An Unexpected Foe: German Chairs

Another memorable week in Berlin filled with delicious food and fun new experiences. I made it to two street food markets this week. One was the same Thursday one I’ve been to every week since being here, and the other was a Thai market that happened to be only a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Since I worked from home Friday, I was able to check it out during my lunch break. I stuffed myself with a variety of noodles and other Thai classics.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed since being here is that Berlin takes recycling a lot more seriously. Whenever you buy a bottle, you must put down a hefty deposit which can be collected when you return the bottle. This incentivizes people to bring their bottles back to be recycled. I know in the US some states have a similar system but usually it’s only a few cents a bottle, so most people don’t even bother. In Berlin each plastic bottle requires a deposit of 25 cents, which is more than enough to convince me to save all my bottles. This deposit system is also used in several other ways. The Thai market I went to had no single-use plates so you either had to bring a reusable plate or pay a deposit of 2 to 3 Euros to borrow one. The other one had paper plates but instead of using plastic cups, they used glasses with the deposit system. I found this worked well because it obviously reduced waste, but it was also nice to drink from real glasses.

On Saturday, I finally made it to the Jewish Museum, a must-see in Berlin. I decided to go solo because with museums I like the freedom to go at my own pace. It was super informative and very well thought out. Everything there had a purpose and the careful attention to detail stood out.

Also, this week I started going on more walks because I’ve found it’s a great way to see new parts of the city and take a break from the constant activities. I got a chance to explore Friedrichshain, the area I work in, during my lunch breaks. It’s located across the city from our hotel which is in Charlottenburg. There are a ton of great restaurants and a cool mall called the Ring Center. I’ve also discovered there are a few museums and other sites to check out within walking distance which I plan to check out sometime after work. 

Honestly, since being here I feel like I’ve had a smooth transition into Berlin culture. One thing that has been maybe a little bit hard to assimilate with is how people here interact with strangers. In the US I feel people are a lot more willing to talk to strangers and have casual conversations. For example, on an elevator in the US it’s pretty common for someone to ask you what floor you’re going to and press the button for you, or even crack a joke. It could just be because they know I’m American but in my experience in Berlin elevators, strangers have not acknowledged my presence. Also, people in general, seem to be blunter and smile less. It’s not that they don’t smile at all, because they smile and laugh regularly, but when they’re not smiling or laughing it sometimes seems like everyone’s angry at you. Typically, they’re not actually angry, it’s just a cultural difference that takes some getting used to. 

At work, the hardest parts of the culture to assimilate with are the ones I mentioned above. There’s very little fluff in conversations, and sometimes it seems like my coworkers are angry with me even if they aren’t. Another big difference that’s taken a lot of getting used to at work is German chairs. I never thought this would be a problem, but I have yet to find a chair with good armrests. Maybe I’m just getting incredibly unlucky but it seems like everywhere I go the chairs either have no armrests like the one I use at work or thin spherical ones that aren’t comfortable. We take chairs for granted in the US, and it’s been surprisingly difficult to adapt to the German way of sitting. 

This upcoming week is going to be busy, but it’ll give me the chance to truly get into a routine. It’s a full work week and I’m starting to get a decent amount of work. There are no holidays, and I don’t plan to be remote at all. I’m looking forward to being productive and making contributions to the company. I’ll be back next week with an update. For now, I’m signing off from Berlin.