Moving to Freiburg with family of 4

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Hi,

 

I was here on Toytown about a year and a half ago when we were visiting Freiburg in order for me to look for a job there. Now all is finally lined up for us to come in August 2012 and were are so excited (and overwhelmed). Before I ask a few things, I wanted to say how helpful this community was last time and how much we appreciated it. Because of the correspondence I had on Toytown, we ended up at the Jugendherberge - which was terrific!

 

Ok, so, we're a family of 4, me (46), my wife (36) and two kids (boys ages 6 and 3 when the move takes place). My wife and kids have dual German and American citizenship, I'm just American. We are all fluent in both languages (though my writing skills are lacking auf Deutsch). We eat mostly vegetarian (we do eat fish, eggs, cheese) and are very environmentally conscious - my wife makes crafts and designs things out of old, often discarded materials. We're very outdoorsy and artistic (I'm a musician - not my sole source of income).

 

So with that info as a background, we're wondering about:

 

* Regarding areas to live, which areas are good and which ones are to be avoided? I realize this is a loaded and very subjective question, but we need a place to start.

 

* When would we need to register our 6 year old for school (erste Klasse). Our 3 year old for Kindergarten?

 

* We've read online about the Clara Grunwald Schule in Freiburg with the Montessori approach - what area would we have to live in for our kids to go there?

 

* Which schools are elementary schools only? We prefer that the boys are in school without the high schools attached (does this make sense?) Is there any kind of online map that shows which schools go with which geographical areas of Freiburg? Any input on which schools are better or worse?

 

* Are there good places to look for apartment and house (rental) listings without fees? Most of what we see online comes with a realtor fee that is often more than 2x a months rent, which is very high (and breaks our budget).

 

* We're probably going to get one of those big container/boxes shipped over with the stuff we want to keep. Any tips or things to avoid? Leads on which companies to use and which to avoid? Do they tell the truth about how long it takes for the container to arrive?

 

* Any ideas about getting health insurance? I will be self-employed and also likely still doing some work for my company here in the US, who will not be providing us with health insurance, so we'll need to get it ourselves. When I first came to Germany in 2002 I studied for a year and got some kind of foreigner's insurance which was reasonable and really great (and private so I was treated very well). Anyone have any experience with that?

 

* Lastly, has anyone who's done a similar kind of relocation have any do's or don't's or simply things they would do differently given the chance?

 

Thanks so much in advance - we feel like we're drowning sometimes with all that we have to do, so any input at all is much appreciated.

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Hi Rhythmo-- search for this topic on the boards. There are already quite a few threads about it! But to answer some of your specific questions that haven't been in addressed in other threads...

 

Once your children are past the fourth grade, they will be in a school with older children. There is no way around it, that's just when elementary school stops here. There is no such thing as middle school. That being said, within the school, I highly doubt that they will ever actually mix up with older kids all that much because they will be moving from class to class with their own peers. If your wife is German (I think you said that) she can explain this to you way better than I can, I'm sure!

 

Vegetarian is becoming less and less of a challenge here in Freiburg, as more and more restaurants are hopping on the "green" bandwagon and offering veggie options in their restaurants. The first full-vegetarian restaurant opened last year and in March, there will be a new all-vegetarian sausage stand opening on the Munstermarkt. Time's they are a'changin'...

 

I can come back and look at this thread later to try to answer some more of your questions, but otherwise, I'm pretty confident in saying that they have been answered... Maybe not all in the threads about Freiburg (like the insurance question) but definitely on TT. Happy searching!

 

Also: Just noticed the bit about apartment hunting. This is INCREDIBLY competitive in Freiburg. You can find an apartment without a realtor fee but it is a rare and exciting thing. I suggest posting an add about yourselves in the Zypresse and hoping that someone contacts you. This seems to be the best way to get a place. For many adds that are listed, especially those without a realtor fee, there are quite literally dozens of people who will be going for the same apartment. You may have to bite the bullet and adjust your budget accordingly, or being willing to live outside of Freiburg in a neighboring village.

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Ganzgeld, you are so nice to furnish all this info for newcomers. I would like to meet you once I land there.

 

Right now, too overwhelmed with the Visas and other stuff. Haven't learnt a word of German, I know you will be there as my English speaking friend ;) Hope you dont mind :D :D

 

Sorry OP for hijacking your thread, but we are in the same boat as you!!

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Thanks Ganzgeld, I appreciate it. RE: the schools, my wife thinks that some of the elementary schools up to 4th grade are connected to the high schools, in other words, our kids would be in the schools with older kids though as you say they might not interact much. So we are trying to figure out which schools do actually stop at 4th grade and don't have the older kids.

 

Great tip about apartments, thanks for that as well.

 

Suman - hijack away! We can always stay in contact as well, we'll be there in early August.

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Well, strictly from personal experience taking care of kids but not having my own, I'm fairly certain that any public Grundschule should be for 1st-4th grade. I think it might only be private schools, like the Montessori school, that would have all grades in one place. If you'd like, I can ask some of the kids in my English lessons what their schools are like and if they're mixed with big kids. :)

 

In terms of schools for the little guy, from what I've read here on TT, you should start looking for a place for the little guy asap. Maybe your wife could take that one on?? I can't really give you any tips there, again I don't have any kids myself, but I do know at least from job searching that there is at least one English/German kindergarten in the city. I don't know if you would even want your little guy there because you are a native speaker but maybe it would be comforting to him to have English being spoken around him? Your six year old, ALSO from what I've read on TT, may not be deemed ready for first grade. Again, I don't know your kid or where he is at developmentally/his German skills are since living in the US, but that could be a potential challenge. However, from what I've read here and heard from other people is that it isn't really so bad if a kid repeats a grade and that starting first grade at 7 is fairly common.

 

As far as neighborhoods, I've said it in other threads, but I really think that Rieselfeld is one of the best choices for young families. New apartments, completely planned city area, on the tram line, parks, playgrounds, etc. Whenever I am there, there are little people every where and it seems like it can be relatively easy to meet other parents out on the playground. Vauban is nice but expensive. Littenweiler is also nice but the population is a bit older. A positive to that could be, though, that there are a couple of student dormitories in the area, so it could be easier to find a babysitter nearby. The Wiehre is really great but SUPER expensive. Mostly Altbau apartments and it'd probably be pretty tough to get a deal on an apartment there. Zaehringen is also a nice area but I can't speak to the kid-count. I haven't spent too much time over there. I would not live in Haslach. It is the "dangerous" part of the city, if we can even begin to think about Freiburg as dangerous. (I've never felt unsafe here.) Herdern is one of the nicer areas, but it can also be tricky to get a place there. It's definitely one of those places where 100 different families are trying to get the same apartment. Betzenhausen is also a nice area. The apartments can be relatively reasonably priced and it's fairly close to the tram line. It's also near to the Seepark, which is a really nice place once the weather is warmer.

 

I can't really give you any advice about shipping things with containers. I'm not really sure what you are planning to ship but do remember, you can always sell things in the US and buy them here. Electronics, for example, would make more sense to buy here, but this is just my personal opinion. If I were you, I would seriously consider (and I'm 100% certain that you are doing this) is the potential cost/hassle of shipping is worth what is being shipped. For myself, I only made a relatively small move but the two boxes of my own clothes and shoes that I shipped to myself were slapped with 117 euros in taxes, payable on delivery. If I had known I'd be taxed for my own things, I'd have never shipped them over in the first place. However, I'm pretty sure there are a couple of threads on this very topic on the board right now for other cities, and I suspect they can answer your question about this better.

 

For health insurance, I'm not certain, but is it possible that you would be entitled to coverage because your wife would be covered in the German system?? I'm sorry I can't give you more advice about this.

 

 

What would I do differently if I could do it again: Not let myself get overly stressed out about things that are out of my control.

What would I do the same if I had to do it again: Rely on my German partner to do a lot of the question asking and communication, even though I do have strong German skills. I always felt much more assured to know that I was fully understanding all information being given to me because I had my GerMan there to double check information. Never underestimate the power of having a German at your side when dealing with German bureaucracy.

 

*This is all my personal speculation on what I've seen around Freiburg / Toytown.*

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Thanks again, Ganzgeld, the info on places to live especially is invaluable.

 

I remember you from when I was on TT a lot almost two years ago - it may have even been you that suggested the Jugendherberge. You are a treasure!

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Oh, and regarding the schools, my wife has said that sometimes the hauptschules in DE have the kids in their elementary years in the same school with older kids, so I guess these are what we're trying to avoid (no offense if anyone has kids in the hauptschule system).

 

Ganzgeld, it would be great if you can ask your students about that when you have a chance.

 

Thanks

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It might've been but I don't remember! I don't want to take credit if I didn't do it. I'm happy to help. I can relate to the overwhelming feelings. Good luck! :)

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So Rhythmo, I asked my students about their schools and they overwhelmingly reported that they stop at the fourth grade, even the child who attends a private school. I asked him for the name but he had no idea, although he was pretty sure it was Oberlin something or other. (I'm sure you and your wife can google that and see what you come up with.) A couple of kids actually didn't know the names of their school, which seems very strange to me, but well, there you are. It shouldn't be a problem at all to find a school that stops at 4th grade for your sons.

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A couple of kids actually didn't know the names of their school, which seems very strange to me, but well, there you are.

 

That doesn't seem that odd to me - given that (AFAIK) here in Germany you don't choose which school your children go to (unless you choose to send them to a private school). Rather, they are assigned to the school in their geographic area, so for many, especially smaller children, it will just be *the* school, their local one, that they go to - never mind what the official name is.

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Thanks and it's interesting that they don't know the names of their school. I was also assigned to my local school as a kid (in the states) yet I and all my friends knew the name. Guess I need to get ready for a lot of cultural differences, don't I?

 

My wife was very interested in the Clara Grunwald school, does anyone know what geographical area we'd need to be in for them to attend this school?

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That school is in Rieselfeld. There are lots of apartments being built new around there. I've taken some kids I used to babysit to the schools playground as well. It seems to be a big meeting point for parents in the area. It also looks (at least from the outside) like a very nice little school.

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Thanks, Ganzgeld. I'm probably going to the well one too many times here, but do you happen to know the names of the new apartments being built? Maybe that would be an in for us (though probably dozens of others - more local - are thinking the same thing).

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ehmmm. I don't know what any of the actual buildings are called. (I'm not sure if they do that here??) But they are around the last two tram stops to Rieselfeld, so that's around Bollerstaudenstrasse/Maria von Ruldoff Platz/Geschwister-Scholl-Platz. You can definitely look this up on any of the apartment search websites (immonet, immobilienscout24) and find apartments being built in that area. But you want to be around the last three tram stop lines on Rieselfeldallee.

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We found something at vogensenstr. 23 (07115). Anyone have thoughts on this area? It's 1600 euro but includes all - seem unreasonable for the area? Thanks.

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How many square metres? I pay 415 Euros for 35 square metres in Betzenhausen (79110). Do you mean the 79115 postal code? Then your property is in Stühlinger (just!) next to the B31a (the biggest road into Freiburg running on both sides of the river Dreisam) which is good or bad depending on your taste. You may not like it at night getting the vibration of heavy trucks. Here is the Google Maps reference.

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Kenlive - yes, I did mean the 79115 zip code. It's 120 sq meters (90 DIN), which we need as we're a family of four. The only extras we'd pay is telephone/internet (euro 35/month). t is right by the autobahn, but also close to town. What is your town like?

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The rent is a bit above the market average, but as it presumable includes electricity and heating, plus being fully furnished, I guess that it is reasonable. I would definitely check the noise level before signing the contract, though, otherwise you may need Ohropax. ;)

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Thanks for the tips. Super helpful. The apt in Stühlinger is on the 5th floor so maybe the noise isn't an issue. Kind of hard to check from here though! :unsure:

 

I've heard that there is a relatively new law in DE (or at least in the Freiburg area) that parents can choose which public school their kid(s) attend, even if they do not live so close to it. Anyone know anything about this?

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