Overseas Singaporean Mama Chrisandra Doerr shares her top kid-friendly travel picks for Munich, Germany (and admits sometimes missing the Singapore sunshine)
This week’s overseas mama, Chrisandra Doerr, first moved to Germany for work and eventually met her husband through mutual friends. Two children and 11 years later, today she is based in Munich, the capital of Bavaria known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration. Becoming a mother has taught this former workaholic to take a step back and be more efficient at work as well as stepped up to be an active member of the overseas Singaporean community in Germany.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Chrisandra Doerr and I met my husband here through our common friends, one of whom was our best man and the other one is now godmother to our son. We have two lovely children, a daughter who is almost three years old and a son who is almost one. Right now, I am on parental leave for a year. I will take care of my children until my youngest goes to childcare before I return to the workforce.
What brought you to Munich, Germany? How long have you been living overseas?
I moved to Munich 11 years ago for work. I first started working in Germany as an internal auditor, which requires a lot of business travels around the world. Now I am based in Munich and work for the corporate department of my company which requires me to speak German daily. It is a total change of lifestyle and experience.
Favourite aspect about living in Munich?
In many ways, Munich is very similar to Singapore in terms of cleanliness, public order and safety. Its geographical location is great! Within a four-hour drive, we could be in Austria, Italy, Switzerland or the Czech Republic. Munich’s proximity to many lakes and mountains is one of the many advantages of living here.
And the worst part?
Winter is sometimes too long. I used to take for granted that in Singapore we could see the sun almost every day. During winter, we may only have cloudy weather and don’t get any sunlight for days or even weeks.
Your most recent purchase
… for your children?
Diapers, diapers and more diapers. We are lucky to have inherited many infant and children’s clothing items as well as toys from friends and other families. As babies outgrow their clothes so quickly, it is practical and environmental-friendly to pass on baby clothes to the next newborn.
A Bluetooth headset so I could listen to music while my baby sleeps.
How do you think parenting in Munich differs from parenting in Singapore? What do you appreciate most about it?
The incentives provided by the state such as 14 months of parental leave shared between the parents. This allows us to spend time to accompany our children as they grow and be a part of their development.
Did you give birth to your children in Munich? If yes, what was memorable about the experience?
My daughter was born in April 2017. I remember it was snowing heavily outside when we were in the delivery ward but the next day turned out to be bright and sunny. However, when my son was born around the same date two years later, the weather was warm, like in the summer. That’s why people here say April is unpredictable when it comes to weather.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Before having children, I would work more than 40 hours per week and sometimes even on weekends to complete my workload. Now as I have other more important commitments at home, I’ve learnt to work more efficiently and am able to prioritise my work responsibilities accordingly. Managing children and household chores sometimes feels like managing projects at work, the only difference being at home there is no such thing as off-duty.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Munich?
We love Kam Lung, a Cantonese restaurant that serves Asian food similar to what we have in Singapore. The staff often offers us tables at the back of the restaurant so we can park our strollers and have space to let the children run around. Make sure you call in advance to make a reservation and ask for the special menu.
Top five places in or around Munich you would recommend to parents travelling with kids:
- Augustiner Schützengarten – Augustiner is one of the best breweries from Munich. Its restaurant and beer garden are next to each other and serve good Bavarian food. You can bring your own food if you sit in the beer garden area but you must buy drinks from their kiosk. In front of the beer garden, there is a big field with a playground that is paradise for children.
- Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum – This transport museum presents historical and present-day transport in three exhibition halls with 275 historic trains, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and carriages, including the Benz-Motorwagen, one of the first working gasoline-powered cars. Kids’ Kingdom in the museum has many activities in store for children from three to eight years old.
- Wasserspielplatz Westpark – The water playground in Westpark is large and is the perfect place to go with kids, especially in the summer. There are not a lot of shaded areas so the slides can get quite hot. There is also playground equipment for younger kids like a small carousel, a swing, a smaller climbing frame with slide, climbing poles and ropes and a seesaw. There are not many places to sit so do bring your own picnic mats.
- Seebad Starnberg – This public swimming pool in Starnberg, about 30 kilometres southwest of Munich, offers an indoor pool, a lake pool and sauna facilities. The indoor pool has three new slides that are up to 45 metres long. The lake has wonderful clear water and a gorgeous panorama of the Alps. At the outdoor area, there is space to sunbathe or rest under the trees while children play at the playground. My husband loves to do standup paddleboarding (SUP) so we often go to the lake.
- Wildpark Poing – We love going to this wildlife park in Poing, just 18 kilometres east of central Munich, which has well-designed enclosures and aviaries based on the natural habitats of the animals. Red deer, fallow deer, roe deer, mouflons and wild boars live almost like in the wild. There is also a spacious picnic meadow with kiosks and seating areas. What’s more, the children’s area has something for kids of every age including a water playground, a pirate ship and adventure slides.
Any advice for surviving a flight with young children?
For our baby, we have a CoziGo airline bassinet and stroller cover for long flights. It is produced by an Australian company but they deliver worldwide. For our toddler, we use an inflatable foot rest which gives extra legroom so she can lie down on the seat.
Is there something that you do to keep your children in touch with their Singaporean roots?
I organise events and participate in activities together with other Singaporeans living in and around Munich so that our children can be in touch with their Singaporean roots. You can find us on Facebook under the Singaporeans in Germany (SGinDE) group .
Best souvenir one could bring back from Munich
For a child:
A dirndl or a lederhosen, which are traditional clothing worn in Bavaria. They look so cute! Most people wear them to Oktoberfest or on special occasions such as weddings.
For a mama friend:
A type of particularly water-absorbent cleaning cloth that is not available in Singapore. Since it is light, we don’t have a problem carrying these cleaning cloths back to Singapore.
What do you find is the hardest part of being a mother living in a foreign country?
It is sometimes hard to be a mother alone in a foreign country without family or domestic help. We must tackle household chores as well as raise our children on our own, hence it is very important to have spousal and community support.
On raising multilingual children …
I meet up with other Asian mothers for a weekly Chinese playgroup so that we can create a Mandarin-speaking environment for our children. Otherwise it would be very hard for my children to learn Chinese if I am the only person speaking Mandarin with them. We also gather to celebrate festivals such as Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival to let our children appreciate Chinese culture more.
What do you always bring back from Singapore for yourself and for your children?
I always bring back from Singapore food and sauces that I cannot find or are very expensive to buy in Munich such as laksa and sambal chilli paste. For my children, I always bring back home traditional remedies and ointments like Pei Pa Koa, Zam-Buk and Tiger Balm.
Your top makeup tip for a busy mama?
Less is more and skincare is vital. On special occasions, I would use Za True White Two-way Foundation, which provides great matte coverage. I’ve been using it for more than 10 years already! Benefit Gimme Brow+ Volumizing Eyebrow Gel is something I discovered less than a year ago and it helps to enhance your natural brow shape in a few fuss-free seconds. Finally, a tinted lip balm in red that brightens and moisturises the lips at the same time and an orange blush as the shade works really well on Asian skin.
Tell us about your go-to recipe for your family.
Rice porridge with salmon and vegetables.
What’s the one thing you would miss about Munich if you moved away?
My friends here and the nature.
Thanks for sharing your story, Chrisandra! Click below for other Overseas Singaporean mamas…