Upcoming September Events

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Just a quick note to let you know about a few upcoming events that I look forward to every year.

Event number one is this weekend is the Schildesche Stadtfest with one of my favorite fleamarkets of the year and Carnival with rides and games. The festival runs from Friday until Sunday and includes shows and concerts as well. The weather looks pretty good, so it should be fun. Just take the Line 1 to the end at Schildesche and follow the people going down the street. You will not be able to miss it.

Event number two is a special day sponsored by Bielefeld and Hereford called ohne auto mobil. On September 29 (Sunday), the entire 10 kms between Bielefeld and Hereford will be closed off from 10am to 6pm to autos for bicyclers, rollerbladers, walkers, etc. The last time they had this event was a few years ago and I can really recommend it. The length is not hilly and there are plenty of stops along the way for bathroom breaks and water. At the end in Hereford is a festival. Last time we biked to Hereford, had some lunch and then biked home, but of course if you have smaller kids, you can take the train home from Hereford. More information can be found here:


Autumn is in the air, but we can still have fun outside!! See you there!

Getting a Haarschnitt in Bielefeld


One of the major milestones of living in a new country, especially one where you aren’t a native speaker of the language, is successfully getting a haircut. When I lived in Spain, I came home in tears and sporting a new mullet, so I know firsthand what a dangerous undertaking this can be. (At least this had nothing to do with my Spanish skills, and everything to do with the fact that Andalucians just love them some mullets). Both my husband and I have found that at hair salons in Bielefeld, the stylists are actually reluctant to cut away as much as you want them to. I had to insist at least three times that I really, really DID want it that short, even though it is getting cold here. At least there is little room for unfixable errors with this system of caution!


Your hair is a big part of who you are, as shown by a self-portrait from our recent TS art exhibition.

Here are some recommended places that we pulled out in a recent e-mail conversation, as well as my own recent success story. Please feel free to add more in the comments below.

Krügers Friseure (from Sam) – I was able to walk in and wait just a few minutes. I had Ellen, who was very sweet and did a great job. I don’t think she spoke any English, but I didn’t need to try. Everyone there spoke very clear and slow German; I think  they are used to dealing with a more elderly population, rather than the odd Auslander, but it worked in my favor. I’m not very picky about my hair and I can never describe what I want even in English, but I brought a couple of photos on my phone so that we wouldn’t have to discuss anything in too much detail. 27 euros for the cut and dry, and I think it would have been 21 for just the cut. They have a price list on the door outside, which is one of the main reasons we decided to go there 🙂

Toni & Guy (from Rachel)- Located in the Altstadt, closest to the Rathaus stop. It’s not super cheap, as a cut and dry with Michael (senior stylist) is 50 euros, but they all speak English and do a good job. You can find more info about the chain here.

Star Friseur 2  (from Patty) – It is a really cheap family-owned Turkish place at the Jahnplatz. They don’t speak much English, but I just bring a picture and they’re very nice about acting things out with their hands and trying to help. They don’t act irritated that we can’t speak German like some people do. Men are on the ground floor and women are upstairs. Both Billy and I have had good haircuts consistently there. Never had a color there, but watched another lady who did and it turned out very nice.

Yoga in Bielefeld


Since Coralie just shared a whole host of ideas for hobbies and things to keep busy, I thought I would expand on one that’s important to me: yoga! I’d been doing it on and off for about four years while living in Virginia, and kept finding reasons not to look into it here in Germany.

Soon enough, you too will be doing yoga on tree branches. (Photo courtesy of Echo Valley Ranch via Flickr)

I finally started to going to classes in Bielefeld, after nearly a year here, because of the English course currently offered at Loft Yoga. As Coralie mentioned, it’s a lovely studio with very nice teachers (and students!). This course will be over in a few weeks, but there has been talk of offering more in the future. Going to an English-language class has been a great way to get over my initial fear of attending a new studio, and I think I might almost be ready to jump into a German-language class. Keep in mind, I’m confident I can “verstehe” everything in a German-language class – when I say “ready,” I mean emotionally, psychologically, etc. As of this posting, the initial class costs 5€, and you can buy cards where classes cost 10€ each after that.

Other yoga options that I know of:

  • One of my English students recommended Yoga Vidya to me. It has branches in other towns, including Dortmund.
  • Uni Bielefeld offers a range of sports classes, including yoga. I believe that if you’re affiliated with the university as a student or worker, you can pay only 15€ per class. Despite asking multiple people who worked there, I was never able to figure out how to pay and sign up, so I gave up on this pretty early on during my tenure in Germany 🙂 You can take a look here at the schedule – if you want to attend a class, it may be worth it to just show up and ask the instructor. Be warned, yoga and Pilates fill up fast and they are large classes (40 or more people, if I remember correctly)!

What other local places do you know of that offer yoga and are Trailing Spouse-friendly?

In search of hobbies and friends


I guess everyone who moves to a new place is going to struggle at first to meet new people and make new friends.  For me Bielefeld was the 4th country  I moved to and the best trick I learned when it comes to get into your ‘new life’ is to start looking activities to enrol for as soon as possible.

As my level of German proficiency is quite high, you might think the range of activities that I can chose from is bigger. For sure I won’t advise you to join right away a debating club or theater class, but any activities where you need to ‘mirror’ the teacher works even with the most basic understanding of the language. For example, some 5 years ago, my husband and I joined a salsa class in Zürich. At the time we already knew a fair amount of  German. However the class was in the local dialect (Swiss German) and adding to this the music as a background we spent the first few weeks mirroring the teachers in the middle of a merry jibber-jabber ;). Moreover after the first class we had to rotate partners every few dances: there is something quite funny in dancing closely with a stranger who from time to time will make a remark to which you will just smile and say ‘I am sorry I don’t understand Swiss German’- to which he probably replied: ‘jibber jibber jabber-don’t understand-jabber’ and smiled back. But my point is that it is doable. Moreover during the break people started to speak with us in high German or English and after a few month we had enough grasp of Swiss German so that it wasn’t a problem anymore. So through this class, not only did we learn to dance salsa, but we also improved our Swiss German and met new people, some of which we are still now in contact with.

So here I want to share a list of things you might be interested to do in Bielefeld:

  • Except if you are already proficient in German, you might want to visit a language school. This is an excellent way to meet new people who are in the same situation than yours. Also while learning the language most teachers are going to use examples of every day life in Germany and it will be a nice way to get to know your new environment. The 2 schools I would recommend are BIBIS Schule and Tandem Schule. The school won’t necessarily tell you this but you can always ask to attend the class for 1 week (and pay for it) before enrolling for the next 2 month.
  • If you are interested in sport, the  Sportbund Bielefeld has a great offer for a very small price (for example 12 classes of 1 hour of Pilates for a total price of 52 €). You just have to make sure you register early enough.
  • Another great source of classes for reasonable prices can be found at the Volkshochschule. Their website is not very easy to navigate but you can also go there if you have question or call. They also offer German classes but they are known to be pretty bad. I personally took a theater class which was great fun :).
  • I looked for a good yoga studio for quite a long time until Loft Yoga opened near from Adenauerplatz. The teacher Edyta is great. There are also a couple of classes in English. After the class you can hang out a while at her studio and discuss with the other students. This is quite unusual in my experience as I have been to other place where people would leave without a word as soon as the class was over (not really a ‘namaste’ attitude).
  • After having tried salsa dance in Zürich, my husband and I wanted to learn a new dance style. We found a Lindy Hop school and had a great time learning the basic steps, etc. The teachers are both doing their phd at the Bielefeld university and are just great! As the school is still relatively small you get to know people very fast. They also organize social dance events during which people can take an introductory class for free.

These are just a few ideas of what you might want to start doing in Bielefeld.  If you know of other great offers for classes,etc., please do not hesitate to share in the comments!



English-speaking doctors and the German healthcare system


If you do not already know German, you could be the most driven of students….optimistic, hard-working, determined, and yet when suddenly you need to see a doctor, it seems to go out the window.  I would recommend that you plan early for a range of doctors whom you can communicate with in your own language, before you need them.  We’ve had the scary experience of needing sudden medical care, and not being able to communicate with the doctors to tell them what is wrong, what your history is, and they can’t communicate with you either.  This inevitably leads to unnecessary procedures and unnecessary expense of time and money.  In my opinion, the doctor’s office isn’t a preferrable place to be learning German by immersion.

To see a doctor you will pay 10 euros per quarter. When you pay your money they will give you a pink receipt.  Keep it- if you go to the doctor again in the next few months you will need to show it to them to not have to pay again.  If you need to see a specialist, you will generally need to get a referral from your general medicine doctor.

Here are a few personal recommendations for English-speaking doctors in Bielefeld.  I have only listed people I have personally gone to and had a good experience.

Dr. med. Friedrich Hartog/ Christine Gass – Gynocology, Obstetrics (Frauenheilkunde und Geburtshilfe)

Kiskerstr. 15, 33615 Bielefeld                 Phone: 0521 9643228

Both doctors speak English, but not all of the receptionists do.

Dr. med. Peter Braunstein – Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist (Hals-, Nasen-, Ohrenheilkunde)

Jahnplatz 10, 33602 Bielefeld                 Phone: 0521 5217151

Very caring doctor, and made time for us on very short notice.  Quickly diagnosed and fixed a serious problem two other doctors failed to properly diagnose.

Dr. med. Andreas Kühle – General Medicine, and Allergy Specialist (Allgemeinmedizin/Allergologie)

Wertherstr. 444, 33619 Bielefeld             Phone: 0521 101542

This doctor and his receptionist are great, and I have never had to wait for an appointment…he usually gets me in the next day.

http://www.kvwl.de/earzt   This website allows you to search for a doctor in the entire Westfalen-Lippe area.  You can enter search criteria, including the type of doctor, your address, and your preferred language.  You should always confirm that the doctor takes your insurance before making an appointment.


Health and beauty


It took me time to get used to the health system in Germany and find professionals with whom I felt comfortable. I also struggled finding beauty or health products I was used to. So today I thought I will share some addresses and products I have used since I arrived in Bielefeld.

Health / Address:

  • Generalist: I highly recommend the office of Dr. Speitel in the Altstadt. The cabinet has a walk-in service every morning of the week from 9am to 12am and in the afternoon (Mo. 5pm-7pm, Tu.-Th. and Fr. 4pm-6pm). So basically you just show up and they will tell you how long you have to wait before seeing the doctor. And if you want to run some errands during the waiting time, they will just call you on your mobile phone when your turn is coming (in the next 15min). I was there twice and didn’t need to wait more than 10min but I love the flexibility it gives me. Note: for blood tests, etc. you need to make an appointment.
  • Gynecologist: I go to Dr. med. Anke Sklenarz. It is located near the university and easily reachable with S Bahn (line 4).
  • Pharmacy: I go to the Bahnhof Apotheke at Karstadt as they give good advices and have some beauty products I use. I also have their fidelity card.

Health / Product:

  • Flu: Here are 2 products which, taken together, have helped me a lot this winter:

  • Magnesium: I take this to avoid cramp during sport or menstruation. It takes effect very fast (within the next 30min) and you just take it when you need it.

  • Yeast infection: I use the soap (below) on a regular basis and when I have a little discomfort, I use this (magic) cream:

All these products can be found at the Bahnhof Apotheke without prescription.

Beauty / Address:

  • Hair: I go to Creativ Team near Babenhausen Süd. It is also easily reachable with S Bahn (line 3). Unfortunately I don’t think they speak English. My hairdresser is Sylvana. I ususally just ask for a cut (25 €) and I dry my hair myself. This  saves me some money and also I can see directly how good it looks without a professional- impossible-to-reproduce-at-home brushing.
  • Waxing: Wax in the City also has a walk-in service. If possible don’t arrive there after 5pm or on Saturday as they may not be able to take you.
  • Massage: I like this traditional thai massage place.

Beauty / Product:

  • Skin: Dr. Hauschka products are great natural products but you won’t find them everywhere. One place to look is the Bahnhof Apotheke.

  • Hand sanitizer can’t be found easily either and aren’t commonly used but I found some at Rossmann near Jahnplatz.
  • Other beauty products: I usually buy everything at Rossmann.


Bielefeld Shops of Note – Kräuterladen Paracelsus

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Heiner Scheller, in his shop, Kraüterladen Paracelsus

Something nice about Bielefeld, and Germany in general is that there is still a culture of the small independent shop. Though this may invariably change as Germany catches up with the UK and the US, for now I would like to celebrate and point out just a few of these speciality shops still to be found in Bielefeld.

Kräuterladen Paracelsus 

My midwife originally told me about this amazing apothecary hidden away in the back streets near Bethel. The owner, Heiner Scheller is an expert in the field of Phytotherapy (herbal medicine). Apparently his early career hopes as a violinist were thwarted by an injury, which prompted him to start a career in medicine. However, his interest in music and stringed instruments never abated and he has an amazing collection of restored instruments in an adjoining studio space, which also has acted as a meeting point for music sessions with likeminded enthusiasts.

As I entered the shop, I felt I was in a sanctuary of calm, partly due to the orderly aesthetics of labelled apothecary drawers and rows of smoked glass jars on shelves but also to the wonderful aromas coming from the hessian sacks of herbs stacked around the shop. I discovered that 25 years of experience as a herbalist had enabled him to sum up a person’s disposition and needs surprisingly quickly, and soon I had a bag of mysterious looking leaves all of my own, called the Tiger Root, to brew up in the rather more unordered aesthetics of my home.

I have to confess, though, that I didn’t even make it half way through the bag in the end. I was under strict instructions from the herbalist not to drink caffeine in combination with the herbs, as my blood pressure could go dangerously high. At 18 Euros for 250 grams, the cost of these precious herbs should have been enough of an incentive to give up the coffee kick but, I am afraid to say, I am still waiting for that day, and so are my herbs!

Despite that, I can highly recommend a visit to this wonderful shop, and its gracious owner.

The shop is generally closed between 1pm and 3 pm for lunch so look up the website for opening times.


Still on the shelf, but hopefully not for long.