First Impressions From Our First Three Days

It’s Friday morning, and I’m waking up refreshed and motivated to get some stuff done! My congestion is slowly easing up and I’m no longer under the grip of the cold meds, which just made me feel foggy all day long. Time to shake it off!

While the last few days have seemed a bit slow, we’ve actually accomplished a lot. Getting settled into our temporary apartment, picking up the mail, buying some staples, doing laundry…it all involves learning new skills and routines.

Here’s a look into some of the highlights…

Where we’re staying…

Several months ago, I booked us a 3-bedroom maisonette-style apartment, which means it’s got multiple levels. The boys each have a room on the main floor, and the master with a small bath and a cozy workspace is on the second floor. At about 100 m2 or 1075 sq ft, it’s basically the size of our apartment in the Bay Area. Smaller than we’re used to now, but so much better than a hotel room!

Any time we move, we try to find something that feels more like home. After 29 days in a Waikiki hotel many years ago with two 4-yr olds, I know that space = sanity for our family. So when I saw this pet-friendly place pop up on one of the Facebook groups I’m in, I snagged it ASAP. The owners of Daheim Stuttgart, Madiha and Lukman, have been exceptional with communication and welcomed us with an awesome basket of food and goodies, too. My favorite thing in here is the Heimerdinger multi-vitamin fruit juice. It tastes like POG from our days in Hawaii. Must find more!

Logan is enamored with the electric rolladens and has turned his bedroom into a cave so that he can sleep well past sunrise. You can see how they work in this video that I found on YouTube. He’s also enjoyed figuring out how to use every appliance in the house, from the stove to the electric water kettle for his tea. And both boys are in charge of taking out the trash, which is a bit more involved because of the separation of items. The German authorities take this seriously and you can get a fine for doing it wrong (yes, people really do come and inspect your trash bins!). Madiha sent us this handy video to help make sense of it all, and I have a hunch I’ll be watching many more of these videos from Handbook Germany.

We also did our first load of laundry today. The cotton cycle takes 3.5 HOURS, and the condenser-style dryers are a total shift. I am going to try a few different settings to see what works for us. This also triggered a talk with the kids about the fact that you CAN indeed wear some clothes more than once…but they need to pass the sniff test first (especially important for teenage boys)!

Our first meal out…

We were all so tired on our first day here that dinner consisted of either ramen noodles or cereal. And that was just fine. But on our second day, I really wanted us to get out and try something German. Luckily, there are quite a few places within walking distance from our apartment. And while restaurants are still in the process of opening up, we stumbled across Spaetzle Drive, which is a newly opened takeout concept launched to counter the hit of the pandemic. It’s attached to Hotel Restaurant Reussenstein, which is apparently quite good and starting back up on June 14 (next Monday, woohoo!).

No car? No problem. We were standing outside looking at the menu when someone came out to take our order. There are a variety of different spaetzle dishes to choose from, and you can make it a full meal with a salad and a container of homemade, hand-packed ice cream for €20. The boys and I got the bacon and cheese spaetzle, while Ralph got the goulash. And let me tell you, this was absolutely the BEST spaetzle I’ve ever had. So creamy, so flavorful. The only problem was I couldn’t finish it because I filled up on the salad. This wasn’t some boring salad either, but a fantastic combination of potato salad, greens, a grain (I think it was farro?), sunflower seeds, and a lemony dressing. Naturally, we all made room for some bites of the ice cream. It rivaled our favorite Coneflower Creamery in Omaha, and that’s saying a lot. The berry flavor was like a sorbet, bursting with actual fruit, and the chocolate was so rich and dark.

P.S. I heated up my spaetzle the next day and I was stunned when the cheese didn’t separate into a funky, oily mess. What kind of sorcery is this?!

P.P.S. Those little glass dressing bottles were so adorable I begged everyone to save them for me. Why? I do not know. But apparently, they’ve triggered my inner hoarder tendencies…

Grocery shopping…

We also did our first grocery shopping trip at the Asia Supermarkt which is less than a minute from our apartment. We weren’t prepared one bit, but couldn’t resist. It was also a hard lesson that many German shops don’t take credit cards. So after picking out our staples (soy sauce, sesame oil, curry paste and a selection of noodles) and taking them to the checkout, we had that awkward moment of realizing “Oh. We have nothing to pay with. Entschuldigung!”

But…we really wanted all those things, so we hoofed it to a bank to find an ATM. Yay for euros!

Speaking of walking…

Every day, we get out to explore and our radius goes further and further. We haven’t taken the train yet, but there’s a lot to see just by walking around. We were pleased to find Böblingen Park only a few blocks away with a lake, trails, and various restaurants. It’s the perfect place to take Phoebe for a stroll after she arrives!

In addition to the lake, there are shops, bakeries, biergartens, salons, and fitness centers. We stumbled across a flower vending machine near a cemetery (genius!). And the boys are blown away by all the playgrounds scattered about. Even though they’re 16, they couldn’t resist this rope park and marveled at how something like this would never fly in the US.

Overall impression…

I think we’re really going to like it! It helps that the kids are pretty go-with-the-flow, and interested in learning the language and trying new things.

That said, moving here feels vastly different from coming for a visit on vacation. Yes, you’ll still have jet lag, but the extended time horizon means that there’s a big shift in what you prioritize and the kinds of things that are on your mind.

For example, instead of planning for that touristy outing, you’re comparing cell phone data plans, because having a German phone number is necessary for getting a German bank account. And instead of being out and about all day, you’re scouring the real estate listings looking to see if any new rentals have hit the market, and gathering up your documents to register the kids for school.

My other military friends warned me that it takes a solid six months to get settled overseas, and I’m so glad I had that expectation coming into it. Some things can’t be rushed and I need to give myself grace when it comes to measuring my own productivity and the many flavors of it. It would be easy for past go-go-go versions of me to do the bare minimum to get by so I could focus on work, but the older, wiser version of me knows that creating a solid foundation for the family pays off in the long run.

That’s why each weekday, my strategy is to have one fun experience and one practical experience, with more adventures on the weekend. That seems to be the right combination for us now, but we’ll adjust as necessary. More to come!

2 thoughts on “First Impressions From Our First Three Days

  1. Valerie – I’ve loved reading about your adventure. Thank you for sharing! Of course I’ve been stressing about poor Phoebe’s travel experience. I can’t wait until she is home safe and sound with you. Does she have to quarantine at all?


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