Gettin’ In the Swing of Things…

Last week was my second week of work, and I felt much more confident in just about everything I did. It was nice to be given more tasks than before, and I felt much more useful to the office. Monday was interesting because I got lunch with an Irish co-worker and we ended up discussing a lot of the political differences between America and Europe. For example, we discussed the differences on maternity leave- my co-worker had just returned from eight months of PAID leave, and her husband is now on leave for four months. I think the ability to learn about differences like these is why we should travel, so we are more motivated to fix things in our home country. I think I got a lot more confident discussing things beyond how I find school and why I came to Berlin, which was basically the scope of my conversations last week. I’m getting more comfortable in my office, and I recognize everyone on my side of the floor now. Mid-week my training with someone on my team devolved into a discussion on our opinions on America’s president, and I think a lot of Europe is genuinely curious if most Americans condone what their president is doing (I generally don’t and neither do they). This week we didn’t just talk about politics, but also American TV and movies. My co-workers said that they don’t like watching American shows dubbed in German because it feels strange to them, which was unexpected! I think it’s a good sign that I’m getting closer to my co-workers, and that they still continue to include me during lunch. I also told a couple of my co workers that some of the other American students feel that their internships aren’t very social, to which they both laughed and said, “Awin is probably a bit too social!”. I don’t see this is in a bad way at all, because everyone still works hard.

My biggest challenge at work so far came on Thursday, when I received a daylong training entirely in German. Talk about tiring. Luckily, I already a basic overview of most of what they discussed from individual trainings with my co workers over the past couple of weeks, so I wasn’t completely lost. The worst moment was when they had some sort of weird icebreaker where you were supposed to touch one of part of your body and say another body part?? Don’t ask me what purpose this served, all I know is it took two explanations (in English) for me to understand. The project I began on Friday will probably take up a lot of my time next week. It’s a translation from German to English of a 37-slide PowerPoint. It is nice to feel useful as one of the few native English speakers, but I have learned quickly that translation is exhausting, because you try so hard to be perfect in your native language.

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Where you can find me during lunch

My weekend was relatively chill, because next weekend my friend Johanna is visiting after studying abroad in Florence. We’ll be (likely) visiting Salzburg and Munich, and I’m taking a four-day weekend for it. In the interest of not getting worn out from travel, I decided to stay in Berlin this weekend, and postpone my plans of going to Hamburg (which I definitely still want to do). Part of my reasoning was to save money, but that didn’t quite pan out when I ended up visiting both H&M and Urban Outfitters on Saturday. Oops. Luckily I got to see what looks like some sort of antique car block party that Kurfürstendamm is throwing this week, which was very cool to walk through on a warm summer evening. I saw some antique car stuff my parents would like, but I didn’t have any cash on me. It rained today (Sunday), so hopefully the showcase will still be going on tomorrow so I can get something.

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Antique Car Block Party on Saturday

I think I have been here long enough to discuss some of the cultural differences I’ve encountered during my time in Berlin so far. I think the most significant one would probably be the demeanor of people in general, which can be a bit less friendly than the US. I think people are a bit less polite on public transportation, and seem a bit annoyed when you ask them politely to move out of the way, for example. Then again, this could just be the American in me that sees something that isn’t really there. I think Germans are a bit better with time management, mostly because they aren’t obsessed with getting everything down to a tee like Americans. If a meeting starts a couple minutes late, no one really seems to notice, because the time left will be used efficiently. In general, though, Germans tend to not be late to things- it is more that they say to arrive around a certain time. As for encountering foreigners, everyone has been generally nonchalant about it. Sometimes someone will ask politely where I’m from because they’re curious, and most of the time they’ll just switch to English if they see that you’re struggling with German. I think the economic situation in Berlin is very similar to a relatively affluent city in the US, because the air is clean and the food is fresh (two things Oakland has a questionable reputation with). Politically speaking, I have seen some protests but I don’t think the country is nearly as divided as the US. It seems like extremists are kept on the fringe, which is easier to do for Germany because they have the ability to ban things such as Nazi symbolism from the streets. I’m not sure if Germans have too many stereotypes about Americans, because everyone has been nice to me. I think it helps that I generally try to speak German (except at work, where they’re fine speaking English with me) and I don’t react rudely when I come across cultural difference, which I think Americans are known to do. One sweeping generalization that Europeans seem to have is that school in America is very expensive, and seeing their reactions to how much I paid for this program alone is always something. I think Berliners are good about not stereotyping too much, because the city is very international. I’ve heard that if I go to other parts of the country, I may find them not so accepting of Americans. Regardless, I am very appreciative of the people I’ve met so far in Berlin.