Before you begin to read this and find yourself thinking “dear Lord, here we go again with either cats, knitting or whinging”, I’d like to warn you that this entry has been lovingly handcrafted by the spellbinding combination of what I can only describe as pregnancy rage; a healthy dose of frustration and a dollop of cultural perplexity.
First the elephants in the room:
Yes I’m having a baby. Surprised me too, funnily enough. Yes I’m doing this on my own. Little wriggler is due to make his first on-stage appearance in the summer. So that means a sober birthday in addition to Christmas just gone. The size of that first gin and tonic will be a whopper, I’m telling you.
Next surprise: I’m back in the land of beer and salami. Neither of which I’m supposed to consume, given current circumstances. This time, I’m in the West dealing with corporate types as opposed to the Bildungselite in the East like the last time.
Right, on to the topic that’s driven me to type this afternoon whilst my inhabitant decides to do his afternoon yoga and test whether my organs make for good cushions: Germans and their bizarre kitchen fascination.
As it currently stands, I sub-let a room in a flat share until the end of April; this was agreed from the word go when I originally moved in. This deadline was always on the horizon; then came the revelation that I will soon have a human kitten and the search for a new place to live in became that little more complex.
I should add that personal circumstances are incredibly fluid in nature at the best of times, and things haven’t always been quite this…precarious, as it may come across. Sometimes you genuinely cannot foresee the things that are thrown at you.
So here I am, looking for a flat (and a midwife, and a hospital, and childcare) in the Frankfurt area, and for those of you vaguely familiar with the city will already be spitting out your tea/coffee/gin as this is quite the mountain to climb.
The rental market here is, quite simply put, ludicrous. The little that is on the market is priced extortionately, and is snapped up before you can say “bugger me”. Secondly, the moment you look like you’re expecting and appear to be on your own, be prepared to be rejected – cue baggy jumpers and coats with strategically placed scarves and pray he doesn’t start a yoga routine mid-viewing.
And this is where the kitchens come in. In the UK, it is quite common to move into an unfurnished flat and to have to provide maybe the fridge, or the cooker and the washing machine. Dishwasher too, if you’re feeling flush.
The Germans appear to be quite attached to their kitchens, and take the damn things with them when they move out.
All of it. Cupboards, work surfaces, appliances, sinks, the lot.
So not only do you have to consider the deposit, and the fact that you will have to pay more than the rent advertised as it won’t include bills, you also have to mentally brace yourself for the installation of a darn kitchen should you not have one spare.
Out of fairness, there are the odd instances where tenants quite understandably do the
normal sensible thing and leave the kitchen behind in exchange for a price; these offers however are not particularly commonplace, nor do they hang around for long.
I do not have a car here, so need to be close to public transport for work; close enough to a hospital that’ll take me so I can get myself there when my little dude decides he’s ready; and it needs to be affordable with the maternity pay* that’s available: these criteria restrict things somewhat. Throw in the soon to be not-so-secret baby and the required childcare and you can imagine the fun we’re having with the search.
It’s enough to make you question the logic of staying in a country that technically is foreign to me – even if my employer were accepting and supportive of the development, and Brexit wasn’t on the horizon, this would still be a challenge; I am not about to lie to myself on the challenges of motherhood.
Brexit may seem a weird one to throw in seemingly without reason, but based on current work permit frameworks, these are fairly easy to obtain if you earn over a threshold of ca. 48,000 EUR per annum. Needless to say I do not meet that threshold.
It’s almost enough to drive you spare.
Sadly I have no immediate solutions to any of this, save for continuing to spam every estate agent and flat advert I can find and going to viewings.
Despite all of this, I would make the same decision again, given the chance. Whilst he’s currently dancing away and practising his kung fu with his umbilical cord, my tiny dancer and I have already experienced quite a bit. Little does he know.
Right, time to go munch something before I start getting complaints. Then it’s on to complete the best dinosaur jacket you’ve ever seen.
Oh, and German obstetricians are an experience and a half. Mine is an absolute Powerfrau and a diamond. More on that later.
*I should add here that I am aware that German law is incredibly comprehensive and the support offered to single parents is, based on what I have read, very well thought-out; there are safeguards in place to ensure that one parent does not leave the other without. However I need to be realistic whilst the paperwork is sorted out and I am absolutely certain that there will be unexpected costs that I will need to be able to cover, thus the worst-case scenario planning.