Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ein anderer Geschmack

     As I sit in a café near Savignyplatz -- probably the classiest part of town I've seen, also the furthest west -- sipping on a strawberry smoothie and straining my ears to eavesdrop on the people at the table next to mine, I begin to ponder the differences between Germany and America. I think to myself, "wow, this smoothie is flavorless. It's like they blended four strawberries with a glass of ice". This makes me think of other things that have bothered me about Berlin, like paying for the bathroom, water, and refills. It bothered me so much that, if I needed to use the bathroom, I had to fork over 50 cents. It really irked me that I would be charged for tap water, if they'd even give it to me, or I'd have to pay at least €2 for a small glass of cola and the same amount if I wanted more than that paltry amount. Knowing how much, or rather, how little, these things cost them, I felt outraged that they could charge so much.
     This brings me to think of other inconvenient things, like the fact that most things aren't open past 6, and absolutely everything is closed on weekends. I had to go to the BVG (company in charge of the subway system in Berlin) three different times to get a ticket exchanged because the first time I came on a weekend, and the second time I came at 9, 30 minutes before they open. This frustrated me, though the process once I actually made it inside the office was very quick and easy.
    This brought me to think of more irritating things, like that pedestrians don't have the right of way, and that it seems as if everyone smokes. Then I sip a bit further, and I start to think to myself, "okay, this is actually how a real strawberry tastes. It's just not as sweetened as I'm used to". It actually tastes pretty good.
   This makes me start to think that maybe life is just a bit more natural here. Why should anyone have to clean up after the mess of just anyone passing by to use the bathroom? Shouldn't they get some sort of compensation for that? Why should every drink come with free refills? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to relax on holidays and weekends? Why does everything have to be open so early?  When I'm taking a longer trip with a car, don't I want to minimize the time I'm sitting in this shiny metal deathtrap polluting the environment?
    It makes me think that life here has just developed differently. Instead of this sense of entitlement to everything being big and free and endless, Germans have learned to be conservative with what they have by paying for everything. They relax when they can, and they've learned to just have their grocery shopping done by the weekend.
    It occurred to me that a more relaxed lifestyle would be nice. I'd like to be able to sleep in a bit, and to not have to come in to work on weekends. It's nice to walk down streets on Sunday without all of the crowds out shopping, commuting, and doing business. It's just an entirely different society and their way of life is just different from what I am used to. Germans have a unique set of values, and I'm learning to appreciate the differences. There are a lot of things that I find better than in American society, even if they can be an inconvenience. There are always going to be some things that I don't understand, but just accepting and enjoying the diversity is what travelling is all about.

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