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10 things you didn’t know about raising kids in Germany

Are you thinking about moving to Germany with your family?

Be prepared for some surprising new ways of parenting!

Parenting in Germany


#1 Germans encourage their children to be self-reliant

If you are new to Germany, going to a playground can be a nerve-wrecking experience, particularly if you have a toddler yourself.

All the German parents seem to be happily chatting instead of paying attention to their children who are balancing on climbing frames 2 or 3 metres above a sand pit. And if you should ask them, whether this isn’t scary, the answer might even be “Oh yes, I can’t even watch it - I need to look the other way!”

This is not because German parents don’t care. They simply trust in their children to develop the necessary skills to be careful.

The idea is to let the children start taking smaller “risks” as soon as possible: the youngest ones might fall 20 cm deep and won’t hurt themselves seriously – but they will develop the skills of how to hold on tight. Once they start climbing up 2 metres or more, they will already know how to master this challenge.

#2 German parents prepare their children to be independent

Take a walk at 7.30 am and you will see all the school kids on their way to school. And you will notice: even the youngest schoolkids get there by themselves – and many of them even use public transport to do so.

Accompanying your kids is only common during the first year of school, (usually at the age of 6). And even during this time, parents will typically encourage their children to make the way either by themselves or with friends as soon as possible.

Driving the kids by car is frowned upon:

According to German parents, children need to walk and get some fresh air in order to be able to concentrate at school.

And … if it’s raining? Or snowing? Well, then:

#3 There is no bad weather, there’s only unsuitable clothing

Raising kids in Germany

Most Germans believe that there’s no bad weather but only unsuitable clothing.

In the nursery and during school breaks the children will have outdoor recess in almost any kind of weather (yes, even at 15 degrees minus and snowing), so it’s a good idea to make sure that the children are equipped with sunscreen in summer, splash-pants in spring and autumn and a woollen hat in winter.

#4 No focus on academics before starting school

Germany is often considered as a children’s paradise because the early childhood educational system is based on free-play rather than academics.

In the nursery, children will also be crafting: they are supposed to learn how to cut with scissors, to hold a pen and they might also learn how to write their name.

And they will also clap to the rhythm of the words as a preparation for learning how to read and write.

But the focus is on learning through play and social learning.

Parents are even discouraged from teaching their children to read and write – they are encouraged to read to their children instead.

#5 The most important goal for education: Politeness

Who would have thought that about Germans – after all they often have the reputation of all being so rude!

But in a survey 86% of parents of children under 14 declared that politeness was their most important goal in education.

Number 2 (82%) is honesty.

And the typical German trait of being orderly and accurate is “only” number 3 (81%).

#6 There are 16 different school systems

Bundesrepublik Deutschland

If you are planning to move to Bavaria and ask your friends who are living in Berlin or Hamburg to tell you about the German school system, you might get totally different ideas to what really expects you.

Each of the 16 ‘Bundesländer’ (Federal States) has got an own school system.

Only the basic structure is similar:

Kindergarten – Primary school – different Secondary schools … but apart from that, they can vary a lot.

Moving within Germany can be just as difficult as moving abroad.

#7 The parent’s contribution decides about the children’s success at school

In Germany, the socio-economic status of the parents has a stronger impact on their children’s future than in any other comparable country.

That means: the success at school depends very much on the work the parents are willing and able to put in. Your child will need your help – and teachers expect you to give it.

Timewise, school days are quite short: unless you have a full-time-school, which is still the exception in most parts of Germany, Primary school will start at 8 am and end between 11.20 am and 1 pm.

And then there will be homework to be done and supervised. If you don’t speak German, this may be really hard – and it means that you will need to understand what your child is supposed to learn.

There may be some sort of day-care (“Hort” or “Mittagsbetreuung”) to look after your kid. But even in that case it is definitely better to check your child’s homework in the evening to see whether it’s done correctly and if there are any problems.

#8 Many mums stay at home

26% of the mothers with children under 18 are staying at home

And out of the mothers who are working, 66% have a part-time job.

On the one hand, there are many families that prefer the traditional role model and mothers enjoy spending time with their kids. They can take up to three years of maternity leave for each kid!

On the other hand, many women would love to go back to work or to work more hours, but they need to look after their kids in the afternoon and help them with their homework. There are just not enough day-care-facilities – it can be really hard to even get a place in the nursery.

School Germany

This can be great for expat mums who are new to Germany and don’t have a job (yet) because it is so much easier to meet for a coffee while the kids are playing together.

#9 Youngsters move out early

Most youngsters move out of their parents’ home when they go to university or become financially independent.

While the average age for moving out within the EU is 25,9 years, it is a bit lower in Germany: 23,7 years.

German parents encourage that – after all they were supporting their children to become independent from early on.

#10 The society takes part in looking after the kids

Germans love to tell each other what they do wrong. And that can be soooo annoying! On the upside, this means that people care about each other.

If you have children who are running out and about, this is really helpful: Other people will tell your child to stop if he or she is doing something that might be dangerous or harmful – and they will stop and help if your child is in trouble.

The typical German trait of following the rules is also helpful to make the world a bit safer for kids.


Eventhough this list was only 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about parenting in Germany, you will understand the German way of thinking and everyday life in Germany so much better now!


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