Casey and her silly, wonderful, blended life
Casey is livin’ la vida loca in Köln with her partner and new mini-me. She’s working as a Project Manager at an ad agency and has been living in Germany for about 3 years (I guess the panini has defined a majority of it. :'( Sorry girl.) She’s a gemini who always knows how to have a good time and when she’s not working, you can find her reading, doing puzzles, listening to podcasts, hiking, being a food snob, meeting with friends, and traveling. Well, maybe she does some of these things during work – I didn’t really ask about that. But all in all, she’s just someone you meet and instantly have a connection with because she’s so open and laid-back and can have a conversation about anything. Have I convinced you to keep reading about her journey to Germany and how her life has been here the past few years?? Enjoy reading!
What initially brought you to Germany? And is it why you’re still here?
My long-standing joke has been ‘the biggest import to Germany is American girlfriends / wives. ‘ I moved to Germany for love. I met my now German husband, while on vacation in Rome in September 2017. We met in a really small bar and made out in front of the Trevi Fountain. We spent the next two-three days together until I moved on to Florence. I expected that would be the end of that… but my flight got stuck in Frankfurt on the way back to the States. So I took a flight the following day and visited him in Köln. THEN I expected that to be the end… but every day he kept calling me (which is quite the feat given the time zone difference). That was actually my very first trip to Europe and came back with a pretty epic souvenir. He invited me back out to Germany for Karnival February 2018. Here is where I met his family and friends and he took me to Paris where we decided to make it official. In Paris, we also decided we would do long distance for a year and then one of us would have to move. Considering I didn’t live near my family in the States and didn’t really have that much tying me anywhere, I jumped at the chance. So we did long distance from February 2018 until February 2019, which is when I moved to Köln permanently.
What do you love most about living in the Köln area?
I would say the people. Köln is known for being one of the most open, friendliest cities in Germany and can be felt through its ‘kölsch’ culture. And also being close to the Netherlands border helps for all the fried food (and Taco Bell runs in Eindhoven).
Let’s talk about your German language-learning journey. How did you start, how has the process been, how do you feel about your abilities now, etc.
‘German articles? Never heard of her.’ OOF. My German language-learning journey shook me to my core. I always did very very well in academic situations but wow. Learning a new language at 30 with a bunch of 18-19 year olds who already knew at least 2 or 3 other languages… it rocked my confidence. I started Babble prior to coming to Germany, so the first week in class learning numbers and basic words was a breeze. Then came verbs, prepositions, accusative vs dative vs genitive and articles. I was at a school for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week for about a year and still dont have a full grasp on grammar. I passed the TELC B1 exam for my Visa and kept thru on to C1. But my speaking level is nowhere near where it should be. I would say my understanding/listening is at C1, but speaking and writing is far behind that.
I also am very shy in German so I usually only speak with my family or German friends, people that I know don’t judge me. I did however end up working for a German advertising agency and was pushed out of my comfort zone by doing interviews in German and now working with German speaking colleagues. Working there has been interesting as my feedback on my 6 month check in is that I need to improve my German, which I absolutely agree with. But then when I am in meetings, everyone addresses me in English or says I can switch to English. So either my German is so bad, they would rather have it in English or are trying to make me feel comfortable. It’s probably a mix of both.
Do you have any favorite German word(s) or expression(s)? Why do you like it?
One thing I admire about the language is it is very very blatantly descriptive. For example: Faultier directly translated is lazy (faul) animal (tier)… which in English is a sloth. There are so many words that when you sit back and directly translate, it is pound for pound, exactly what that item is. Which is very German to be direct.
So with that being said, my all-time favorite German word is: leichenschauhaus – directly translated is – corpse (leichen) viewing (schauen) house (haus) – or in English, a morgue. It’s the perfect example of a massive German word, broken down into individual words, and being exactly what the thing is.
Bonus points to geschlechtsverkehr – aka gender traffic – which is sex in English.
Have you had any funny fails or experiences while learning German that you can share?
Like I mentioned, German grammatik and I are not close companions. So early on, I loudly mentioned to my husband about seeing the swans in the park. Lets just say I added the American S to make the German word for Swans (Schwan) plural instead of Schwäne, making it sound more like Schwanz (dick). So I basically shouted ‘Look at all those dicks’ and still havent lived that one down.
You are quite the traveler together with your partner, as we can see from your instagram posts. Are there any spots in Europe that you just keep going back to for some reason?
We both really really loved Portugal (the people, food, weather). Lisbon absolutely blew us away and we are aiming to work remotely in the future. One of my personal faves is the Alsace region of France for both the storybook looks (it was the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast) but also for the Flammkuchen and the pastries. All the colorful Fachwerk houses makes it incredibly charming, and it’s super laid back compared to larger cities. We revisited it again on our babymoon and I swear I went into every pastry shop either to eat or just to look. I pretty much will travel solely for French baked goods.
Being a new parent can be scary enough as it is, but I’m sure there are even more things to worry about when going through pregnancy and having a child away from your home country. Can you talk about a few of the pros and cons of having your son in Germany?
I think for me, and for most expat parents, really the only con is having your family miss out on little and big moments. My parents came a month after I gave birth and then they wont see him until September. So it’s a lot of guilt that I carry. Am I being selfish by living here? Will my child have a bond with their grandparents? Holidays and birthdays are tough too, knowing that most events my side of the family won’t be there for.
The pros are truly endless. Germany truly supports and nurtures motherhood / parents. I had paid maternity leave prior to my due date, so basically the last 8 weeks of my pregnancy I was finished with work. Following that, I am taking a full two years off of work. One year will be paid, the other unpaid – but will have a guaranteed job to return to. My husband is taking two months paternity leave and one month vacation so we can have an epic three month vacation as a family of 3. Our hospital stay was basically covered other than covering costs for my husband’s room/food, which was all of 250€. Children have a guaranteed spot at kitas here. It makes me ill hearing from friends Stateside how much child care is, how much their hospital stays were or returning to work 6-12 weeks after birth. Or having to work up until their due date. The US overall and US employers do the absolute bare minimum to support mothers. It truly is criminal.
What has surprised you the most so far about being a mom? Are there any things that are specific to being a mom in Germany?
I think the most surprising thing about motherhood in general is that you don’t automatically adore your kid. I didn’t feel super connected to him while he was inside me (though I loved being pregnant). I figured once he was born, I would have all those feelings of adoration and all-consuming love, and I didnt. It wasn’t postpartum depression by any means… it’s best described as getting a new roommate. It takes time to connect with a new person, even if they are your own flesh and blood. However, all the feelings I didn’t have the first month, have come roaring through full force month three. Now that he and I know eachother, it’s an incredible bond. But the first month and a half, I felt super guilty and that I was a bad mom because caring for him felt more like an obligation. Once I talked to my Hebamme (midwife) and other mom friends, I realized this is quite normal but just not vocalized a lot.
Specifically to being a mom in Germany, I was super surprised about how much other moms will lend you. We had so many friends and family give us their hand-me-downs or loan us bigger items like bassinet or bouncers. I never felt the need to do a big registry like one does in the States as we had everything. I also saw a difference in what items were deemed necessary in Germany vs States. Germany is much more paired down on what you absolutely need for a first time baby versus the consumerism aspect of the US where the kid/mom needs absolutely everything.
Also there is a hyper-anxiety culture about parenting in the US that just isn’t here in Germany. I think a lot of that stems from mothers having to go back to work so early, which forces the child into child-care quite early. So US moms tend to be more intense about milestones, pushing kids to read, walk etc early on. Here, the babies and kids have more time to just be babies and kids because parents have more time with them as the maternity leave policies allow that. Obviously these are very general sentiments. Parenting is tough. It is made tougher by other people’s opinions, so I hope this hasn’t offended anyone. As long as kids are happy, I fully support whatever method works best for each family.
I know you and your partner decided to get dual citizenship for your son. Was there anything in particular that motivated this decision?
Honestly my parents are probably the only reason we decided on dual citizenship. They were very emotional and made me promise to keep my US citizenship as well as make sure my son has his. The only reason, from my point of view, to have it is in situations like we were in, in 2020, when borders were closed and only US passport holders could get back into the country.
As it stands currently, he will have to choose at 18 years old, which citizenship he would like to keep (as far as what I have read) but that rule may be changing under the new German government.
For me personally, I don’t see any benefit of keeping my US citizenship as it’s more work than necessary. Filing taxes every year for a country I no longer live or make money in makes zero sense – but is necessary for Americans abroad. And of course it’s a huge pain in the ass as has to be done old school on paper (because of my husband’s NRA status). Also the German passport is much stronger to travel with than the US passport, so there are added benefits to having German citizenship as well. But I promised my parents I would keep my citizenship so for now, it stays.
How do you see the future of your multicultural family? Do you plan to always live in Germany, or live in other places? Are there certain traditions that are non-negotiable?
We have definitely talked about expating somewhere together, whether in the States, or ideally a country we both have never lived in so we can experience that together. Right now we are focusing on building a family but would love to move somewhere for a short time. But Germany will always be our landing spot… the social services, healthcare, lifestyle is too good to pass up.
As far as traditions, I know Christmas will be an interesting battle. I will live and die on the hill that Santa comes during the night and kids open gifts on Christmas morning, whereas the Germans have Santa coming during the day on Christmas Eve. Logically, makes no sense he would sneak in during the day. There is something magical about kids going to bed and looking forward to waking up and seeing what Santa brought. We still have to flesh that one out. And just raising kids in general is always an interesting topic. German kids have so much more freedom like: walking / biking to school vs taking a bus or being able to buy wine at 15-16 years old vs getting a fake id or dating someone older just to have a buyer. Basti and I grew up quite differently so how we merge parenting together will be quite a ride.
Finally, in your opinion, what makes you a Power Frau?
I believe what makes me a Power Frau is I am courageous, have a strong sense of self-worth and can easily laugh at myself. I have always been someone who would rather do something and fail, then never do it all. And I definitely have failed in some of those experiences, but every leap of faith has led me further to a path that feels right in the end. Cultivating self-worth has been a journey, and one that I think most women experience on a deeper level at one point or another. I have a good sense of what/who serves me well versus what / who no longer doesn’t. And I truly stick to that, regardless of whether it will offend others or may feel uncomfortable. Finally, a good sense of humor will take you a long way in life. I really thrive off of making others laugh and not taking myself too seriously. What’s the point of living if there is no joy or silliness to it?