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The “back to school shopping list” can easily be made into a fun sport before your kids are ready to head back to school, but figuring out all the German translations can be horror. With the help of a fellow parent in Düsseldorf, Louisa Bihi, this post will help you prepare for a stress-free day of back to school shopping.

One of the most daunting tasks I had to undertake was buying stationary for my daughter for her starting school. I found the shopping list full of foreign terms alienating and the lack of help frustrating.

I have heard from other parents that it can be a very exciting experience for the kids, as they were supported with their shopping at traditional stationers (Schreibwarenladen) and the assistants completed the shopping with their children.

However, if you find yourself in a shop with less than helpful staff – don’t stress I’ve found further information as to what these terms mean and hope this guide will help others who have to complete the shopping themselves.

PS: If this is your little ones first year of school, I’ve also put together an info packed guide on what you can expect and how you can prepare to make sure it’s the best day ever!

Or if you’re still in the process of trying to understand how the whole school system in Germany works, Life in Düsseldorf has a post about that too!


Back to school shopping list translations


Schreibhefte = Writing Jotters/Notepads

This is quite intuitive if you know what you are looking for. Simply for this one, the Lineatur number on the front actually matches which class the child is in, so if you are asked for Lineatur 1st school year, then you need a jotter with number one on the front.

Here are the different types of writing jotters/notepads you can expect to find:

  • Rechenhefte kariet = maths jotters (with squares)
  • Number 5 = jotter suitable from the 2nd year – the squares are 5x5mm and this jotter doesn’t have a border
  • Number 7 = jotter suitable for year 1 &2 – the squares are 7x7mm so give the kids more space to write in
  • Number 10 = jotter very similar to number 5 except it has a white section at the left-hand side (2nd year onwards)
  • Heft ohne Linien = jotter with no lines – ie. blank – this jotter is unsurprisingly used for all levels and will most likely be found on your shopping list
  • Number 6 = a blank A5 jotter
  • Number 20 = a blank A4 jotter


Other school materials

  • Schnellhefter = Flat file folder – A4 (these are colored plastic folders with a clear front and are flat – you may be told exactly what colors need to be purchased) 
  • Kladde = is a hardcovered notebook with blank pages
  • Oktavheft (number 51) = A6 booklet (thankfully generally states Oktavheft on the front cover)
  • Kieserblock = This is used a lot at the school for general school work – again the number on the Kieserblock matches the number of the class the child is in (number 1 for first grade, number 2 for 2nd grade etc.)
  • Jacksonkreider = look for the brand Jaxson is generally what is being asked for here. They are oil pastels for drawing. I’ve been advised that the smaller pack of 12 vs. 24 is perfectly sufficient

You will also want to make sure you have a multi-pack of erasers and pencils to hold you over the year, I’ve lost count of how many vanished into thin air. Having a spare pair of scissors and an extra ruler is also helpful.

Most schools ask that the jotters have a cover (Umschlag), these are simple plastic sleeves, sometimes you can get them in a multipack – although I’ve only really needed green and red.

TIP: Most importantly! Label jotters with covers only and everything else – scissors, pencil cases, pencils, coloured pens etc. This will vastly increase the chance of your child finding their things again.

My parents gave my daughter pencils with her name printed on them (from the UK), I found that this is rarer in Germany, or there are a number of online suppliers offering back to school sticker packages for school stationery. Searching for Namensetiketten or Namensaufkleber (sticker labels) should provide you with a couple of options for what you need.

Have anything else you’d add to this list to help other international parents understand the daunting back to school shopping list?! Add your comments below! 

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