How One Holiday Led To One Family Moving Abroad
A Story Of One Family's Journey
This is the story of how my life changed by moving to Germany. From being the wife and mother of an ordinary family with two children, a husband with a successful job, a company car, a detached house with a mortgage in the English town where I grew up and speaking one language to- The English Family in Germany, a foreign country with bi-lingual children who went around with their English visitors in an English camper van, enjoying the forests, lakes and mountains.
This was a journey we undertook when we were young and ready for an adventure or two. One thing we knew for sure, we didn't want to remain in our town in the same job for the rest of our lives. Whilst we had the money, energy and enthusiasm, we were ready for something different. By the time we returned home our lives were different again and we had four children. This is how it happened.
Moving Abroad - How about you?
Living in a different country has broadened my outlook on life. Even though Germany might not seem to be so different from UK, there are many things that we can take for granted as being right. I have had to learn not to be offended when other people do things differently and also when they might not approve of the way I do something. After a while I learned to adapt to their ways at times, when it meant that I could better honour them without losing my own identity. In other areas, I learned to enjoy my own uniqueness and not try to be someone who I clearly never would be. We were one family who were different.
Have you emigrated?
The VW Camper Bus That Prompted The Holiday
and took us on our first trip to visit family in Germany
We had just acquired a vw camper bus that quickly became a favorite way for us to spend our free time. We spent hours installing internal heating and making it our second home. We would often take off in it for a day's windsurfing and swimming at a lake or the sea. It was great for using as a changing room on chilly days and serving cups of tea. The children would sleep in it when it was time for their nap and we would set up the table for them to play.
I already had a sister and her family in Germany and we were wanting to go and visit them. This seemed like the perfect time. Our two sons were out of the baby stage and we knew that we could stay with my family. What more did we need, apart from passports and foreign currency (which was then the Deutschmark)? We loaded the van ready for this first trip and set off from Sussex to Dover. We sailed across the channel on the ferry on a rather blustery day but the rest of the holiday did not disappoint us with lots of lovely summer weather.
The First Viewing Of Our New Home
And Telling The Family
Saying goodbye was never going to be easy, especially with my family who had always lived nearby, apart from the one sister and her family in Germany. We chose a Sunday gathering at my parents' house and told them of our plans for emigrating. Afterwards we realised that my younger sister was particuarly upset. She had been the closest to me and had often helped me with our boys. At this time she wasn't married herself, so leaving her felt extra hard. We decided on another visit at Christmas, taking her with us so that she could see where we were going. This time it was a snowy Winter, when we viewed our new flat whilst it was still being built and staying again with my other sister and family and enjoying our first Christmas in Germany. We made sure that our new flat had a spare room to accomodate guests.
Our First Impressions From That First Trip - During this first holiday we were both thinking about moving to GermanyClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Final Move To Germany
The day finally arrived when I and our two young boys said a final farewell to my parents at the airport. My husband had gone ahead a week earlier with just about everything we were taking with us crammed into our vw camper bus. We had spent the previous few weeks selling and giving away our furniture, apart from our beloved piano. This arrived several weeks later as a part lorry load, delivered by two very English men with whom we were able have a nice English cuppa before they departed. From now on, every time we saw anything or anyone that looked or sounded different because it was English, it always seemed very English.
Arriving at our new home
We arrived at the new flat after my husband had collected us from Munich airport. At first, all I wanted to do was to walk around admiring our new home. It wasn't until we stood outside the last door, the lounge, that the emotions of the last few days caught up with me. As we finally opened the lounge door I was so happy to see my sister and her husband and several of our new friends all waiting there to greet us. They had kindly put lots of welcoming touches to the flat, including a bottle of wine and some cake to celebrate a new chapter. My husband was going to be working at the company of one of our new American friends, who were all there to give us their support. We were going to need it in the days ahead, for we were in a new country with a new language that we could not yet speak.
The first morning
I awoke on the first morning in our new home to bright sunshine. Although the last batch of snow had disappeared, the tree outside our house was laden with snow white frost. As I sat on our balcony, basking in the warmth of the sunshine and looking at the clear view of the mountains in the background, I was reminded of the verse from the Bible:
I lift up my eyes to the hills-
From where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.— Psalm 121
A New Chapter And New Friends
Mostly we would have one holiday each year visiting the UK, in our VW camper bus of course
We lived in such a beautiful area of southern Germany that it made it all the easier for settling and it meant that it didn't take much persuading to get our family and friends to visit us. The other helping factor was two boys who naturally eased us into the local community. Before we knew it we were talking to the neighbours whilst our children were playing with theirs and taking the boys along to the local Kindergarten. After a few years we had two more boys to complete our family. At first we quickly got to know those people who could speak English. One neighbour turned out to be a translator and kindly helped us with learning German and taking me shopping etc. Of course, we always had our family and American friends down the road who readily translated for us when we needed it. After a short while we enrolled on German language courses and focussed for a time on studying.
Lake and Mountains
As our new house didn't yet have an enclosed garden where the boys could play, we would often walk down to the local lake and the boys would happily swim and play whilst I was learning German.
We gradually made lots of new friends and the need for translation became less and less and we were able to converse quite happily just in German.
We lived near enough to The Alps to spend days out skiing. We were lucky to meet another English guy on a German course who was a skiing instructor and he got us started with some lessons. Yes- life in Germany was good!
The Time Came For Returning Home
We had a wonderful life in Germany, although there were also some difficult times. It was a great experience!
We no longer had our beloved vw camper, but still had the piano
Returning home after 13 years was never going to be easy, which was why we hadn't done it earlier, although we had thought about it a few times. However, a door seemed to open to make it easier when we were introduced to a group of people from SE Kent, UK. We all knew that it was the next place for us to be. After a few visits we wasted no time in packing up and finding a new home, which we rented in the pretty conservation area of the town, across the road from the sea. This felt like home, as I was born in a seaside town. We instantly had many new friends from our new church and some of our old friends from Germany came to visit and ended up living there too. Although we were not back in the same town as our family, we were much nearer than before. Later on, my sister and family in Germany also returned to the UK after more than 30 years out there.
Our older boys who were bi-lingual, had a new world to adapt to where everything was said and written in English, they had done all their schooling in German. They kept in touch with their friends in Germany and our second son went back there to live for a few years with his family.
© 2011 Christine Hulme