Reflections on Culture – Week 4

As usual it feels hard to imagine that it has been as much time into the program as it has. Maybe it seems like a poor stylistic choice to continue opening my blogs with a statement like the one above, but it honestly is still as true as anytime before. It feels very unusual to say that it’s already been 4 weeks in the, and that pretty soon we will be passing the halfway point of the program. A lot of things have happened since last week, speaking in terms of both personal and professional experiences. While the majority of things have been wonderful, there are definitely cases in where the different culture has brought on some challenges that are a little hard to assimilate into.

Before jumping into that, however, I would like to generally recap the events of my past week. After having an adventure in Munich last weekend, it was nice to be able to get back to Berlin and continue taking-in the city, working and getting back on my schedule. Monday brought about some great experiences at work which I believe I may have talked about in my blog last week. After returning to the office and wrapping up some work on a longer-term project, I was once again given the opportunity to shadow a colleague at some apartment showings. Having days where I get to leave the office and see and learn different aspects of what Residea does and how different functions of real-estate sales works are really valuable to me. On top of this, it is a great way to spend more time getting to know coworkers who don’t sit immediately around my desk while also getting the chance to explore new neighborhoods of Berlin while commuting (in a car) to the apartments that we are showing potential investors.

This most recent Monday I was able to see new parts of the city, particularly areas of Kreuzberg and the Central City that I had not really been to before. In between showings I was able to grab some delicious and cheap Greek street food, a staple of the area and definitely a highlight of the week. However, Monday wasn’t the only day that brought new things to experience. Tuesday brought me into entirely unique and new to me contact with the city of Berlin. Myself and other interns from the program were encouraged to and participated in a Coca-Cola sponsored environmental action and awareness day that spans across Europe.

So on Tuesday morning, instead of working in the office, myself and a few others from the program took a bus to the Tegeler Forest where we spent 4 hours collecting litter in the woods. Now at first it may not seem like the most enthralling of activities, but it really was one of the high points of my week: I was able to spend time surrounded by nature for the time in over a month, I was able to speak with Germans from outside of my program and just meet more people, and I was able to give back to the city that’s been hosting us and allowing me to have such a meaningful experience. I think that having the opportunity to give back to Berlin while helping the environment was a really good way to spend a morning and offered me other avenue of seeing/experiencing Berlin.

Aside from the first two days, there of course was so much more that took place. Spending more time at work getting to know my colleagues, learning more skills on Salesforce and Excel while completing assignments, and seeing more of what Berlin has to offer outside the office. On Friday I even managed to eat duck for the first time (I have tried a surprisingly large amount of new Asian foods since being here), not only was it delicious but I guess the it encapsulates the idea pretty well, that Berlin is an international city and that when I break down my walls and open myself up to new things that I am not only taking in the German culture, but the many more that call Berlin home as well.

With all that being said, there are however, aspects of Berlin’s culture that I am finding a little difficult to completely assimilate into. I believe I may have also stated this in one of my previous posts, but I think my least favorite part of the different culture is water. It is so hard to find enough (non-sparking) water for a reasonable price. Aside from that, I am starting to notice more and more the general German mindset of keeping to oneself. Differing from the United States, where people are generally more sociable when first meeting someone, in Germany it is harder to get someone to be generally interested in getting to know you or to even have many good opportunities to try and meet Germans (as a foreigner). My goal, however, is to keep persevering and to adjust in ways that will allow me to benefit the most from environment and hopefully keep meeting new people. I couldn’t be more excited for the next weeks to come.