May 2015 Archives

Sat May 9 21:40:03 CEST 2015

First impressions of Berlin

After nearly three months here, this is a bit late, but work has been hellishly busy, and combined with all the stuff needing doing for the relocation, all i've really felt up for when not-working was "as little as possible." For a few weeks people were asking me what Berlin was like, or how i liked it, and i'm afraid all i could do was shrug. I suppose i really live in "Works-too-much-landia" rather than any specific geographic place.

Nevertheless, after a few months some impressions have been made. In no particular order:

  • The cashiers in Berlin are of super-human speed, accuracy, and efficiency. One day maybe i'll be a match for bagging my stuff as quickly as they can scan, but i doubt it will be any time soon.
  • The public transportation is amazing. (Except when it's on strike, like right now.) Trains and trams seem to come about every five minutes, and the network is extensive. Most of the time, the trains aren't too crowded. About one in 15 rides, i happen on one that's full, and it reminds me of how that was usually the case when i was riding the trains or Tube around London during commuting hours.
  • Bicycling here is pretty good -- automobile drivers are generally much more aware of non-car traffic, and seem to (mostly) obey the laws and not run people over (or run into each other). There's even dedicated left-turn lanes and signals for bicycles. The bike paths alongside the pedestrians are OK -- i supposed better than being on the road with the cars, but one has to look pretty much every direction for potential disaster, whether it's other bicyclists, pedestrians, cars, or dogs crossing the path unexpectedly.
  • Germans are generally pretty tolerant of my near-complete ability to communicate in German, but i need to learn the language. Google translate really helps for written stuff, but spoken language encounters are much too fast. Learning German is simply the right thing to do as a member of this society, but in more "technical" situations, like talking with a computer tech, kitchen sales person, or a doctor, it's really difficult to achieve a clear, shared understanding without being competent in a common language.
  • Spring is a distinct and amazing season here. (Compared with the UK or Texas.) It's long, and the days can be comfortably warm, or a bit chilly. The visual impact of the trees and plants returning to a "verdency," blossoming, and even becoming a dense canopy above some sidewalks is incredible.
  • I like how organized some things are... the "Pfand" (deposit on beer and some other drink bottles), and the Anmledung (registering your address with the local government) makes a lot of sense, though it is a pain.
  • For a couple of uneven income, income taxes are lower here than the UK for , but one pays for medical coverage (more like in the U.S.), so there's sort of a hidden tax there. Overall, i think cost of living is still lower than the UK, especially if you are comparing about housing in SE England, and you are someone who drinks alcoholic beverages.
  • Germans seem to be really into organic ("Bio") food. There are at least a dozen different grocery chains operating in Germany, and four or five in Berlin. Currently, i live within a five minute walk of two small Bio groceries, and within a 15 minute walk of two larger ones. Expanding out to a 30-minute walk, there are at least three more Bio groceries, one of which is entirely vegan.
  • I've never been anywhere so covered in graffiti.
  • When walking, one must remember look at the ground for dog poop, broken glass, and uneven sidewalks, more or less in that order of frequency, though not necessarily importance.
  • I think sparrows are the dominant life form. They are everywhere, and seem to occupy the niche taken by pigeons in London (and other places), Grackles in Austin, or Seagulls in Brighton. It's weird, because they are so small, but they are everywhere.

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: berlin