Sending a child to a regular public school is always a challenge - often more so for the parents than for the child. In the aftermath, parents are mostly amazed at how quickly their child adopted to both the different life circumstances and the new language. They made friends faster than the adults did - and whilst sometimes becoming quieter in the first weeks, they became fluent within a couple of months. School has predominantly been a positive experience for both parents and child, where teachers are concerned and helpful.

by E. Rozenberg

The Red Relocators asked me to write a few lines on my experience with moving to Hamburg with a kid of 7 years old. 

Indeed it was a big change, especially for the kid, and especially when the kid does not speak German.

We moved to Hamburg one year ago. We knew that we are moving here from May 2014 and in July 2014 I and my daughter arrived in Hamburg (my husband came earlier and took care of accommodation arrangement and of finding a school for our daughter).

Since we knew that we would move, I started explaining to my daughter that we will move to Germany and she will start the school there, that it will be not easy and that she will manage.  For our family, this move presented a way of all 3 living together because for 3 years we were living apart (me and my daughter in Bucharest and my husband was working in Bulgaria, being a weekend father). We considered this being a big plus in our preparation.

The second day after we have arrived here we had an appointment at the school.  They explained us that they will test her – in order to asses which class she would be assigned to and everything went well.  We were with her in the same room and they asked her to count, make a puzzle, draw something and this kind of basic task.  They said that normally she would be ready to start the 1st grade, but taking into account that she did not speak any German at the time they advised to register her in Vorschule in order for her to learn the language and to let her go to the "Hort" in the afternoon program too in order to expose her to the language as much as possible and in a playful way [a "Hort" is a bit similar to a kindergarten in the premises of the school and taking over when school - pre-school or primary - is over. The concept has been introduce to guarantee a full day childminding].  The whole appointment was in German and my husband had to translate a little bit - but most was intuitive. There is some pretty comprehensive info about the Vorschule concept on the website of The Red Relocators. Most important, next to every child in Hamburg visits the Vorschule and primary school starts between 6 and 7 only.

For 1 month the two of us stayed at home, discovered the city and spend a lot of time together (in Bucharest I was working a lot, she was in the kindergarten, and then with a baby sitter, we were together only in the evenings). This was a very good period for both of us to get used to the city and the German ways. 

Me not speaking German was a minus for her, because I was able to talk only with people speaking English (I was lucky I found quite some teachers speaking English though) and that did not help her too much, but the fact that she is very sociable and open to new friendship helped her a lot.  We choose a public school, but a small one ( 5 classes – 1 for each year) and when she started the school she was not speaking  any German.  In half of year she learn and now she speaks good German (better than me where I am taking intensive German language classes).  

We were really lucky with her classmates, they very open-minded people and welcomed her. My daughter is a very open person and she made friends very easily. In the second month of school she was invited to a classmate's house. Now, after she learned German  she has three good friends from school and she goes to play with them at their house or ours. For me it is good that the parents do not speak English so I have to use my German.

In one line I would say that it surely it depends on the school and the children, but generally, the children in Hamburg schools are open to make friends and so are the parents.

There are some points really important that I followed during this transition period:

  • Always tell her what will happen
  • Always tell her the truth - positive and negative things, too.
  • Constantly encourage her with every fact of her life
  • Talk and spend more time with her as usual
  • We spoiled her a little bit -  we gave her a quite big amount of money she can spend every month for what she wants
  • I tried to bring as much as possible of her things (Kitchen, toys, books, etc)
  • Constantly stick to your rules
  • Your positive attitude upon everything what  is happening and upon all the changes

I can say that it was not easy for her, too, because she wanted all the time to sleep with us, and more things that I recognised subconsciously but I as her mother noticed them. 

In short, the most important things are preparation, constant communication and showing to the kid that you (mother and father) are there for her all the time.

I hope this article will help you with the relocation and wish you an easy adjustment to the new environment.

The Red Relocators offer help with enrolling your child in school and kindergarten

We help you finding one of the sought-after kindergarten places, explain the pedagocial concept of the kindergarten or school, explain the enrollment procedure, jointly attend meetings with the headmaster and help your with the care contract.