Pt. 4: Assimilating, Adapting and Always Unlocking.
As usual a few months have passed since my last post, and yet a lifetime of learnings have occurred in between. I’ve enjoyed a solid six weeks of zero travelling after my immune system kind of broke down and despite the harshness of winter, Berlin continues to grow on me. Each year I live here it’s as though I unlock another hidden level in this game called life abroad. I’m at a point where Berlin is now so familiar, but like most complex personalities is always changing, evolving and surprising me.
Travelling to the US and Vietnam over December and January it suddenly hit me how much I have assimilated and how far I have come in two and half years. Usually I associate the term “assimilation” negatively, and fellow Australians probably understand given our horrible history, almost completely absorbing Aboriginal culture into white society. In the case of this article I am referring to my own subconscious choice to adapt, taking in and fully understanding information or ideas. So whether you live in Berlin or just want to understand the culture
more, here are a few signs you might be assimilating—or at least for me.
You don’t jaywalk anymore.
When I imagine the polar opposite to Berlin, I think back to Saigon. Trying to cross a busy street in Vietnam is intense and you simply have to trust the oncoming traffic you are stepping straight into is not going to splatter you on their windscreen wipers. In Berlin it’s much simpler in that if the little traffic light man is red, you do not cross. While I admit I’m not a completely law-abiding pedestrian, I always check to see if any children are around and genuinely feel as
though I am sinning.
You take your shoes off at the door.
In Australia I always wore shoes inside but now it seems ingrained to take them off at the door. There’s really no turning back once you own a pair of Hausschuhen (house shoes) and some flat owners I know even have spares for their guests! My choice of footwear in general has evolved while living in Berlin and it feels like a lifetime ago I traded in stilettos for sneakers, no matter the occasion.
You start to like techno music.
Never did I ever think I would like techno music, full stop. When every club in the city plays electronic music and you’re constantly exposed to it, you can’t help but eventually get amongst it. The brain is a mysterious organ that can be trained to like new things with time. First beer, now techno! At this rate I’ll be eating horseradish by 2020. In the meantime I will continue to avoid that poison like the plague.
You speak German in the wrong country.
German certainly hasn’t come naturally to me, but it’s not completely foreign anymore. I realise this especially when I travel and find myself dropping Dankes, Entschuldigungs and Genaus like a mad-dog Mädchen. If people are speaking French for example I randomly start thinking in Deutsch because when I don’t understand it’s what I revert to. I find it’s far less awkward when it happens somewhere like Milan, instead of London when I forget I can communicate normally in English without feeling like a total asshole. Another habit I’ve acquired is saying ‘or?’ at the end of every sentence, because Germans constantly finish sentences with ‘oder?’. Having to shot every time someone says it would make for a great drinking game in my opinion.
You think paying more than 3 euro for a beer is ludicrous.
That’s right, the girl who only started drinking beer a year ago is now weighing in. Look I’m sorry but seven bucks for a Corona? ’Straya you got this all wrong. In Berlin I can buy a beer from the Späti for under a euro, on any given day, at any given time... well combine this with all my drinking game ideas and it’s surprising I’m not a raging alcoholic yet.
You choose sparkling over still.
While we’re on the topic of refreshments, sparkling water for the win! I mean it’s water, that’s fizzy. That’s the dream people. My bubbles.
You’re used to paying with cash.
It’s 2017 and in Berlin you still can’t pay with credit card in most establishments. At first it feels like an inconvenience but it slowly starts to make sense why Germany has such a strong economy and very low consumer debt compared to other countries. Germans seem to have a much tighter grasp on their finances, and paying with cash plays a huge role in spending habits. It’s harder to part with cash, easier to budget and also protects some level of privacy.
You sort your trash into 5,000 bins.
That good old German efficiency never gets old, and naturally Berlin has a strict rubbish and recycling system. Admittedly 5,000 is an exaggeration but between normal trash, plastic, bio waste, paper, brown glass, white glass, green glass and pfand bottles, you can start to understand why my kitchen is practically all bins. Mutter Natur is a cruel mistress and the Germans definitely make the effort to be kind to her.
Waiting in line at the supermarket is standard.
I know what you’re thinking, I just said Germans are super efficient but everyone falls short in one department or another right! Anyone who has tried to grocery shop on a Saturday knows they’re in for queue (an orderly queue, natürlich) and if I ever see a self-serve checkout in Berlin I may actually pass out. While the line is always long the checkout guys and gals are seriously speedy! They wizz that Wurst through scanners quicker than you can say “schön Tag noch”.
That’s all I have for now, but I’m sure many more will later come to mind. Have something to add yourself? Feel free to tweet it and let me know!
Feb 27, 2017