28 November 2011

USA vs. Deutschland: Practical and Cultural Differences

Silver Future, Neukölln, Monday Night       

It's Monday evening, just after 7, and I'm sitting in Silver Future, my favorite queer cafe in Berlin, sipping a mixbier (light beer with lemon and sugar) slowly, trying to kill time until I go to the Sandmann around 9 pm to meet Annette and Sara, two of the artists I ocassionally model for.  I've got some studying to do for my German class and a hat to finish, but I thought I'd make another list first.  This one is:

Practical and Cultural Differences: How Berlin is Different than the San Francisco Bay Area
1. Alcohol is not taboo in Germany.  You can go into a Spätkauf (convenience store), but a beer, open it in the store and walk down the street drinking it.  You can also ride the Bahn with an open container. No one cares.  Surprisingly, things don't get too out of hand.  Folks are, for the most part, responsible with their drinking in public (comparatively.)  I think I could live here for 20 years and the thrill of walking down the street with a completely visible open container of alcohol would never wear off.
2. Dogs may ride public transit unmuzzled.  People are expected to take responsibility for their animal companions in public.  Can you imagine?

3. Police, Ambulance, and Fire Engine Sirens sound different

4. You don't get free plastic bags at the Supermarket. You are expected to bring your own bags to the grocery store.  If you forgot, you can buy a plastic bag for a few Euro cents.  The exception to this is the many Turkish groceries around.  They will put your things in plastic bags for free.

5. You have to request ice in your beverage. That's right! Whether it's water, OJ, or Cola, you must specifically request that you want ice or you don't get any!  The exception may be McDonald's, but I haven't been to a McDonald's in Deutschland, so I don't know.

6. You cannot buy baking soda in the grocery store.  You can buy Back Pulver, which is a combination of Baking Soda, Baking Powder, and maybe some salt or sugar.  But pure Baking Soda, called NatriumHydrogenCarbonat, you must buy in an Apotheke (pharmacy.)  And it ain't cheap!  It's sold for health problems and also cleaning.  Lately, it's really helped me with stress-related stomach issues.

7. One is not expected to smile all the time.  I have heard that many people find this disconcerting, but I love it.  People don't expect you to be happy all the time and they don't smile at you if they don't totally mean it.  I love this.

8. You can get cash back for your beer and soda bottles at the grocery store.  You can collect all your glass beer and soda bottles and take them to the supermarket, put them in a little machine, and get a reciept that you take to the cashier and then you get money!

9. The majority of smokers use rolling tobacco, not pre-rolled cigarettes. The smoking culture here is very interesting. Some people have fancy little kits of rolling tobacco, papers and matches or a lighter that they tote around with them.  Folks will ask each other for a cigarette and then they have to sit there and roll it.  Conversations start.  It creates more sharing, I think.  You have to think about how much tobacco you need to get through the day, week, etc instead of just looking at the number of cigarettes you have and then deciding to share or not share.

10. You can get better food for less money.  I love the visible drinking without societal shame.  I love not feeling a societal pressure to look happy when I'm not, but possibly my absolute most favorite thing about day-to-day life in Berlin is that food is CHEAP!  Fast food, like McDonald's and Burger King are actually relatively expensive, but when you can go to the grocery and a few days worth of food for 7€ or less, that's a good feeling.  Meat and fish can be expensive, but vegetables, cheese and eggs are relatively cheap.

and finally,
11. (This list goes to 11.)  Fresh bread is easy to get, and just as cheap, if not cheaper, than packaged bread!  At Lidl, which is an inexpensive chain grocery in Deutschland, the actually make the bread there (I think) and you can get it while it's still warm.  And it is CHEAP! A little roll (called a schrippe) is 0,15€. A loaf of fresh bread with sunflower seeds all over it is just over 2€.  Incredible!  Mmm, bread!
I did not take this picture.  I ripped it off of some webpage.  I keep forgetting to take my camera to the grocery store.  But soon, I promise.  Americans, prepare to be amazed.

If you think my observations are inaccurate or want to add your own observations, I would love to have your thoughts in the comments

1 comment:

  1. I think that police-ambulance sirens sound EXACTLY the same.
    Just kidding.

    I miss Berlin :)