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Close Encounters of the Third Kind(ergarten)

One of the perks of a freelancing job is the possibility to choose where you want to live. Although in practice this is always more complicated than just packings your bags and moving, within the European Union it is actually viable. So, we have decided to exploit this opportunity and for the last two months we have been living in our favourite European city – Berlin.

There are many good things about Berlin (the weather is definitely not one of them), but to us it has always had the appeal of being situated half-way between the UK and Poland. We have calculated that the journey time door-to-door is probably the same when taking the train to Lodz or when flying to London. This is somehow fairer to both families and balances the sense of guilt for not living a street down from one’s parents evenly between both spouses.

The extra bonuses are Berlin’s vibrant cultural scene, great architecture, high ceilings, Christmas markets, currywurst, doner kebabs, warm rolls from the baker and our dear friends who we get to see on a regular basis. Oh, and one more thing. The state subsidised Kindergarten costing roughly ONE TENTH (yes 10%) of what it would cost in the UK.

So this is an interesting question: why does the German government think it is good to encourage new mums to return to work (full-time or part-time, any capacity is supported) when they feel ready and the UK government thinks it is good for you to hand over your whole salary (or most of it) to private childcare or else sit on your bum all day (metaphorically speaking, that is) or work at nights if you are lucky enough to have a profession which allows that?

The latter would be my fate if we continued living in the UK. For the past few months, I have had a fair share of working late nights translating as this is the only time for me to focus. This is not good for me nor my health, and it hardly leaves any time for my partner. OK, it is my choice, you can blame me for having professional ambitions or being greedy and not appreciating the hard work of the childcare workers who need to be justly remunerated for this hardest job of all. I apologise for wanting to progress and wanting to pay more taxes… I did try though, I have been on a waiting list for a crèche located conveniently for my UK work for over a year now. Maybe we get a place when Kasper is 16 years old and is ready to move out from home anyway…

Childcare subsidy costs are certainly contributing to Berlin’s financial dire straits. For a few years now we have been hearing that the city is bankrupt, but somehow it keeps going and there is no news on cutting down the support for young families. In turn, it allows me to increase my work output, pay higher taxes and keeps me a happy citizen feeling useful and good about myself. Yes, talk about making savings on medical cost of treating apathy and depression among women and cut divorce rate by 25%. Isn’t this bill worth footing after all?

One thing I will say that I miss about Britain while in Germany (apart from good tea) is children’s BBC channel. This is British culture at its best – the quality of the programmes is top notch and they are well pitched at the youngest and highly selective viewers. I owe thanks to CBeebies for the precious moments of reclaimed time when I had a chance to enjoy a cup of tea or have a little doze early in the morning.

Thank you CBeebies!

5 Responses to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind(ergarten)”

  1. Kasia Says:

    Great post, Alicja. Nurseries in my local area (London, N10) charge £70 per day…

  2. Alicja Says:

    Thanks Kasia! I found the difference really amazing. In Germany the amount you pay is proportional to your income as a family. The maximum amount anyone from the highest income bracket would be expected to pay is 466 Euros per month (2009) – this is still less than half of what you would pay in a comparable situation (full-time, 5 days a week) in the UK!

  3. When in Berlin…Bake Some Cinnamon Stars | Which Word Translations Says:

    […] Christmas preparations are even more ever present now that Kasper has started attending a German kindergarten. Children have been busy making Christmas decorations and art and we are looking forward to the […]

  4. Ruth Longabaugh Says:

    Good stuff, I have a couple of friends who would enjoy reading this. Thankyou 😉

  5. Senaida Waughtal Says:

    nice internet site! My hubby and i am loving this!! Are going to come back again – taking you feeds at the same time,

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