Ah, Blogtoberfest is fun, isn’t it? In case you want something to kill a bit more time, the last two entries I wrote were a post about an edible flower on Costa Rica Outsider and a review of Once Upon A Time In The West on Cinematic Attic. Now for today’s post.
I recently came across this BBC documentary called Make Me A German:
Although it’s not about artificially creating humans from car parts and sausage casings (unfortunately), it is very interesting. I watched it this afternoon and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
Especially since I recently became a father, I’ve been thinking a lot about quality of life issues. However, I had been thinking about them for a long time, and that’s one reason I’d decided to stay in Costa Rica for eight years and counting. And even before I came here, I had spent two years in Germany. While there, at some point I visited Berlin and said that I hoped to live there for at least a year sometime. As you can guess, the joke now is that I should have specified which Berlin I wanted to live in, since destiny seems to have a sense of humor by sending me to a Berlin in the mountains of Central America.
But I digress. If you have a chance to watch the documentary, do so, since it’s a very interesting look at various aspects of quality of life. The presenters are a British couple who move to Germany to try to find the secret of German productivity and success. That means that some of the reference points, based on British measurements, aren’t really as relevant for me, but they still make you think.
The documentary also highlights some of the things I really liked about living in Germany and German society, such as the earlier end to work days, 6 weeks of paid vacation per year, the apprenticeship system (which apparently about half of Germans use to find good employment with good pay), the food, the health system, and the emphasis on family. That family emphasis is a bit controversial, though, as it means that fewer women work after having children. The mother of the British family actually has quite a bit of trouble coming to grips with it since, in their attempt to emulate a typical German family, she’s got to stay at home with the kids and do an average of 4.2 hours of housework a day. That seems a bit nuts, but as I’m usually the one who cooks and often does dishes around here, I can see how it can easily get to be that much.
One good part of the family emphasis, though, is the general promotion of family life and the well-being of children. They often start school at 6 years old, and there are many forms of assistance to help families with children such as tax breaks, subsidies, and good, free schools. And the Waldkindergarten looks amazing. I didn’t actually know that they existed, but I guess I’ve never had a kid in Germany, so why would I?
At the same time, all is not perfect, of course. There’s a certain rigidity and over-emphasis on planning and order that doesn’t always sit well with the presenters (or with me), and there are other factors that are more superficial or at least less important to me, like generally bad weather for a lot of the year, stagnated wages, and a sometimes high cost of living. But all in all, it makes living in Germany look pretty good.
As I said, this has been on my mind a lot since we’ve had our baby. We’re kind of thinking along the lines of a roughly five year plan for him, wherein we’d move to the US by the time he’s of school age. The schools here just aren’t that great from what we’ve seen and experienced, and there seems like there’d be more opportunities for him there. However, that could also come at a price. Life can be pretty hectic up there. The vacation policies at most jobs sucks. And there seems to be more crime in the US, although not necessarily in Colorado, where we’d likely end up. But it is hard to ignore things like mass shootings and so many difficult conflicts going on up there. When I see those things, Costa Rica doesn’t seem so bad.
Wages are higher in the US, of course, but then again nearly every life “necessity” except food, gas, and cars seems to cost more there. And there’s the weather. Around this time of year, it’s going to crap in Costa Rica since the rainy season is in full swing, so Colorado starts looking pretty good with its nice mild fall season. But around Christmas time, when we usually visit, it’s ridiculously cold–or what now seems like “ridiculously cold” after having lived in the tropics for eight years–just at the same time that the weather is becoming beautiful in Costa Rica.
In the end, there’s a lot of strands in the old Sitz’s head. I actually had a variation of this conversation the other day with a Costa Rican woman who had lived in Germany for 14 years with her family, and she said that she often wonders why she left (at least when the weather’s bad here). I told her that if I was just going by the best place to raise a child and give him or her a good life, I might even go for Germany if that were an option, but it’s probably not. It’s a bit complicated to immigrate there, I’m sure, and as Angela doesn’t speak German, it’d be really hard on her, at least at first. And like an American friend who moved to Germany, married a German, and had babies said, there’s definitely a huge advantage to being close to family, and if we were anywhere besides Costa Rica or Colorado, we’d lose that advantage.
What do you all think? How do you judge quality of life? What’s important to you, and what’s not? If you saw the documentary, would you want to be “German”? Basically, tell me what to do, so I don’t have to make a decision.
Thanks for reading!