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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Getting Married in Germany: Registering a Marriage

Over 5 months after our first meeting at the German registry office, my German fiancé and I went back again today to officially register our marriage!

Getting married in Germany: registering a marriage

As I wrote in my previous post about getting married in Germany, we had to collect the following documents on our own:

✓ Foreign birth certificate with name of parents [with Apostille] & German translation (me)
✓ Copy from the birth register (German fiancé)
✓ Copy of passport
✓ Proof of income

Ordering the birth certificate, getting an Apostille for it, and then getting it all translated took the most time, but it was all relatively painless. At our appointment at the registry office, our case worker then put it all together to send to the regional court (Oberlandesgericht), and everything seemed to be going just fine. The problem came when he asked us about changing our names.

Originally, I wanted to change my middle name to my maiden name, and take my fiancé's last name. Theoretically, this is possible. The only problem is that according to all of my German documents, my current middle name is actually name second first name. And you cannot get rid of your second first name when marrying.

actual GIF of my German fiancé and me when the case worker told us this nonsense

So, now I have the following options:
  1. Keep my name as it is (that is what I am registered for currently)
  2. Just change my last name
  3. Have two middle names (my current middle name + my maiden name)
  4. Stick to my original plan by finding a way to prove that my middle name is NOT a second first name
It's not a easy decision, and I have to decide fast. Yikes!

At the end of our appointment, and after signing at least 5 different papers (are you sure you were never married before? are you sure you don't have any children? are you sure you are legally allowed to marry?), we got hit with the bill.

Marco and I originally thought that the only fee came from the regional court. We were wrong. For the registration of the marriage we paid a total of 127.00€.

Here is the breakdown of fees:

Fees for getting married in Germany to a foreigner

  • Postage - 4€
  • Acceptance of an oath - 25€
  • Examination of the marriage requirements, foreign law - 80€
  • 2x Registration certificate - 18€
Total: 127€

The other part of the bill will come after the regional court has approved our marriage registration. This fee is income-based, and since I am a student and my fiancé has a modest income, our case worker told us that the fee will definitely not be the maximum amount, which is around 500€.

Now on to the exciting part: we set our wedding date and location! Our city offers several beautiful, historic locations where couples can get married. One of these is the historic water tower, where couples can get married on Fridays. So, we will be getting married on Friday, December 30, 2016 in the Lüneburg Water Tower!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My 3 Year Expat Anniversary!

As of today, I have lived for three years in Germany. That's right, it's my 3 year anniversary as an expat! And let me tell you, it was the best year yet!

Now that it has become tradition (1st anniversary, 2nd anniversary), I will now give a run down of all the things I have seen and accomplished in this past year.

July 2015

My German driver's license

August 2015

Invalid German visa

September 2015

  • Marco and I celebrated our four-year anniversary!
Homemade Reese's peanut butter cups

October 2015

USA Haul

November 2015

  • For Thanksgiving weekend, Marco took me on a little vacation to the Baltic Sea, where he asked me to marry him (and I said yes)!
  • By the way, this was also my FOURTH Thanksgiving in Germany! 

December 2015

  • I stayed in Germany for Christmas this year, spending time with Marco's family in Nuremberg (even though they're not from Nuremberg).
  • We spent New Year's Eve at home in Lüneburg, where I did lead pouring for the first time and lit off some fireworks in the street!

January 2016

My Müller meter

February 2016

March 2016

  • I successfully finished my third semester of grad school in Germany! If only I hadn't mistakenly taken a class that didn't end up counting towards my degree, this would have been my very last time taking classes...
  • I also started tutoring two German teenagers (13 and 15 years old) in English this month, which has ended up being a lot of fun!

April 2016

  • Marco and I spent Easter in his hometown in Southern Germany, where I tried driving stick shift again. It went quite well, and I even drove four hours on the Autobahn!
Learning to drive stick shift in Germany

  • I started my fourth (and hopefully last) semester of my master's degree, which means I also started writing my master's thesis!

May 2016

  • Marco and I were quite busy requesting, collecting, and translating documents for our marriage application
A photo posted by Courtney (@courtneydmartin) on

June 2016

  • UEFA European Championships started (but Germany lost in the semifinals)
  • I was nominated for an academic award at my university for the "best foreign student" (spoiler: I won and received the award in July)

July 2015

  • I won the award!

And today, on July 24th, I have reached my 3-year anniversary living in Germany. What a crazy 3 years it has been.

Here's to another great year!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

30 before 30, Update #1

I turned 26 last week! Yay!

Last year, when I turned 25, I made a 30 before 30 list -- that is, a list of 30 goals I want to accomplish before I turn 30 years old. Now is the time to check in and see what progress I've made!

1. Finish my Master's degree
Currently writing my thesis! Assuming I pass, I will definitely be able to check this off by next year!

6. Read 100 books
Last year, my Goodreads profile was at 56 books. Now I'm at 71, which means I've read 16 books in the past year. That's not a lot, but it's mostly because I have had to focus so much on academic reading (i.e. journal articles) that I haven't read very many books and novels. This should pick up soon.

10. Read 30 books in German
I've only read two non-academic books in German this past year: Der Marsianer & Die Flüsse von London. Progress is progress, I suppose.

11. Visit 10 different Christmas markets
This past year I visited the Flensburg Christmas market, which was a new one for me. Not particularly large or nice, but new.

15. Learn to drive stick shift
Over Easter this year, Marco gave me my second lesson in driving stick shift (almost one year after the first one). A couple days later, I drove for four hours on Autobahn! Then, just two weeks ago, I was the designated driver for a bunch of drunk Germans (again), and I went through at least four stoplights without ever stalling the car!

Learning to drive stick shift in Germany

16. Grow a vegetable garden
This year we grew cucumbers, tomatoes, and lots of lettuce on the balcony! I'll wait cross this off until I grow a successful vegetable garden, though. Our cucumbers were inedible this year, and as of writing this post, we have not yet harvested a single tomato :(

20. Enjoy black coffee
Marco and I got a Nespresso machine for Christmas 2015. Since then, I drink almost exclusively espresso (but only in the afternoon), and I love it. Crossing this one off!

22. Get a massage
My sneaky cousin Renee took me to get a massage when I was visiting my family in the U.S. in September 2015. I was super nervous, but actually ended up enjoying it! Not sure I need to go again anytime soon, though...

23. Master the German language
I feel like I could cross this one off, but there is still one thing that makes me very nervous: finding a job. Since my future job will likely require me speaking and writing in German, I want to see how I handle adjusting to this situation before I cross this one off.

24. Run 5k in less than 30 minutes
I restarted the C25k program in May, and coincidentally, I reached the last week of the program on yesterday! Below is the review of my last run, where I ran 4.93 km in 31 minutes. Close enough! I'm crossing it off, and I'll start working towards my second running goal on my 30 before 30 list - running 10 km in under 1 hour!

That's four goals crossed off the list! Let's hope I can pick up the past in the coming years...

Friday, July 1, 2016

Forest Kindergarten in Germany

Would you send your 3-year-old to daycare in the middle of the forest? Even in the middle of winter?  The Germans do.

Forest Kindergarten in Germany - Waldkindergarten
Although not the most common kind of daycare in Germany, forest kindergarten (Waldkindergarten) is an increasingly popular form of daycare for young children to play, explore, and learn outside before having to start school when they turn 6 years old.

Forest kindergartens have existed in Germany for nearly 50 years and are a state-recognized form of daycare. Today, there are over 1,000 forest kindergartens throughout Germany.

Forest Kindergarten's Construction Trailer

For the past three years, I have lived across the street from a fairly large piece of forest with a large stream running through it. I regularly walk and jog through this forest, but I was quite surprised one morning, when during my walk, I came across a group of little kids hitting trees with sticks. What the heck is going on here? Where are there parents? Isn't it too cold to be outside?

I'm a cynical American, if you can't tell. It turns out, these kids belonged to the local forest kindergarten called "the forest turnips" (die Waldrüben). And as the name suggests, forest kindergartens are held exclusively outside—no matter the weather. However, this particular group does have a construction trailer...

Forest Kindergarten's Construction Trailer

Forest Kindergarten in Germany

Here is a translation from the Forest Turnips' bulletin board, which describes how their program is run:
Our group consists of 15 children between 3 and 6 years old, and they are guided by two teachers. The group meets each day at 8:00 a.m. at our construction trailer in the forest.
The day starts with a morning circle at 8:30 a.m., where the kids greet each other, sing, and plan the day. After this, the group goes to one of their many play areas in the forest where they will eat breakfast together and begin an activity such as climbing, building, sawing, whittling, crafting, reading, singing, exploring, and more...
If you are like me, then you are probably thinking, "Sawing? Whittling? What, are they really giving 3-6 year-olds knives?" And the answer is yes. Yes, they are.

I was pretty shocked one of the first times I walked through the forest and saw the forest children with little pocket knives, cutting branches in order to build a bridge. When I later asked Marco about it, though, he acted like it wasn't a big deal. "I always had a knife as a kid so that I could do things like make spears and play with sticks in the forest." Well, okay then.

Don't believe me? Just check out the kids in this video:

My local Waldkindergarten includes this notice on their bulletin board as well:
Experiencing the stillness and noises of the forest promotes inner peace and concentration skills in the children. Unlike traditional day care centers, there is no over-stimulation in the forest. Without prefabricated toys, every child has the possibility to create their own toys and games by using their own creativity and imagination.

German forest with stream

Here are some of their play areas that I discovered on my recent walk through the forest. I regularly come across tipis (or is it teepees?) and bridges that the kids have built. You can see that they even have their own hand-made bows and arrows!

Forest Kindergarten Tipi in Germany

Forest Kindergarten Bows and Arrows

Forest Kindergarten Zip Line
I also came across this awesome zip line in the forest, but I don't think it belongs to the forest kindergarten

What do you think? Would you send your child to a Waldkindergarten?
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