Learning to Adapt
"Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow."
- Anita Desai
As I continued to become acquainted with my new surroundings, I noticed a few things that, although common in Germany, were very unfamiliar to me. For one, using public transportation or walking to get to the places I need to go instead of using a personal vehicle was very strange at first. Even in my apartment, I found that small tasks, such as doing laundry and preparing food, needed to be done in a slightly different way. However, I have enjoyed learning these new approaches to life, and I am still looking forward to becoming more and more familiar with life in Germany over the next couple of months.
For me, the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn have become the two primary methods of public transportation I use within the city. Whenever I want to travel to important landmarks or noteworthy sites, I will use one (or both) of these train systems to get there. Taking the train has always felt safe, and it has been easy to navigate as well. The trips are usually very quiet, and there are often passengers diligently working or reading on board. I especially enjoy knowing that this form of travel is more environmentally friendly than some other alternatives.
Additionally, I have greatly enjoyed the ability to walk to get groceries, go to work, or head out for lunch. Everything I could need on any given day is within a few minutes on foot, which is very convenient and allows me to get out of the apartment more often throughout the day. It has also increased my overall health, and I can feel a noticeable difference in my stamina and strength, just by building new daily habits that incorporate walking.
Whenever I leave home for the Marktplatz, I always have to remember to pick up my reusable bags. Here, it is far more common for stores to expect their costumers to bring their own bags, and if not, they will sell paper bags for a fairly low price. This, I believe, is a great model for sustainability, which I hope to see become more popular in America in the near future.
Because I now have to carry groceries by hand as I walk through Berlin, I am usually unable to bring an entire week’s worth of food home with me in a single trip. Recently, I have been buying food to last for 2-4 days, with the expectation that I will need to go out again later in the week. It seems to be the practice of many people here in Europe to grocery shop in smaller quantities a few days a week.
At home, there are a few things that caught me by surprise as well. When I arrived, I noticed that, in the kitchen, next to the dishwasher, there was a washing machine for laundry. However, there was no dryer to be found. Instead, I discovered a drying rack folded up in the front closet. I have come to understand that here in Germany, it is far more common to air-dry clothing than it is in the States. So, for the last few weeks, I have hung up all my clothes on the drying rack, making sure to consider the additional time it will require.
Another thing I noticed in the kitchen was that there was no microwave in sight. In America, I am very used to throwing something quickly in the microwave to reheat it before rushing off to work or classes. Here, however, I have to plan for my meals much more intentionally, factoring in the time it will take to heat up the stove or the oven. I believe this has actually helped my eating habits, as I have taken more care to plan my meals ahead of time.
Through all this, I have learned to love the new habits I have been forming and have enjoyed the impression that European culture has had on me so far. Adjusting to this new way of life for a time has allowed me to broaden my perspective of the world and more deeply understand the differences, and more importantly, the similarities between all of us. I believe this stay in Berlin will certainly stay with me for a very long time and will hopefully provide me with new insights as I continue on in life.