After we first arrived in Berlin, I revived my old tumblr blog from my Peace Corps days and wrote a total of one blog post. (I think we’ve established that consistency is not a strength of mine). Anyway, in honor of the blog revamp, I thought it would be fun to repost that first post here. And reflect on how I feel now, almost a year later. So here it is, my first week in Berlin!
In an effort to be semi-productive while unemployed and waiting for a visa, I am officially reviving my blog. Here I will attempt to share with friends, family and potentially interested expats or even Germans, my experiences, impressions and thoughts on life in Berlin. Please do not take my musings too seriously – I’m just trying to have a little fun while finding my way.
So after one whole week in Berlin, this is what I have learned so far:
1. The German stereotype of efficiency does not seem to hold true in Berlin…
It may hold true when it comes to building machines, but it falls far short when it comes to taking care of everyday affairs. This lesson began as soon as we got off the plane. All seemed to be going well until we arrived at baggage claim, only to wait for an hour as our bags took a tour of the airport, and apparently ended up somewhere else for a brief time. We did eventually get our luggage, so our story continues.
Unfortunately, upon arriving at our apartment we discovered that we did not have Wi-Fi. In the US this is a problem for a day or two, but not in Berlin! I’m not exactly sure what has to happen, but once you sign up you have to wait for 2-4 weeks to get your Internet connection up and running. But what if your apartment previously had Wi-Fi set up, you ask, doesn’t that make it faster? No. Once someone cancels their Internet, the entire physical infrastructure is apparently removed, and then must be reinstalled by special ‘German Internet Engineers’ once you sign up again. At least that is my understanding based on my 3-year old level German.
2. The German stereotype of bureaucracy does hold true – and it’s as confusing as advertised.
I would like to preface this with the fact that I married a German citizen and I follow him around like a mute child, as I have no clue what’s going on and I currently rely on him to explain almost everything to me. Even with that huge advantage, we have accomplished a whole lot of nothing in our first week.
We spent our first Monday attempting to get our lives going here – doing things like setting up bank accounts, getting health insurance, registering our unemployment, etc. Our interactions generally went as follows:
German/Mute American: Hi! We just moved back to Germany from the US and we’d like to open a bank account/get health insurance/live here.
Super Enthusiastic German Worker: Well that’s nice. Everyone is on vacation right now so you’ll have to make an appointment to come back in a week. Do you have this obscure document?
German/Mute American: Oh…well no, not yet. We have an appointment to get that random document next week, but we were hoping to get this done sooner.
Super Enthusiastic German Worker: Yeah…that’s not going to happen. You need to go to at least 4 different government offices to get various documents and stamps, etc. before we’ll even consider letting you do anything here. Also, we’ll probably end up sending you to a different office because of…reasons.
German/Mute American: Oh…ok (shuffle shamefully away).
Thankfully, as of today, we’ve had our first success after a few hours at the Bürgeramt (citizen office), and we are now officially registered as Berliners! Unfortunately, the next office we needed to go to closed at 12:30, so one success per day will have to do!
3. The weather in Berlin makes no sense.
As in you always need to bring every article of clothing you might ever need for any kind of weather circumstance with you. The combination of sunglasses and umbrella is a particularly common one here.
Don’t trust the weather apps…they are never right. Just bring everything.
4. There are apparently still undetonated bombs from WWII just lying around.
I’ll just leave this here…
So that’s week one in Berlin!