Saturday, August 6, 2011

Germany: First Weeks

To put it mildly, Geoff and I have been very busy since our arrival in Germany 13 days ago. In those 13 days, I have: gone to the bank (twice) to start new bank accounts; gone to the school (twice) to do HR stuff and to meet my future administrators; registered with the city as a current resident and received a tax ID; seen a dentist/surgeon and made a follow-up appointment for wisdom teeth extraction for next week; gone to IKEA 3 times, in the rain, by subway and then a lot of walking each time (first time at IKEA, we were there for 8 straight hours, no joke); gone shopping at different stores nearly everyday for the apartment, since there is no equivalent of Walmart within subway reach of Berlin and our apartment needed fridge, washer/dryer, shower curtains, mirror in the bathroom, and everything else in between; run around to get our prepaid internet 3G stick/phones working; started to look for yoga studios and to explore our beautiful neighborhood; read two books on my new Kindle, and bought two more; confirmed that our permanent internet will be hooked up by early next week.

I know, that doesn't sound like a lot. It is. And that doesn't include building furniture, which Geoff pretty much did single-handedly (both because he's awesome and because he doesn't trust me to build our furniture).

First impressions of Berlin:

* Beautiful bike lanes throughout the city
* German girls are oozing with style, even on rainy days -- this is the first place I've lived where girls look simply decadent and fabulous in their black stockings with big holes (not by design).
* Everything is so do-it-yourself. I ordered an ice cream softie and they gave me a token. I mistook it for a Euro dollar, and put it away. When I got to the machine with my cone, I realized while examining the machine that it requires a token to get started. You put your cone inside the holder, insert the token, and press a button to start the automagic making of a perfect swirl. That's one of many examples of how Germany is awesomely efficient.
* I cannot say that Berliners are very nice to foreigners who don't speak German. I really don't intend on being one of those assholes who speak English everywhere, but when I say, "Haben sie wein fur cooking?" I expect them to not yell at me for sucking at life. I cannot wait to have time to study German.
* My new coworkers, the ones I've met anyway, are very worldly and interesting. I am hopeful!
* The toilets are shaped funny. Really. Check out this article.
* There are outdoor markets and farmer's markets EVERYWHERE! yay!!
* Berlin has a lot of ethnic food. So far, I've had decent Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, French cuisines, and some mediocre Indian, Tibetan, and Italian meals. There's a good falafel place just down the street from our apartment. And the cheese breads here are to die for! Brotchen mit kase!!
* As you would expect, the subway system is superb and runs on an honor system a lot like the lightrail system in Newark, NJ, where you get your ticket validated and the police only does pop checks for tickets, no turnstiles or anything. It makes me wonder what the overall loss/gain of profit is when you take away all those people who have to work full time at the NYC stations to monitor that no one is jumping the turnstiles, and you replace it with an honor system.
* One time fairly late at night, we had trouble getting home because all the trains were running on opposite tracks and only going for one stop because of construction. It was weird. Not something I would expect in Berlin. Even the locals were confused!
* On Sundays, everything closes. That's nice for two reasons: Everyone stays out until sunrise on Saturdays. You sleep in on Sundays until the afternoon, and then have a super lazy day afterwards.
* Here you can choose your electricity company from a list of various options (some are more eco-friendly than others but also cost more). And our "condense" dryer operates on humidity-sensor. In Germany, people really like to go for the natural stuff, so you can find Mango lassis on the street and people don't get general anesthesia for oral surgeries. I am discovering new things daily that remind me that I live in a first world country!
* Last but not least, I've been giving some thought to how we are all defined by our past, our present, and our future. My question (which will take me a while to answer) is how the current Germany is affected by its Nazi Germany past? Geoff asked someone about how many Jewish people live in Berlin. That person (a Berlin local) said that there are always German policemen stationed next to the Jewish schools for security reasons. Sadly, Neo-Nazis are still very much a real thing in parts of Europe, Germany included.

Anyway, that's it for now! I've got some big posts coming up. I'll get back to this Germany stuff later. Ciao!


  1. Great to hear you like Berlin so far! As somebody who moved from Berlin to the US last year, I must say I miss it in all its refined craziness.

    The rudeness of Berliners is difficult even for German speaking folk -- it takes some getting used to... I found that friendly pushing back helps, especially with a bit of humor. But that's probably useless advice when you're just starting to learn German.

    WWII and the holocaust are an ever present part of German life, especially in Berlin. Most Germans consider it an important responsibility to remember this dark part of our history. I hope you will find that you can ask people about their points of view.

    You could also check out or the google translate of the (much larger) entry on the German wikipedia.

    PS: Wikipedia tells me the toilet design comes from clinical use and is slowly falling out of fashion (if there's such a thing).

  2. It's fun to hear about your foreign living adventures. Have fun in the new school year.

  3. @Peter Thanks for the wikipedia link and your insider perspectives! It's always hard to tell from the outside what's necessarily going on, and that's part of what makes living in a new, foreign place so exciting. You get to peel away at the truth one bit at a time.

    @Ms. Cookie Thanks! :) I'm sooooo excited about the school year starting, even though my commute is going to be very early and my workload will also double!

  4. @Mimi: I know what you mean. Looking forward to more stories :)