Bumper Cars on the Sidewalk

Guten Tag! I had a fairly eventful week here in Berlin, where I continually experience new things. On Tuesday, we all sat down and officially planned our upcoming trip to Budapest, Hungary. I have been looking forward to this trip for a while, and that excitement will keep building up until we leave in about 2 weeks. Us girls spent the next evening trying out a new café/restaurant down the street from our hotel, which just recently opened. I had some of the best lemon meringue pie that I’ve had in a long time, and we had a nice relaxing night just enjoying the start of summer weather in Berlin. As I said in my last 2 blog posts, we spend every Thursday night at the street food market, just trying the different foods that Berlin has to offer. This time, I got a fried lamb meatball with spicy sauce, followed by a salted caramel ice cream cone.

On Friday, everyone in the program hung out together, which has become sort of like a weekly “family meeting”. The following afternoon, Kira and I visited the Jewish Museum of Berlin, which was my favorite museum here so far. It started intensely because the ground floor consisted of 3 axes called “Continuity”, “Exile”, and “Holocaust”. The Axis of the Holocaust ends with a void named “Holocaust Tower”, which felt haunting to enter. The Garden of Exile, outside at the end of the Axis of Exile, was also very discomforting. Something that I respected and appreciated about this museum and its intricate zig zag design is the way that it represents German-Jewish history without shying away from the difficult parts. The rest of the museum was extremely interesting, and I really tried to absorb as much information and history as I could. I definitely recommend a trip to this museum to anyone visiting Berlin, but I would warn that it is very emotionally taxing due to its heavy material.

Saturday night, we went out to experience some of the famous Berlin nightlife, which is so different from in the states. We then woke up relatively early and took another day trip to Lake Wannsee, which was a nice way to relax after a few days of nonstop activities. I managed to make it the whole day without getting a sunburn, so I ended the weekend on a good note.

As far as getting used to Berlin culture, I feel like I have done a good job at assimilating, but there are still things that stick out to me. One thing that definitely throws me off every time and I never find myself being prepared for is the walking style in public here. In the United States, everyone is taught from a young age to walk on the right side of the sidewalk, which is a guideline most people follow when walking in cities or just in general. Germans definitely do not follow this, and it never fails to annoy me. While I naturally walk on the right side, I will find myself having to dodge German people walking without a care in the world, and have even been ran into a couple times. It feels like they will walk anywhere on the sidewalk (left, right, middle) yet never move over for anyone, even when it means walking between 2 people right beside each other. In the US, this rarely happens to me.

This issue falls under the umbrella of general German bluntness and unfriendliness towards foreigners. I was told to beware of the “German stare”, which means that I have caught many glares on public transport for either wearing the wrong thing or just speaking with an American accent. I have tried to adjust to this by staying silent on the buses and trains so that I am not obviously a foreigner, but I definitely do not fully blend in and can feel people’s judgement sometimes.

In the workplace, it is a bit difficult for me to adjust to the style of feedback that is very common in Germany. Praise does not exist here, because they do not feel the need to sugarcoat anything, and do not see the benefit of telling you what you already do correctly. As a sensitive person who thrives on validation and praise, especially from authority figures such as professors and bosses, this has been difficult for me to assimilate to. Luckily, it has forced me to grow thicker skin, and I am slowly getting used to accepting that if something was not critiqued, then it was good.

Every day that I spend in this city, whether it be the commute to and from work or exploring the fun things that Berlin has to offer, I feel more comfortable. I could definitely picture myself coming back here, and I am not ready to leave in about 4 weeks. Well, I’ll write again next week!


Caitlin Jarrell

Lake Wannsee
Memory Void at the Jewish Museum