone there might know of a similar site for German advice).
Hi Jordana! Thank you for sharing the link to the forum! I will definitely give it a closer look.
Congrats on building an amazing life. The worklife balance in America is not something I would wish on anyone. I work in a very male dominated industry (similar to software) and would really encourage you to reach out to American women in the software industry. Also, the experiences you just had might make it hard to connect to other American moms. It is something I often struggle with. Traveling grandparents might be the best of both worlds with every summer spend in the states. All the best!
Hi Laura! Thanks for bringing up this point. It’s something I honestly hadn’t given much thought to, but it is indeed really important. Although the representation of women in the engineering department of my company is higher than average, it’s still not great. I have been fortunate, however, to have colleagues with diverse backgrounds of other kinds. I like your suggestion about reaching out to other American women in the software industry. I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston several years ago; I’d love to have the opportunity to attend again now as a mother with career goals different than those of my 23-year-old self.
I don’t have any insights on the the big questions in your case study, but I can commiserate with Jane on the lack of English books on offer in most German libraries. Could she use her parents’ US address to get a library card from a US library to borrow ebooks? I use the overdrive app to borrow ebooks and while the selection isn’t great, that’s due to my small-ish local library – the app itself is pretty great!
Hi Milena! I do indeed do that to borrow books from my hometown library, and it’s amazing! The public library system in the U.S. is truly a treasure.
Last time I checked Munich city libraries (Stadtbücherei) had an abundance of english ebooks and audiobooks in the Overdrive app that’s available with the membership.
You could also probably hunt down english books in ebay Kleinanzeigen (do you know about the “Verschenken” (to gift / to give away for free) category).
Hi Kili! I had a library card several years ago, but I remember feeling disappointed by the selection of English books. I’m not sure I was aware of the availability of English e-books though. Overdrive is a fabulous app! I use it to borrow books occasionally from my parents’ town library. Kurt has a library card for the Stadtbücherei, so I’ll have to check this out on his account. eBay Kleinanzeigen is wonderful too! We use it a lot to buy, sell, and give items away. We also love The Readery in Munich which sells secondhand English books.
Thanks for the reminder of how wonderful living in München can be. I lived there for a year in 2011 and was going to comment to check you knew about the Readery (I worked down the road at the LMU Geology department on Luisenstraße) and took advantage of their buyback deal quite a bit, my other source of cheaper English language book was any booksales at the American Episcopal Church on Seybothstraße.
If I remember right Austria has a retirement visa where you have to prove source of funds and German language ability.
My experience of leaving the city is that I had a shock in that I had a decrease in my quality of life and I moved to a job with a higher salary and to Scotland where owning a house was more usual than Germany (and more doable).
I understand the wanting to be closer to family thing, but I was further away (in travelling time) when I moved back to the UK. Good luck with exploring all the possible options.
I did what they are planning (moving from overseas back to US with a young child to be near parents). It lasted a year. I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly difficult and expensive it is to raise small children in the US versus other parts of the world. Childcare $1-2k/month/kid minimum, health insurance easily $1-2k/month for a family and still paying tons of copays. Having to drive to every single thing if you don’t live in a city. Schools that let out 3 hours before parents get off work. It is incredibly family-unfriendly.
It is really important to look at what stage of life/childhood will make sense for living in which place. When all of your eventual children are at least kindergarten age, that could be a good time to spend a few years in the US, because then you are at least past the insane birth and preschool costs. It might also align well with when the grandparents are less physically able to travel to Germany.
In the meantime make your life in Germany the best it can be. Find a remote job for a small or mid-sized US company that will let you work from Germany. Spend long summers in the US (maybe at the grandparents’ place in Vermont?). Explore small towns and more rural areas outside of Munich to find somewhere affordable that is a good fit for the lifestyle you imagine. Branch out in parents and expat communities to make more friends. I think tweaking your current setup will be MUCH more fulfilling than trying to make a move to the US work at this point in your lives.
P.S. For banking, you can open an account at fidelity or one of the other online brokers. Probably while abroad or definitely when temporarily in the US. Then you keep contributing to it no matter where you are in the world. Probably makes sense to keep some investments in each country instead of trying to switch them, if there are good investment options in each. You will eventually be spending money in each country, so what is the harm? Good job on funding the Roth IRA, too few expats know about that. You should be able to get US child tax credits since you are filing with a foreign tax credit instead of foreign income exclusion.
Thank you for candidly sharing your experiences with us. It’s helpful to hear from someone who experienced what we are looking to try out ourselves, and we’re humbled by your evaluation of raising small children in the US. I think it was present in our minds that these challenges would be a reality in the US; however, we’re now considering this again much more deeply after reading so many comments now about the struggles some parents are experiencing stateside. It’s certainly an intriguing idea about spending the children’s younger years in Germany and then potentially moving to the US for the elementary school years.
Thank you so much for the Fidelity suggestion and the information about the US child tax credits!
Best to you and your family!
My advice would be to have all babies in Germany, move to the US for elementary/primary school and then move back to Germany for secondary school.
I’m an American married to an EU/Canadian, who also now has American citizenship. We currently live in the EU. Our kids are 13 and 10. Given that we have family that we love and are close to on two continents, there has always been someone we’ve missed being in close proximity to. We’ve lived in the US, Canada, and the EU, and are only now getting ready to “settle” next fall as our kids enter 6th and 9th grade. Honestly, I think my kids are actually closer to their grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins by NOT having lived close to them. Because like with your parents coming to Germany, when we do see them, it is for extended periods of time, under one roof, and someone is always away from the regular chores of daily life and home which means more time actually together and interacting. Both sets of grandparents live close to our respective siblings and I truly believe our kids have closer relationships with them than their cousins do. Don’t discount Facetime when they are older! My parents started reading books to my kids over Facetime when they were as young as 2 years old and they still have weekly video chats! I think our moving back and forth has also led to us being closer as a nuclear family in that “home” is wherever we are together. Our almost high schooler wants to settle in one place starting next year and we will happily do that (probably Canada). But none of us regret being less settled in these earlier years, especially if you want your child/children to feel connected to both cultures. Changing schools really isn’t that big of a deal in the early years (we did it twice, this fall will be 3rd and final) and I think it was good for our kids. We worked remotely for US companies even prior to the pandemic, hence the ability/privilege of being able to move around. If and when you do move, I would definitely look for a position that offers remote work to offer flexibility to move without changing jobs. Being a multi-citizenship family, you are very lucky to have the choice of moving back and forth between the US and the EU, I say take advantage of that, and be open to moving and living in both places while your son and his possible sibling(s) live at home with you. Decide where you want to “settle” after they leave and you retire!
Also, we have a family dog that has done a few transatlantic moves with us. There are some hoops to jump through but it is totally doable!
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! Your words are encouraging, and you’re totally right that there is something special about having extended stays under one roof. Having a comfortable place for my parents to stay with us, wherever we live, is pretty much non-negotiable for me. My sister, who lives nine hours by car away from my parents, also has an in-law suite, and it’s wonderful for her and her children that my parents can stay with them every 1-2 months for ten-day stays.
We are heartened to hear that your children feel close to each other, you, and your parents as well as both cultures despite (because of?) the itinerant lifestyle. It would be a dream to have a job with location flexibility! Were you able to work remotely from your US companies also in the EU?
Best to you and your family!
Thank you for sharing your story! A few years ago (pre-covid), my husband, son, and I (we are all Americans) were in the same situation. We moved back to the U.S. from Europe (Lithuania), where we were living and working. We moved for some of the same reasons that Jane is describing here: being closer to family in New England and putting down roots/purchasing a home that we could make our own. My husband (teacher) and I (university staff) both don’t work high-earning jobs; however, we had far fewer expenses in Europe and cost of living was much cheaper than it is in the U.S., so it always felt as though we had enough money to both save and travel. Now, having been living in the U.S. for a few years, I strongly question our decision to move back. Everything is more expensive, but we live frugally and that isn’t our driving factor for questioning living here. It is the lifestyle that is more of a challenge in the U.S. The safety and family-friendliness of living in Europe were huge for us, especially with a child and husband in school–schools shootings are a daily fear, even in our small, relatively safe city in New England. In Lithuania, students from about 2nd grade and up walked to and from school alone, rode the city bus, and went to cafes to purchase snacks on their own without ever needing to worry about safety (no stranger danger)–children and education are valued in Europe, while they are not in the U.S. Another concern is healthcare and retirement benefits, which at our income level mean we need to work longer before we can achieve financial independence, whereas in Europe we knew that both healthcare and retirement would be taken care of.
Some of Janes desires for setting down roots and having family visit/stay could likely both be addressed in Germany, while maintaining the benefits of living in Europe. Family visits will become more frequent as covid eases, and a house/apartment could be purchased to both have more space and set down roots.
Also, Jane, it is okay to move to the U.S., if you do choose, when your child is older. We moved when our son was 4 and he transitioned from an international school to U.S. preschool (not free!) beautifully. In the international school setting, my husband had many students coming and going from different countries and they transitioned surprisingly well, even if they didn’t speak English–kids are very resilient.
Hi Liz! Thank you for writing! I think you’re probably right that we take the safety and family-friendliness of life in Europe for granted; the legitimate fear of school shootings in the U.S. is horrifying. It’s encouraging for us to hear that your son transitioned well between schools! If it’s not too personal for me to ask, do you still consider moving back to Lithuania? I wish you and your family all the best!
I’ll echo others…. The US is one of the worst places to live during childbearing years. Between the staggering medical expenses and, very short if any paid leave, little vacation time compared to Europe, and high childcare costs, it’s worth doing a LOT of math if you’re planning on more children, particularly with medical needs in the equation.
I also wanted to note that if your son needs ongoing medical or occupational therapy, that can keep you very busy driving back and forth to appointments. There is often limited availability in rural areas, and in the US you may be covering those costs out of pocket.
That said, I’m sure we can all sympathize with how isolated and burned out you must feel after going through a pandemic with a new baby, plus all the medical/feeding challenges. In more normal times, you might have been able to meet other expat moms, establish early friendships for your son, and start finding trusted caregivers during this first year.
So I guess one suggestion is to start thinking about how you could get a fresh start in Munich, while you wait for a green card? Maybe start looking for a 3-bedroom apartment and see what you find, maybe with a better connection to nature? Is there an online group for expat parents in Munich that you could connect with to slowly expand your support community? Can you start searching for a babysitter that you can trust so that you finally get a regular date night?
You’ll probably need to do all of those things if you are living in the US many hours from your parents as well, so it might make sense to give it a try in Germany in the meantime!
Hi Jane I would give some very careful thought to educational opportunities and costs for elementary, high school and university, and how you are planning to manage bilingual education for your kids in the US v Germany. In my experience babies are at school before you know it and then school-life becomes incredibly important to them and you. It’s very hard to think about this when you are still in the diaper phase though!
I wonder if just renting an apartment nearby for her parents and his parents to visit for a month or two would be an option? I agree staying in Germany and having the her parents move would probably be the easiest and best for her, but as others I pointed out it would be completely uprooting her senior parents to a new country and a new lifestyle, while removing the relationships they already have with her siblings, nieces and nephews.
Maybe a nice rental property or upgrading to a larger rental to accommodate family stays would be a happy medium? At least with my family and my in-laws we always abide by the ” fish rule”. Family stays in the house as long as raw fish would before it becomes intolerable 🙂
Having an apartment that you could provide them with ( and other families and friends too fill in that void of community!) Could give them independence and also give you guys some healthy breathing room as a family. I am child free but I echo the concerns for Oskar’s healthcare with his cleft palate if you move to the US.
Alternatively would you and your husband be able to take an extended vacation to the US to get a real view back of what it’s like to be there now that you have a child? I really can’t stress how absolutely miserable all my friends are in their early -late 30s, professionals with managing the tightrope act of children and careers. It is a constant struggle of balancing daycare, covid quarantines, their work schedule, and their work demands. The time they do end up with their kids are extremely stressful because it’s this constant circulation of robbing Peter to pay Paul with time and responsibility.
I also don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but you haven’t made in the shade with paid leave and barely any childcare costs. And since you are able to save I would definitely try extended vacations, you and your husband and the baby going to the US, inviting his parents to you, and inviting your parents and your friends to you – before I would do anything else. Sometimes the perspective from a trusted family or friend when they can actually see your current situation is worth more than the spitballing back and forth of “what it could be.”
Ha, ha, Laura! My parents always used to say, “Fish and visitors stink after three days!” So I guess that’s just a different way of saying what you say about your “fish rule” for your family and in-laws. Hey, it works for us most of the time, too. (Though we have temporarily lived with one of our sons & his family up to six months at a time, and they with us for months, too, out of necessity.) It sounds like Jane & Kurt get along well with her parents, but living seven hours away would be a whole different ball game.
I’m an American living outside the US and raising small kids too (1, 4, and 7). My husband always teases me that once a year I mildly panic about what we are doing and whether we should move back…and then I spend some extended time in the States and/or talk to friends and remember! We live in a country with basically no social safety net, but due to pretty severe income inequality (not great for a country overall, but has worked in our favor with little kids…) we have a full-time nanny and a part-time housekeeper. I don’t want to discourage you from considering life in the US, but it might be helpful to give it a test run for a month or so if possible? I have a lot of vacation time so we spend 3-4 weeks in the States every summer, and that is enough for me to feel like the kids are not just bilingual but also bicultural. I do understand that everyone’s desires and calculations are different (and for us being here is the best financial move too since I have a US-based contract), but please don’t underestimate the difficulty of raising kids in the US. My mom is 5 hours from my sister and her family and helps them a LOT, and she’s here right now and can’t stop talking about how much better our quality of life is – we spend more time with the kids, we’re less stressed, we have higher quality child care (both the nanny plus schools), our marriage is happier, the list goes on. We have a 3BR place so the baby is in the guest room in a pack and play (we’ve never had a crib!) unless we have guests…it’s not a long-term solution but a little bit of shuffling is worth it to us so that my parents / our friends can stay with us and we don’t have to deal with moving! I hope you find a solution that works for your situation and leaves you all happy, thank you so much for sharing your story and congrats on Oskar’s arrival!!
Speaking as a Canadian, I agree 100% with all the commenters who’ve pointed out the many advantages to staying in Europe if Jane and Kurt can. I lived in the States for three years, and it was a profound culture shock for me (never believe anyone who tells you that Canadians are just like Americans!). While I fully recognize the advantages of being closer to Jane’s parents, I suspect you would find that your overall quality of life would sharply diminish in the States. In addition (again, speaking as a Canadian observer), the political volatility in the United States is also something to consider.
Lastly…hmm, how to put this. I apologize in advance to any Americans who are offended by what I’m about to say – please understand that this is my perspective, coming from a non-American culture. If you move to the States and you want a comfortable life, you will need to dedicate yourselves to earning a ton of money. Yes, you can opt out of “the shiny things” and live frugally, but the United States doesn’t have the support systems found in other countries. It’s not family-friendly, and the healthcare system is fantastic only if you can afford to pay for it, and/or get terrific benefits from your company. Even then, one bad car accident could wipe you out with medical bills. You will only have only as much security and comfort as you can afford to buy. Capitalism…not compassion or community…is king.
Other possibilities: stay in Europe and buy a house with an “in-law suite” for Jane’s parents. Buy one of those very inexpensive properties in Italy and fix it up, making sure there’s enough room for Jane’s parents (as a full-time home or vacation/weekend home). If Jane’s grandparents were immigrants, perhaps one or both of her parents can get an EU or UK passport and “right of abode”.
As a fellow Canadian I echo these comments. Stay based in Europe and find creative ways to maximize time w/family. Even plan an extended US visit. Realize the immense work/life balance you have. While grandparents are hugely important, things change. It is your immediate family unit for the long haul.
Speaking as an American, I’m not offended at all and completely agree with this assessment. My husband and I only had one child primarily because raising a child in the U.S. is so expensive and challenging. If we lived in a country with national healthcare, affordable daycare, a reasonable work-life balance, and good public schools, we probably would have had two. And except for the extremely wealthy, most of us are one serious medical crisis away from bankruptcy, no matter how frugal we are. Life here is good in many ways, but it’s also fairly precarious – especially when you have young children.
With that being said, I live very far away from my family (on opposite coasts in the US). This has made the pandemic extremely difficult, so I really do understand why this move may feel necessary to you. After a few recent trips home, I’m feeling far less desperate to move nearer to my family, but I get it – family ties are really important. Just be aware that your life may become a lot harder in ways you don’t expect if you move back here. Perhaps you could set a time limit for yourself, aim to take a few trips back, and say “ok, if I’m not feeling better about living here by X date, then we’ll do it.” I did that myself, and decided to stay where I am.
Best wishes to you. I know that you’re getting some helpful perspective here, but I also know this isn’t an easy decision – there are costs and benefits either way.
Thanks for your comments and thank you for acknowledging the pain we are feeling of being far away from dear family. I don’t want us to come across as hopelessly naive about this idea of moving – you’re right that it’s important for me and Kurt to take to heart all that we would be giving up, and we need to be able to make some kind of peace about that. I appreciate hearing your perspective that the desperation of moving eased for you after taking more trips post-pandemic.
Best to you!
My situation doesn’t have much in common with Jane and Kurt’s except that I’ve spent the last two years away from my family as well. Don’t underestimate how much of an impact this has on your state of mind. I absolutely loathe the city I grew up in, and yet I have found myself considering moving back there. My family are great but they couldn’t outweigh the negatives in the long run. Just be aware that these are really tough times and this will affect your decision-making.
Just a shot in the dark, but I wonder if something like both working remotely would allow Jane and Kurt to have extended stays in the US, and if this would make them feel that they are closer to their parents? I ask because my own parents will retire across the country from me (admittedly, it’s a four-hour flight rather than trans-continental) and they’re planning on spending something like a season a year or two months twice a year in the city where I live with my family (+my sibling is also here.) Their plan is to rent an apartment or house for that time. I don’t know what school vacations look like in Germany, but I’d imagine that if you spend several months in the summer in the US and your parents come for some time in the winter to Germany, you may be able to spend 4-6 months of the year together.
I also wanted to share, I did not grow up with my grandparents nearby (2-3 hour flight for one set, 12-13 hour flight for the other.) It would have been wonderful to spend two months at a time with them instead of two weeks, but it wasn’t possible because of my parents’ work schedules. At the same time, even without proximity, I loved my grandparents very much and knew that they loved me deeply; I have wonderful memories of the time we spent together.
First of all, after viewing your blog, I have to say that your knits are just lovely!! It’s inspiring for me that you’re managing to knit with a baby too. 🙂
Thank you for your words, especially about feeling connected to your grandparents despite the distance. I do think it would be a dream for both me and Kurt to find remote jobs which would allow for extended stays in either country. The American school calendar would likely be more favorable in this regard since the summers are longer (2.5 months vs. 6 weeks). I think you’re right that there are ways we could cumulatively spend many months together each year. Kurt and I will need to soon have some serious discussions soon about how important it is for us to be able to more spontaneously see my parents and my siblings’ families.
Best to you and your family!
Two thoughts. The housing market in the US is incredibly inflated. It is not a buyers market but a sellers market and competition is fierce. Houses in Chicago are going within days of being listed and at above listed price. I know because my daughter has been looking for the last year. No joy.
In terms of remote work, my daughter is a senior software engineer with Etsy and loves her work there. She works remote 100 percent of the time. Another interesting company is Duolingo, the online language app people — especially because both of you are bilingual. They are always hiring and I believe they have offices all over the world. Best of luck.
Hi Bea! Wow, those are two companies I’d definitely be interested in, so it’s great to hear about their flexible work options! Thanks for the leads! I’ll cross my fingers for your daughter’s house search.
I’ve looked into working at Duolingo as well, but the jobs are not remote. They expect employees to be based in Beijing, Berlin, Seattle, DC, Pittsburgh or NY and to work in office.
I have a daughter with cleft; the great news is that the care in the US is excellent and the coverage for children tends to be easier than for adults with pre-existing conditions. Speech therapy/ etc is free until age of 3 for all children in the states, although after that point it may be a co-pay if still needed. I’m sure in Germany it is less expensive, but I just wanted to offer that information as a balance.
Also, I donate to Operation Smile and couldn’t recommend them more highly.
Best of luck in your decision!
My firstborn was also born with a cleft palate and I concur– you can get excellent care here. Although it was scary finding out only because we didn’t know she had it prior to birth nor what the future held– she is a thriving 6 year old who is way ahead of her classmates in reading and comprehension and has no speech or hearing issues. She had her surgery to correct the cleft palate at 10 months. We’ve learned since then that it’s more common than we realized.
I do not have anything to add to the financial aspect of this post, but just wanted to chime in on the cleft palate issue.
I am disappointed to see all the negative comments on the quality of life here, but then again, I’m in the minority of readers who lean conservative, so not really a surprise.
Thank you for your comment! It is always reassuring for us to hear from parents of older children who were affected by cleft palates, especially after going down the online rabbit hole of scary information after we initially found out about Oskar’s cleft. We were also surprised to learn about the relatively high prevalence of the condition. When telling a girlfriend of a family member about Oskar’s cleft, we were surprised and encouraged (encouraged, because she is so well-spoken and an accomplished pianist hence her hearing must be pretty good!) when she said she also had a cleft of the soft palate as a baby.
Thank you again, and I wish all the best to you and your family!
People in comments are simply stating facts about the costs of health care, education, and vacation time and maternity leave comparisons. This is not a political issue.
Hi Jane! Thank you for this information, both about the healthcare experiences and Operation Smile. Best to you and your daughter!
I just want to put something out there to think about regarding moving closer to family. When my husband and I married he was insistent that we stay close to his family (I wanted to be closer to mine) because they would help with our daughter. It wasn’t until later that we realized it was a terrible mistake. His family has caused anger, resentment and multiple issues in our marriage and kids lives. Unfortunately as they are all getting older the problems don’t get any less. I realize that my situation is a bit extreme and I hate to be negative, but it’s the reality of family. I wish you the best of luck!
Having lived in the Netherlands and raised 2 children here I could not agree more with all of the above. The EU safety net is worth every penny we pay in taxes. Safer, cheaper, healthier….no way I’d ever move back to the US, especially with kids.
Do want to mention you should join the Facebook group “US Expat Tax Questions”. Someone there has probably worked out the tax questions you have re moving accounts in/out of the EU.
Hi Debbie! Thanks for the Facebook group suggestion!
I have children with feeding issues and possible palate clefts (I have a palate cleft) and one thing to think about: will you be able to put Osksar in daycare, in the US or Europe?
In American daycares, they put food out for the toddlers and they’re expected to just eat. I have had children that did not fully transition to table food until age 3 or 4. My kids couldn’t do that at a year and daycare would not be in a position to spoon feed them purees or provide bottles past a year.
My kids also vomited a lot due to choking, which resulted in one expulsion. Daycares have draconian illness policies that will shut a child out for 24 hours or more after every vomiting incident at home, and a child who throws up regularly at school will not be allowed. This can cause a real problem for working parents who are dependent on daycare.
Regardless of which country you end up in this is something I would look into quite carefully. We ended up using private nannies and then I quit my job. The fact that subsidized daycare is available to you does not necessarily mean they’ll be able to accommodate a child with developmental or feeding problems. Also I like the organization feeding matters but it isn’t cleft palate specific.
I’m sorry to hear that you faced these challenges with your children, and I’m appalled by the daycare policies you mentioned and the expulsion incident. Thank you for bringing up these important points because this is something we will definitely need to consider in the next year even if we do stay in Germany.
Best to you and your family!
From the daycare’s position I understand it. Constant vomiting on the floor, on the table, on himself, on other children is a massive imposition daycares are not set up the handle and that much cleaning is a big burden for the staff.
I don’t know what Germany is doing, but especially in the current circumstances, you can expect children to be sent home every time they show any signs of illness, often until they present a negative test result. I know people who had had to keep kids home for a couple weeks out of every month.
Lovely family and such a hard decision! I used to live in South Korea with my Korean husband and we moved back to the US in 2016. I truly REGRET it! Mainly because healthcare is so expensive here and I can’t even have a full time job because childcare is so expensive here. I fear that our kids will get sick and we will get into debt from hospital bills.
I would consider living rurally in Germany because you aren’t going to get good healthcare and cheap childcare in the U.S
I too only lived in the states as a student not as a full adult. I would tell my past self to stay out of the US!!
Thanks Jane and Kurt for a great case study! You certainly have a lot to contemplate. Many folks have already commented about your parents moving to Germany and/or the high cost of living in the US compared to your current situation so I will assume that your parents moving to Germany is not an option and you are willing to explore living in the US in spite of the higher cost of living?
We live in the suburbs of Boston and we love it here. Vermont and MA are more liberal than NH and upstate NY if that’s important to you. My first thought is could you and your family move into your parents 2nd home in VT for a period of time? If not, Burlington, VT comes to mind as a potential ideal location for what you’re looking for, but only if it’s close to your parents VT home and they would be willing to spend more time there? We also love Stowe, VT and all it’s wonderful craft beer, but homes are very expensive so many young families tend to live in the surrounding rural towns. In Western MA, take a look at Northampton – it’s home to 5 colleges and has a wonderful progressive culture and community.
The last thing I’ll comment on is that while health care in the US can be very expensive, if you are employed as a software engineer your company provided healthcare will cover just about all costs related to healthcare. Of course, this doesn’t cover childcare in most cases, but you can set up an HSA for that.
I just have to jump in that Robert’s experiences seem unusual to me. I’ve literally never heard of anybody (other than Mr. FW) who has healthcare more or less totally covered by their employer. Everyone I know has “good” health insurance through their employer, but they still have to contribute a premium every month (comes out of your paycheck automatically). The employee share of a healthcare premium in my family’s experience has ranged from $260/month to $750/month. Then you have to pay a copay, usually around $30, every time you go to the doctor. Then you pay some percentage (your deductible, usually 20-30%) of any healthcare costs until you meet your annual out of pocket match (range could be from $500 per person/$1000 per family to $5000 per person/$10000 per family). My experiences are all based on good, professional jobs in competitive industries that offer “good” benefits. If you’re a high income household, which you would be as a software engineer, this is mostly fine, you just have to plan for it and be prepared. For lower or even middle income households, this is how people end up going bankrupt due to medical expenses EVEN IF they have employer-sponsored health insurance. The only way you may be able to get costs lower than that would be to have a very high deductible plan, which only costs less until you have any larger medical expense. It depends on the fine print but a high deductible plan would almost certainly be too risky for my comfort level with multiple kids.
You can’t pay for childcare from an HSA. You can set aside some money pre-tax for childcare through a dependent-care FSA if your employer allows that. The max is $5,000/year, and again this is just your own salary that you’re setting aside pre-tax from your paycheck. The tax savings amounts to saving about $1,000/year. In my area (upper Midwest) childcare is about $1500-$2000/month per kid (higher end when they are a baby, lower end for preschool). Sometimes you can get like a 5-10% discount for multiple kids.
I’m in your age bracket in the US and our household income is likely similar to what yours would be here. Most people I know either space their kids out 4-5 years so they’re only paying for daycare (and later college) for one kid at a time, or they only have one kid, or the lower-earning spouse quits their job while the kids are young. Then the working spouse really has to lean into their job and pursue higher salary even at the expense of work/life balance since they are the sole breadwinner, so that person is often working over 50 hours/week. Answering emails in the evening and on weekends is common. Then it’s scary because the family is at risk if that person loses their job because along with losing salary the family’s health insurance is yoked to that employer. People make it work, but it takes a lot of money and a lot of savings to not feel really vulnerable like your life could be totally upended if one or two unlucky things happen. If I could move to Germany, I would.
Thank you Brittany, I should have clarified when I said “your company provided healthcare will cover just about all costs related to healthcare” in that you still have to pay for a portion of your company provided healthcare. In my case, it’s about $500/month for a family of 5. We have a high deductible plan, but my company covers the deductible. Once the deductible is met, we have $0 copays or any other out of pocket costs. I recognize that this plan is generous, but I don’t think it’s unique in terms of health plans for people working in large companies paying salaries of $150K – $200K as a SW Engineer as Liz suggested.
Yes, not HSA – I was thinking dependent-care FSA, but couldn’t recall the term as it’s been a while as our 3 children are now 18, 16, and 14. We’re in the phase of life where paying for college is our biggest challenge. Our situation is closest to the case study with the 2 engineers Matt and Laura.
Great conversation re: healthcare, Robert and Brittany. For another perspective, I live in San Francisco. We have amazing health insurance through my job with $0 copay and $0 deductible for the entire family. My first pregnancy had everything covered, even cell-free DNA, etc… We pay a $10 copay to see specialists. We also purchased health insurance through my husband’s employer this year and got the slightly fancier plan. We pay $11 per month for the family, but this plan has a small deductible. This was as a back-up in case I decided to take a few months off work this summer.
San Francisco is a rather progressive city for families, with the major downside that families who raise children in SF proper (as opposed to a car-centric suburb in the greater bay area) seem can be a pretty affluent bunch, although lovely and diverse in many other ways. Depending on how you count, my little family has 10 bicycles! I love the family-sized bicycle culture in my walkable diverse neighborhood (especially as we don’t habe a car).
Regarding maternity leave in my SF experience: My employer provides 12 weeks of fully paid maternity or paternity leave (and generous breastfeeding accomodations when returning to work), and the option to add another 12 weeks of unpaid but job- and benefit-protected leave if desired. I think some families also use short-term disability to expand financial options further. Salaries are much more modest at my university, but the range for jobs at a university vs non-university jobs are ~$16-26K per month pre-tax, so even averaging 12 weeks paid with 12 weeks unpaid, it’s quite generous by American standards. Many of my fellow moms who work in tech or law take 4-6 months of leave. My child was born during medical training and I returned to work full time at 4 months, and it felt right for my family. My husband is a work from home data scientist and had 12 weeks of paternity leave (half paid, half unpaid) and a very family friendly job.
Also for another point of reference, our daycare (Spanish immersion as we’re raising our son bilingual/bicultural, truly amazing food) is $1500 / month. That’s considered a good deal for infant care in SF.
Hope this perspective helps!
Thank you for providing another perspective! You are right in assuming that it’s not an option for my parents to move to Germany. The property my parents have in VT is a 2br timeshare at a resort, so we think it could prove a bit difficult to use on the long-term; however, it might be helpful as a jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding area more deeply! Indeed, the property is on the other side of Stowe near Smugglers’ Notch – we love that area for vacationing! Burlington is definitely a consideration; in fact, that was one place that fell into the seven-hour driving distance range but is only less than an hour’s drive from my parents’ place. My parents spend a significant amount of time up there in all seasons during the year, and we think they would spend more time there if they weren’t coming to visit us in Germany twice a year.
Regarding healthcare costs, I’m a bit unsure about how we should consider this factor at the moment. If there’s any takeaway from the comments here, it’s that medical costs seem to be high and a serious pain point for a lot of people. Not that we weren’t aware of this reality for many Americans, but I’m wondering whether we’ve gotten a different picture from family members and close friends who work in software and equivalent industries – they seem to have decent health insurance from their employers as far as we understand.
Thank you for the suggestion of Northampton. We’ll definitely take a closer look!
We love Smugglers Notch! We have a time share there as well and enjoy using it in the Fall for leaf peeping season and for skiing in the Winter. But, I agree that this wouldn’t be an option for you and your family to move to full time.
We have family on Long Island and my in-laws lived on Staten Island. It was about a 4.5 hr drive and we made the trip regularly when our kids were young. As they got older and needed more of our help, they ended up moving to our town and bought a 55+ condo. We wish they had done this years before. We only got a couple of years with my mother-in-law who passed away last year. But, my father-in-law is still with us, in good health, and sees his grandchildren every week. So I understand the desire to be close to your parents – family is everything.
While the thought of living in VT or western MA is appealing, if I were in your shoes, I would look at living as close to your parents on LI as you can afford. I know you have other siblings, but is putting an in-law addition on your parents home an option? You could probably do that for $100k and it would only increase the value of their home. Long term, you buy the home from your parents/siblings.
I don’t know if you’ve actually made up your mind. Here’s my two cents. Don’t move to the US. The work life balance does not exist from what I’ve seen. Maternity leave is 3 months if you’re lucky and it’s not fully paid, you have to at some point move to disability, your bonus gets pro-rated, you can’t contribute to your 401K. Paternity leave? Rare…and maybe1 month. Healthcare costs are high and you often have to be thinking of how much you are spending, instead of taking care of health. You say you want to move close to family, but it doesn’t seem like you are going to live in the same neighborhood, so what’s the point? Just move into a bigger place in Germany, and have your parents come visit you. Then when the kids get a bit older, send the kids to the US for the summer. The summer is when all the cousins will be available.
I am married. My husband and I are 31/32. We don’t even want to have kids because we realize there is a lack of support. We basically have to make way more money than we do now (and we make a fairly good income in high stressful jobs where we work @ least 50-60 hours a week) to afford childcare, night nurse, etc. I just talked to one of my friends yesterday from work. She’s pregnant with her 2nd baby. She’s an engineer. She feels drained and depressed. It’s a combination of work, lack of support at home, etc. She even has the in laws and parents who live 10-15 minutes away who help out. But that doesn’t make up the difference.
I am open to talk to you about it at any point. How I’m 31, was never really gun ho on kids, and just the lack of maternal support, is pushing me on the no. Even my husband who wanted kids is on the same page.
I choose to live in the US because I was raised here, and moving will require a lot. But I do recognize the downsides.
I never submit comments here as I don’t have family or young children.
That said, please don’t sacrifice an idyllic lifestyle for moving to the US until the political situation settles considerably. Should the GOP take control of the country their agenda will make living here unimaginably difficult. Other readers have covered much of the negative economic issues, there’s possibility for this to get much worse.
As an older adult in the US I would absolutely advise my adult children and their families living in Europe, to NOT move to the states. Until many things change here, the US seems to be on a downhill slide in most social and economic areas. Unless you are independently wealthy life here is getting more challenging, not less.
Someone rightfully pointed out that it’s unlikely that Jane’s parents, as older adults, would be allowed to move to Germany. They could visit for 90 days and then have to leave he country. So one or two visits should satisfy much of that need.
Wishing you all well. Have read Frugalwoods since their Boston years and loved watching their lives evolve. What a service Liz provides with this blog and her financial advice!
Yup. I know Germany has its own problems, but nothing good is coming for this country politically.
I agree! Stay where you are! And what about Kurt’s parents? I don’t think they would want you so g
Far away! I you have the best climate and safe living conditions where you are and a nurturing milieu to raise children .
I wouldn’t think her parents would be able to move to Germany without citizenship? I assume this is why they would be looking at moving to the U.S. to be closer to them.
I am German, married to an American living in Los Angeles with 2 elementary school age children. Without giving you specific advice, I can share our experience with small children in the US. I gave birth here in L.A. and even with great health insurance giving birth is a very expensive affair in the US. I was able to take 3 UNPAID months off work – a “Luxury”. Then I was back working full time with the standard 2 weeks a year off, pumping milk in the office. My husband was working full time, too. Our children were in daycare from 8:30am to 7pm for 3 years at an employer discounted 17k a year PER child (employer had a childcare center), whilst friends paid 25-30k per child per year, or/and had a full time nanny (even more $!). We also had the “luxury” of fairly standard work hours from 9-6pm, plus commute. On the weekends we barely had time to buy groceries, declutter the house a bit for the cleaning lady and relax. I finally took a break after 3 years. Turns out I didn’t even know my children very well. With some lifestyle changes a la Frugalwoods, I am able to stay with kids whilst my husband works full time. It is a blessing that I can be truly there for my kids now. When I pick up the kids from school, I still see a lot of nannies, and few parents. Kids stay in after school programs and camps whilst parents work ($$$ !) – unless they are teachers . 😉
I wished the system here had some of the flexibility you talk about. We sometimes consider moving back to Germany, but for now like the weather here. I hope this gives you some perspective of what it means to be a parent in the US.
Parental distance: Think about what it means to be 7 driving hours versus an 8 hour flight with some airport commute. Would you truly be getting the family closeness you desire?
When I had my kids, I joined baby groups, including a German Parents group, and even created my own group. That was a great way to meet new friends, mostly mothers that were in the same boat. Mothers and kids are still friends 10 years later. You could start an Expat parents group in Munich, or join one! Zoom group until Covid calms down? Being a parent is a great way to meet new people.
Another great recommendation is the book “Land oder Leben: Wie unser Traum von einer Farm in der amerikanischen Wildnis endete” by Claudia Heuermann. She moved from Munich to the Catskills in pursuit of country life with her small children and wrote a book about it. The bottom line for that book is perhaps that both you and your partner must be into the same dream. Turns out that her husband was not into the rural farm life she wished for. Also, there is a lot of driving in the States.
You are blessed to have two cultures to call your home, and you have wonderful opportunities. Good Luck!
You’re right – we are blessed to have both cultures! Sometimes in the midst of paralysis of choice, it’s easy to forget what a privileged situation Kurt and I find ourselves in.
Thank you for sharing your experiencing with us. It certainly gives us pause to hear these accounts of the realities of raising small children stateside. Kudos to you for being so proactive about finding parent friends! I’m afraid that our own introversion sometimes inhibits our ability to make progress on this front as well, but I’m hoping once Oskar starts at daycare, for example, that we might naturally meet more young parents.
Regarding the parental distance, I think I might have incompletely described our search radius. We’re most interested in the corridor between Long Island and northern Vermont, where northern Vermont would be the seven-hour distance; however, my parents ‘ vacation property is at this seven-hour radius, so finding a place to live near there would be mean that we would see them often when they spend time in Vermont which is, in fact, a significant portion of where they spend their year and likely even more if they were not to come to Germany twice a year.
Thanks a lot for the book recommendation! It sounds like it would be a great read for us.
By the way, is there anything besides the weather which is holding you back from more seriously considering moving to Germany? I’m only asking because I wonder, should we move to the States, if there are other variables which might hinder our ability to move back.
Best to you and your family!
I wanted to jump in on the point of making friends as a parent. I am Canadian and live in France with my French husband. I found it very difficult making any friends before we had our little one. But kids are truly a great way to make friends! All you need is to find one parent or couple that you click with (it goes without saying that the little ones have to get along too!) and your feeling of community will really come on its own – those parent friends will help you connect with one or two others that are on the same page, and if you’re a bit introverted like me, that’s all you need! It has changed my experience of living here to have one parent-couple that lives nearby and that we can count on and see all the time. We stop by each other’s houses after daycare for short hangouts, go on weekend outings together, and provide backup to the other family if there’s a hiccup. I truly think that you’ll see more openings for the community you need once Oskar is in daycare and becomes old enough to interact with other kids at the park (you’ll talk to parents at the park too, inevitably one kid will do something to the other and you’ll have to intervene/apologise 🤣). I also felt so isolated with no family support during the start of the pandemic, but maybe hold off on making a decision until you see if your parents can come more regularly now that travel is easier again. My parents have started coming every 2 months pretty much and that’s been fantastic. But, on the other hand, you never really know until you try! Sometimes you just need to have the lived experience in order to know if it works for you or not. Worst case scenario, you have two challenging or very mixed years in the US trying that out and you move back. You are young, you will have lots of career moves in the future no doubt, so why not try something! Your financial position allows you to do this with relatively limited risk. I’ve lived in five different countries in the last ten years (all pre-baby, however)… and I really needed those experiences to help me understand my priorities and needs. Some of us can’t really figure out what will make us happy in the abstract, we have to launch ourselves into something on the vague guess that it’ll be awesome, and then just change our plans as needed! So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you feel like you just need to give it a try, that’s a good enough reason to try, and there’s nothing wrong with doing a dramatic about-face if it doesn’t suit you in the end (all with the caveat of keeping your family safe and financially stable).
Lived for 16 years in Germany, and though I love the USA and have made a good life here, I would never have left had there not been extenuating circumstances. Please think long and hard about uprooting, especially if you are planning on more children. Healthcare alone is a darned good reason to stay put.!!!
I can’t help but think your quality of life will go down in the US. Housing is in high demand and expensive, healthcare is very expensive especially considering you know the kiddo will need specialists over the next few years (unless you get a great job where it is part of your benefits), childcare is expensive and while your parents will be nearby they probably will not fulfill the role of full-time daycare, work-life balance in the US is challenging especially in tech I think…best of luck with your decisions!
Another downside to moving to the US is that you and your husband are very unlikely to get a long enough vacation to spend a meaningful amount of time in Germany each year. We are trying to maintain a family connection to Europe but can barely manage to get over there every 2-3 years. You also have to factor in the increased costs of travel as your family expands. You can only have a lap baby for so long (and it makes for a very miserable transatlantic flight). Plus you will likely be on the same schedule as everyone else once school starts – traveling in the middle of the summer when prices are highest. We are looking at $7,000 just in plane tickets to get our family of 5 over to Europe to see family this summer. That is cost prohibitive and factors into the reason we go so rarely. I guess if you stay in Germany you will still pay those costs to visit the US, but at least you’ll have more vacation time in which to do it!
The real question here though is not a financial one. The amount of time your children (and you) get to spend with your aging family is priceless. If I was in your shoes, I’d move – to Long Island. I agree with the other commenter who said being within 30 minutes of your family is the most helpful. It will allow your child and future children to spend more time with their grandparents, and will make it so they can actually help you in a pinch, even if the suburban lifestyle is not the ideal for you guys.
I can’t envision a scenario where you guys get everything on your wish list. To me is sounds like the most important item is being close to your parents and that you’ll have to make some sacrifices to do that. Being close to your parents will also make it easier when they get to the point where they need YOUR help. It’s tough being in the ‘sandwich’ generation of caring for young kids and aging parents at the same time, but being close makes it all easier. Good Luck with your decision!
Hi AJ! Thank you for your thoughtful comments. This Case Study has certainly made Kurt and I revisit the idea of relocating to Long Island, something we previously thought to be off the table. I think, in any case, moving to LI is an eventuality as my parents get older. I have to agree with you 100% that spending time with family (that we love dearly) is priceless and that there are likely going to be sacrifices we’ll have to make along the way to make that possible.
I love reading everyone’s reply here!
Here some disadvantages of LA:
Children need to be driven everywhere.
The city is not safe. My children have witnessed a robbery at Best Buy.
The city is full of mentally ill homeless people.
Schools in LA go on occasional lockdown due to threats.
Healthcare is EXTREMELY expensive. We go to Germany for summer (my husband joins for a week, he gets the standard 2 weeks. The other week is for visiting his folks in winter) . Whilst there we had an emergency room visit with x-ray, tetanus and bandages and had to pay out of pocket. It was so inexpensive that I don’t even remember the price. It was below $100. US Example: My son needed speech therapy and it’s 150$ a pop. We have to pay 3k per person before Health Insurance pays 80%. It’s a high deductible plan similar to what someone else mentioned in the replies.
LA has a segregated quality. Rich areas are doing very well and buy their way into the “European lifestyle” with high incomes, private security, private clubs, private schools and green, watered environments.
The majority has a tougher time. Incomes have not risen with the price of real estate, healthcare, childcare and college cost.
We are in one of the VERY few great public schools. And yet, without donations the school would not have: a library, a librarian, a PE teacher, a music teacher, an art teacher, a teacher’s assistants (TA). A TA can help kids with some learning / behavioral challenges whilst the teacher teaches. The school does not have a gym. All of those items are standard in Germany, and possibly in other states as well?
Real estate is very expensive.
These issues do not exist everywhere in the US, and we occasionally consider moving out of state OR to Germany. I hear Long Island is one of the safest places in the US?
We are not sure if we would get that type of job in the German market. My husband does not speak German and would need a work visa. My skillset is not as marketable in Germany.
My parents are in rural northern Germany where there are no jobs, so we would still not be close to them.
Many hurdles in the US are financial, and we are doing ok for now.
If you love the hustle culture, you can do very well.
Americans are friendly and have a can do attitude. You can be anything in LA.
We love the weather, the beach, the mountains, the vast open landscapes. We love camping.
Did I mention the vast open landscapes?
We have made friends.
If your kid is into anything unusual – there is a class for it: from specialized robotics to stand up comedy!
We might move later, perhaps retire in Germany as the healthcare system is generally cheaper and better. Life expectancy is higher.
Since I am not working, I am able to go to Germany for a few weeks in summer. We worked hard to get to that place! Summer camps are pricier (it’s LA!) than going to Germany since we can stay with my parents. What I love about Germany is that the children can lead a more independent live. They bike and walk around with their friends without us having to worry. In the US thousands of kids die of gun violence every year. It’s quite sad.
Get German citizenship if you don’t have it already. You can apply for dual citizenship. That way you could easily move back to Germany after coming to the States, and enjoy the benefits.
Overcome any shyness and anxiety and create community. I am introvert myself and have to give myself a nudge! It’s really cool once you know just a handful (one even!) of likeminded people.
Kids learn languages super fast in the early years. They will learn German if you stay longer!
My kids resist speaking German as English is such a default, even when we travel back.
My question to you. How safe is Munich? Some of the issues I mention are also purely human, or urban? Do you bike and walk a lot? How are the schools?
Thank you for creating this forum Mrs. Frugalwoods, and thank you Jane for asking these questions.
I agree with most who say stay where you are! What about Kurt’s parents? You have the best conditions where you are. You would be very unhappy with the traffic here! You gave the best climate and conditions to raise a family where you are! Stay and grow!
A lot of people have already mentioned this, but the increased cost of medical care should absolutely be taken into account in a potential budget. Not just for Oskar – although I urge you to Google the cost of cleft palate surgery in the US, even with good health insurance – but also the cost of premiums, copays, deductibles, dental care, vision care… And most of all, the mental cost – the pain and anxiety of trying to understand and advocate for yourself and your loved ones in an impossible to understand and horrifically broken medical system.
Jane mentions $56 perm month – doe a family of three – as ‘high’ for medical expense. That’s what – $600 a year? Especially if Kurt does not work in the US, that could easily be the cost of one month of premiums for a family of three in the US. And there would still be countless expenses on top of that – co pays, deductibles, things just not covered (dental expenses are almost never covered by health insurance in the United States, and dental insurance is worse than regular health insurance).
Thanks for chiming in and bringing up some important points regarding the medical costs. I’d definitely like to dig in deeper to see what the costs might have looked like for Oskar’s healthcare had we lived in the US during this time. Thanks for that idea!
I just want to add one point to the medical costs in our budget. For what it’s worth, Kurt and I (when I was not on maternity leave) do pay for healthcare via our taxes – about $850 a month (the amount is based on our salary) and our employers make a matching contribution. I’m not arguing against the system here – indeed I’m 100% in favor of this system than the American one for innumerable reasons – but I’m not sure it’s accurate for us to necessarily use the $56 stat when comparing to the monthly cost we might incur in the States. What do you think? I’m admittedly a greenhorn regarding all the intricacies of American healthcare (when my mom mentions things like tertiary insurance it makes me break out in a sweat), but I just wanted to share this thought!
Perhaps you can connect with parents of other kids in CLP groups who live in other locations (Germany vs. the US) and ask them if they would feel comfortable disclosing ballpark estimates of the amount they spent on care (including premiums, since those can often drive what is covered), then you can compare it to taxes + out of pocket expenses that you have paid.
I wish you the best of luck – you are between a rock and a hard place!
I too agree that paid parental leave stinks in the US (as well as the hypocrisy of the politicians who are against it). BUT.. my employer just increased paid parental leave. Nine weeks of paid disability leave for birth parent then an additional 10 weeks that can be used within the first 12 months of birth/adoption. Paternal leave is also a benefit.
Another BUT for my company – a remote worker for an US employee has to be done from the US. I know they have some policy to allow short term work from outside the US (might only be available to those at a certain salary grade). So make sure telecommuting from outside the US is an option. Listen carefully to what you’re told and if possible, get it in writing (though with the current SCOTUS, I’d still be leery of a written policy of being enforceable).
Better parental leave is being used to retain workers but the Titanic will turn at a snail’s pace in the US. Some companies have adjusted salaries for remote workers who now telecommute from lower COL areas (aka not paying CA wages when you now live in WV).
While I had my kids back in the 80s, I got paid time off (six weeks) because I was a salaried employee. Hourly workers did not get that benefit. And yes during the summer, we paid more per month for child care than our mortgage. You can use pre-tax dollars (up to $5K which has been that amount since the 80s ugh).
Time spent with your parents won’t be clearly in Oskar’s memory for another couple of years. Hopefully, the restrictions on Covid will have faded away and the US political tensions have stabilized. Perhaps another approach is to set up a three- or four- year plan to meet your goals then?
Agree x1000 with everyone who is advising you not to have your kids in the U.S. At least wait until you’re done giving birth and have maternity leave. Also, it is currently $30k/year to have daycare in NYC, give or take. I’m sure it’s cheaper elsewhere, but it’s still not cheap.
Unless you will be living close (under half hour) I don’t see the point of moving to be closer. 7 hours away will not be much help especially as your parents age. You can’t really even visit for a weekend that far away. It will be expensive to live there. I definitely wouldn’t consider it until Oskar has all of his medical procedures done.
I’m not from the US, but I am a physician. I would advise having a look at cleft palate parent groups online and check out the reality of the care available in the US. Here in Ireland, a child would get all doctor visits (GP and surgeon) free, all surgeries for free, any OT/SLT/dietician visits free, health nurse visits free and heavily subsidised (or free) medications, nutritional supplements and feeding aids. There is a care co-ordinator attached to the children’s hospital who would help you navigate the system. I assume the system is similar (or better) in Germany. I can only imagine the hell that parents in the US go through to try to get care for their children, even with stellar insurance. Is all this something that your husband would be willing to take on?
I also agree with Margaret re: childcare – I would actually contact daycares in the areas you are considering to get a quote and ask how they would manage a child with additional needs.
Personally (apologies to US readers) I would never consider moving to the US, despite the fact that my husband and I would each earn 500k+ per year as opposed to 150k, because of 1) the work culture and 2) the profit-first healthcare system.
Ah, now. Personally, I find there are drawbacks to the Irish work culture and healthcare system (I’m here since 1999.) But I do appreciate that my children have never had to do lockdown drills in schools.
Hi there… I have no experience with the overseas bit. But I do have experience raising kids far from grandparents and I will say that a 7 hour drive is almost the same as getting on a plane in terms of casual everyday or every-week interaction. At least that has been our experience. I would never go to all that trouble without putting yourself in very close proximity if that is your true goal. Otherwise it just seems like setting yourself up for more frustration about the distance. One set of my kids’ grandparents who were that distance didn’t come to most of the kids’ school programs or pop in for a birthday dinner or just come by to hang out around the fire pit and that kind of thing because of the drive, so visits were the same as having a dedicated vacation week. The other set of my children’s grandparents was only a two-hour drive away and, especially as they aged and weren’t comfortable driving after dark, it ended their coming to see us. And when the kids were very little, putting them in the car for a four-hour round trip was a hurdle. If you really want to be close to your family and interact with them regularly I would be within an hour’s drive at most, if you DO decide to move to the States.
PS. I wanted to add one other thing. If you have a child who will have special needs as he grows consider that very carefully when moving to a very rural area where you have to drive a long distance for specialist appointments and therapies. Or even find such people. One of our children needed intense PT and OT from birth to age 7. We live in a suburb of a city of about 1M. I am so incredibly grateful we did not pursue our initial dream of moving out to the country because we would not have had access to the people we needed to help our child. Trying to juggle jobs and driving back-and-forth for sometimes two appointments a week would’ve been a nightmare. One thing to think about is you can sometimes carve out a “country in the city” lifestyle. That is what we tried to do and were pretty successful at it. We chose a neighborhood with walking access to a great greenway trail system and woods. We raised chickens for meat and for eggs in our own backyard even though we are inside the city limits. There’s a lot you can do if you are careful and creative and I just would not underestimate the toll it can take to be far from specialists if you have a medical need.
Hi Annie! Thanks sharing your experiences with us. I love this “country in the city” lifestyle idea! I think that’s what we’ve been trying to do in Munich now that I think of it. I wish we had a clearer understanding of which specialists Oskar might need to see in the future. From what we hear from other parents of cleft-affected children, it can really range from zero to a whole lot. I think you’re right that we should be conservative in our planning and prioritize our locational access to these services.
Just a note on the “lacking a sense of community” problem: I don’t think this is specific to Germany, I think it’s part of being an adult. It’s really hard to make new friends as a grown-up. Most people live in the same place they grew up, seeing the same people they went to school with. If you move to a new place as an adult, it’s really hard to break into these existing social circles. You have to basically make your own social circles – e.g. starting your own parents group, etc.
Best of luck! I agree with all the comments regarding the transition from urban to rural life + 7hrs is not really “close enough” to parents to realize many benefits.
You’re totally right, it’s so hard to make friends as an adult. While I’m pretty content with life nowadays and wouldn’t wish to go back to my high school or college years, I do miss the ease of making friends through structured activities like classes, sports programs, and orchestras.
I was fortunate to develop some wonderful friendships with colleagues through my job, but I do understand now that it can be problematic to have friendships tied up with one’s workplace. My maternity leave began 2 months before Oskar was born, and I was surprised at how difficult the social adjustment was for me, not interacting with my colleagues every day. Fortunately, I have been able to maintain a few of these cherished friendships outside of the job.
I do think it is notoriously challenging (not impossible by any means) to make close friends with Germans. My feeling is that Germans are less open to small talk and casual interactions; on the other hand, it’s true in our experience that once you do make close friends, they can be incredible loyal. Our impression is that this is in contrast to typical American openness – even as an introvert, I’m often cheered up when I visit the States by something as small as a quick chat with a stranger while waiting in line. I don’t want to pass judgment on which culture’s prevailing characteristics are cumulatively better in this regard – just wanted to share our experiences.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that not being a native speaker of German also makes developing friendships more difficult at times. My German is decent, but I find speaking in German for long periods of time to be exhausting and often a frustrating experience when I don’t feel like I can adequately express my thoughts. This is something I’d certainly like to work on for myself!
Thanks for your openness in this case study 🙂
I wish you all the best in exploring what’s best for your family.
Yes, Munich housing prices are indeed crazy. I’d say they aren’t a whole lot cheaper in Fünfseenland either.
As far as I can tell from my Munich mommy friends it might be doable to find parent friends…
(Stupid pandemic probably made it harder though 🙁 )
But in general there are so many activities where you can meet other parents be it the Spielplatz (playground), the Sportvereine, activities at Volkshochschule, activities like lauf-mama-lauf (jogging with other moms and the stroller)
Viel Glück & Erfolg!
I think I responded to one of your other comments earlier, so it’s a pleasure to chat again. 🙂 Sigh, it’s true what you say about the Fünfseenland. Plus, the costs for commuting would make it that much more expensive. It seems that housing options are more affordable in the northern suburbs of Munich; however, we’d ideally not want to move further away from the Alps! If you have any suggestions of locations near Munich which fit the bill for us, we’re all ears.
Thank you for the ideas for meeting other parents! I’m looking forward to when Oskar is old enough to enjoy the playground as I’m always interested in doing more outdoor activities with him. I hadn’t heard of lauf-mama-lauf before – thank you for this suggestion!
Liebe Grüße und danke für den Kommentar!
Just want to give a plug for Connecticut! Lots of affordable rural/semi-rural areas, with easy access to bigger towns, plus easy access (a ferry!) to Long Island.
Good G-d, CT is not affordable and getting worse….and for decent special needs pediatric care we have to drive to Boston. The OB/GYNs are at capacity. The school system is overburdened with unfunded mandates from the state. To be close to that ferry you’d not be rural and in Fairfield County your property taxes or housing cost (for instance, energy costs have risen 40% in the last four years) would be insane. Germany has issues too, and I’m a patriotic, conservative American who has worked and traveled extensively (and I ski VT it ME pretty much every weekend!) and I have many expat friends elsewhere…..and I’d still move overseas if a company sponsored it. In a minute. Right now, the US is at an inflection point. Another point here…..the first year of motherhood in isolation and with a special needs baby…wow. This Mum deserves to give herself some grace and perhaps talk about post partum mental health….it’s hard with a fully healthy baby, with a strong tribe around, but we are in unprecedented times. I agree with those that say you might feel just as lonely in New England. It’s difficult to make friends as an adult regardless and you have a lot to manage. My prayers.
Hi MR! Thank you for the suggestion. If you have any areas of Connecticut which might be interesting for us, we’d love to hear about them! It’s true that the easy ferry access to Long Island would make trips home pretty easy!
Chiming with the others about the difficulty of visitation logistics if you lived in the US and want to see both sets of parents for any reasonable amount of time without living within close distance of your parents. Two weeks for vacation per year is eaten up in a snap (we live a plane ride from both sets of parents so, at best, we travel to one set per year). If you want to spend quality time with your folks, unless you are both fully remote and can spend long visits with them while working, I would think that you would need to move within a 20-30 min drive (to actually have help). We lived overseas for a year at the toddler stage and often talk about leaving the US again for a better work-life balance + manageable childcare and health care costs, like most people above are saying. So, to maximize time with either set of parents, I would see you choices as being: 1) Move within a short commute’s drive to their area; 2) Move to your ideal area in the US only with fully remote jobs for both of you and then spend long chunks of time visiting with your parents at either of your homes; 3) Move to a larger space in Munich or elsewhere in Germany and have your parents visit for at least one tourist period each year, and then take a chunk of your vacation to visit them in the US. Personally, reading through your wants and needs list, #3 sounds like it would fit your lifestyle goals best, at least until 1) Oskar’s medical issues are resolved (driving and health care costs really would be ridiculous from most rural areas) and 2) your child-bearing and day care years are over. Even if you both make a much larger salary in the US, you will pay for it in quality time spent with your children and parents, let alone the childcare and health services you are experiencing in Germany. Hoping not to be a super downer or beating a dead horse with the others above but yes, child care and medical expenses are about the worst parts of US living so I would NOT move here during that season of your lives. Kids are adaptable and could always spend a few years going to school here once they all are in elementary school (and even then, they really do get out 3 hours before any normal work day ends and so have to go to aftercare! Argh!). Of course COVID has exacerbated what is commonly an isolating time in a new parent’s life, especially in an expat situation, so it’s good you have at least a couple years to let things settle a bit, both COVID and new-parent-wise. before you make any big decisions. Best of luck and ho9pe your parents can visit you soon!! (Also, we had a 2-br apt and my kids lived in our room in a pak-n-play for at least 1 yr each so as long as the pandemic is not so bad as to keep you in the apartment maybe your parents can still visit and stay with you! It’s tight but doable when you can live a lot of time outdoors).
Both are reputable cleft palate organizations with different missions. I took a graduate course on cleft palate as part of my MS in speech-language pathology.
Hi Julie! Thank you for sharing the links to these organizations!
Also, even if you get decent vacation in the U.S., it might not be *really* available to you. Sometimes your stated benefits and your company culture are at odds and it’s frowned up to take more than a week at a time. Something to think about.
Good luck to you Jane and Kurt! You will make the best decision for you family. You can have a great life in the US, despite having to pay for healthcare and childcare. People in Germany pay for these things, just in a different way! (I know you know that, but some people seem to forget this!)
Can we all recognize that nothing is really free….. “free” childcare and “free” healthcare at the end of the day are paid by the people who live in society. Someone has to pay the doctors/nurses/childcare workers. Yes, you would have to independently pay for your own healthcare and childcare in the US, but you and your employer wouldn’t be subsidizing these things up-front through your taxes and lower wages as you do now. Both ways work. They are just different.
Also, being able to invest and make money in the US stock market can be a fantastic source of income. Most of our increase in net worth comes from our investments now. We saved for our children’s education through a 529 plan and the gains far outweigh our initial investments.
I just didn’t want all the comments to be so anti-American. You can have a wonderful life in either country! (side note: My husband’s company, Siemens, is a German company with a huge presence in the US…..might be a way to make the most of your dual language life)
“Free” healthcare and childcare of course isn’t actually free, but it’s kind of an equal cost sharing across society, which reduces the burden on the individual. In the US, a cancer diagnosis or a car accident can bankrupt you because we are all individually responsible for the costs and insurance plan coverage varies wildly or there are loopholes with out of network providers or certain procedures the insurance company decides not to cover.
I know for our family it was a huge relief to the budget when my kids graduated from expensive preschool to “free” public school.
And you are right, Jane can have a good life in either country, but the specific things she says she likes about her current lifestyle in terms of work life balance and support for parents are not the same in the US.
Healthcare in Europe is not free. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Taxes in the USA are not paltry either. I am in the 40% tax bracket, which I gladly pay , but am still not eligible for subsidized day care, healthcare or subsidized college tuition for my kids. In Europe no matter your tax bracket, everyone is eligible for social and health services. I would not move back from Europe if I were the interviewee.
I have to respectfully disagree. I do agree that free childcare and healthcare certainly aren’t free everywhere, but they’re also not precarious in the same way in Europe. It’s not really a question of “do I pay for these services upfront with a higher tax bill or do I pay for these services in conjunction with my employer out of a (possibly) higher salary”? If it were just how you were paying for it, I agree it would be a wash. But because your healthcare is tied to a job, you’re in deep, deep trouble if you lose your job and something happens to you. And there just isn’t an equivalent to paid parental leave in nearly any U.S. job. I work in a *woman’s college* – if ever there’s an institution that should be generous with maternity leave! – and I get 3 months at 60% salary and that’s just because it’s mandated in my state. Sounds like Jane is getting a year and a half. If I wanted that much time with a newborn, I would have to quit.
And it really doesn’t work to pay $30k in childcare if you’re making minimum wage. The system works ok for rich people, but it’s not much help for people on the margins.
Important to remember the change over the last 30-40 years, too, if I’m reading right that Betsy has already had kids go through college. Both my husband and I had parents who worked in blue collar union jobs (men) or teacher/office jobs (women) – so nothing very high powered or high earning. Yet families had two cars, small but relatively affordable houses, local vacations, etc. it’s hard for even our parents to understand how much things are harder financially now, even though we both have advanced degrees that we didn’t take on much debt for the basics are expensive in a way that sometimes feels insurmountable.
Healthcare in Europe is not free. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Taxes in the USA are not paltry either. I am in the 40% tax bracket, which I gladly pay , but am still not eligible for subsidized day care, healthcare or subsidized college tuition for my kids. In Europe no matter your tax bracket, everyone is eligible for social and health services. I would not move back from Europe if I were the interviewee.
Yes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I appreciate your comment.
Also, we have the freedom to educate our children as we choose in America. I believe homeschooling is still illegal in Germany.
Yes, that is correct.
Homeschooling is not an option.
But you can chose a school that best meets your (child’s) needs – e.g. you can opt for a Waldorf-Schule if you think that educational approach works better for you/them. You can opt for bilingual schools – in Munich there’d be english-german, french-German, Italian-German and maybe more. You can opt for highschools with more of a STEM profile or a language profile or a general knowledge profile. You can opt on for an highschool equivalent with more of a business profile, a dietician profile etc.
And the Schulpflicht (school mandate) is also somewhat restrictive regarding days off. So while Bavarian school children at regular schools (might be different at the bilingual schools) get fall vacation (1 week), Christmas vacation (around 2 weeks), Carnival vacation (1 week), Easter vacation (2 weeks), pentecost vacation (2,5 weeks) and summer vacation (6,5 weeks), taking days off at a random time is not really an option.
I’m going to add my voice to the many here saying that it sounds like you should stay in Germany. Your life sounds lovely there. Even though moving to a larger apartment or house in Germany will cost more than your current rent, I think that increase will be less than your cost of living increase in the US. In the US, you are going to work longer hours with less vacation time, you will get 3-4 months of maternity leave if you are lucky and your childcare and healthcare costs are going to skyrocket. If you have 6 weeks of vacation, you could spend a good chunk of time each year in the US. Also, you will likely make friends once your son starts daycare/ preschool, a lot of my friends now are parents of my kids’ friends. I wonder if you could research parents groups in your area that you could attend with your son while you are on maternity leave. I had one baby in the US and on in the UK and both areas had free groups you could join that met weekly. Or something like baby music classes or mom/ baby yoga that would be an opportunity for you to meet other parents. Not sure if these things are stopped completely because of the pandemic in Germany, I think where I am most activities are back up and running.
I am also American and met my non-American husband while I was living in the UK. We decided to move to the US shortly after our first child was born when he got a job offer. I don’t necessarily regret it, we enjoy our life here (kids are now school age, my mom moved to the next town over from us). But if we could go back and make the decision again, we might decide to stay in the UK. The vacation time, parental leave and healthcare is so much better there. Healthcare is such a pain point for us even though we are healthy and don’t have major medical needs (knock on wood). We’ve talked about starting a business and one thing that keeps us in corporate jobs is the fear of unaffordable health insurance. Also, my husband is changing jobs this month and the new job offers a different HMO, so we need to find all new doctors/ pediatricians because they are not part of the new insurance network. And to top it off, we pay MORE in taxes here as a percent of income as we did in the UK. We are in California so hefty state taxes on top of federal. And then healthcare costs on top of taxes. And the attitude of a lot of Americans about universal health care is that they don’t want their taxes to pay for other people’s health care. There’s just a very every man for himself attitude here that drives me crazy 🙁
I think I saw it mentioned in one other comment, but another consideration is vacation time if you’re switching positions. My company is headquartered in Germany, but has different policies re : PTO for US employees. It’s based on our years of service within the company. I currently have 23 days PTO (which includes any sick time I may need) + the ability to BUY one additional week (5 days) of vacation. I also receive 9 paid holidays. After I reach 10 years of service within the company I’ll get an extra 5 days.
I was recently scoping out other jobs, and found that so many companies that highlight a “generous vacation package” are offering approximately FIFTEEN days!!! For the whole year! Quite honestly, many of those might be taken up in childcare if you end up with a child not able to go to daycare due to illness…or in this current world, we’ve seen my niece’s daycare close for 2+ weeks at a time due to a positive case within the daycare. Her parents are still forced to pay full price to “keep their spot” + figure out alternate child care for that two week time frame.
So much to consider, wishing you all good luck as you make the best choice for your family!!!
I’m an American who has been living and raising a family in Europe for over 20 years and I revisit this issue even now. I am lucky that my parents are still living. But I know my time with them is running out, and it’s getting harder to leave them at the end of my visits. While the kids were growing up, I was able to bring them to spend summers in the States. I worried summers wouldn’t be enough for my kids to remember their relatives from one summer to the next, let alone to form strong relationships with them. I was wrong. They are really connected. I absolutely hate flying, and I don’t feel great about the ecological impact, and it’s mighty expensive (flights, insurance), but I do it. So, I guess the question I’m asking you is the same one I still ask myself: are summers enough? My older children were in school for a few years in the States before we moved- life gets so busy that even when you’re living twenty minutes from family, it’s not easy to get quality family time in. Wherever you live, you will soon develop a local “village” for your children through school and activities. Right now, the early years are very demanding of your energy and attention, and you are longing for respite. See if there are some other young families in your community you can meet. You have time to think this over and see how your child, parenting, and work (especially after your studies) changes in the next few years. You probably can’t have everything, and that’s hard. Comparing countries can make you crazy- when you love both countries warts and all, but see all the warts. The bureaucratic challenges too. (For example, I’m currently not able to bring my work to the States because of EU GDPR / Datenschutz Grundverordnung issues). Really do your homework. Good luck.
Hi Cara! Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I’ll just echo what I said before that it’s nice for me to hear from people with similar experiences of living with children abroad and away from extended family. It’s true what you said about comparing countries making one crazy, and you’re right that no matter where we are, we won’t be able to have everything. I’m encouraged hearing that your children formed strong relationships with your relatives through extended summer visits. I think that wherever we are living, we’d ideally like to do summer vacations in the other country. Best to you and your family!
I’m a dual French-American citizen, grew up in France but spent all my working life in the US (almost 30 years). In that time I’ve seen the country change a lot, not for the better, and echo everyone who advises you to be careful. I”m about to FIRE and will move back to the EU soon afterwards, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I have both passports. I would add just 2 things to what’s been said already: 1) if you absolutely must move, at least consider waiting until 2024 to see who the next president will be. If the GOP takes over, living here will be immeasurably worse; and 2) your parents will not live forever, sadly, so you need to think about what you’ll do if you do move and all of a sudden their health takes a turn for the worse. Will they truly be able to help you with childcare, or just be present in your life etc like you wish? I hate to be such a downer but unfortunately the health of aging relatives is unpredictable.
Living 7 hours from family is not very helpful at all, and small children in particular dislike long car rides. I do love living in Vermont, but please don’t move until Oskar is all set with his cleft palate. The medical bills would be astronomical. Also, if you really want to move, check in early intervention services. States offer different amounts of SLP, feeding therapy, etc, but maybe Germany doesn’t have many speech pathologists. I’d want to research it.
Shannon makes a great point about different states offering different levels of support/subsidies/heathcare. For us in Vermont, a lot is covered and the state offers 10 hours of free preschool per week, but this is uneven from state to state (which makes broad comparisons in the US so tough!). Littlewoods needed speech therapy for awhile and it was FREE because the state automatically covers it for everyone, regardless of income or insurance status.
We are the American parents of two daughters -25 and 28 – who live in Germany, one in Mainz and the other in Berlin. The lifestyle is better in almost every respect. It’s humane rather than transactional.
Our younger daughter is engaged to a seriously wonderful German man. I thank God for him every day. All three are in school – finishing their free science/technical masters degrees.
As with you, we love being with them all and vice versa: hiking, making dinner, playing board games, and generally being together. It’s such a compliment when your kids like being with you! And they want us to move there.
Mrs. Frugalwoods’ points are on the mark. All I can add is to look carefully at your German lifestyle and compare it with truly open eyes to today’s US lifestyle, not to your childhood memories.
I love what you said about it being a compliment when your kids like being with you. As any parents, we have many hopes and dreams for Oskar, but one that is at the forefront is our wish that he too will enjoy spending time with us as he grows older.
Do you have any intention of moving to Germany? Do you think your daughters will stay there in the long run?
Best to you and your family!
Danke, Jane! Both my girls will be staying in Europe. My younger daughter will definitely stay in Southwestern Germany. And yes, we are definitely headed there.
My younger daughter’s boyfriend has a little brother who is ten years younger (15 YO) and the family lives near Frankfurt in Waghausel. Her boyfriend is like a second dad to his bro and they are very close. My older daughter will likely stay in Germany but her decision will be more job-dependent although she is loving life in Berlin.
The BF is finishing a mechanical engineering degree at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and is at the thesis stage. He is a first generation college student. His parents moved to Germany as 18 year olds from Russia. The BF is fluent in Russian, German, and English.
I got to visit in October. I was shocked by all the bicyclists, the bike lanes, diversity, walkers, cleanliness, and so much more! Basically, it was a one week marketing and sales pitch by my younger daughter, her BF, and his family for me and my husband to move there.
Jane, I empathize with how difficult it is to live apart when you’re close. Both our kids circled back to our house a few times post college. American culture frowns on that. However, they were able to save the majority of their paychecks and fund their living expenses while getting their masters. Better yet, we got to live with them as young adults which, except for their love of broiled Brussels sprouts, was great.
We know it won’t be easy and we know that German red tape and administrivia is crazy. We also know that they have it good there. Both have life long friends in France and Sweden. Our older daughter was in the Peace Corps in Albania and has friends who stayed in Europe post-service. Toting it up, they’ve both lived in Western Europe (or the Balkans) for more than three years.
Between us, we have one parent still living and we are close to my sister in law. As for our friends, they are excited to have a place to stay in Germany! We retired early and saved enough to make this unexpected move financially possible. We are doing Duolingo and joined an expats in Germany Facebook group which helps with our questions. Good luck!
Hi KnoxPatch. I am asking this question out of genuine curiosity – but how would you be able to live in Germany but previous comments have mentioned Germany wouldn’t allow Jane’s parents to move over there? I live in South Africa so I have no knowledge on any of this, so I am just interested in how it all works!
It’s likely we will have to split time between Germany and the US or another more amenable country. We are trying to figure out the rules and aren’t experts at all!
I am Irish, living in the U.S. and also lived in continental Europe for a while. While I agree that Germany has way better universal child/mother supports in the early years, it really depends on who you work for. Some of the U.S. tech companies have excellent health and maternity/paternity policies. My eldest child (now an adult) had significant medical needs and we availed of some of the best medical care in the world at very little cost to us, thanks to insurance and with no waiting lists. I live in Massachusetts and the school system provides any services including physical/occupational therapy needed from ages 3 to 22. I never felt anything less than fully supported, though I do acknowledge that we were fortunate and I also did a lot of research into public resources that were available. Health care affordability is very uneven here. Ultimately it will come down to what you really want. Everything can look great on paper but you can make anything work if you want it badly enough. As far as location, western Massachusetts is right on the New York border and the five college area out in Amherst might be something to think about. It’s close enough to New York and also not too far from Vermont. Not everywhere has great broadband, so something to think about. The best of luck in whatever you choose.
And one more thing, sorry. I work at a top engineering university and help place students in top tech jobs. Please make no mistake: this is a field where competition is extreme, everyone and their brother wants to work for the FAANG’s, and once you get that job (IF you get that job) and high income, there is NO work-life balance. That’s fine if you’re single and in your 20’s, but are you sure this will be right for you and your husband? Just my 2 cents.
Your life in Germany sounds so lovely, and I wonder if there’s a bit of pandemic fatigue involved (which is making many of us feel in a rut and eager to change things up). I want to look a bit deeper at the transportation aspect as I’m into urban planning and how the way we travel affects our happiness. In the US, even a four hour drive to your parents could be exhausting for all. It might not sound like it initially, but considering we have so many problems here re: infrastructure, congestion, crashes, and that you guys aren’t keen on driving in the first place, it could turn out to be a huge stressor and a negative influence on one’s health, as it is for many in the U.S. If you’re curious to learn more about this, I recommend the book ‘Happy City’. I did enjoy hearing about how you currently get around by bike, foot & bus.
Best of luck to your family! Thanks for sharing your story and the gorgeous photos.
Hi F! Thanks for writing. I’m sure pandemic fatigue is a factor for us. While we can count our blessings that no one in my family become seriously ill with Covid, it was crushing for me to not to see my parents for one whole year. That’s one difference between being a transatlantic flight away and a car ride – my sister who lives nine hours from my parents was able to see them several times during that year. Thank you for the book recommendation! We do love getting around by foot and bike, and it’s unfortunate that most parts of the US were designed primarily with driving as the main consideration as a mode of transportation.
This case study is so fascinating and there are so many insightful comments. Just chiming in to agree with most of them. I’m a mom of a 4-yo in Massachusetts and I agree with all of those who have pointed out how non-family-friendly the US is. If we had the kind of supports that are available in Europe my spouse and I almost certainly would have had another child, but our marriage has barely survived the one. We have “good” health insurance, meaning my spouse’s employer puts nearly enough money in an HSA each year to pay our high deductible, but we try to just avoid the doctor as much as possible. It cost us $1000 to take our daughter to an ER (pre-pandemic) when her ped said we should go for a high fever, and she received the grand intervention of … Tylenol. We are looking at trying to come up with something like $700k if she wants to attend a private college like I did, never mind the cost of grad school. We go to a no-frills daycare run by an excellent nonprofit that we were extremely lucky to get into, and we pay like half as much as anyone I know, $1200/month for a 4-yo, $1900/month back when she was under 3 and in a room with more adults per kid. And then of course there’s nonexistent vacation time (spouse has “unlimited,” which amounts to maybe 3 weeks a year, and requires sign-off by several people if she takes more than 1 week at a time, I had to fight for 15 days at my old job as a state regulator) and the horrifying political and public health climate, even in a liberal area like where I live.
I’m working toward receiving Italian citizenship for myself and my daughter (via a grandparent/jure sanguinis), and then at least going into 2024 we will know we have the option to get ourselves to another place where there are fewer guns and better access to healthcare.
Love this case study. Such a lovely family! I live in Canada and am a 5-7 hour drive from grandparents. I will say that this really is too far for any type of often visits or any routine help/support. And it’s especially harder for my family to head to the grandparents since driving long distances with young kids can be really challenging. And once kids are older you have more commitments and activities that keep you home. We usually only visit once a year either during Christmas holiday or summer holiday. And they visit us perhaps 3-4 times per year. And this will lessen as they age and the long drive becomes more difficult. I would suggest moving to the same community if you were going to make such a far move. All the best with your decisions!
Wow! I don’t feel I can contribute anything advice wise to the insightful comments above, but I just wanted to give a big virtual hug to all the people currently dealing with shitty health care and parental leave situations. Being a parent/dealing with health issues is tough enough on its own without all those issues hanging overhead.
Hi – I live near Munich and would give the advice to get in touch with American expats – there is a large community in Munich and if Jane feels more comfortable meeting more people again, she should connect easily. As for the housing situation – Munich is THE most expensive city in Germany as far as apartments go – and it is very hard to find a larger apartment affordably. But maybe it is conceivable for Jane and Kurt to move to the surrounding countryside – there are many cities that have good transport links to Munich – either by train or via the Autobahn. One example is Augsburg – the train takes 30 minutes from main station to main station. And rents are considerably cheaper in Augsburg (no – they are not cheap – but much cheaper than in Munich).
Many responses here relate to the cost of living, health care costs, and work-life balance in Germany. A really important point for me would be the education aspect for Oskar. I keep hearing from people who know both school systems how much better even elementary school is in Germany – not to mention secondary school. (I know that the Pisa studies on the quality of schools also consider American schools to be good – unfortunately, the reality is probably often different and it depends a lot on where you live how good the schools are). I would always remember: school is free in Germany, even private schools often cost only a nominal fee (200 – 300 € per year). In the case of vocational training in the dual system (a mixture of school and practical training), the trainee earns money, if the child decides to study, it usually costs nothing (free is not quite correct, there are costs for books, for excursions and of course living costs if the study takes place in a distant city). But often the €50 enrollment fee even includes public transportation.
But the study itself is free of charge – no matter if Bachelor or Master. And if the family has little income, you can apply for a grant to help with the cost of living. You can do a semester abroad and get scholarships through Erasmus.
At a time when American students are finishing their education with a 6-digit debt mountain, this is already an important point to consider as parents.
I don’t know if it’s OK to refer to an American family that moved to Germany with 4 kids last February and lives near Chiemsee – but maybe Jane would like to look up Sara from mymerrymessylife.
I’ll have a look at the costs tomorrow or so – maybe one or two things can be improved.
Lovely to hear from someone living nearby! You’re right about Augsburg being an interesting option. A former colleague of mine lived there and commuted to Munich, and I remember that he even got most (if not all) of his commuting costs reimbursed in his tax refund. We’ve given a bit of thought to Rosenheim thinking that it could be slightly easier to find a larger apartment affordably while giving us more direct access to nature. If we could find jobs that are primarily remote, there are other places in Upper Bavaria that are appealing like Murnau, Bad Tölz/Lenggries, and Miesbach, but we know that these places aren’t cheap.
I agree with what you said – that the quality of schooling is likely much more even and on average better in Germany. I do believe I had the privilege of receiving excellent schooling where I grew up; though I am somewhat biased as my parents were excellent teachers! From an outsider’s perspective, one reservation I have about the German schooling system is the early separation of schoolchildren into the different tracks, i.e. Gymnasium, Hauptschule, and Realschule. I know there is some flexibility in changing tracks, but I’ve heard it can be difficult for late bloomers or children of non-native German speakers. On the other hand, I do appreciate that Germans values the trades, both socially and financially. As for the university level, when comparing notes with Kurt’s education, I think I prefer the American liberal arts college system; of course, I do not think it is worth the cost in most cases and most certainly, in my opinion, not worth incurring large debt. One of the most amazing gifts my parents gave me was making sure I did not graduate from college with debt.
Thank you for letting me know about Sara and her family! I will look her up.
Best to you!
Hello from one half of another multicultural couple, Swedish -Dutch living in the UK. I wanted to touch on how big a change this could be on you both individually and as a couple. Has Kurt ever lived in the US? What if he hates it? What if you don’t like it anymore? Make sure you have backup plans if it turns out wrong. I’d also be careful about making too big changes, going from 20 minutes from city centre of a major European city, to rural us is BIG! Disclaimer: I also love reading about the frugalwoods chickens but know myself well enough to know it’s not a lifestyle for me.
I have 3 kids, and despite me and my husband identifying strongly with our respective home countries, our kids are British. This is something one of you are going to experience depending on what you decide to do. Don’t underestimate how this may make the other half feel.
You bring up some valuable points which Kurt and I should consider more thoroughly. Although Kurt has spent a lot of time in the US, he has never lived there. Of course, it’s totally different when one is in a place for vacation versus living! Perhaps our whole premise was flawed, but we were really hoping to find a way to live in the States (in order to not have an ocean between us and my parents) while maximizing the things that bring us the most joy – time spent outdoors in the forest and mountains and time spent at home with family and friends.
You’re right that it’s a real possibility that the negative aspects might potentially outweigh the gains. One thing we’ve told ourselves is that while Germany will always be there, time spent with my parents will not. I think we’re finding it’s really hard to compare the status quo with the hypothetical. We are definitely taking pause after reading so many comments emphasizing the negative aspects of life in the US, and as per Mrs. Frugalwoods’ wise suggestion, we are taking some time for ourselves to think more creatively again about our options.
Thanks for writing, and my best to you and your family!
I live in New Hampshire and have spent months at a time in Bavaria. I think Germany has a much more wholesome, kinder way of living and that would be my personal focus. In considering New England, I would take New Hampshire off the list and consider Vermont or Maine. Best of luck to you, you live in an incredible area of the world!
Hi Ruth! Thanks for writing. That’s interesting to hear – why would you recommend taking New Hampshire off the list? I did have some hesitation myself about its viability for us, but I’d love to hear your thoughts as a resident.
Regarding being close to family: I’ll share my insights. My husband’s parents live in a small town near us, about 40 minutes away. We see them weekly, usually 2x per week. My husband bowls with his dad in a week ight league, and my boys bowl on a Saturday league. They babysit for us on occasion, a few times per year.
My parents live about 2.5 hours away. We see them about every 1-2 months. Usually they come to us because one of my brothers lives in our city so they visit his family, too. This distance is just barely close enough to drive there and back in one day, say for a party. It only feels “worth it” for a weekend (2-3) day visit.
If Jane and Kurt would like to rely on family for help, I’d say living within an hour of her parents would be ideal. Also, driving / traveling with small children can be exhausting. Kids might be flexible and do ok. Or they might get annoyed being stuck in the car seat, have motion sickness, or scream the whole time. In my experience, ages 4 months to 2 years was the worst. As they got older it was easier to explain where we were going, distract with snacks, and give toys they would enjoy for more than 2 minutes.
Hope this helps! Good luck!
Oh man, the “screaming baby car trips!”–I do not miss those days ;)!!! Very true that it gets better as they get older (toys, books and snacks to the rescue!).
Not that I think you should move to the US when your life in Germany sounds fantastic, but a lot of people are pointing out the massive challenges for dual income parents because of family-unfriendly setups. I agree from what I have seen with my friends. That’s why we have a single (not huge) income and a stay at home parent. It’s not perfect, obviously, we have to be frugal, we only have one car, and we live in a smallish house in one of the last affordable cities in the Northeast. But it does work and we have pretty good work-life balance. Something to consider! Good luck.
I was discussing this with my husband last evening in regards to this study. When we had our first child I resigned from my full time job and kept my PRN job and I stay home with our (now 4) children and homeschool them. We’ve never paid for childcare and we’ve been able to save well for retirement and kids’ college through 529s all on a modest income. We are frugal and generous and quite content.
Given the state of the world in general is dual citizenship an option? With remote jobs move back and forth as you wish.
Hi Liz! Unfortunately, it’s not possible at present to become a German citizen through naturalization and retain other citizenship (although there has been some talk in the current government coalition about changing this). Germany is very reasonable regarding non-EU spouses residing in the EU, so there aren’t too many advantages for me becoming a dual citizen. We think there could, however, be advantages if Kurt would become a naturalized American citizen, but we haven’t considered this yet all too seriously. Fortunately, Oskar has both American and German citizenship!
Wow, lots of negativity towards child-rearing in the US. While I don’t disagree with some points, I think if you have potential for high income (which is much more possible in the US) and find the right place to live and have family support, this isn’t as much an issue. (While it is tragic that things are hard for others, Jane can have an ideal set-up in this respect)
My in-laws live down the street from me and it is heaven. I’d move as close as possible to your parents for the young years and do the rural dream when the kids enter elementary school.
Another option enjoy the best of both world’s (more time with American family, a way around the 90 day limit for Jane’s parents to stay in Germany, and bonding experiences with Oskar’s cousins) would be to rent a large vrbo or Airbnb on Spain’s sunny coast to add a couple extra weeks past the 90 day time limit Jane‘s parents can stay in Germany. Affordable to get to from Munich, a large English-speaking ex-pat community of retirees from England to make the grandparents feel welcome, and great sunny weather. And I find vacation rentals are a lot like boats. If you rent one everyone will chip in and share the cost. If you own it -your relatives (siblings etc) may feel you can cover the cost. A Suggestion for finding more friends with young babies in Munich would be to what you were brave enough to do here. Put the question in a forum and ask where can I meet other young moms/families with babies? You are an amazing young couple and I’m sure anyone would be delighted to meet the two of you and baby Oskar.
Hi Lynn! Thanks for all the kind words and creative ideas! Spain’s sunny coast sounds dreamy in the midst of our dark winter days (and I’m saying that as a winter lover!). 🙂 Is the 90-day limit country specific in the EU? I was always under the impression that the limit was 90 days in the EU during a six-month period, but we’ve never checked so exactly, as my parents haven’t yet stayed that long yet.
My initial though is what if you stayed in Germany for the next few years while you have your children to take advantage of the healthcare/childcare benefits then moved back stateside? You could upgrade apartments so your parents can still come and spend a few months with you per year. It would also give it more time for the housing market here to calm down (I’m from LI as well, living in CT now, both markets are insane), and maybe the political climate would calm down as well in that time (might be wishful thinking on my part.) Maybe save a house fund in that time too so when you move you could potentially buy in cash.
One other thing I wanted to suggest, when you do decide to move back and are looking for a new job, check out The Mom Project. It’s like a linkedin for moms and their job listings are very transparent about salary and flexibility. They feature a lot of companies who allow for part time work as well.
Hi Kirsten! Thank you for the recommendation about The Mom Project; I hadn’t heard of it, but it sounds like an excellent resource. You point out some compelling reasons to delay our move, and we’re certainly taking them into consideration now.
Oh wow, what an interesting reader case study. I’d like to sign up but as a married couple with 3 kids wanting to move out of the US for a year or two if not more. Just to escape the general materialism/workaholism that’s the norm here, and to experience life from a different perspective. We tried planning a trip to Switzerland and Italy for March but with all the Covid restrictions and vaccine passports we thought it best to put it on hold.
I agree with Liz and many other posters, and recommend you try staying in Germany. The US is a much different place than when you left just 5-6 years ago. Living in a rural area here means really being in the middle of nowhere. I think that with excellent train system in Germany you can be rural but still feel very connected to an urban area or several urban areas.
You are paying into a welfare system than will help you pay for your healthcare, childcare, parental leave, retirement… I know the taxes are higher there but it seems you have figured out how to live, work, and still save a good chunk of your income. In the end, you must Listen to your hearts, good luck.
I would stay put. In my nice outer Boston suburb my children have had two school lockdowns because of weapons. One was a false alarm and the other was a random guy with a gun being stupid a quarter mile away. They have had lockdown drills since they were three “the everybody is a super quiet, super still mouse” or “wild animal in the building” game. My town leans Republican but Trump didn’t win, but there is some ugly partisanship going on. There are several neighbors we avoid because because of things like the gadsden flag, giving off “militia” vibes- if l discovered they were at 1/6 l would not be shocked.
Real estate is unaffordable and health care costs are absurd. I have a chronic condition that probably cost $10,000/yr with some of the best insurance available. Otherwise, l would be dead. No joke. Because insurance is tied to employment my husband had to look at their insurance to know if he could accept a new job, if the expenses were going to be higher he had to stay put.
The insurance was fine so he could accept the promotion.
I broke one ankle and badly sprained the other last week. The ambulance is $2000 (l couldn’t stand, let alone walk), the ER copay is $100, the orthopedist $65 (per visit, and there will be at least 4), xrays, multiple casts, crutches, a boot, and now l have a walker. The bills haven’t started rolling in yet. 50/50 l will need surgery and physical therapy. If l need physical therapy it is $20 per session up to 20 sessions. Even without surgery we are probably looking at $5000 out of pocket- if surgery is needed then double that.
Accidents happen, even silly things like tripping over your feet onto a tile floor and breaking yourself. How much would you pay for an accident in Germany?
You have a fantastic work/life balance that would not be easy to replicate. If you are determined to move back, l strongly advise you to wait until after the next election so you have a sense of how things are going. Several of my dual national friends if they haven’t moved yet are seriously thinking of leaving the US.
I haven’t read through anyone else’s comments. However I have 2 friends who are German so I will comment on differences in child support and post-secondary education. The German national is daughter of a woman who worked as a maid to a wealthy family. That family’s daughter and her daughter had the same opportunities to further their education. BUT those opportunities are based on MERIT not on money/connections. So my friend the German went to one of the best universities to study engineering, started her own company and sold it in her forties for $millions. The rich family’s daughter had much less capability and went to some sort of trade school. All paid for by the govt but it is merit that opens the doors not connections. Can you imagine that here? In Germany if you want a certain profession you have access if you make the required grades/test scores; if not you don’t. If you are capable and get your choice you have 1 opportunity only to make a change early on and the government will still pay. The Germans also get a lot of support in retirement. When another friend ended up with colon cancer they retired him at pretty close to full salary even though he was in his 50s. He did not have to work while sick until he was in the grave because you have support cradle to grave.
SO a bigger salary doesn’t go so far if you are paying for a lot of this out of pocket with a non-supportive government policy with no child care and high taxes. Maternity and child care policies in the USA are a joke compared to Europe. All this to say, that I’d stay in Germany until your children are out of college at least. Go ahead and take annual sabbaticals in the US every once in awhile and kids a year abroad, but don’t leave all those benefits behind.
Regarding the parents moving over, that would be feasible if they had a larger place and the parents had a health insurance policy that would cover them abroad with medical evacuation if ultimately they need care in the US. Medicare doesn’t pay foreign health care expenses however certain Medigap policies will pay half of foreign “reasonable and customary”.However your parents will need help acclimating which should include language classes and a strategy to make social connections. There are plenty of expat Facebook groups which will help. PLUS they need a tax advisor who can deal with both German and US taxes. US estate taxes also work very differently when one of the couple is a non-USA national.
A lot of people have chimed in one various aspects of your potential move to the US, but I wanted to jump in and give you some numbers and someone who had a baby last year and moved from a small town to a large city.
Childcare: I paid $1500/mo for center based care in a small town. Now I live outside Boston and I pay $2200/mo for family-based (home) daycare. Centers in my city are $2800-3600/mo for full time care for an infant or toddler. Even if preschool is free, which is uncommon, it is usually not full time so you’ll still have to pay for half the day plus summers. This can make having a second child prohibitively expensive if you don’t have family help and can’t afford for one of you to stay home.
Medical: I worked for a public employer before my recent move and I had amazing health insurance. It only cost $150/mo for myself, my husband, and my child, plus copays of $15-25 for each doctor visit. Now I pay $800/mo for the three of us plus $10 copays if in network and 20% coinsurance if out of network. Since we go to the pediatrician a lot, that’s easily hundreds of dollars a year on top of $9600 in monthly premiums. Also, if you move to a rural area, you will not likely have access to good healthcare – rural hospitals in the US are extremely underfunded. So you will need to be near a larger city for any type of specialized care.
Maternity leave: I was given 6 weeks of paid leave for physical healing after I gave birth. Because I qualified for FMLA (which not everyone does), I could take up to 6 more weeks unpaid for “bonding.” But because there is no required parental leave in the US, this varies. Software companies are often generous, but it depends on the culture. This will be a big part of your job search if you plan to have another kid. You’ll also need to be at your job for at least a year to qualify for FMLA (and your employer must have at least 50 people at your site). Without FMLA, you aren’t entitled to any leave and can be fired for missing work after giving birth.
Sick leave: policies on sick leave very, as does the amount of sick leave you get. It’s not unheard of for employers to give workers less than 2 weeks of sick leave total. Even in more generous jobs, sick leave sometimes cannot be taken to care for a sick child. This can make parenting incredibly stressful, because when you put them in daycare, they usually get sick at least once a month.
Being close to family would be incredibly helpful. My parents and my husband’s parents are a 10-12 hour drive away so we aren’t able to get much support from them. That said, I don’t think you will get a lot of support if you’re 5-7 hours away. My sister in law is 2 hours away and, while we see her monthly, I wouldn’t be able to call on her to come watch my son last minute. I would personally suggest you plan to be no more than 1 hour away if your main goal for being in the US is the be closer to family so they can help you.
I realize this probably sounds like I’m trying to talk you out of leaving, but I’m not necessarily. Tbe northeastern us is beautiful and being near family would be so wonderful. But if you do make this move, make sure you know the costs of parenting in the US ahead of time. And get the info from people who have parented recently – many of these costs have skyrocketed in recent years so people who had kids 6+ years ago likely have outdated info.
The rural hospital thing is so true. My Dad was quite ill and needed particular tests so he was moved from his hometown hospital in mid coast Maine to Boston. Some appointments were in Portland which is two hours one way.. My specialists office has people from all over New England/world- l met one person who drove 12 hours from northern Maine every week for six months.
Childrens Hospital Boston has a similar geographical range. If you are rural and have particular health issues, be prepared to spend a lot of time in the car. That said, we truly do have some of the best medical care in the world if you can afford it.
Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for your detailed response. It is incredibly valuable for us to see these kind of expenses laid out so explicitly. Best to you and your family!
I am American, married to an Irish citizen. We lived in Dublin for 10 years. I really enjoyed living there but after having our first child in Dublin, in 2013, we really missed being near my parents. My parents are great friends to me and my husband. We moved to small town America, 5 min away from my parents in 2015 (green card took 18 months!). We both found good part time jobs, I work 32 hours a week in a hospital and get healthcare coverage through work . My husband works 30 hours. When I had my second child I asked for 6 months off, my work was surprised but said ok. I only got 3 months paid but we were fine. I get 6 weeks off per year, we spend them all in Ireland with family, often taking a month off at a time. We feel we have a great quality of life, we bike our kids to school daily, walk to grocery store, coffee shop, dentist, etc. My parents provide lots of childcare for us including during our work hours and we all eat dinner together 4x week and the 4 of us and my parents hang out lots going hiking, sledding, etc together . Just one perspective, for our circumstances, we personally were so glad we moved and it works for our family. My kids and parents are very attached and present in each other’s lives, I get more time with my siblings, and we’ve still had close ties with our family and friends in Ireland. Just wanted to share and I wish you all the best as I can truly relate to much of what you describe. Well done being so thoughtful!
Hi Eliza! It’s invaluable to hear experiences from other expats in similar circumstances. We’re getting great feedback from this Case Study, so we’re definitely taking it all with us back to the drawing board. I’m happy your move worked out so well for your family! Best to you all!
Your life seems pretty ideal in Munich. Have you asked your parents if they would consider moving to Germany, even just for the next few years? Grandparents are usually a good bribe to make that happen.
Alternatively, I live in Central New York and like it there. It’s a low to medium cost of living. You can get a nice first home here for around $150k. The scenery is great with lakes and mountains close by. Your job would be very easily transferable to a company here. I wonder about Kurt’s job, would he have any connections to the US tv scene from doing that work in Germany? I don’t know much about it, just asking. There is a small movie production company here in Liverpool, NY called American High.
Hi Rachel! Thank you for sharing your experiences of life in Central New York! My mother’s parents grew up in that region, and she has fond memories of visiting all of the gorges in that area on family vacations as a child. That’s a great question about potential US connections through his current employer – we’ll have to look into that. Thanks for sharing the name of the movie production company!
Hi Jane and Kurt. I know this is going to be a slightly different suggestion for you but ….. you mentioned you are a knitter and well, so am I. I don’t know how much you are involved with online knitting communities, knitting bloggers, vloggers, Indie yarn dyers, etc but Molly of A Homespun House (knitting vlogger and yarn dyer) is an American who married a German. I believe she has mostly lived in and around Berlin, anyway she lived in Germany for several years and both of her daughters were born there. Then a few years ago they decided to move back to the US ( Wisconsin maybe) to be nearer to her family. They bought a house and after 2-3 years decided to move back to Germany. I do not know why. Perhaps you could look Molly up and message her to see if she would be willing to talk about their decision to move there, experience in US/tips, and then their reasons for moving back to Germany. I believe they have been back in Germany a year now. On Instagram she is a_homespun_house. Her YouTube channel is the same name as her website, A Homespun House. Best of luck.
Hi KCmama! I’m no so involved with online knitting communities, but this is such cool information – thank you so much for sharing! I’ll definitely check out Molly’s website and see if I can get in touch with her.
Jane! My German software engineer husband is from Munich where we lived together for a few years before moving to USA 5 years ago where we currently live with our two young kids. I’m American. I so appreciate your post and find German retirement/pension system/taxes to be so overwhelming I was so happy to read about your experience, you seem to be well informed i took notes for us to learn from when/if we move back to Germany. I just want to offer our experience. I agree with all the negative points about life in USA but it’s also easy to idealize living abroad, things can look great on paper but still be hard. our perspective has been we can always move back to Germany. It’s a blessing to have the option of living in either countries so we’ve learned to look at life in terms of 3-5 year plans and values. Rent at first to be sure you’re going to stay atleast 5 years. Having a house with young kids has been magical after living in apartment in Germany! We opened 529 just incase our kids decide to go to college in USA but it’s a low priority in terms of our financial planning. It took my husband 6 months to get his first job here, that was shocking and hard mentally while he was adjusting to such a big move. His company now is fabulous, he works remotely. Post pandemic Our goal is to spend summers in Germany but realistically with our jobs and vacation time one month per year will be the max. We are very sad there are no forrest kindergartens for our kids. I’d love to connect feel free to email me email@example.com
Best wishes with whatever you decide. As you know, each potential path has advantages and drawbacks. Living in one location inevitably means less time with the family in the other. So I wanted to add a perspective on bringing up kids with parents from different continents. In our case, I am English and my wife is Australian. We lived in England, bringing up our family – and having an amazing time in a town/village lifestyle outside London, and able to enjoy the UK and Europe – for 17.5 years, before relocating to Australia for our children to finish school and go to university. My wife did not work again after our first child was born and took both kids on long trips to see family in Australia. Also, we paid for my wife’s mother to visit us for three months every five years or so. Our children have a very close relationship with Australian family and consider themselves Australian (although sound English 😂). In any case, what made it work as best as it could was one parent not working and therefore having the holiday time to make the trips (and they were “visits” rather than “holidays” I am firmly told!).
We moved to Australia after reaching FI, which took all the pressure off finding a job in a new country, etc.
Good luck & best wishes. As someone has already said, the choices can sometimes seem overwhelming, but, really, having choices is an enormous luxury so enjoy having them. And nothing is really unchangeable. If a move does not work out, then make another change 😁
Hi Ian! Thank you for sharing your lovely story! All these multi-cultural/expat family stories are so varied, but it’s amazing how much of a common thread can be found between them. Congratulations on reaching FI and thanks for the encouraging words.
Hi Laurie! I’d so love to connect!! Thanks for the tip about looking at life in terms of 3-5 year plans and values; sometimes, I feel so caught up in long-term planning that I just get so overwhelmed. I’ll send you an email soon. 🙂
Hi Jane -I am German – I apologize if I am sometimes a bit quick to the point – we are, after all, known for not beating around the bush. I’m looking again a bit more closely at some aspects of your case study. As for the further treatment of Oskar I am sure – in Munich you have access to the best doctors in Germany, specialists, if you have doubts about a treatment you can always get a second opinion from another doctor. The health insurance will pay for that too. If it is not yet the case – ask in the hospital if there is a regional support group.
Housing situation: it depends on where in Munich your jobs are located, if you have to go to the office more often again and cannot work from home. But there are good connections to Munich from every direction – so you can extend your search for a larger apartment in a rural area. Unfortunately, my experience is: What you save on rent, you spend on transportation costs. And then there is the time for the trip – I guess with a small child you would rather spend it with the child instead of sitting in the bus, train or car.
You should also keep in mind that Oskar’s treatment is long and takes a lot of time – and you will spend many appointments at the hospital, at the doctor’s and later at the speech therapist and maybe at the psychologist. In Munich you have easy access to all treatment options. The more rural you live, the farther it is to get to these specialists. Not everyone will be available in the village.
But at least you know in Germany: All treatments for your child are covered by insurance, there are no big co-payments for all necessary things.
Jane – have you already been advised to apply for a “mother-child-cure”? Do you know the concept? It’s for parents who are under a lot of stress, the health insurance pays for the trip, all treatments (mostly it’s “how do I learn to deal with stress”, psychological help, etc.). You get to know other parents. A mother/father-child measure is an inpatient medical treatment for mothers and fathers who have health problems or are at risk because of their family situation. It is aimed primarily at health disorders typical of parenting, such as stress-related exhaustion. The treatments during the cure take into account the needs of mothers and fathers resulting from their individual stress situation. These include, for example, psychological stress, separation situations or problems in raising and caring for chronically ill children or children in need of care. The mother/father/child measure is prescribed by the family doctor. It usually lasts three weeks. You do not have to submit a leave of absence to your employer. The approval is valid like a certificate of incapacity for work. It is paid for by the health insurance fund. (10 euros co-payment for the mother per day).
I think you will not be able to save much on your monthly costs (we are not talking about Kurt’s account fees of $11), you also have to see first what costs for Oskar will really be in the future, what you have to buy new, what you might be able to get cheap at the kindergarten flea market. Also check out Vinted (if you don’t know it: a kind of Ebay, but mainly for children’s clothes and equipment).
For the future I would check if you feel safe to do with Oskar something like baby swimming, PEKIP (this is very well known in Germany: The Prague Parent-Child Program (PEKiP) is a concept for group work with parents and their children in the first year of life, which is intended to support the process of coming together in the context of a toddler group and aims at early development of the babies as well as an exchange of experiences between the parents. ) to undertake. Here, too – in a city like Munich, there are an incredible number of (also inexpensive) offers for young parents.
Hi again Wendy! 🙂
You bring up a lot of great points regarding the ease of access to specialists in Munich. From talking with other parents of cleft-affected children, it sounds like there can be a wide range of medical needs after the cleft surgery (at 9-10 months age), from basically nothing to quite a lot, so we definitely don’t have a clear picture about this at this time.
Thank you for the information about the cures. I have heard of this treatment before, but I hadn’t actually considered it seriously, though perhaps I should have. The first few months of Oskar’s life were certainly difficult especially given his feeding challenges plus (for me) the mental and physical exhaustion of exclusively pumping. Fortunately, in the past couple months, we’ve found things to be easier and more relaxed. Sleep training was a godsend to our mental health. Also one of the books Mrs. Frugalwoods recommended, “Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect”, helped me a lot with being okay about not needing to personally entertain Oskar every minute of the day! All that is to say that for now, I think we are in a pretty good place. The weeks following his surgery sound like they may be difficult though, so it’s valuable for us to keep the cure option in mind for the future.
Thank you for the Vinted recommendation. It’s the second or third time I’ve heard about it now, so I really should check it out. I had never heard of PEKIP before, but it sounds super interesting! I will need to look into this as well.
Danke und liebe Grüße!
And hi again, I did some research , there are more than 70 groups for PEKIP in Munich, some of them offer english courses. Maybe these group of midwifes is within a reasonable distance of your home?
This website could be helpful to find a program you may enjoy
Hi Wendy! Thanks for the links. I actually did my childbirth prep classes at Häberlstrasse 17! I’ve been trying to get into their FenKid classes, but the demand is high and the capacity is low, unfortunately. Kidsgo is new to me, so I will check it out. 🙂
You would be crazy to move to anywhere in the US! Looking at the lifestyle there and the political instability why on earth would you leave the EU?
As someone who did live in another country for 13 years without any kind of family close by, I totally understand the need for a family network. I did eventually settle back into my country of origin ( Denmark ) after 13 years in the UK. I would like to stress however that it might not be easy to move country, certainly not for the person emigrating (Kurt) but not for Jane either. Jane has not been a ‘proper’ grown up in the US, as I had not been in Denmark, as I moved right after high school at age 19, and it may seem insignificant but the thing is you get used to the way of living, the systems that everything operate by, in the country that you get to be an adult in. I found it difficult for a least 2 years to get to grip with all the new things that I had to get my head around, to do with the job market, my sons schooling, the housing market, the tax system and even just the logistics of getting a bank account.
The reason I did it though was because as a single Mum in the UK, I realized that the way I brought him up ie the Danish way, did in no way correspond to the way the society expected him to behave. Plus I realized that it would be good for him to live close to all his relatives in Denmark. Again it has worked out well, but it was not easy for him either, having to navigate a new language, school system etc. You might ask why I didn’t bring him up speaking Danish ( he was 8 when we moved to Denmark) but I didn’t want him to have 2 half languages, meaning that if he only heard Danish from me and English at school, then neither would be very good. That’s based on the experience of a number of my Asian friends who had struggled with English as it was new to them when they first went to school , so when they had their own children they spoke English from the start.
In Jane and Kurt’s case, the idea of moving back and forth, I would just say that its not that easy to swap between school systems, so it’s worth thinking about. Then there is the thought of not living close to the family…. again I have a hard time understand why you would move back to the States and then not being right next to your family, unless you explore the idea of a family homestead where Janes parents also would move to ???
There is the job situation for Kurt, it might not be easy to get a job within the field that he enjoys and as I have seen and experienced in the states, the work life balance being, well not in balance – it might be great for Jane to get a high flyer job but she might not see as much of the family as she really wants ? Plus you also need to consider the fact that Kurt might feel lonely, being out of his normal environment.
What about health care ? Will Oskar need frequent surgery ? That would be expensive in the States.
This is just my thoughts based on my own experience, first of moving to another country and then 13 years later moving back again. Perhaps you can try it for a period of time and then if it doesn’t work out, take the move back again ?
I promised my son back then that we would try it for 2 years, if we didn’t like it we would move back to the UK. So I didn’t sell my house straight away only when we were confident that we wouldn’t go back, did I sell. Perhaps you can sublet out your apartment in Munich ?
Lastly I applaud you for being so financially sound, it is a great position to be in. You are managing your financial situation, it’s not the other way around.
Thank you for sharing your experiences of returning to your home country after life abroad. When you say, “I realized that the way I brought him up ie the Danish way, did in no way correspond to the way the society expected him to behave,” I’m so curious about this! Do you have any examples? I’m wondering if it’s at all similar to German-style parenting which is more on the “free-range” side of the spectrum. I do appreciate this in Germany.
I think you’re probably right that we aren’t yet fully aware of the challenges of switching between the two school systems.
As for not living right next to my family, I think I didn’t clearly write this in my Case Study. My parents spend a significant portion of their year in Vermont at their vacation property, and they would likely spend more time there were they not visiting us in Germany. For us, Vermont seems like a place we could imagine ourselves really enjoying living in (rather than on Long Island) which would also afford closer access to my parents.
That’s a great idea you had about having a timeline for making the decision, and I think it’s wonderful you involved your son so much in the decision too!
Best to you and your family!
As regards to the parenting style of the UK compared to Denmark, well in Denmark we expect children to be independent much earlier than in the UK, so we give little by little decision making over everyday situations to the child. We also expect children to express opinions, which was the big deal breaker in the UK – my son is very intelligent and picks up knowledge and skills very easily, so at age 4 he was quick to master various tasks at school (plus 4 unit its called) when he then enquired if he could get more interesting work to do, he was told that he should just sit and be quiet as not everyone was as fast as he was. The result was that he was bored and started making trouble, when the easy solution would have been to give him extra work. The same situation came up in Denmark, but he was quickly given an interesting book to read ( read Lord of the Rings at age 8) and I was approached if I had English books that he could take to school with him and read, when he had finished ahead of the others. The school system in the UK was also very rigid in the sense that taking an initiative was not appreciated, he often wanted to explore subjects outside the curriculum even when quite young, which the school did not seem to like, fx if he handed in more pages than the specified amount, then that was considered bad. We even tried to move school, but the system seemed the same everywhere. There also seemed to be huge difference in the way school prepared the children to real life, in the UK it was very much the case of handing in written work and no emphasis on any oral work or presentations, in Denmark there is a lot of group work and oral presentations, which seems to be more self confidence building and a skill you can use later on in your work life.
Having worked for a number of US based companies, I also see the difference in the way we work. In the US, the management style is much more that you are given orders and you then execute them. So when an error occurs, a lot of time is spent finding out who did it whereas in Danish companies the emphasis is on fixing the problem and putting in routines that will catch the error in the future. In Danish companies you are expected to work quite independently and we only approach managers when we want to discuss an issue with them to find the best solution. Most Danish companies are with very few layers of management between the top and the bottom of the company, And the pay structure is a lot more equal as well, at least in comparison to the US.
On the subject of Vermont, it does seem to be a lovely place, I have relatives there ( my grandmothers sisters emigrated in 1909/1912) and perhaps your mum and dad would relocate there if you were there ?
Good luck with your decision and remember you will always be missing places and people, which ever decision you make – but you learn to live with it.
We live not far from The Frugalwoods family, but on the NH side of the river, near Dartmouth College. It’s a great area to live but I don’t think I would recommend it to Jane and Kurt over their situation in Germany. There is very little housing stock, very few daycare openings (and very expensive!) and driving is a required part of daily life, often in poor conditions.
My parents also live in the NY-metro area and it’s a solid 5 hour trip, usually longer with traffic and child bathroom needs. I would say it feels like they are far away (of course closer than US to Germany), not nearby and we aren’t able to see them that often.
Positives are excellent medical care and hospital (although not inexpensive), natural beauty, good rental market for owners who want to rent out their homes, cultural benefits from the College, friendly and interesting people, and job opportunities. I am a public school teacher, it can be a process to get certified if that is something that Kurt wants to do. Private school would also be something to investigate. There are many jobs at the college as well, and perhaps he could use his language skills.
Hi Ann! Thank you so much for providing me a glimpse of life in your area! It’s valuable for us to hear the information about the housing market and daycare situation. The area around Dartmouth was indeed one we have been thinking about primarily because of the hospital – they have a craniofacial center which would give us access to the specialists Oskar would potentially need to see.
They do have an excellent program for babies/children with clefts at DHMC. That would certainly be a benefit to living in this area. And perhaps the housing market will calm down.
And we do love living here. It is great for our family for the most part.
I really appreciate this case study as a German married to an American, we’re now living in California. I agree with the few people who commented that it’s not as easy of a decision as it might seem at first. With Jane’s earning potential, they can compensate for most/if not more of the German safety net they would leave behind.
I would recommend 2 things:
Go live somewhere within 1h radius of Jane’s parents for at least 2 months. Not at their parents’ house, but in a rental in an area that fits their other criteria of walkability/nature/community. Take it as a trial run even if it’s not the exact area you would move to.
Afterwards, compare the real-life numbers of US income & benefits package (Jane likely as sole breadwinner at least for a while) and expenses, maybe get your siblings to share their expenses or post in a local FI group. But financial reasons are not always the priority.
If we could take our combined income here in CA while living in Germany, we’d be living like millionaires. But it’s not worth it at this point, we’re happy here. If you’d be happier living close to your family, try it out! I would not recommend moving to a random town where you don’t have a social network, neither in Germany nor US. That would defeat the whole purpose.
Keep us updated!
Hi Heike! Thanks for your recommendations! I like your idea about a two-month trial run at a rental place; I think it has been hard to get a very accurate picture of what life would be like living there when we are limited to staying at my parents’ house, so it might give us a better idea to be at different location for some time.
I haven’t read all the comments so this is probably just going to duplicate what others have said. Two things jump out at me
1 definitely wait until all of oskars medical issues are resolved before moving to America. Having a sick child in America is very expensive I believe.
2 it doesn’t make sense to me to move to America to be closer to your parents but then live hours drive away. It would mean seeing them more often, true, but you still wouldn’t see them every week or probably even every month. My mother lives 10 mins drive and it is honestly one of the best things ever. She isn’t our main childcare provider, but she is always there as emergency backup. And you definitely need an emergency backup childcare plan when you are two working parents.
I’m not going to “vote” one way or the other on whether you should come back to the US or stay in Germany, but I had a couple points that may be helpful as you make that decision for yourselves. 1) We recently moved from a small college town where we were able to walk and bike everywhere in town to a rural lifestyle, and while we love our new rural lifestyle, having to drive a car a lot has been a *huge* adjustment for me. (I lived many years in urban Boston so don’t really enjoy driving). It’s a bigger deal than I thought it’d be, though I also see it as one of the tradeoffs for living in a beautiful place where we can hike, swim, and snowshoe, skate, sled, etc. on our own property. 2) The biggest “raises” I ever got were when my kids ‘graduated’ from daycare to public preschool. Daycare is serious money wherever you are in the US. 3) Kids are really easy to move anywhere until about 4-6th grade. If you think you want to try a different lifestyle out, try it out now, while it’s easier and the kids don’t have huge attachments to people or places. 4) If you can swing it at all, try to live within walking distance of your parents. (or at least within a mile or two of somewhere your parents are often- in regards to the Vermont timeshare). When we moved we bought a kind of strange vacation property that had extra cottages so we actually have my in-laws and my best friend right here (in-laws come for summers, best friend comes up on weekends). That has helped me have a support system right here, even though I haven’t met a ton of people yet. We also were very serious about rural, not remote, and focused on making sure we’re close to a major medical center, the interstate, towns that have things we enjoy/ need (beer gardens!) etc. I’d seriously advise taking a few 6 week vacations to the Vermont area when you rent a place near your parents and just start exploring the areas and narrow them down. That’s what we did- similar to the Frugalwoods- then expanded our search to an area we could actually afford! Then when the right property showed up, we already knew about the area and had “approved” it for all the amenities.
Hi Katharine! Thanks for sharing all of your experiences. It sounds like you made a great find with that vacation property. That’s a good idea – I think we will take a more serious look at potential locations in the immediate vicinity of my parents’ timeshare. I also really like the idea of some 6-week vacations to Vermont and other areas in contention! At the moment, it’s definitely difficult comparing the status quo with the hypothetical in this regard.
as an American with a wife from uruguay who lives in midwest of America I have some comments to make. our kids are 8&10 in public school. we are in process of moving to spain in spring 2022. as someone who moved as a bachelor 10+ times in my 20’s and 30’s I never gave it a thought. relocating a family to another continent has been a MASSIVE project. do not take the amount of energy it will entail to find new jobs, new city, and new culture lightly. I have not heard anyone say how large of an impact your husband staying home and losing his income may have on him and your family. emotionally and financially. even if you get a big raise to compensate for his loss. you will likely triple your stress and insure limited vacation & poor work/life balance, it is very hard to parent/provide in US gracefully.
my wife’s parents live with us 2-3 months of year in US and they will do same in spain. we have found having proper housing prevents the “fish” situation of wearing each other out. they occupy our children’s hearts like no other. we live in same town as my 4 siblings and their families. we are close and see each other maybe every 4-6 weeks and do not share a fraction of the quality time as with her parents under one roof. I highly doubt you will look back in 10 years and regret a 25% savings rate instead of 40% to rent a larger home to happily host your parents for chunk of each year. not to mention the year round enjoyment of a house that serves your family’s highest vision.
there is so much undo pressure within FI movement to retire so young. you will never have little kids again. you will never have healthy parents itching to share the whole thing together. go slow and enjoy. you guys have already created a stunning life. share it.
Hi Eric! Thanks for bringing this perspective. I think I do take this idea for granted that we should be saving as much as we can, but you make a compelling point that we should considering making some more room in our budget to improve some of the current pain points. Thank you!
I’m shocked at how low the salary for software engineering is in Germany compared to the US. People are emphasizing the increased costs, but the increase in salary may more than make up for that. There are other factors to consider, but costs shouldn’t drive you to avoid the US when you would also triple your earning power.
Hi Jess! Yes, in Germany there’s a smaller range in salaries between the lower earners and higher earners. I would say I am making slightly higher than average in Munich given my level of experience (about seven years). As you rightly indicated, my brother in New York who is also a software engineer with equivalent experience and a similar skill set is making about triple my salary.
Since Kurt is almost done with his master’s degree I bet he could work as a teacher in most states in the US without more educational requirements. If you need more flexibility for child care would he start in a more flexible tutoring position? Possibly a German tutor?
I know there are lots of benefits to living in Germany but I think the pandemic has kind of shown most of us that life can be short and being near family is important. I hope we are all working toward the US being a better place to live long term but I really get it and I hope you figure out what is going to work well for all of you.
Hi Maura! Thank you for your empathy and your ideas. We truly wish German was still taught in more schools in the Northeast! Perhaps Kurt could find some kind of remote tutoring opportunities – we’ll have to look into that more seriously!
If Kurt is really interested in teaching German and values flexibility, there are so many options. I homeschool my daughter who is taking German and it is so difficult to find good native speakers to teach. We paid a non-native, high school German teacher to tutor my daughter once a week and paid $25-30 dollars/hr. He could even check out homeschool coops for possible students. My daughter has also gone to Waldsee, a German Immersion camp in Bemidji, MN, that may be fun for you to check out as possible Summer employment for Kurt. http://www.concordialanguagevillages.org/youth-languages/german-language-village. Additionally, as a native speaker, Kurt could be in high demand as a teacher in online forums like Outschool.com.
Hi Allison! This is excellent information for us! We weren’t aware that there might be a demand for virtual German language teachers. Thank you so much for the specific links!
Hi Jane, I don’t usually comment on here but as I moved to Munich (from New Zealand) with my ten week old baby and German husband I have a couple of thoughts.
One practical one is that I had zero friends in Munich and joined an expat baby care class run by a lovely British woman called Lynn – I instantly had 11 friends with babies exactly the same age as mine. Many of them were fluent in German and all had European husbands – I think you would have a lot in common with them. They were the best part of Munich for me, we even did a Mummies baby free weekend trip to Vienna. That was six years ago but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lynn is still running her classes (otherwise there are playgroups, yoga etc). I understand the COVID concern but the risk for little people is extremely low.
Second thought is for your husband. I’d get really clear on whether he will be able to have a satisfying career in America. I couldn’t in Germany and have had friends in the same boat – it affects you more than you might think and also builds resentment into the marriage which is never good. (We moved back to New Zealand and come to Europe periodically).
Final thought is the quality of schools. We prefer the New Zealand schooling system to the German one at high school level as it has heaps of pressure. I also find the hours of the German/Austrian schooling system odd (finishing at 11:45am – what are you supposed to do with that as a working parent!). Just another factor to consider, no idea whether schools in America are good.
We have moved back to New Zealand and are happy here. If I spoke fluent German and could work in Germany we might still be there. As an intercontinental couple there are always challenges and compromises, but also incredible richness.
One final thought is that we also moved back in part because of my family but they are about an 8-9 hour drive away. I’m not sure we see them that much more than we would if we were in Europe – in Europe we would have fewer but longer holidays together.
Thank you so much for writing! It’s a wonderful and unexpected outcome of this Case Study that we have heard from so many people who have lived in Munich before. 🙂
It’s the third time now I’ve heard about this British woman! After I read your comment, I looked up about her again (her center is called “Pippagina”), and I signed up for one of her mother-baby classes!! I’m so looking forward to it! Thank you for the final push I needed to make it happen.
I really appreciate hearing your experiences about the effect of not being able to have a satisfying career in a foreign country. It’s something we will need to consider seriously.
It’s interesting to hear your comparison of the two school systems. I also find the hours incredibly odd and unfriendly for working parents! I hope you don’t mind me copying also what I wrote to another commenter: From an outsider’s perspective, one reservation I have about the German schooling system is the early separation of schoolchildren into the different tracks, i.e. Gymnasium, Hauptschule, and Realschule. I know there is some flexibility in changing tracks, but I’ve heard it can be difficult for late bloomers or children of non-native German speakers. On the other hand, I do appreciate that Germans values the trades, both socially and financially. As for the university level, when comparing notes with Kurt’s education, I think I prefer the American liberal arts college system; of course, I do not think it is worth the cost in most cases and most certainly, in my opinion, not worth incurring large debt. One of the most amazing gifts my parents gave me was making sure I did not graduate from college with debt.
Thank you again, Melody!
I have been to Munich and thought it was a lovely city! The moms have provided ample feedback on the trials and costs of raising kids in the U.S. I would like to add that we have been looking at property in Vermont and Western Massachusetts, and there is very little available and very little that we would consider affordable. The real estate situation is discouraging. I have to say, I would consider myself very lucky to be living in Europe instead of the U.S. It makes me sad to say that, but it is the unfortunate reality.
I haven’t read all of the comments, but I have to say if I were Jane I would stay in Germany. Even if her parents can’t relocate for various understandable reasons, with the generous vacation time the couple has in Germany they could plan a long visit to the States each summer, and perhaps Jane’s parents could plan a long visit to Germany each year as well.
Everything else just sounds better financially in Germany, especially birthing and raising children. I have a family member who gave birth her first child in Europe and her second child in the United States. They ended up in debt for the second child. Her European husband couldn’t get good work here, although he wasn’t a professional. Eventually the couple split and in the end the decision was made for the husband and children to return to Europe because it was so much better for them financially. It was heart wrenching, but as my family member couldn’t provide for the children she agreed to let them go (and the children then spent summers here and she went there every winter).
Without a doubt, financial struggles and my BIL’s inability to get a good job contributed to the demise of the marriage. It’s so expensive to raise children when a family needs two incomes — childcare eats up most of the second income. And a person who can’t get work doing what they went to school and have a talent for doesn’t feel very good about themselves as a person. Of course, there were many other factors and I’m not suggesting Jane’s marriage will fail — just that the couple really needs to consider how it will be here financially and how her husband might feel if he can’t get work.
I think Covid has made this situation feel worse than it might be in the future. Jane has a new baby and not only is she isolated from her family because of the pandemic, she’s likely also isolated from meeting other new parents for the same reason. Things will ease up and visits will become easier. Staying in Germany would probably mean Jane has the financial means to visit the United States. Moving here might mean she and her family can’t afford to visit her husband’s family in Germany.
And now I’m going to say this, and I mean it in the kindest way. I think Jane and her husband need to work on finding friends in Germany. I think it’s great that they are such good friends with her parents, but they need more than that. I say this as someone in my 50s with children in their 20s. One of my children is a dear, dear friend to me and my husband, and yet we want that child to have many other friends besides us. We’re so compatible that I imagine if this child married someone we got along with well that it would be this same kind of close, easy friendship between couples that Jane describes. It would be a joy, but we would still want them to have any other friends. Indeed, the relationship with this child is so harmonious that living together post university would be an easy choice — except we think this might not be attractive to a potential partner!
Good luck Jane!
Hi Kimberly! Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You’re right – we do need to work on finding more friends and a meaningful community for ourselves here. This Case Study has prompted me to be more proactive in this regard – I’ve just signed up for a mother-baby class in the hope of meeting more expat mothers!
My parents were in Munich. And we live in England. The minute baby no 2 arrived and my dad retired, they delightedly moved down the road from us, and couldn’t be happier to be near us. And my parents in law gladly moved across the UK to be close to us too. Honestly, ask your parents, you may find the grandkids are a huge pull!
I’d advise you have another baby asap. Like today….. having the kids close in age will offer you flexibility in the future and possibly have more possibilities in taking advantage of Germany’s generous benefits. Get the best of both worlds. Have another baby in 2022!
I haven’t seen a ton of comments around your desire for increased community. My experience from moving with my husband several times to places where we didn’t know anyone was that it can seem like starting fresh might lead to a better/closer community and so far every time it has been even harder to go somewhere new and start from ground zero. Especially if you are not moving back to your hometown where you might have connections or your parents might have community. I would say this factor likely nets out between both places- whether you stay where you are or move your best bet is to intentionally cultivate hobbies and activities that will develop your friend circle. We try to align things we already do like exercise with social opportunities and also make use of friend making apps like meetup and bumble bff (not sure if those exist in Germany but they might have something similar). This is SO HARD especially when you are busy and during COVID but could pay off in quality of life. Best of luck to you and your beautiful family!!
Hi Mandy! I think you’re right that it is entirely possible that we’re romanticizing the idea of moving to some tight-knit rural community where friends will magically be in abundance. Making friends does take work and is not easy! It’s a great suggestion you have about trying to align the activities we already enjoy with more social ways of doing them. Your comment prompted me to look again into our local Alpine club, and I’m just noticing now that they have a family groups. Thanks for writing!
For remote options and generous leave policies for childbirth, you may consider Amazon. You could certainly apply in Germany and potentially transfer to the US if you wanted to dip a toe in.
Hi Walnut! Thanks for the lead!
I would like to focus on Kurt for a moment. Is his English sufficient and his qualification suited for finding a good job in the US? Are his job prospects tied to a big city? If not I would suggest they move to a small university town in Germany, such as Regensburg. Would Kurt be happy as a stay at home dad in the US? Would you both have enough vacation days to travel to Germany?
Hi P! Fortunately, Kurt is a near-native speaker in English. We are still brainstorming and investigating what kind of jobs might be well-suited to his skill set (namely German, near-native Dutch, political science and history, journalism, sports, creative writing, radio and podcasting). You bring up some excellent questions regarding Kurt being a SAHD and how much vacation time we might have to travel to Germany. Thank you also for the Regensburg suggestion. A good friend of ours went to the university there and enjoyed the city very much. I’d say it might be a perfect place for us if it were only located closer to the Alps. 🙂
European here (Dutch, to be precise), with experience living in Canada and travelling extensively (as in: several 3-4 month long stays) in the USA. I agree wit a lot of the previous comments (I’m +1 for the don’t move to the USA side – I’m sorry Jane, but the USA you remember from when you were younger no longer exists. Period). I’d like to throw2 new ideas into the mix: 1) Have you considered moving to Canada? You’re OK with living 7 hours of driving away from your parents, so you’re clearly not counting on regular child care or short visits for coffee or dinner. You say in the comments you want to live on the same side of the ocean. So why not live some hours (or a short plane ride) further away in Ontario, for example? You would be a lot closer to your parents than you are now (and in the same time zone!), but you’d still have a lot of the advantages you have in Germany, like affordable health care/child care, decent vacation time and near-zero school shootings. Plus, you’d both be moving somewhere new, so you’ll be more in it together – you’re not moving home for either of you, so if for example Kurt doesnt like it there he won’t also be dissing where you grew up. I imagine that might make things easier emotionally. Also, as a European I found it way easier to fit in in Canada than anywhere in the USA. There are still cultural differences of course, but for me it was a LOT easier to feel at home there. 2) You say you want Oskar to grow up to be bilingual and at home in both cultures. Have you truly considered in which country that would be most likely? Americans are seldom bilingual – you only learned German in college, for chrissake. Whereas in Germany Oskar will learn English in high school at the latest, even if you would only speak German at home. Most German yougsters are pretty fluent in English even without having a native speaker for a parent. Not so much so Stateside. Also, Oskar would learn a lot more about American culture while living in Germany than the other way around, for the simple reason that American culture = world culture to an alarmingly large extent. Canadians and their schools don’t do a lot better on the bilingual front in my experience (for an officially bilingual country the amount of people who are actually fluent in both French and English is exceedingly small), but they are more open to the world (US and non-US).
Hi Jitske! Canada is an intriguing idea! To be honest, we hadn’t seriously considered it before, but you do bring up some compelling points. Thanks for the comment!
Flight costs in Canada are insane plus you have no relation to the country. Your kids would be neither german or American and can give 3rd culture kid issues. moving to the US or Canada would be a huge mistake.
Well, I read the top 20-30 responses to you and I will not scare you with my comment. I’ll just tell you that I agree with all of them, sadly. I saw other moms throwing dollar amounts you can expect to pay for a daycare in the US. Yes, they are all over the map due to different COL standards across various geographical areas. My children are teens now and I honestly believe that we were just lucky to squeeze through the DC times because my children attended one in a church setting which was later sold to a different church as soon as my youngest started K. So, I still remember that we paid for our last one $150-$160 a week when he was five (I chose to start him with school a year later and no regrets). This was 8 years! Now I hear from other moms that if you can find a daycare for $400/wk, you’re lucky 🙁 in our city in NC. I honestly cannot imaging how much a family has to earn to afford two children in the daycare and still feel that their net pay after childcare is more than flipping burgers. Then add mortgage on the house and if one or both parents have college loans, jeez, what can they save for their retirements? Oh, and we didn’t even touch healthcare. Sorry, I didn’t intend to scare you but here we go, I’m doing just that, sorry.
Here is a paradox though. My friend who has US citizenship (she’s European herself, but lived in the US for the first 10 yrs after her college) and lives in Germany with her German husband and their mildly autistic pre-teen daughter thinks that it would be much better for them to live in the US because Germans discriminate disabled people (that’s her opinion). I’m also European living in the USA with my German husband OTOH would love to move to Germany (my husband not so much because he’s fine with his job here). So, my friend and I came to a conclusion that we always think that it’s greener behind your own fence and those perspectives of our dreams can be based on our romantized or sentimental memories from the past. When my friend lived in the US, this country was not polarized. Maybe it was but wasn’t mainstream yet, but now unless you shut TV and Internet down you’ll be exposed to it. I think it’s also similar in Germany since the country has huge power in the EU politics, but also wants to be nice on all immigration policies, etc. and that irks a lot of people over there. However, the social nets and quality of life there is still reasonably better than in the US (this is my personal opinion).
The biggest concern for your family in case you truly wish to move to the USA is your and your husband’s earning potential. I’ve come to believe after living in the USA is that this country is a BUSINESS and not a country at all. People are just diligently working ants in the corporate machines. I’m actually thankful to the FIRE movement because I was able to find forums and blogs where people are not commercially obsessed because unfortunately I didn’t find that in my neighborhood, kids’ school, work, or among my acquaintances. Since my DH and I are quite frugal American culture weighed on us (especially me) heavily, but Internet and discovering FIRE helps me mentally.
So good luck on what you decide, but like all other people said, I’d be very careful so you don’t bump into a bear while running from a wolf…
PS. Somebody mentioned that your parents can come to visit you for 6 months in Germany. Is it really true? I thought US citizens are only allowed to live 3 months in Schengen countries. Is it something different when a US citizen goes to visit family over there?
Also, is it a long/difficult procedure to obtain Germany residency when you’re married to a German citizen there? The reason I’m asking is that while I’m a Green Card holder in the US, I’d lose my EU citizenship if I applied for the US citizenship (my home country doesn’t allow dual citizenship). However, while reading the note of 6 months living in the EU would actually appeal to me and might consider US citizenship that way. The 3-month rule is a bit too short. However, since my DH is a dual German-US citizen now, I’m also considering an ideal that perhaps I can take the US citizenship now and once he retires in a few years we can go live in Germany for a year or two and I could apply for the German residency and get my EU status that way. But maybe it’s possible in theory, but not in reality…
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us! My sister lives in NC, so the childcare costs don’t sound too far off from what she’s paying; although, she’s been able to manage having an excellent full-time nanny for two kids for about $2000 a month. I think it’s definitely the case that we are all to some degree plagued by “the grass is greener…” especially in challenging moments (i.e. pandemic, newborn baby). On the other hand, it’s probably healthy to have at least a small dose of this in our lives, otherwise, we wouldn’t making changes or seek improvements. That’s always been my feeling anyways! Nevertheless, we do share many of the same concerns about certain elements of American culture, especially the commercialism. By the way, I’m going to have borrow this phrase about not bumping into a bear while running from a wolf. 🙂
Regarding visits to Schengen countries, I believe it’s 90 days within an 180-day period, so potentially up to 180 days in a year. One of the other commenters, Lynn, brought it to my attention, however, that this is potentially calculated by each Schengen country independently. I haven’t looked into this carefully, but it’s an interesting loophole for staying in the EU longer term if it is true. As for obtaining residency in Germany, as a non EU-citizen married to a German, this shouldn’t be any trouble. I mean, people including myself grumble here quite a bit about the process for getting a residency permit, but compared to anything immigration-related in the US, it’s a piece of cake.
Good luck to you!
Something to think about : you say you want to move in the US to be closer to your parents, but then say you would be willing to drive up to 7h to see them. My in-laws live 6 hours away. We have 2 kids, jobs, school, kids have school and activities. Life is busy! So we travel to see the in-laws 3, maybe 4 times a year. Your parents are getting older, they will probably not want to drive 7h each way too often to visit. How many times a year (pre-covid) do you visit each other, while living in germany? Would it be that different? Is it worth it?
Also, I can`t speak for the US system, but living in Canada where we also get universal health care, paid parental leave for 12 months and (in some provinces at least) reasonnable child care cost, and no gun violence, you would never pay me enought to move to the US! You get a lot of benefits right now that you will lose by moving to the US: Childcare, lower schooling cost, health services, guns violence, political views, life/work balance as a society value, etc. Lots to think about!
Hi Isa! Thanks for writing. Canada seems like it is certainly doing better than the US on many fronts! My parents usually come twice a year to Germany; on the other hand, they drive nine hours to visit my sister approximately six times a year. They also make a seven-hour drive to Vermont about six to eight times a year as well! I only say all this because I have some evidence to suggest that my parents are willing to make these trips. The long drives are not ideal, of course, but from our perspective, the drives are more doable with regard to time, finances, and spontaneity than a transatlantic flight. All that said, since we have so, so many people telling us that it would benefit so much more to be less than an hour away from them, Kurt and I are definitely reconsidering locations on Long Island which were previously off the table.
Dear Jane and Kurt,
It was fascinating to read your story and even more so to see so many, quite intimate, details of your lives that you so candidly laid down for all of us here to see. There is so much to learn and so many can benefit from this.
You two and us, me and my wife, have one major aspect in common, except that we are in your parents shoes: we live in the US and our older son and his lovely wife, both Americans, live in Germany. In… Munich, of all places. And you know them well! You visit each other, you bike together, you play games together and you share quite a similar story.
We, both set of parents, and your parents shared the pain of seeing our babies fly away, but we made peace with it, knowing that they are happy where they are and live the lives they dreamed of. And there is more than this, that to a certain extent fills the void they left behind: we now have even more reasons to travel to Europe and we made Munich as our “base camp” (although, as many have experienced, the pandemic put a big dent in our travels overseas for the past couple of years). The two of us and our daughter’s parents (well, technically our daughter-in-law, but our daughter in our hearts), we are relatively close to each other, only about 2 hrs driving, so when they come from Germany to visit they share graciously their vacation time with us without having to waste too much time driving between the two …nests.
From what I read, It is abundantly clear that you are rigorously doing your homework, that you know what you want and what is important for you in life. Even so, probably the more you dissect and explore, the more questions you might have and the more challenging making a decision might be. I would venture to say that no matter what you will ultimately decide, make no mistake, there will be compromises that you will have to accept.
So if I pitch my two cents here, I’d rather call them ideas, then advice. Whether or not they have any merit is for you to determine. They all may end up being non-starters, as there are many “IFs” involved. But they all take into account a beautiful and noble fact: your wonderful relationship with your parents, to a point where the option of living next door to them is not only possible, but most desirable, it appears. I’ll get right to it:
1. without knowing your parent’s specific location: is there an option to build your little dream home on their lot, or make an addition to their house that will fully satisfy your housing needs?
If you end up moving to US, having to drive 6-7 hrs to see your parents it almost defeats the purpose, in my opinion. As difficult as may appear to be to find the right place for you, close enough to your parents, more in depth research maybe, just maybe, may reveal some options. So:
2. Like more than one readers suggested in the comments: is there a smaller college town (similar to the one that your friends / our kids attended college in, just ask them), or a smaller town that, for other reasons, has a decent rental market within 1-2 hrs drive from your parents? If yes, even if you might think that is not affordable, before you discard it, maybe you want to research to see if you can purchase a piece of land and then build your dream home on it. Building a new home doesn’t necessarily need to be a lot more expensive than buying an existing similar size home.
3. If such a small town exists, similar to nr. 2. above, except that, instead of building a SFR (single family home), build a duplex, either side-by-side, or stacked up. Live in one unit, rent the other. If not entirely, a good portion of your mortgage payment could be offset by the rental unit. And if you ever move back to Germany, or anywhere else, a duplex would make a great long term investment property. This is [another] IF you can see yourselves as landlords and homeowners at the same time, of the same building.
Of course, building a duplex or a SFR is just another option and it doesn’t preclude buying an existing one. It’s just that, especially in small towns, duplexes are not very common, unless it’s a college town.
4. This one is a very small piece of the puzzle in the grand picture and applies only to scenarios when a mortgage loan is being shopped for, be it for a new construction, or for an existing home: you mentioned that, if it comes to it, your parents may want and can help with the down-payment with a low, or no interest personal loan. If and when this becomes the best option and if you must count on it, make sure that you learn well in advance the details, rules and/or restrictions about borrowing money for down-payment and closing costs, from the lenders that you will be interviewing for the mortgage loan, along with all the other relevant details and terms of the loans, for comparison. Most lenders will allow the borrower to borrow money from immediate family members with a “Letter of Gift” written by such family members, for the down payment and/or the closing costs, but there could be some restrictions.
I can’t wait to read the sequel 🙂
In the meantime, our best for all of you. You are a wonderful family that deserve nothing less.
We are honored that you took the time to read our story. The words you shared simultaneously brought tears to our eyes and smiles to your faces! Thank you for your generous and beautiful thoughts — it’s clear to us where R inherited his kind and contemplative demeanor. As we told R and L the other day, such loyal and empathetic friends make the decision to leave this place that much more difficult!
Thank you for your wisdom and ideas. We especially appreciate the recommendations you shared with regard to real estate, a realm neither Kurt nor I have much knowledge in unfortunately. At this time, we are more closely examining the first two intriguing ideas you mentioned.
Hope that you will be able to come back to Munich before too long! When you do, we’d be delighted to see you.
If your main issue with your 2BR apartment is that it doesn’t have a bedroom for your parents, I’d say keep it for now! Who knows how much/ when they’ll be able to visit as the pandemic continues, and it wouldn’t make sense to give up something that’s working for you otherwise. If they do make a long visit, would it be possible to rent out your apartment through air bnb or something similar, and rent a bigger place while they’re with you?
I’m in my mid30s, living in the boston area, with 2 kids ages 4.5 and 6 months (planning on one more), with my parents under 1 hr away(who provide childcare help… and have a great relationship with their grandkids) and a combined income of $215k. We bought a very small condo well within our budget in a walkable area and only have one car (bought used). I am the breadwinner working in an engineering adjacent field (ML) but not in FAANG. I am slightly underpaid because I picked a company with good work life balance. My husband is very underpaid but in a flexible role and good health insurance (which had been helpful as my 6month old had some feeding issues as well). I took 20 weeks parental leave (almost all fully paid) and could have negotiated more unpaid time off (though not a year). MA recently passed paid parental leave law. We pay $2,200/month for my oldest to go to daycare and $700 for my youngest who goes very part time because she cant get a full time spot due to covid… it’s all doable (covid has actually been a positive experience for my family because my husband and I work from home and see the kids so much more since we dont have a commute…yes, there is stress as my parents are high risk and we dont travel much anymore but I appreciate that it forced us to slow down)… unfortunately the US had rampant inequality as you can see by the comments. It’s not fair (and I’m politically voting for candidates looking to change that..) but if you’re able to get a high paying job it’s not as horrible as these comments are making it out to be. I wouldn’t move out here to work minimum wage… you also have the financial wiggle room if it doesn’t work out to move back to Germany.
Hi there! Thanks for providing us with this other perspective!
Hello from the north of Germany!
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned here but might be worth considering for you: both of you have the right to take up to three years off of your Job to take care of your child and the employer has to keep the Position for you until you return. Why not, after you have finished studying, take one year off together and live in the US with your parents. You will spend a lot of time with them, your husband gets to experience living in the US and you have time to check the job situation and can also find out where you might want to live. A test run, so to say.
Of course you have to finance this with your savings but thats the benefit of bring frugal.
Just something I wanted to point out because I know a lot of german couples that take a year of together to travel the world.
Another thing I wanted to mention. My Sister had her child during Covid and it is really hard! All the baby courses where you meet other young parents where cancelled. So you are Not alone with feeling secluded and it might not have something to do with living in Germany.
Hi Anny! That’s a really interesting idea about using the parental leave time as a test run. While it might not work out this time due to the waiting period for the Green Card, it’s something we are now considering as an alternative option – staying in Germany through the birth of another child and then utilizing the parental leave to try out life in the US. Thanks for sharing the anecdote about your sister. As a first-time parent during the pandemic, it can be hard to know exactly what parts of the experience would be different in normal times. Thank you for writing!
The consensus seems pretty clear here, but just to weigh in with one more perspective on the transportation piece–driving your kids everywhere can really take a toll (on your health, finances, and sanity)! Don’t underestimate the benefits you’re getting from living in a walkable/bikeable city with great public transportation, you just won’t find anything like that in the US.
Also, as someone with slightly older kids (8 and 10), I will note that the childcare problems don’t go away once you hit school age–they just become trickier with the mismatch between work hours and school hours. I don’t know any family that does not have challenges in this area: literally every family I know with two full-time working parents relies on having grandparents nearby for help–even paid childcare becomes unreliable and difficult to find once your kids are in school and have after-school activities. I’m sure it feels like ages before you will get to that point (boy do those baby stages feel endless in the moment!), but as you contemplate your long-term plans, you might think about what you want the elementary school years to look like for your family.
Hi Katie! I think you’re right that the need to drive most places might be one of the worst lifestyle changes for us. Thank you for bringing our attention to potential challenges in elementary school years. It really does feel like a long time from now, but I’m sure it’ll fly right by!
At this point the US compares to a 3rd world nation – except for how expensive it is – in so many ways I can’t imagine choosing it when you’ve got a life that’s not only top quality but apparently quite affordable for you. Everything from happiness scores to life expectancy is lower here. 🙁 Perhaps you could put your efforts into finding a larger space where you are, and having your parents sublet part of it?
Hi! This case study was super interesting to me, as my family is considering the opposite move — from the DC area to Germany. I’ll give you my maternity story. I had a month of maternity leave — two weeks paid vacation that I had saved up over the course of a year, thanks, covid pto accrual exceptions for contractors! plus two weeks unpaid, as I was too new at my company to qualify for fmla. Then, daycare at 408 dollars a week in our ‘cheap’ area. Closer to the city, it would be 650. We used to pay hundreds in healthcare per month, with a high deductible hanging over our heads. Luckily, my work pays our health insurance now, but that’s not at all common.
As for my family, we live several states away, and see them about as much as we see my husband’s parents, who live in Europe. Babysitters are hard to come by.
And regarding friends — trying to break into a social circle in a more rural area here is much harder than in a city. I always found it much easier to make friends in Germany than anywhere in the US, except during college.
But there are benefits to the US, mainly in the form of much higher salaries. There are cool road trips to do here and amazing things to eat. Covid measures have been much less restrictive than in Europe, though we pay for that in other ways. The thing is, couldn’t you just get an American job and do extended vacations here?
Hi Ida! You’ll have to share with me your secret sauce for making friends in Germany! Okay, only half-joking here. 🙂 But I would love to hear more about what made it easier for you to connect with Germans. Were you living somewhere in Germany at some point? I’m sorry to hear about the parenting challenges you encountered, both the short maternity leave and daycare situation. In the past several years, we have used most of our vacation time to visit my family in the US, so we’ve exhausted that idea in some regard. Having remote anywhere jobs would, however, allow us more time beyond our vacation time, so this is something we are also exploring at the moment. Thanks for writing!
I know that the pandemic has driven us all crazy everywhere and that our opportunities to see family are limited. I will say that I would never move at this point. I have not seen my grandchildren for almost 3 years but we like Zoom and Face Time. Health and safety are more important.
My husband had a flukish stroke at a young age here in the USA. Before we knew it we were bankrupt: we were both teachers and could afford the life we chose to live but we good not afford the US Health Care system
Can you see your poor children practicing gun shooter protocol? There is an enormous chill here because of the income inequality. Even if you are on top, will. you be entirely comfortable knowing that your children are in a county where they cannot trust their school districts to provide a decent education, free from bullies and shooters?
My main point: life happens. You can be a regular healthy person at age 39, an educator, with a solid middle-class life and no debts and a medical emergency can wipe you out. It happened to me.
I know that your dilemma is painful; I know that aging parents, however vibrant, will continue to age. I know that the kinds of things that have happened to me in the USA, as a hardworking person are not just or fair. It’s painful to live here on a daily basis. If my grandchildren could live in Germany, (or other countries) I would be thrilled. My sons went to school (one in France, one in Germany) for a year abroad program when they were teenagers. They both had wonderful school experiences.
Please do not take the chance.
Oh my goodness, if I had the option to raise my kids in a safe(r) country where there is also socialized medicine, subsidized childcare and paid parental leave I’d be so happy. My vote is to visit the US in the summers once covid dies down, but to stay put in Germany otherwise. In addition to crazy expensive real estate and limited inventory in the US, you also have a very divided culture that is apparent everywhere. The worst part, though, is the gun culture and the school shooting situation.
Picture your son as an elementary schooler, coming home to tell you that his class got in trouble because they weren’t quiet enough during the active shooter drill that day. This happened to my younger daughter’s class. Mind you, all 21 of them were crammed into a tiny one-person bathroom to practice what they’d do in the event of an active shooting. These drills happen regularly. That particular daughter is 12 now. Active shooter drills are just normal to her.
Now, onto my 16 year-old. Last Friday I got a text that said “we’re evacuated. What is going on.” Immediately I knew that it was a bomb threat. Why? Because 2 other high schools in the area had had them that day. This daughter had been in orchestra and as such was told to leave all belongings behind (instrument, backpack, etc.) and evacuate immediately. Kids were crying “don’t leave me” and “I don’t want to die”. Kids were worried about being herded into one place and then shot up. My daughter got out, found her best friend nearby, and then had to search for her boyfriend who had been taken off-campus with his class by his teacher. I regard this teacher as the smartest, as he didn’t allow his class to be herded into a central location. My husband immediately went up and got the kids and brought them home as he was closest at the time. The school was cleared by the police and the bomb-sniffing dogs and we were able to go back for her stuff the next day. This is normal life here now. The worst part about this is how absolutely unphased my daughter and I both were. Another day, another bomb threat or active shooter drill. Life goes on. You don’t want this if you have any other option. BTW, I live in a nice area and our schools are good. It’s not like we live somewhere you’d regard as dangerous.
My advice is to think really carefully about moving to the US. In your situation, I think it is much more advisable to bring your parents close to you.
Consider that Munich repeatedly ranks as one of the most livable cities in the world.
You have the incredible nature of the Alps right on your doorstep (1 hour train ride every 30 minutes).
Within a seven hours car ride from Munich, you can reach the entire Alps region, the Mediterranean Sea in Northern Italy and Croatia, almost any place in South/Central Germany, besides Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary, Czechia and Austria. You do not even need a car to go to these beautiful places/countries. Just board the (night or day) train at Munich Central.
As a young mother remember that Munich in particular has exceptionally low crime rates, low pollution, 100% walkability, cyclability and excellent public transportation. Germany in general has high quality of affordable – or even free – health care, low pollution, affordable child-care, free public schools, free school transport, free public universities, good work-life-balance with 6 weeks off, a reliable (though boring) political system, a stable climate without weather extremes, higher social peace.
So, what do you actually miss (except your parents)? I doubt you would improve anything in the US or even find anything comparable to Middle Europe. Your higher income in the US will in no way outweigh the disadvantages.
What about moving closer to the Bavarian Forest, to Passau, Regensburg or Deggendorf for example? These are smaller cities in picturesque surroundings with more familiarity and coziness, but still close to Munich airport and still with all these outstanding amenities of Bavaria/Germany/Europe, which you won’t find in the US. In your financial position I assume you can still afford a house there large enough to host also your parents for long-term stays.
How can I comment after you have received a mountain of good advice? I will say though that “The grass on the other side of the fence always looks greener”! I have a triple nationality passport and have lived in several European countries coming finally to the US, my father’s country.
If you were forced To move here you would make a success of it. You are young, educated, intelligent and vibrant, but to choose to do so is a very different matter. Rated against each other, Germany is much the better country for all the reasons given in this really thoughtful discussion. Missing your parents at a time when you have a young baby with health problems is very understandable. You will mature and no longer need this crutch, for that is what it is. Don’t overturn your lives to fill this possibly quite brief period.
Wie auch immer Ihre Entscheidung ausfällt, alles Gute für Ihre zukünftigen Bemühungen! Whatever your decision, all the best in your future endeavors! We live in Vermont and loved our visit to Germany. There are a lot of similarities. I encourage you to at least consider relocating to a city in a rural state like Vermont or New Hampshire. While searching for our ‘forever home’ we knew we wanted to come back to Vermont, and thought we wanted rural (like the Frugalwoods <3) Much to our surprise, we ended up on 1/2 an acre on the edge of a city, backed up to 325+ forested acres of trails. Plus, we can walk downtown or take The Bus or get on the train to NYC.
I’m a new reader to FW, so maybe this already happens. But just a note to say that if the case study participants were ever willing, I would love to have follow-up posts in 1-3 years to hear an update on what they’ve gone on to do and their reflections on their lives since the original case study post! It would be fun to hear how Jane and Kurt and Oskar move forward in the short to medium-term.
Hey Jane! I am a software engineer here in the states and can confirm that the maternity (and paternity) leave is pretty great in this field. I get 4 months of 100% paid maternity leave along with unlimited time off and the first Friday of every month off to make for a flexible work/life balance. Other companies, like Spotify, have a 6-month, fully paid, maternity leave. That company is also headquartered in Europe so working from both the U.S. and Germany would likely work! My company fully pays for my healthcare but it would cost me some money to add a family to the plan. I don’t have kids yet though so I can’t speak to the daycare situation. Pay is really amazing for Software Engineers here, especially after the pandemic, since a lot of pay is less dependent on where you live. I do think it’s important to think about why you want to move to the U.S. but your job could make it easier!
Chiming in to this one a bit later as a Western MA resident whose partner works in New York State and who is planning a retirement to New Hampshire!
One thing to keep in mind with both New York and New Hampshire is that real estate tax rates vary SUBSTANTIALLY and that because NH does not have a state income tax their real estate taxes are on the higher side to compensate, just mentioning this as Jane indicated she considered those states to be “less expensive.” We are still planning a NH retirement as pensions are not taxed, but research towns carefully in terms of real estate tax rates. Our other requirements seem quite similar to Jane & Kurt — access to hospitals and a major (preferably international) airport, a strong agricultural scene and access to local food, a small town but not to remote (must have a police & fire department), cultural offerings such as bookstores and museums but also lots of nature. We also preferred to stay close to the 91 corridor to make trips to family in MA easy. At the moment our leading contender is Southwest NH essentially the corner between Brattleboro and Keene.
A couple other things to consider:
* Massachusetts has Paid Family Medical Leave – new parents of any gender qualify for up to 12 weeks paid leave
* Vermont Remote Workers Relocation Grant may help with moving expenses if either are keeping their jobs.
Hi Jane! I know I am late to replying here but I just had to comment as a USA living (pandemic) mom of 2 kids under the age of 6. I see the value in being close to family but I think the stress of raising a family in the states would outweigh any potential positives. If I could raise my kids in a country that truly valued mothers and family life then I would. There are no social safety nets here for mothers, especially the working moms. The expectation is clear that one parent needs to be home or you need to be wealthy enough to afford a nanny. I would not recommend moving here given all that and even more so knowing your son has a chronic illness to manage. I live rurally and still pay $1,200 a month for full time daycare for my 3 year old. I pay this even when I have to watch him for 2 weeks at home due to shut downs with COVID exposure. Perhaps joining an online community of working USA moms would help give further insight? I think it would make much more sense to reorganize your German life – perhaps you and your husband work fully remote or get positions where you have summers off and then spend it in the states with your parents? Just something to consider. But don’t move here when you would be giving up all you have in Germany. Just imagine having another child and having to go back to work at 3 months postpartum – and that’s if you are “lucky”. Good luck!!