A Year in Berlin – Five Things We’ve Learned

by Zoë Noble

Not much German, unfortunately.
We started with good intentions. We did an intensive course for two months when we arrived, but three hours after a full day’s work, four times a week, was clearly too much German for anyone. By the end I was ready to shoot myself AND all Germans, just for the Dative case alone! Not the attitude I wanted to have with my new countrymen so a break was probably a good thing. Only now are we getting back on der Waggon – join us on Twitter where we are posting a word a day under the hashtag #dailydeutsch.

A German accountant is your best friend.
With our limited understanding of German, receiving letters with official looking stamps on them can be quite scary. Opening them to see pages and pages of text, some of it bolded AND underlined, with intimidating words like “Lastschrifteinzugsverfahren” (“Direct Debit”, for God’s sake!) can be quite unsettling. After James took over three hours to Google Translate one letter which simply informed us of our tax reference number, we knew, for our own sanity, that we needed to get an accountant.

Germans stare.
This one took a bit of getting used to. For the first few months we just couldn’t understand what the hell was wrong with people or, more importantly, with us! We initially put it down to the locals not being used to seeing exotic London folk like us (we’re the only ones here, right?), but we now know this is just their way and not to take it too personally. Also, I’ll win any staring contest so BRING IT ON BEATCHES!!

To carry cash at all times.
Debit and credit cards aren’t accepted in 99% of Berlin’s restaurants, cafés and bars. We English are so used to handing over that little bit of plastic for everything that this was hard to get your heads around: “You don’t accept THIS card you mean, right??” Er no… So off James would go in search of a cashpoint, leaving me alone for twenty minutes, looking like a jilted lover. Lesson learned – we now carry a wad of cash that would make Tony Soprano feel self-conscious.

Everything is shut on Sundays.
Seriously, everything – supermarkets, clothes shops, IKEA…the lot! This can be frustrating when you haven’t got any food in the cupboards or desperately need to buy that new oven mitt, but when you get used to it, it can actually work to your advantage. Sundays are now perfect for that lovely stroll along the canal, cleaning up the house or doing all those odd jobs you keep putting off. Or even better, going for brunch and then off to pump some fists in the air at Berlin’s best club Berghain!

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