This question about assimilation into my host country’s culture is very pertinent to my experiences over the past week. I did two things that really got me into German culture while feeling like I am not fully assimilated into the culture. One was with my coworkers at a work event, and one was a personal experience.
With my work experience, I was invited to a networking event with local founders of startups with my coworkers. It was at a roof top bar, on a relatively high building, which I learned in my first week here is a rarity in Berlin because the city council and the citizens want to maintain a certain type of architecture. It was a cool bar because I was able to see all around Berlin from an angle that I have never seen before. It was beautiful and gave me a better perspective on the beauty of Berlin. Anyways, the at the even there was a lot of drinking going around, but it maintained a professional aurora that I feel like would not be maintained in the United States. Everyone there was focused on their goal of networking, while still drinking what I felt to be a lot for how professional the event felt like. People were sharing ideas about how to make their products better. It was easy because many, if not most, of the founders there had some type of Artificial Intelligence base of their product, so I overheard and talked to many founders and pointed them towards our Chief Technical Officer, who has the technical knowledge about our product. However, with everyone there, they were consistently drinking which I found difficult to fully understand. It might be because of my lack of experience with in-person work, but I feel as if American business meetups like this that have the really professional aurora do not have this much drinking involved. I feel when people in the United States are trying to build their networks professionally and get people interested in their product, they want to stay focused and there is not much, if any drinking involved. However, at this meeting on the rooftop bar, the drinks were flowing, but the professional manner remained. Maybe this can be attributed to the difference in drinking age and the different stigmas around drinking alcohol between the two countries.
My other experience that made me feel a little uncomfortable was when I was in Munich. Munich is a completely different city than Berlin, with the much more traditional and “stereotypical” German culture, with men wearing lederhosen and the typical Baroque architecture. I thought this so was cool and it was fun to see all these lederhosen wearing men performing this joyous German music. As opposed to Berlin, Munich felt like a much more joyous city to be in, especially since I would have Germans like actually smile at me as I approached them in a store to buy something. However, similar to the casual drinking on the rooftop bar, the people in Munich took drinking to the next level. Everyone that was outside of restaurants had half liter to a liter of beer and we went to the original Hofbräuhaus Munich, where they serve these giant liter sized beers. It was also interesting to see the beer garden culture, because every green open area space had at least one beer garden in it. And there were hundreds of tables at all of them, and most were always full. It was fascinating to see that everyone was drinking beer. I was shocked by this because I haven’t seen a situation where the drinking around an entire city was so consistent. I don’t think I could do it justice. There was drinking at the Hofbräuhaus, in Marienplatz, in the English Garden, and in Olympiapark. Maybe because it was such a beautiful day, or maybe some type of celebration across the city, but it just seemed that the entire city was drinking and being jolly. I think this cultural different once again comes back to the different stigma around drinking beer in Germany as opposed to the United States. In Germany, the drinking age for beer is 16 years old, as opposed to the United States being 21. Those five years I believe is enough time to change the culture in a country from casual drinking to it being an event always. Personally, I am not a drinker, only very casually, so it made me feel weird to assimilate into the culture, especially when over the past week it was almost made to feel natural, something that I feel in the United States is not the case.