Comms in Berlin


Hello from Berlin! Another week has gone by, and I can’t believe I only have two short weeks left. The past month and a half have absolutely flown by. It feels like just yesterday I was at home in New Jersey, eagerly counting down the days until I would travel to Europe for the first time. Weirdly, at the same time I feel like I’ve been here for years. I’ve been able to do so many of the things I wanted to do coming here and so many things I never imagined I’d ever do. Although my German skills are lacking, I feel more like a local than a tourist simply passing through. I’m going to make sure I make the most of these final two weeks and check off the final items on my Berlin bucket list. 

This past week wasn’t the most eventful to be honest. I felt pretty unmotivated which I attribute to being a little burnt out from work and exhausted from the trip to Budapest the prior weekend. My sleep schedule was very off, and I’m only just fixing it over a week later. I’m surprised it took me this long to get back to a normal schedule because I’m used to long nights in Berlin. The difference this time, I realized, was my nap schedule. I fell into the habit of napping at night a couple hours before going to bed. This made it impossible to sleep and led to a few tired days. Luckily, I have corrected this habit and I’m feeling ready to take on the last couple of weeks. 

I didn’t do much throughout the week, but on the weekend, I reminded myself I’m on a once in a lifetime trip and I was able to find the energy to go out. On Saturday night, a couple others and I started out with some pool at a nearby bar called Clash we frequent. This was a cool experience because pool isn’t something I get to regularly play. I started off hot with a couple solid shots but once the beginners luck wore off, I choked several easy shots. Next, we paid a visit to one of our favorite cultural institutions and had a good time there. On Sunday we went for a nice relaxing swim in a nearby lake.

Regarding communication in Berlin, I came into this program knowing that Germany typically adheres to a low-context communication style and in my experience here, I have found that to be the case. Everyone seems to be a lot more direct here than in the US. For example, if I were to ask a stranger for directions, I would likely get a super clear, to the point answer with nothing left up for interpretation. I remember a couple of weeks ago, I was on the bus back from work and I asked a stranger to help me navigate public transportation. At this point I was a few weeks into the program, and I had mastered getting to and from work, so it was a unique situation that I was asking for help. Usually, it’s other people coming to me asking for directions. This was the day that a car had driven into a crowd, so people were told to avoid the area. My bus was forced to take an alternate route, and the bus driver made an announcement in German. I knew it had something to do with what happened, and I picked up that we would be missing a couple stops, but I wanted to be absolutely sure I knew what was happening. I turned to the person next to me and asked her if she could translate what was said. To this day she remains the most stereotypical German person I’ve ever met. She looked me dead in the eyes and laid it out for me. She talked about what stops we would be missing and explained the event that caused the detour with no emotion on her face. Not once did she come close to cracking even the slightest smile. I left the conversation kind of in shock but also content because she told me exactly what I needed to know without dancing around the subject. Although not every German person is exactly like her, I have noticed in general they like to get to the point quick. No filler words or unnecessary fluff in conversations which I like. At work it’s the same. Messages are short, and if there’s a certain way something needs to be done directions are clear. If directions aren’t super detailed that means I’m given freedom to do it my way. Because of this communication style, I have yet to encounter any miscommunication situations at work. Outside of work I also haven’t encountered any miscommunications either. I’ve gotten lucky so far because others in the program have received the wrong order at restaurants, or accidentally bought two tickets instead of one. To avoid these issues, I make sure I’m clear, and I don’t let the conversation end until I’m positive we’re both on the same page.