Moving to Munich, 4 kids, schools and doctors

34 posts in this topic

Don't worry about the doctors. We lived 6 years in Michigan and now more the one year in California and I decided to use our public insurance in Germany and let my daughter check in Germany only. "Public" doesn't mean "bad" in Germany. About school: I lived 6 years in Berlin, my son was 5 at this time and we had some bad experiences with kids in kindergarten. Almost all of our german friends have had problems in the school after their came back home. I would recommend to go to the school first and see, what is your feeling about teacher and children. And if there is any problem, leave. This is my opinion:)

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Hi there,

I am also in a similar situation as Chachka94, in that I too will have 3 kids (12,11 and 10) who will be going to Public school here in Munich. They and my wife all speak English and although I speak a bit of German, I am also having a few sleepless nights thinking about how the kids will cope in a German school. The reassurence of "Don't worry they will be fine after a period of adjustment", is comforting but there is still that nagging feeling.

 

That said we are looking forward to the move from the UK. I am already here and am looking to move into the Markt Schwaben area. Is there any one out there who has any experience/knowledge about schools there?

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We came 2 1/2 years ago, threw our 11 year old into public school as a "guest-student" (holding her back a year in the process) and our 3 year old into kindergarten.

 

The 3 year old was speaking like a native after 6 months. His teachers tell us that his German is indistinguishable from that of his classmates.

 

The 11 year old had a much harder time up front. She's neither the sort to complain nor the sort to work hard. It took her three months of sitting on her ___ in school not learning a thing before she decided to apply herself. After she decided to work, we went full-bore-- spending vacations in various German classes and getting a private tutor twice a week.

 

She's doing great in a very competitive Gymnasium, but:

-we still have the tutor;

-we know that her grades would be better if she were a native speaker. For example, when memorizing Latin vocab, she often has to memorize the meaning of the German translations as well. Don't even get me started on the math teacher who assumed that "everyone knows how the Bundesliga standings are calculated" while making up his year-end exam. Luckily, the parents of the other girls in the class made enough of a stink that he relented.

 

Understand-- you have not spent your life becoming adapted to German society. In the States, you know how to advise your kids on what courses to take in school, what to expect when they go out on a date, and how to navigate a problem with a teacher. You are like an animal that has evolved to fill a particular ecological niche.

 

Germany is a different ecological niche. It will take time to adapt. Frankly, your kids will likely adapt better then you will. Although they may never become perfectly adapted to German society, they will be much more mature and self-confident-- much more self-aware-- when they do make their decisions in a new society.

 

Good luck.

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Chacka94 - on the schooling issue, to be frank, you will be doing a great disservice to your 15 year old by enrolling him into a German school. If, as you say he is doing AP courses already, being demoted a couple of grades, plus learning a new language is not only going to be a very difficult hurdle to conquer, but be a completely demotivating and demoralising experience. Sorry to be so negative, but considering he'd graduate in three years and go to college, you're now expecting to add another 3 years til highschool graduation. The fact is that he will also be at a disadvantage when applying to university here, or college in the US (would his German grades compete with those of other US highschool students or German students?).

 

International schools are not cheap, and bringing such a large family (with kids in secondary school) over to a foreign country where you don't speak the language, nor have company funding for international schools, is maybe not the wisest of moves. If you wish to live in Europe, Ireland or the UK would be much simpler.

 

I don't mean to put a damper on your relocation - but you need to know the truth. This is not the most welcoming country at the best of times, and I would rather you be realistic not only to the inherent culture shock, but the realities you'll be facing.

 

Good luck to you sincerely.

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Chacka94 - We are a family with two kids (a 6yr old and a 2.5 yr old) and just moved to Munich Dec 2010 from Florida. This is also our second immigration after living almost 10 yrs in the US, but the first one for our kids. As we are freshly arrived I can't be of much help with advise but I can offer you frienship and would like to meet your family once you arrive.

 

I can only share with you our short experiences so far. Where we live, the primary school for our daughter has been great so far. The teacher is very nice and nuturing. She speaks great english so that has definately been a plus. The principal also speaks english and spanish (our mother language). The school offers a kind of intensive german class to integrate their foreign students (although not a lot of them, I have to say). Our daughter has been going to this class (basically a one on one tuition) for some part of the day instead of the regular class. After only three months she can now communicate basic ideas with full sentences!!! Academically, it is true that german primary public schools are not as intense as in the US. My daughter can already read and write fairly well in english while her german counterparts have just started school in sept. So in that case, it has not been so tough, because while the other kids develop their reading skills, she can start to catch up with the german language. I also think they don't start grading them until the second grade.

 

School days are short!!! Only mornings. My daughter was used to full day school, so the principal suggested a couple of after school programs to help her with her homework and to keep her immersed in german for a longer part of the day. She loves going to these programs too. Some of the helpers there also speak english, so they can easily help her with homework.

 

As for the little one, he has started public kindergarten too, as he was also used to full day at the daycare in the US. He has also started to pick up some words here and there. Kids are nice and teachers too. Although his teacher does not speak english, so comunication is a little harder here.

 

We are on public insurance also but, so far we have not used it much. We made an appointment with a general pediatrician and got in fairly fast (within a weeks time).

Even though it can be frustrating at times I must say so far we have not been disappointed and are still glad we made the decision to move.

Good luck with the move and hope to hear from you soon.

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It is late so I must admit that I've not read all the other posts in detail. Just skimmed them.

 

Insurance wouldn't worry me as much a schools. Research the way the German school system works. Basically they decide in 4th grade whether or not your child will go to a 'university bound' high school on not. If you arrive here after 4th grade, they will likely put your child in the middle track (Realschule) which has a university option but is not for top students (based only on their grade school grades...not their real ability IMHO). They might put them in Hauptschule which is the lowest track and is not university bound. It's possible to change schools, but is difficult. My children were 5 and 7 when we moved here and three years later my youngest is fluent and blends in like a native but my oldest struggles -- when speaking or reading she is fluent, but with a light accent -- but there is great rigor placed on the language, spelling, grammar, etc that is more than she could master in the three years here. Basically, the younger they arrive the better. It looks like she'll make the Gymnasium track (this is the highest version of "High School" and is for university bound students) but it's been a great deal of work and I've studied German for most of my adult life so that's made a difference in my ability to help her.

 

Anyway, there is an office called "Schul- und Bildungsberatung International des Schul- und Kultusreferates" (basically an office to advise non-Germans on the German education system). They are open from Monday to Friday from 9 to 12 and from 1pm to 3pm. Their number is +49 89 23326875 or +49 89 23326874. The guy I talked to there was extremel helpful and gave me a great insider tip: If your child did not start first grade in Germany, their 4th grade grade point average may be one full grade point lower than what is normally required to enter Gymnasium (the top university track high school).

 

Hope this helps a bit. It's a wonderful country but the school system is tough and the teachers are demanding (which is okay in my opinion, it just takes some getting used to).

 

If you do decide to look at more 'international' options, be sure to look at Phorms. We went with public school in the end, but toured Phorms first. It looks wonderful but was too far away and too expensive for us.

 

E

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Hey TT

 

We are from Darien (SW Chicago) and are moving back home June 30. We have been here 3 years and London 3 years before that. My opinions:

Don't underestimate the need for German, including for your husband. He will get more emails in Deutsch than he expects (Google translate and Dict.cc beat Yahoo Babelfish and Leo in my book). And two words: train announcements. Add to those the numerous other everyday things such as phone calls, menus, etc. and Deutsch sneaks up on you. There are plenty of English speakers and pleasant folks to help ("Sprechen sie ein bisschen English?" has always worked better than the plain "Sprechen sie English?" for me), but he should get on his horse just as fast as the rest of you. Rosetta Stone is also a possibility to prepare before you come, but I know my wife would say that preparing for the move is a full time job with overtime.

 

Regarding schools, I see we all have our thoughts on enrolling native English speaking kids in German schools. But you may want to consider an International school at least for the oldest. Munich International School (MIS) in Starnberg is where my kids went. And whoever said International schools are not accredited and will cause problems with Universities, that would sure leave a host of military and diplomatic children around the world frying burgers after graduation. My daughter graduated from MIS in the IB and she's at American University in DC as we speak. But everyone is right, it's not cheap.

 

If you are still looking for a place/area to live and are not tied to being in the city, we live in Gauting, a SW suburb that is on the S6 train line and close to Starnberg. There is a good Gauting expat group that goes here there and everywhere, plus you will probably look into the Munich Women's Club to meet folks, and MIS has a bunch of events if you end up considering it. MIS is also unusual for an International school as it admits local Germans. By the way, we are moving out of a four-bedroom doppelhaus that was brand new when we moved in and is a five minute walk to the train and town. I'm not an agent for the landlord, but we are vacating on June 30 and it sounds like that's when you're arriving--kismet, karma, fate (sound of fingers snapping).

 

We were on an expat contract until a year ago when we went local, and now have health insurance with TK. It has worked out fine for us for a variety of ailments--we once suspected I had food poisoning and I got a thorough exam, ultrasound, and lab sample, all for a cost of 10EUR. I don't know about specialists, but we've done fine and we are sick people on many levels :)

 

Just a few thoughts...

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On the school front there isn't anything I can say about how it compares to the US, I just want to reassure you that academically, school here is much easier than in Russia “ - wow, if that's so – I think I should really stop worrying :-)) And thank you so much for introducing me to specific foreign

areas in Munich, PandaMunich.

 

 

Oh boy, this is the most favourite BS that Russians like to tell each other about German schools. Primary school probably might be considered easier in Germany because unlike in Russia no-one here expects children to know how to read and count when they enter the school, which is a common attitude in Russia. Here they teach children to read in the first grade. My son was also bored to death the first half a year in German school because after a reception year in England he could read fluently.

 

But this statement is absolutely no true in terms of Gymnasium, in particular not in Bavarian one. In Russia children go from one grade to another even if they are bad in school, here you have it year after year after year this Sword of Damocles of marks. If your kid has bad marks, you don't have many options, he or she can re-sit exams, then repeat a year after which you will be offered an option of leaving the school. Your oldest son will have difficulties to get good marks if he doesn't speak a word of German if you choose a Gymnasium, nobody will take into account that his German skilled are not sufficient. So I wouldn't recommend Bavarian Gymnasium to anyone with low resistance to stress. That is why the industry of tutoring is flourishing here.

 

If I were you I would put your 15-year-old to MIS or BIS, because they provide excellent education and opportunity to enter any university in the world, whereas private German schools can not always guarantee you an access to higher education even in Germany. If you can not afford an international school at least for the oldest one, do take the opportunity of being a guest student for one year i.e. without marks.

 

And needless to say, all six of you, but particularly the 15-year-old should be learning German NOW every single day. There are tons of free material on iTunes and pretty decent free courses at Deutsche Welle website. Every word you learn now, will make your life a tiny bit easier later on when you arrive.

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This may be interesting and a way to get started while still being in the US

 

http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/08__Education__Exchange/00/__Education.html

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Hi All,

 

So interesting to read all your experiences and advise regarding this subject.

I am a Danish "Lady"(that means that I am from Denmark...NOT Holland ;) ) who is also moving to Munich(Baldham) this summer after 12 years in the UK and CA, USA(my daughter is American)..so I have integrated and lived in your country for 4 years(2002-2006)

 

I’m married to a German(from Wiesbaden)...works for ARM/KEIL...but we have never lived in Germany together so it is a big step but a step we have to take for many reasons that I'm not going to bore you all with.

 

International schools where also in our considerations, but we are going to let our children finish their education in Germany and we therefore don't think that it is a favour to them in the long run (they will be 7y and 10y this December)

 

Other ppl(teacher who has worked on an inter. School, an adult friend who was schooled that way etc) has told us about their experiences regarding this...how the local kids don't socialise with the international kids as they never stay and so on...not a very good way to integrate...so it depends on your plans for the future?!

 

Another thing that I know is that sport is a big thing for the Germans so there is a great network there to explore.

We do of cause find it easier to enrol our son on the local Handball team as my husband has been playing here and in the US during the last 12 years and he is therefore naturally interested in sport.

 

Anyway this is a great way for you all to socialise with the locals and practise your German...but that again depends on your need to integrate or at least become one with the community?!

 

This for me is a must and the best way the “explore” a country...

 

I would not worry about national health in Germany, but there have already been plenty of comments regarding this so no need for me to say more...

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Hello,

 

I have to agree with the previous entries about your 15 year old. Your children are at very different ages and while the younger ones will pick up German quickly, your teen ager won't as language learning ability changes after the age of 12. I think you are being overly optimistic about his ability to become fluent at a high enough level to thrive academically in a year and a half. While he thinks he wants to stay here, he doesn't really know until he lives here and your most likely college option will be to attend college in the U.S.. It would be foolhardy not to prepare him for that and make sure his transcripts and test scores keep his foot in the door.

 

I think everyone has touched on the problems academically but I want to address the social aspects. It is hard to move a teenager. It would be hard to move from Chicago to Indiana. If you place your son in a environment where he has no other native speakers, he will be very lonely. Teenagers are very insular and language makes that even more of an issue. Even if some nice kids take him under their wing at first, they will quickly revert to their own tongue because we all like to socialize in our native tongues, it is easier and our vocabularies are more specific. German kids are also more sophisticated than most mid-western teen-agers (We are from Michigan) . European culture in general is more open about drinking and sex. All these differences in addition to not understanding a word anyone is saying will make for several very very isolated years for your eldest unless he is exceptional in his language ability and his social skills. You say you have gotten help from his teachers and staff at his school now. What about if his teachers and the school staff can't understand him or you because they don't speak English either?

 

 

We moved here with our youngest when he was 16. It had always been our dream to live here as well but we turned down an offer years earlier because our older son did not want to come. The youngest was really enthusiastic about it but I still wouldn't call it a success. he attended MIS and of the 10 kids that started with him, only a couple seemed to thrive. It is just hard to fit into the high school social structure at that age. Two went home after the first year and the rest limped along until they graduated, several leaving the day after commencement. My son thinks it was worth it but I still feel bad that his high school experience was so unsatisfactory. As for the qualifications for college, an IB is recognized by most universities in the world, you just have to make sure he is taking the right courses ( an American student should always take History, not Geography which is an accepted substitute in Europe). Again this is where having English support in the schools is so critical.

 

 

Bottom line, scrimp and scrap and find the funds to get him in an international school or a private school with some concentration of native English speakers. It will be challenging for him socially but at least he will have a chance of finding some friends for his last years in high school and continuing his academic successes.

 

Good luck to your family.

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Welcome to Munich!

 

I highly recommend our pediatrician - Dr Stephan Martini in the Fasangarten area (southern Munich). He and his staff happily speak English, and they are all very kind. He regularly takes alot of time to talk with me and my children during checkups, and doesn't seem to be ruffled by screaming babies or toddlers dumping out toy boxes onto the office floor. He even remembers details - "How was your husband's ski trip last month?" And he takes public insurance. Should you want it, here is the number to his practice: 089 / 7 14 01 48.

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Hello. My wife and 3 kids will join me in Munich after the school year. Looks like many of us on the forum are in similar circumstances. We are all from the US. MIS and BIS are the two schools we are considering. We are looking in the Gauting and Starnberg areas. Does anyone have any specific information that they can offer on their experiences with the schools? I am particularly interested in the admissions process. Are they highly selective? Will they reject if your child has been to the principal's office a time or two for typical boy nonsense (i.e., talking in class; being sassy).

 

Also, I want to get a sense of rent. As I mentioned, we are looking in the Starnberg-gauting area; want a single family house of about 280 square meters, give or take. What should we expect to pay?

 

Like so many of you I have anxiety. I particularly do not want my kids to fall of the academic and social map.

 

Thanks in advance for your guidance.

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