It is not a convention… but it is Berlin!

4 02 2009

Guten abend from Berlin! I have been quite busy for the past few months, but now I am here in Germany and somewhat acquainted with the city and ready to start spilling my adventure stories! To start with, here are the top ten things that have surprised me (thus far) about Berlin.

1. I always push the door when I should pull and pull when I should push. It must be backwards from what it usually is in America, because I ALWAYS do the wrong thing. And it is always awkward.

2. The keyboards here have the y and z switched, among other things. Typing is slightly off… when I am not paying attention it would go like this: Hez! I hope zou are having a great daz! But I am learning to switch it fairly rapidly, so hopefully I will be back up to my normal typing speed soon. I wonder what that will mean when I switch back to an American keyboard?

3. Crossing the street is weird. I never wait for lights to cross the street, you just cross when there are no cars, right? WRONG. And also, when the walk light is green, cars can still run you over.. and frequently try.

4. “Subway” (S Bahn, U Bahn here…) tickets are on a on-your-honor system with a little bit of fear. You buy a ticket, but you do not have to show it anywhere or validate it when you ride the train or anything… however, randomly they “control” you which means undercover agents are on the individual cars and once the train is moving pull out their official badges and make everyone show them their tickets. If you do not have a valid ticket, it is 40 Euros. Yikes! I have been controlled once already. It is actually pretty exciting as long as you have a valid ticket.

5. Food is really cheap in supermarkets. (And supermarkets are really small.) I went in and bought things for the whole week (meat, cheese, bread, etc. plus some random fun things like chocolate pudding) and it was under 9 Euro.

6. Most of the people I have met thus far do not speak German as their first language. This is due to the fact that I am attending a German language school, where everyone is learning German. Oddly enough, almost no one there is also a native English speaker. So communicating on any level is a mosh of German, English, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish… etc. Right now I am going to be learning Turkish in addition to German because I live in the Turkish center of Berlin, Kreutzburg.

7. The city, as far as I can tell, is made up of parks, canals and waterways, graffiti, cobblestone, bicycles and very large sidewalks. The buildings are a weird conglomeration of super old, super new, super falling a part and most have graffiti and murals covering the sides. Also, the whole city is gray in the winter.

8. EVERYONE smokes. I thought Hampshire was bad but here… yikes. My clothes are beginning to smell like smoke, and I hate it.

9. Beer is cheaper than water and they do not give you tap water unless you ask, and even then they think you are crazy.

10. Berlin is the city for bikes, dogs and street cleaners. I have walked with four street cleaners already in my first week of being here! They cruise along at about walking speed, so if you are headed in the same direction it is like you are walking with them. They are very friendly, but a little loud.

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