It’s now coming up for three months since I moved to this captivating city, and considering I named my blog Berlingo to be able to write about both language (‘lingo’) things and about the city itself, I thought it was high time I did some of the latter! So here are ten observations I have made about the German capital since landing back in April. None are intended as criticisms; they are all merely things I have noticed as I go about my day as a newbie English teacher here:
1. There are only trams in the former east of Berlin: the Allies got rid of the trams when they split the city between them, but the Communists kept them in the eastern part of the city, which is why my lovely flat out in the north east is so wonderfully connected to the tramways. (I’ve even impressed Berlin locals with this fact, as they just don’t think about it!) The trams are great, but you must remember to press the Stop button if you want to disembark, or the doors near you just won’t open and you’ll be left frantically running to another door, only to find you’re too late. (Can you tell this has happened to me more than once…?!)
2. Germans don’t usually wait around for people to disembark a train once it’s stopped before getting on themselves, which is wildly infuriating. They are also generally a little impatient and inconsiderate in the public sphere, which is in direct opposition to their nature when you know them well, in my opinion. It’s therefore a national idiosyncrasy which perplexes me greatly!
3. Germans like to read proper books (not eBooks), of which I of course approve as a former publishing person. They also like to read the paper but, rather curiously, they tend to take out one section at a time and fold it beautifully to read section-by-section.
4. Germans seem to suffer from a special, collective brand of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Never have I heard so many complaints about how much the weather affects their mood, and particularly their circulation, as I do from Germans in class – I find it ends up affecting my mood then, too!
5. To counter what could have been perceived as a negative point in #4, I would like to assert that, against the common stereotype, Germans are the warmest, most caring and loyal people you could ever hope to meet. I will forever be grateful to my friends from my year abroad, who continue to help me with proofreading German job applications or wading their way through my tax forms with me!
6. They are excellent with replacement transport when there are roadworks in trams and trains. My poor boyfriend has had the misfortune to visit me on two weekends when my local trams weren’t running, but we are always amazed that the replacement buses run exactly to the same timetable.
7. The Germans love a good street party, and they are normally raucous in a wonderfully peaceful kind of way. Since living in Berlin, I’ve experienced the Karneval der Kulturen, or Carnival of Cultures, the Fête de la Musique and in Dresden the Bunte Republik Neutstadt, or Colourful Republic Neustadt. Both of course involved an awful lot of daytime drinking, as only the Germans can do, but I always imagine the same situation in London and picture much more trouble and police intervention required.
8. Bakeries just aren’t the same anywhere other than Germany. My particular favourite is, at the luxury end, Lindner, and at the cheap and cheerful end, Backwerk, where you help yourself from endless glass counters with tongs and pay even less than in other chain bakeries. There’s nothing better than a freshly baked pretzel when you’re hangry (so hungry you’re angry) and in a rush!
9. Germans are frustratingly particular about postboxes: I have had all sorts of trouble with receiving official forms and packages because I’m not allowed my name on the postbox as I’m subletting.
10. And last but by no means least, every single new German person I meet is highly amused by how much I love their country and, even more bizarre for them is my desire to master the German language!
It was a huge leap of faith to quit my job in a wonderful publishing company and follow my dream of moving to this entrancing city, but I’m so glad I did it, and would encourage anyone else contemplating it to throw caution to the wind and give it a go, too!