As I sit here to type this, I am exhausted, but happily so. I've now been in Berlin for nearly three full days and at the end of each day, I find myself drained and ready to go to sleep as soon as I get home (wait - that might actually be me even when I'm not in Germany).
People always say that they get a huge culture shock upon entering a new country, so is it very strange that I really experienced no such thing? I mean, I was kind of disappointed when I walked into Edeka, a popular German Supermarkt conveniently located just a 3-minute walk away from my apartment, and found that calling it a supermarket is an overstatement by American standards. At home in Texas, we have H-E-Bs, which are essentially wonderlands filled with all the foods and household goods you could ever think of. This Edeka was much, much smaller in comparison; in fact, it was probably smaller than the hipster little organic food market across the street from where I live in the U.S. Even so, I didn't really know what groceries to buy here, given my pretty limited German, and I was happy to find a tub of spinach and some quark (a cheesy-yogurt or yogurty-cheese), so it suited me just fine.
Another very German thing that I feel the need to point out is the lack of filtered drinking water. Germans get their drinking water straight from the tap or otherwise from bottles, and because I'm a miser, I opted for the tap option, which is perfectly fine for drinking. Maybe this is just the spoiled brat in me speaking, but I really do miss our good old American water filter. I'm sure the tap water is highly safe and sanitary, but somehow, its taste is just not as good (but does water even taste like anything?), which might explain why I've been feeling slightly dehydrated every day.
All of that aside, Berlin is such a great place. My favorite part so far is the public transport, which is so fast and efficient that it makes me want to never return to Austin and its city buses again. There are the trains in Berlin - the S- and U-Bahns - as well as trams and buses. Every morning, I take the S-Bahn from the station conveniently located just a two-minute walk away from my homestay, and twenty minutes later, I arrive at the IES Abroad Center. I've noticed that German train and bus operators don't really give as much heed to passengers as their American counterparts, meaning, if you're running and the bus is about to leave, the driver will probably not wait for you. This was a bit upsetting at first to someone who is used to drivers patiently waiting if you're running full speed toward the stop, but I realized that this is probably why our buses are never on schedule. Anyhow, kudos to the Germans for getting it right!
So, in terms of culture shock, I'm glad to say that so far, I think I am adjusting pretty well. Then again, it's only been a couple of days, so maybe something will happen next week that will completely throw me off. Till then!
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<p>I hail from Houston, Texas and study in Austin, Texas, so needless to say, I'm ready to get out of Texas. I study Chemistry and Spanish at the University of Texas at Austin and I like to pretend that I can manage German. This is my second time in Europe and I'm excited for the adventure that awaits!</p>