I met Josette a few weeks back when I visited the Bumps and Baby meetup at Karls Kitchen with my little one (to find out more about the playgroups I visited so far, check out my mom life post from December 2019). Josette is originally from the UK and moved to Stuttgart in 2012. She is not only a co-organizer of the mom meetups, she has a degree in children’s nursing and has founded The little Nestling Place here in Stuttgart where she teaches baby massages in English. In this Expat Interview she shares her experiences of how it feels like moving to Stuttgart with a baby under your heart, what was hard at the beginning, what helped her settle in eventually and more.
Josette, what brought you to Stuttgart and when did you move here?
Love. Love brought me to Stuttgart. I met my now husband in the UK and started to grow my first boy in there in 2012 then off I popped to Germany in the August; my 6th month bump, two suitcases and I, where I gave birth to him 3 months later in December in a lovely clinic. What an experience!
What did you know about Stuttgart before you arrived?
I knew absolutely nothing about Stuttgart and only the obvious things about Germany. My husband is from North Germany so her wasn’t familiar with Stuttgart either. I knew very little, I didn’t even know the alphabet was pronounced differently until someone pronounced the name of my child.
Actually, when I announced to a German Dr at the hospital where I used to work that I’d be moving to Stuttgart he said “Stuttgart is very conservative”. I didn’t think much of that statement until I arrived.
What was your first impression of Stuttgart?
2012. I’ve arrived in Stuttgart…I LOVED the look of this city (and still do). I think the city’s landscape is incredibly unique. The weather magnificent in the peak of summer and winter (in comparison to the British weather).
What was hard for you at the beginning?
I couldn’t handle the stares when I first arrived. That was really difficult to comprehend. I just didn’t experience this in the UK. Why were they constantly staring? Because I am black? Pregnant? With a white man? Dressed alternativly? Yes, yes, yes and yes- probably. It really, really got to me at the beginning and after a few years I realised this is their culture and I quickly learned how to stare back which I can see makes them just as uncomfortable as it makes me.
So other than the ghastly stares, the language comes in second as a difficulty I have and still experience. I have now learned enough German to have a light hearted conversation but I’m not quite there yet to converse about politics- for example. I took B2 in German and two years ago, spent 4 weeks in a north German hospital plus another 8 weeks with my German mother in law. I learned a lot of German in those 12 weeks in the north.
What helped you settle in?
I had to settle the hard way or right in at the deep end. At first finding as much English speakers as possible helped, and through my son going to kita/kindergarten/school I came into contact with amazing families who’d speak German to me but at a level where I’d be able to understand. I had also found an English speaking church and through the church I found a gospel choir where they were all German but a few members had AMAZING English. They too helped with settling into Stuttgart. I’m forever grateful to them.
Finally, letting go. Letting go of my life I had back in the UK and focusing on the life I’m currently living. That was incredibly difficult to do and once I had done that life became easier.
What do you like most about living in Stuttgart?
I love that nowhere is too far from Stuttgart. Neighbouring countries, The Alps, Sea life centre, Legoland, Monkey park, Bodensee, Black Forest, Europa Park, tandem parachuting.
Once up on the hills the views are so lovely; at night time the lights are pretty, in autumn the changing of the leaves are pretty, in winter the snow in the hills are pretty.
I love the public transport system in Stuttgart too!
Is there something you don’t like at all?
Except for the construction sites, road works and traffic there’s nothing I do not like about Stuttgart.
You have founded The Little Nestling Place. Tell us more about it.
The little Nestling Place…
When I had my first baby I missed EVERYTHING about the UK and I was craving English.
When I arrived I found it difficult trying to find places in Stuttgart to take my baby boy where English was the predominant language. Why would it be easy? I’m in Germany! But fast forward a few years, a few completed German language courses later, I became a certified baby massage instructor and the little Nestling Place was born.
I’m a university graduate obtaining my Bsc (Hons) in Children’s Nursing and worked at Birmingham children’s hospital on the Neonatal Cardiac High Dependency Unit.
But I now teach newborn nurture courses, baby massage courses and I’m currently studying to become a hypnobirthing instructor. My classes are to support, facilitate and empower parents and to help form connections.
Each course is taught with love and care.
Due to my own struggles and experiences;
The Little Nestling Place was born because no parent or parent-to-be should feel isolated at what should be an amazing time in their lives. Every parent-to-be should be able to birth their baby into this world without fearing parenting in silence and isolation.
The Little Nestling Place was born so I can continue working with babies and families, to offer nurturing support and knowledge to all parents through baby massage which teaches us that connection, touch, bonding is so vital to baby’s development and to the parents mental health.
The Little Nestling Place is here to help support those families who have moved to Stuttgart who are facing the challenges of becoming a new parent with no extended family for emotional, mental or physical support.
The Little Nestling Place is here to connect people with people because after all, sometimes it does take a village and by coming together we aim to tackle some of that isolation and create community bonds that last a life time. “When the isolated mother no longer feels isolated, she can start to feel love, she can give her baby her love, her baby will feel this love and give it back to her. And so it begins” Josette tlnp.
You are a mom of two yourself. Do you have any tips for other expat parents what to do with their children in and around Stuttgart?
Ones needs or wants will be totally different from the other so I can only speak from my experience.
At some point, learn the language. I learned the language for my children- this is their home and I also learned for myself. I send my children to German speaking day care/school, we go to local parks, city attractions, I do as much German things with them as possible because we’re living here for the foreseeable and they are indeed German children.
A new parent can get in touch with Kiramiga a relocation company in Stuttgart to help with settling into Stuttgart and finding great things to do with their children. They really do know a lot of places and things to do in and around Stuttgart for families.
On a fun note, getting a balance bike, scooter and lined waterproof trousers/dungarees (matschhose) is a must!
Going swimming inside and out are something my children love. Indoor play areas on wet and rainy days. The Alps is great for amazing fresh air and skiing!
I saved my sanity by finding other English speaking mamas. To have a coffee and chat with another mama in a similar situation, to just speak and be able to express oneself without having to think to me was needed therefore important. So if you’re someone who needs that, it’s out there.
Dear Josette, thank you very much for taking the time for this Expat Interview!
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