It’s been two weeks since I moved abroad.
There is no easy way to describe how my life has been since leaving New York, except that it feels like I’ve been on a rollercoaster that hasn’t stopped moving. It’s one that never slows down and one where I never get off.
Everything has been a constant push and pull, a tug and a slap. The whiplash at times is unbearable, but I’m also in a constant state of feeling exhilarated, too. It feels exactly how a rollercoaster feels. I’m just not sure when the high and fear will be over. And I’m afraid of getting off because I don’t know what’s next. Will I get back on line to do it again?
On a more lighthearted note, since being abroad and dealing with the emotional roller coaster feelings that come with moving somewhere new, especially a place that feels like I’m in another world at times, there’ve been a few things I’ve noticed as a newcomer that’ve made me think; whether that be about back home or how unique and different things are in this new one. So, here are the top twenty things that I’ve noticed about Germany so far since living here in Berlin. Some may be specific to Berlin in general, perhaps the whole of Germany, but it’d be great to have feedback from others who’ve moved abroad regardless of origin and country, as well.
Here we go.
- “The German Stare”…. is alive and well. Yes, Germans stare, but for some reason I am not as uncomfortable as I thought I’d be about it. Maybe having lived in NYC and being used to the plethora of creeps did a number on me.
- While the German Stare is a real thing, I still feel extremely safe here. I hardly feel intimidated and catcalling simply doesn’t exist at the same level as it does in New York. Not to say it doesn’t happen, but it hasn’t happened to me here. Maybe my New York demeanor and resting face helps me avoid that.
- Yes, the bread is as good as they say it is. And the sliced bread, which is called ‘toast‘, is perfectly square and the loaves I’ve picked up are free of that dreaded first and last piece that Americans call “the butt.”
- The sweets and pastries? Also as good as they say.
- The BVG takes their job entirely too seriously. I was fined my second day here. For the first time in my life, the “I’m an American” card didn’t work. I was flabbergasted.
- The washing machines take longer here than at home. They also make so much noise and I always feel like the house is going to explode because of how rumbly and loud they are.
- Not having a dryer doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would either. Hanging up clothes on a clothes rack just reminds me of life in Puerto Rico when I was younger where my grandparents hung dried everything.
- I have not seen a single microwave since I’ve been here and it is VERY annoying. If my food or coffee gets cold, I have to reheat it on the stove. What is the point of that?! Yes, it might be my American laziness, I suppose?
- Food is cheap, whether it be groceries or eating out at an Imbiss or Späti, even at some restaurants!!! I am entirely too grateful for that, especially since eating out in NYC is always expensive, even at the cheapest of places, (which also has to do with tipping culture in the USA, too.)
- Cafe culture exists. So does balcony culture. And it makes me very happy.
- Everyone smokes, yes, but it also doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Again, New York probably rubbed off on me in that regard.
- Separating the garbage and the art of recycling is taken seriously. It makes me self-conscious of the way it is handled in the USA (which is not well) and while I’m doing my best, it’s still going to take some getting used to, as I always feel I’m putting my trash in the wrong bin.
- German is spoken very fast and while I cannot speak myself, I am extremely surprised at how much I can understand by using context clues and understanding inflection. English being a Germanic language might help that case though.
- I can shower after 10 pm and the person who told me that it isn’t allowed…you are rude.
- Sundays are a day of rest, despite the fact that Berlin and the North of Germany from my understanding are not religious. It’s another thing to get used to, having everything be closed, especially being from a city that legitimately does not sleep, but RELAXATION is nice. Having an excuse to do nothing and lay in peace isn’t something I will complain about.
- I haven’t been out very often when it comes to the nightlife, but the lack of Top 40 and dance/hip hop music is really getting to me. Germans, or Berliners, rather aren’t concerned with mainstream music and I have such a love/hate with that phenomenon. I need me some Drake STAT. Who would’ve thought I’d miss the radio play in the USA?
- Being able to drink publicly, on the street, in the park, or on the U-Bahn is a blessing I never thought I’d live to see. No more brown bagging it? THANK YOU.
- German houses/flats are cold ALL THE TIME. I don’t know the reason for this, but I have to constantly layer up while inside. I also now wear socks on socks as well as socks with sandals (called ‘hausschuhe“). I will have officially become German when I proudly walk the streets in socks and sandals, but that day may never come I hope. I’ve made fun of the German tourists too many times at home to give in…
- I walk so much here. Despite Berlin having an amazing, extensive rail and subway network (THAT WORKS! I am looking at you MTA…), I almost always feel myself walking longer distances, which I would be too lazy or unbothered to do at home. Maybe it’s because I’m new and there’s so much to see, but I rather walk 35 minutes than go underground for twenty.
- Whoever told me Germans are direct was right. Whoever told me they were mean was wrong. Again, perhaps an exception for Berlin/Berliners, but most people, albeit a few questionable people, which happens in every big city, have been lovely. Even the BVG personnel who gave me a ticket wasn’t as mean as I thought he’d be. Although I haven’t interacted with the bus drivers yet…so until I do, I’ll keep my word on the unexpected kindness.
And there’s that. The first twenty things that come to mind upon arrival and settling into Berlin. To be honest, I haven’t adjusted yet, not completely. I don’t think I will for a while anyway, and although that scares me, I know that it’s normal.
Moving anywhere new comes with its high highs and low lows. While my experience has been mostly positive so far, I won’t be shy in saying that moving away from home, or anywhere where everything is normal, easy and familiar to you, is hard. It takes a lot of bravery to do what so many people decide to do, myself included. While that fact doesn’t trivialize anyone’s situation or experience at home or abroad, it does make me feel better knowing that I’m not the first person, nor will I be the last, to feel the way I do about moving away from home.
I don’t have all the answers yet. So until, I do, I’ll keep observing, living and writing.
Let me know your thoughts and comment below on your experiences if you’ve visited or moved abroad and made your own observations on a new culture.