Bree moved to Stuttgart from the US because her husband was sent here to work at EUCOM. In this interview she tells us about Expat life in Stuttgart as a mum, what was hard at the beginning and what she likes about here new home.
Bree, what brought you to Stuttgart?
My husband’s job brought us to Stuttgart. He is in the US Coast Guard and he’s here working at EUCOM.
What did you know about Stuttgart before you moved here?
I knew a little bit because actually our former landlords were here as well. So they really helped us. I knew the Porsche museum and that is the home of Mercedes Benz for example. But I didn’t know a lot.
Did you have a picture of Stuttgart in your head?
Yes, I did actually. I think Stuttgart is a much bigger city than I was anticipating. And it is much greener!
What was your first impression when you arrived?
Our first day was a Sunday and the next day was a public holiday so nothing was open! We were super jet lagged. But it was really easy to navigate and I instantly felt like this is a very safe place. Even when you don’t speak the language it is easy to get around.
Was something very strange to you at the beginning?
I think the hardest thing was getting used to the customer service. I am used to people being a little more friendly or welcoming… Even in hospitality I find that doesn’t exist the same way here as in the US. We lived in a hotel for the first two months and I expected the people to be more welcoming. Well, obviously some were very friendly, but some weren’t. Oh, one thing was super hard: the driver’s test! I didn’t know what the street signs were saying as they were in German obviously. And the German way of driving is different, like the priority rules for example. Every American who lives on base has to pass the German drivers test. So that was a little intimidating. Apart from that I live in constant fear of offending people. I’ve never been yelled at more since I’ve lived in Germany in my entire life. For example I got yelled at at the gas station because the guy didn’t like where I signed my card. I am very conscientious that I am following etiquette.
How long did it take you to really settle down here?
It was an unusual one for us because we had to stay in a hotel for a long time when we arrived. But I feel it takes six to nine month until you feel you kind of live in a new environment. And the first six month are all about getting your kids settled.
Is there something you like in particular about living in Stuttgart?
We live on Robinson Barracks and we have a great view. But what I love most is that we have sheep in front of our house! There is a shepherd and his sheep are right there. They are like our friends now. The other thing I love are the flowers. There are beautiful flowers everywhere. Germans seem to appreciate flowers as much as I do.
You should go to Wilhelma, they have greenhouses and beautiful flowers there.
Yes, I was there. And I also love Ludwigsburg castle. They have beautiful flowers, too.
Do you have a favorite place in Stuttgart?
I love Schwabengarten! And that’s usually the first place I would take a visitor. It’s very German and super fun.
Any recommendations what to do on the weekend?
We go somewhere different every weekend. My favorite place at the moment is Bad Wildbad in the Black Forest. It’s gorgeous. They have a tree top walk. It’s breathtaking. And I love Ludwigsburg castle as well, we go there a lot. It’s our neighborhood castle. Seriously, if you’re bored here, it’s your own fault.
You have three kids. What would you recommend other parents in Stuttgart?
My kids really love to walk around. So we go downtown on a Saturday and check out the markets. But we also go to places like Tripsdrill. We love that place. It’s a cute amusement park, super clean, they have nice food and it’s just fun. They have nice flowers there, too, actually. Oh, and we love the public pools. Our favorite one is in Stuttgart-Vaihingen.
What would you recommend for a weekend-getaway from Stuttgart?
I really love Colmar and Straßburg, France. It’s great for adults but also for families. I also love Garmisch. Switzerland is nice too, but very expensive. And we’re only six hours away from Belgium and you hit Luxemburg on the way. Oh and Paris! Paris is a three hour train ride away! So convenient. Travel is much easier here and less expensive than in the US.
As a foodie, do you have a favorite café or restaurant in Stuttgart?
I love the cafés! And I really appreciate people who eat cake every afternoon. Americans don’t eat dessert out all the time. I love Café Dada and Grand Café Planie. We go there for breakfast or brunch sometimes. I like that German desserts are sweet but not super sweet. American sweets are very sweet… But I needed to get used to German coffee. American coffee is very different. I feel like you guys drink espresso for coffee. I started to like it but it took a little while.
Do you have a favorite Swabian Dish?
I don’t know if it is Swabian but I love Flammkuchen. And of course I like Schnitzel. But one thing I’ve noticed, I’m used to more salt and pepper. I usually have some salt and pepper in my purse. And I like it spicy and you don’t find really spicy food in Germany. Oh and the bread here is incredible! The Dinkelbrot is my favorite.
Do you have a favorite Swabian or German restaurant in Stuttgart.
We go to Schönbuchbräu quite a bit and we go to a lot of beer gardens.
You write a blog, bakedbree.com. Tell us more about it!
It’s going in its ninth year. As you know, my husband is in the military and we moved a lot. I found out that what really helps to assimilate is to have people over for dinner parties. I would have a lot of parties on the weekends. People would eat something delicious and ask for the recipe. I got tired of emailing it so I wanted a place where I could put all of my recipes. And that’s how it started. I started before food blogs were really big. I was a photographer before that so I had a skill set not many people had. And it took off instantly. So I started this awesome freelance career. I did recipe development and food photography for brands. It has opened up a new world for me and I love the whole community.
When we found we were moving here a lot of people told me they used to live here too. And I have this Friday newsletter and I made genuine friends and connections from that. Baked Bree is basically a love letter to everybody who has ever been to my house for dinner. Food is the thing that grounds people and that brings everyone together. Everyone eats. Baked Bree is this gift that keeps on giving every year. I love that my kids will be able to find my recipes later.
Has living in Stuttgart influenced bakedbree.com?
Definitely. I write more about travel. And I eat different here. In the US we would go out to eat for something quick much more often. Here I cook a lot more. That has really influenced our eating habits. And I love the food here. It is so clean, it doesn’t have chemicals in it. The dairy here is just incredible. On the other hand I don’t get all the products that I’m used to at home. I have to be more creative. I think that it has made me a better cook.
Have you tried German or Swabian recipes yet?
I love baking German recipes. But German baking is different to US baking. The baking soda is different for example, the vanilla, the butter… And we usually measure in cups. So I had to get used to that. But now I like it actually.
What advice would you give other expats that are moving to Stuttgart?
If you’re moving here for the military, you should really be flexible and patient. You don’t have many choices. What I get asked a lot by people who are moving here is “What should I bring?” But that is not the right question. They are concerned about things but you should really be prepared for the process. It is a lot of waiting. Again, we lived in a hotel for two months. It’s not easy to find a house here. But it all pays out in the end. It is amazing how little you need for a couple of years. So don’t worry about the stuff, focus on the experiences you can have here. I wish I had planned out a few trips beforehand, prioritized where we want to go because time flies. And be careful with Facebook groups. They are very helpful but there is a lot of misinformation. So find other sources for information. Here, Google is your best friend. But I think having an open mind and the right attitude is the most important thing. Especially as a mum. I feel like my attitude influenced everybody in my family. Oh, and I would have studied for the German drivers test beforehand…
Bree, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us!