IIP Berlin Blogpost #2: Individual/Personal Issues

Overall, my time in Berlin is going very well so far! My internship is going pretty well and I get along very well with my supervisor. He has given me many hands-on tasks to complete so far, while also providing me with some flexibility. I have also gotten good feedback from him on many of the tasks I have completed thus far. However, I have faced one significant problem at work: my German language skills are not quite at a high enough level for me to be able to consistently communicate with my coworkers in German. Many of the concepts being discussed for the assignments I am given at my internship are rather complicated and the language is too technical for me to understand well in German. I decided that it would be a good idea to start taking more of an active approach in the pursuit of my goal to become professionally proficient in German by the end of the internship. I started making flashcards of every German word I could possibly think of, in order to make sure I can understand as much as possible in any given sentence. My hope is that as my internship goes on and the weeks go by, I will gradually begin to use more and more German in the work place. For now, we have had to default to English for the majority of our conversations.

I have also noticed some interesting cultural differences in general. One interesting cultural difference I have encountered so far is Germans do not seem to ask one another what floor they are going to on an elevator. This is generally a common curtsey in America. So far when I have asked Germans, “welche Nummer?” (what number?), they give me a weird look and proceed to press the button on their own. This has led to some really awkward elevator rides at the hotel. From what I can tell so far, Germans do not handle conflict much differently than we do in America. They tend to have somewhat better time management than what I am used to back home, but I think this is honestly a good thing. Perhaps the punctuality of the Germans will rub off on me by the end of the program. In all but one experience, the locals have treated us very nicely. There seems to be a mutual respect between most foreigners and most natives here. The only instance where a local was rude to us foreigners was on the walking tour of Berlin. Some guy on a bike randomly yelled “gehen zurück!” at our entire tour group, which means “go back!”

The basic value system in Germany is very similar to our value system in the United States. There is nothing that stands out to me as strikingly different in the German basic value system. Living seems to also be very similar to the U.S. for that matter. The economy in Germany is currently very strong and lots of things like food and alcohol are very inexpensive here relative to the prices in America. My supervisor was also explaining to me the other day how the German economy props up many other weaker economies in the EU. Politics are also very interesting here. Europe is significantly more liberal than many parts of the United States. I think the political environment here is similar to that of New York and California. The amount of times locals have asked me about Trump in the past week and a half is honestly pretty laughable. They just love talking about him and criticizing everything he does. In fact, one local today was telling me how he really hopes Trump gets impeached. They seem to be way more involved in our political issues than we Americans are in there’s. Nonetheless, the locals have been nice to me thus far, despite complaining to me about President Trump. When they find out I am an American, they will often times begin to ask me questions and seem genuinely interested in what it is like to live there.