Adulting auf Deutsch

Clarissa Grunwald
March 15, 2016

Adulting: (v) A word which here means mostly “feeding yourself” and “pretending like you aren’t lost even when you totally are.”


In the past week, four Germans and one American have asked me for directions. I’ve kept track. They come up to you and go, “’Schuldigung, wo ist Mumblemumblestraße?” (Or alternatively, "Guten Tag, sprecken see English?) and you have to pretend like you might be able to help. 

After a moment of looking thoughtful, I admit I have no clue. But I try to say it like, if they’d given me any other street name, I would totally know.

I’m good at walking like I know where I’m going. I am not good at actually knowing where I’m going. Seven times out of ten, I’ll walk the wrong way down a street for several blocks before realizing my mistake. The other three times, I’ll walk the right way down a street for several blocks, assume I’m walking the wrong way, and turn around.

When I get too irretrievably lost, I look for the nearest U-Bahn or S-Bahn station. I’ve never lived anywhere with a real public transportation system before, but it turns out it’s remarkably self-explanatory. There are plenty of signs, and every once in a while a pleasant-voiced lady comes on the intercom to give us information. The information is all in German, but it’s the thought that counts.

On my phone, I downloaded two apps: one, an offline map of the city, and the other, an offline map of the train station. I use these constantly. IES Abroad provided us with city maps on our first day, but you can’t really whip out a paper map while walking down the street. Or I mean, you can, but it ruins your cool pretend I-know-what-I’m-doing vibe. Also, I’m bad with maps. It is an observable scientific fact that any map I open will be upside down. This might not sound plausible, but I swear to god it is the empirical truth.


Food in Berlin is cheap. You can find stuff to eat for three or four Euros. I thought this was crazy until I went to the supermarket and found out you can buy 3 kilos of potatoes for two Euros. Running out of food will not be a problem here, although I may get sick of potatoes.

I was also happy to discover that peanut butter does exist in Germany. It comes in tiny cans with American flags on the label and costs like twice as much as Nutella, which is not the kind of temptation I need in my life. But if I try to eat a Nutella-and-jelly sandwich my mother will personally fly out here and beat me over the head with a Nutrition magazine.

(At some point I will almost definitely eat a Nutella-and-jelly sandwich.)

Here’s a problem though: German kitchens don’t have microwaves. Or at least, mine doesn’t. The microwave oven is an important invention to me, on par with ice cream or toilet paper. I’m aware of how one would do without, in a purely theoretical way, but the idea makes me vaguely uncomfortable.

But slowly, I’m figuring out the mechanics of a frying pan. The first morning I made breakfast, I couldn’t figure out how to make tea without nuking the water. I wound up boiling it in a pan on the stove, which is, I guess, technically a way that you could do it. But it turns out, there’s a thing called a water boiler, which plugs into the wall and does the job with a lot less drama. So that’s good to know. 

Today, we had a talk on attending classes at the Humboldt. It's finally sinking in that I'm going to have to take tests and write papers and know deadlines and whatnot all in German, so I’m pretty nervous. I’ve barely had time to get comfortable here, and already the definitions of adulating are expanding. I just hope I can keep up.

Clarissa Grunwald

<p>Writer, composer, musician. American student with a terrible sense of direction set loose on Germany. After years of telling people that I love to travel, this is my first time actually leaving the country.</p>

2016 Spring
Home university:
Franklin & Marshall College
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