Living in germany

Pentecostalism in Germany – Die Pfingstbewegung

Pentecostalism in Germany - Die Pfingstbewegung
© Pixabay

When I recently listened to a Podcast on the history of Pentecostalism in the United States, I couldn’t help but wonder how this global Christian manifestation fares in Germany. I have to admit, that while having a rather vague idea of what Pentecostalism means for the US, I did not know how far it spreads in the country I live in. I didn’t even know how to translate “Pentecostalism” to German. It’s “Pfingsbewegung”, in case you wonder.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Should you, like me, not be entirely sure what Pentecostalism actually is, let me briefly freshen up your knowledge. Pentecost refers to the descent of the Holy Spirit on to the early Christians as described in the New Testament of the Bible. In the portrayed incident, which happened on Pentecost, originally a Jewish holiday that is also celebrated in Christianity to this day (In Germany, we know it as Pfingsten.), the Holy Spirit bestowed some of God’s powers on to the twelve apostles. Now, at the dawn of the 20th century, a growing number of individual Christians and congregations in the USA seemed to have been praying for another descent of the Holy Spirit. Over time the expectation of a nearing second Pentecost grew stronger. In conclusion, Pentecostalism draws a direct line to the early Christian church and takes the Holy Spirit and godly empowerment quite literally. 

When a Pentecostal congregation experienced phenomena that resembled the descriptions of the original events in Jerusalem, word traveled quickly and people believed that the second Pentecost had arrived. From this point on, the new church spread fast and new congregations popped up all over the globe. Only one year after the new church began to spread, the first quasi-Pentecostal service was held in northern Germany.

Christianity in Germany

Before we return to Pentecostalism in Germany, let me quickly describe the makeup of Christian religion in Germany in the early 20th century. Back then, roughly 60% of the German population were part of one of the several evangelical churches. The majority of the remaining 40% belonged to the Catholic Church, but there were also orthodox churches and other Christian manifestations. As Pentecostalism derives from Evangelicalism, it is important to say, that the Evangelical churches were not organized in a superordinate organization at the beginning of the 20th century.

The new Pentecostalism in Germany

Thus, the “new” movement did not find itself confronted with a united Christian body in Germany. One organization that opposed the spreading of Pentecostalism in Germany was the pietistic “Gemeinschaftsbewegung” (Community Movement), another quite powerful Evangelical church. It was highly skeptical of the spiritualistic features of Pentecostal services, which saw the congregation members being literally animated by the Holy Spirit. In an official statement, the Gemeinschaftsbewegung basically accused the Pentecostal churches of heresy. In the Third Reich, many Pentecostal churches and associations, some of which had been prohibited, joined together in larger organizations. This development continued after World War II. Although the Pentecostal churches are organized in an overarching body, in German law they do not count as one religious Organization, as e.g. the Catholic or the Evangelical Church. In Germany, singular Pentecostal congregations mostly call themselves “Freikirche” (Free Church), in order to clarify that they are not part of the German Evangelical Church. Theologically, the affiliation to the Pentecostal movement does not mean the different churches and associations cannot differ in their doctrines. In Germany it quite usual for women to become Pentecostal pastors. It is hard to estimate the actual number of Pentecostals in Germany. The larger umbrella organizations count between 3.500 and more than 50.000 members.

Pentecostalism in Germany - Die Pfingstbewegung
education Living in germany

Waldkindergarten – Forest Kindergarten

Waldkindergarten - Forest Kindergarten
© Pixabay

Do you feel tense whenever you see a young child playing video games and wonder if they even know where strawberries grow? You are not alone. More and more parents find themselves looking for a way to teach core values and environmental awareness to young children. They find a perfect answer to this predicament in Waldkindergärten, outdoor nurseries that focus on exposing young children to nature. In the busy world of globalization and smartphones, this education strategy is experiencing more popularity than ever.

Germans Have Always Loved Nature

The premise of a Waldkindergarten is for children between 3 and 6 to spend their preschool time with outdoor activities. Children play, climb, sing and work on craft projects, free from the pressures of technology. There are only wooden, crafted toys. Most day activities take place in the open air, no matter if it’s raining or snowing.

Valuing nature and the environment is a recurring theme in German culture. During the Romantic movement in the 18th and 19th century, dozens of artists were inspired by the seasons, trees and plants around them. In medicine, time spent outdoors an der frischen Luft, ideally immersed in cold water was long considered the best way to stay in healthy and strong.

In the 1960s and 1970s, both East and West German political climates started seeing the rise of activist groups dedicated to peace, protecting the environment and eliminating nuclear power. And even in the 21st century, Germans find themselves sceptical of too much technology. The country is full of national parks, the green party has a lot of support, and  many Germans buy bio (organic) products.

So for many parents, the Waldkindergarten concept fits right into the idea of living a responsible life close to nature. The idea is an adaptation of a Scandinavian concept from the 1950s, although Germany’s first officially recognised version didn’t get its permissions until 1993. It is part of many other alternative movements in education, such as Montessori, Waldorf and Steiner schools.

Benefits of Being a Wald Child

The concept of a Kindergarten ohne Dach und Wände (Kindergarten without roof and walls) has found significant support in the scientific community. Waldkindergärten are preschool centres, meaning they aim to socialise children, aid their development and gently prepare them for school life which typically starts at age six. Some of the benefits of being a forest child include:

Increased verbal and language development as children don’t play with traditional toys. They are encouraged to create their own play environments using objects found in nature, and have been found to talk to each other more as they create their play environments.

Lower exposure to noise and stress compared to a regular Kindergarten building. You may have experienced the noise level generated by 20 children in a closed room, and in fact this has been shown to create stress for the children, too. *Wald* kids are less affected by noise as they spend time in an open-air environment.

Increased fitness, agility and vision as the environment inspires children to run around, climb and play. The outside world is a space designed for human development, without right angles and even floors. This has been proven to increase the coordination development of young children.

Better immune systems after spending many hours outside and learning to dress for and withstand different kinds of weather conditions.

In fact, in most studies which compare Wald kids to their peers, they outperformed the kids educated in traditional environments in every aspect of testing.

Where To Find A Waldkindergarten

If you are curious and want to find out more about the philosophy and availability of a Waldkindergarten (or Naturkindergarten) in Germany, the Bundesverband der Natur- und Waldkindergärten collects articles and contact information to get you started. It also lists partner nurseries in other countries, many of which teach German children.

Waldkindergarten - Forest Kindergarten
Living in germany

Day Light Saving Time – Sommerzeit

Day Light Saving Time - Sommerzeit
© Pixabay

Summertime in Germany

The first modern suggestion of “summertime” came from a humorous observation by Ben Franklin.  Franklin’s insight was sparked by Paris’s latitude being about 1,100 kilometers north of the latitude of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., Franklin’s home town.  According to The Economist,

“. . . , he [Franklin] woke (sic) early one morning and was surprised to see sunlight streaming through his windows.  He wrote a humorous letter to a local journal, proposing to wake Parisians at the crack of dawn to save on candles.” (The Economist, “The World in 2016”)

The streaming daylight surprised Franklin because longer days between the spring and autumnal equinoxes are more pronounced at greater latitudes.  Paris is about 49° north and Philadelphia is only about 40° north.  The idea is that, the more hours of daylight available in the evenings, the less energy needed to provide light—candles in Franklin’s case, incandescent lamps later on.

The New Zealander George Hudson first suggested (1895) setting clocks forward in the spring to make better use of daylight and then resetting them in the fall.  Hudson wanted more daylight after his workday so that he could collect insects for his collection.

The introduction of Sommerzeit

Hudson’s idea of setting the clocks ahead in the spring sparked great interest in some quarters, but never really caught on and the idea languished fitfully for more than 20 years until Germany and Austria-Hungary introduced “Sommerzeit” in 1916 for strategic reasons.  Better use of available daylight by the civilian and industrial sectors would make that much more coal available for military use and would reduce the incidence of air-raid blackouts.  The United Kingdom immediately saw the pragmatism of a policy its parliament had frequently discussed but tabled and introduced daylight saving time a month after Germany adopted it.  Two years later, despite opposition by railroads and agricultural interests, the U.S. adopted daylight saving time, too.

Germany’s adoption of daylight saving time, i.e., “Sommerzeit,” paved the way for energy savings around the world.  That Germany should be the international leader for the spread of daylight saving time is quite striking.  After all, until the end of the 19th century, most small German towns and villages calculated their own time, i.e., local time based on the sun.  Even within larger, more sophisticated areas, there were time differences.  For example, Munich time was quite different from Berlin time.  The difference was no more than 10 minutes, but it must have been maddening for rail travelers, banks, etc.  Of course, the difference was not as significant as the time difference between the Minnesota, U.S.A., twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The cities are divided only by the Mississippi river, but, for at least a year, the time difference between them was one hour.  Imagine a one-hour time difference between Mainz and Wiesbaden!

Germany kept the routine of “Sommerzeit,” the period from March through September, for three years, but, in 1919, the Weimar Republic discontinued the practice and the Third Reich did not restore the practice until the outbreak of World War II.  Its rationale, of course, was to prolong the work day in order to supply Germany’s military requirements.  Following the war, the division of Germany brought about the use of Central European time and “Sommerzeit”once again, but only in the British, French, and U.S. zones.  The Soviets imposed Moscow time in the zone it controlled.  Whenever someone crossed from or to the Soviet zone, they had to adjust their watch by two hours.  In many ways, when a so-called West German looked across the frontier between West Germany and East Germany, they were looking into the past, literally and figuratively.  As for the use of “Sommerzeit” in West Germany after the war, it was unsurprisingly a pragmatic decision: more daylight hours conserved energy that would otherwise have been used for light and it promoted rebuilding West Germany.  Despite the logic and practicality of daylight saving time, the war had imbued it with the odor of occupation and humiliation and many counties abandoned it as a matter of national pride and self-determination.  The oil crisis of the early 1970s gave rise to a fresh use of daylight saving time for the very sensible reason that nations needed to conserve energy that would otherwise be used to fuel lights and daylight saving time did that.

The mixed feelings of nationalism, self-determination, and practicality were debated, sometimes acrimoniously.  Different nations in the European Union had various versions of daylight saving time, so, while each was able to conserve energy within its own borders, there was still confusion as to which parts of the year were covered.  This hodgepodge of national rules frustrated commerce, transportation, and tourism.  Finally, in 1996, the European Union established daylight saving time to run from the last Sunday in March through the last Sunday in October throughout the EU.

Most nations of the world have adopted some version of the concept of daylight saving time that Germany brought to the world scene almost a century ago and the world is better for it.  As we look back on the world’s laborious establishment of daylight saving time, we should recall Cicero’s comment that “History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.”

Day Light Saving Time - Sommerzeit
Living in germany transportation

Live in Germany – Travelling between cities

Travelling between cities
© Pixabay

Germany has many beautiful places worth visiting. But besides the beauty of the country, it is also one of the largest in the European Union. So what to do if you are planning to travel Germany, to see as many places as possible and all this perhaps even in a very short time? Don’t waste time by making yourself an overview how to travel from city to city: Here you can get all the possibilities at once.

Travelling by Car

Germany is a nation of car drivers and also car manufacturers. The inventor of the car was German, just as the man who thought out the engine. You know BMW, Audi, Mercedes and of course the Autobahn. The last one is the reason why traveling by car is an excellent opportunity to come around in the Bundesrepublik. The country has one of the largest and also best-equipped highway systems in the world. You can get everywhere by using a car (watch Tom Hanks talking about his experiences on the Autobahn here). There are many areas where you can drive as fast as you want, and the Autobahn is (still) free of toll. So it is always a good way to get around very quickly – at least if you don’t get stuck in a traffic jam. As an alternative, you can also use the Landstraßen where you can see much more of the countryside.

Mitfahrgelegenheit

If you don’t have an own car, there is the possibility to join a Mitfahrgelegenheit (car pooling). There are many different platforms like blablacar.de on the internet that offer those lifts. They cost about 5 or 6 Euros per 100 Kilometers.

Travelling by Hitchhiking

If you are on a low budget trip, hitchhiking can also be a possibility. Germans are rather open to pick up hitchhikers, and it is common to do. Also, it is mostly very safe to ride with a stranger. But beware: If you are hitchhiking on an Autobahn, only do it from the service areas. It is forbidden to catch rides on the Autobahn itself or the motorway slip. A sign with your direction can be helpful.

Travelling by Bus

A rather new way of traveling in Germany is the so-called Fernbus. These modern and comfortable buses connect almost every major city and also the smaller ones getting better connections every month. Those buses are equipped with Wifi and toilets, but can be very crowded on weekends. But after all, they are a cheap way of coming around. Of course, they are also delicate to get stuck in traffic.

Travelling by Plane

There are many international and even regional airports in Germany, but mostly only the long distances, for example from Munich to Hamburg, are worth flying. Germany is just too small to go by plane inside the country. There are cheaper ways that are also more environmentally friendly. If you are flexible and booking a few weeks before, you can get a domestic flight for about 120 Euros.

Travelling by Train

The German railroad system is very well established. There are not only regional trains but also high-speed trains called ICE that connect the major cities of Germany. Unfortunately, the Deutsche Bahn is rather expensive and has a very complicated pricing system. An excellent way to get a cheap ticket is to have a look on ltur.de. There you can get cheap tickets always from one week before the date of travel. If you are flexible and not fixed on Friday or Sunday, you can get a one-way ticket even all the way through Germany for 27 Euros.

Travelling between cities
Living in germany medicine and healthcare

Masernparty in Germany

Masernparty in Germany
© Pixabay

Many people are afraid of diseases and try not to get infected when it comes to contact with ill persons. Especially the children are to be protected because of their delicateness towards infections. But some parents are doing the exact opposite: As soon as one of the classmates or friends gets ill, they throw a party to get all the other kids infected, too. That is of course not the case with all types of diseases, but mostly for those that you only get once in a lifetime such as chicken pox or the measles, i.e. childhood diseases. But what is it good for?

The Intentions for throwing a Masernparty

Some would say that this is highly irresponsible to expose your kid. But the intentions of the mothers (and fathers) throwing the Masernparty are easy to explain, yet hard to understand. As already mentioned above, some of the diseases can just break out once in a lifetime. If you ever have had the chicken pox, you won’t get them again because your body has become immune to the pathogens. But if you have never had them, you will probably get infected. Because many of those infections are said to be much worse on impact if you are an adult, some people prefer to suffer them at a rather early age. Kids, thus, can’t make this kind of decision – their parents decide for them.

That doesn’t mean that the children won’t suffer at all if they get the chicken pox or the measles in early years: they are just not as dangerous as they would be for older people. Besides, they won’t have the risk to get infected in the future anymore. But is this reason enough to deliberately get your kid infected by a disease?

The Risks of attending a Masernparty

Besides the fact that once you got the chicken pox you will never get them again, there is another reason that is always cited by the supporters: As soon as many kids out of one’s class or one’s circle of friends will get infected, they will be ill one or two weeks all at the same time. Afterward, the risk of infection will decrease after they are healthy again. In the case of the measles, there is another argument cited, mostly by those who are skeptical about vaccinations: They are of the opinion that vaccinating the kids would be more harmful than just letting them become sick in a controlled manner. Besides most respectable medicals and scientists would vehemently disagree, it is also dangerous: Although measles is a childhood disease, this does not mean that they are not able to severely damage the kid’s health forever. Not getting sick at all is just better than becoming infected.

The legal Side of having a Masernparty

In Germany, therefore it is illegal to organize such a party. It can be seen as serious bodily injury. Because after all, you can say that those who think children would benefit by joining a pox party and getting infected by them with childhood diseases should just think about what they are doing: They are deliberately risking the long-term sanity of their child and also its friends or classmates.

Masernparty in Germany
accommodation living in berlin Living in germany residency

The advantages and disadvantages of sharing a flat

WG
© Wikipedia

Many students in Germany don’t live on their own or at their parent’s house. They mostly live together with at least one roommate in a Wohngemeinschaft, a WG. Living together with others, especially when you didn’t know them before, can be nice, but also exhausting. If you can’t decide whether you want to move into a WG or not, we have collected advantages and disadvantages. 

Privacy and peace

The most obvious disadvantage of living together with flatmates is the fact that you have to do without parts of your privacy. Having other people around you can be stressing very quickly. Do you have to pee after you woke up in the morning? Sorry, your flatmate is taking a shower. Do you want to cook a nice meal after you returned from work? Sorry, he is making a chili. Do you want to go to bed soon? Sorry, he is having guests for some beers. You must be able to handle such situations, or you are going to have a bad time.

Space

Another very natural thing about a WG is the fact that you won’t have a lot of space compared to your own flat. You might have a room and most of the time, that’s it. You can be lucky if you have a big kitchen or even a living room where you can sit together. But in this case, you have to think about point 1: You will have to share it.

Cleaning

Cleaning might be one of the biggest disadvantages of a WG: You do not only have to clean the mess your flatmates produced, but you have also clean much more and also much more often as it would be the case if you would live alone. Speaking of the bath, cleaning can quickly become more like a horror movie.

But of course, there are also some advantages!

New people

Especially when you are moving to a new city, it can get a bit lonely when you are living in your own flat. With roommates, you will never be alone and also will soon meet many new and exciting people. Your flatmates can also show you the coolest spots in your new hometown and make you feel welcomed from the first day.

Costs

A very pragmatic reason for living in a WG is, of course, the price: As soon as you share a flat with others, it becomes much cheaper for every single one. It is not only the rent itself but also the many additional costs. It’s just much easier if you can share the fees for electricity, water, the internet and, especially in Germany, the notorious Rundfunkbeitrag

 

Moving in and out

It is not only cheaper but also much easier to find a room in a WG than renting your own flat. It is also possible to move in just for a few months without making long-term commitments. And it is also easier to move out if you realize that you might better live alone again…

WG
Living in germany

Germany Builds 62 Mile Bike-Highway

German Bicycle Highway
der Radfahrer – the cyclist / Image via Skitterphoto

Cyclists across Germany are elated over the introduction of the first portion of the Radschnellweg, an environmentally friendly highway (Autobahn) for bicycles.

Germany has long been a pioneer with its transportation links – the Autobahn and Autobahn Plus are known globally for their lax stance on speeding, as well as their efficiency. Now, German cyclists can enjoy the first part of their own Autobahn. The first five kilometers of this highway for bicycles was opened just prior to the New Year. Providing modern transport links to 10 major cities across Germany. The final plan is for the highway to span over 100 kilometers, with experts hoping to take 50,000 cars off the road.

With roughly two million people living within two kilometers of the new route, it is hoped that this project will alleviate the substantial congestion on the roads. These ‘velo’ routes feature four meter wide lanes that allow for overtaking and cross roads leading to increased efficiency of the traffic. The wellbeing of the cyclist has been kept in mind throughout construction. The entire system is to be fully illuminated at night time and cleared of snow during winter providing high safety standards.

The city planners, having worked on the velo routes, made every effort to make them as comfortable as possible for commuters. The final route will also connect four universities. The route, which will pass through Bochum, Duisburg, Hamm and 7 other German cities will use disused railway tracks across the Ruhr industrial region.

A recent surge in cycling has helped further a project such as the Radschnellweg, as electric bicycles become more and more famous as a way of getting around. Electric bicycles also make it much feasible to commute longer distances. According to the German Bicycle Club ADFC ten percent of all trips in the country are now done by bicycle. Moving forward, projects like these will help with the big city commutes. Burkhard Stork, manager of the ADFC, said: ‘Building highways in cities is a life-threatening recipe from the 1960’s. No one wants more cars in cities.’
Mr. Stork is not wrong. Rush hour in big cities across the world, not just Germany, is becoming a huge concern, partly for any commuters sanity but more for the environment. Based on studies of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the exhaust pipe of one automobile pumps about 4,7 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The development group behind the project, RVR, have seen success in the Netherlands and Denmark with similar projects before making its way to Germany. Unfortunately, due to legislative issues there may be some impediments. The federal government does not usually take financial responsibility for any maintenance and upkeep of projects such as this, leaving local authorities struggling. However, ongoing talks with RVR and the German federal government has offered hope that a $196 million cheque will keep the project alive.

German Bicycle Highway
Living in germany

Getting a License Plate in Germany

registering a car in Germany
das Autokennzeichen – the license plate / Image via Pixabay

We had to say goodbye to our Swiss licence number, and that is not that easy because my hubby inherited a super short number from his grandfather. There’s a possibility to suspend it for two years, but afterwards, it will be available to someone else. In Switzerland, it is quite a thing with the licence numbers. The shorter the number, and the more valuable it gets. Also, people are willing to pay a lot of money for that because it is something you can show off. I think it is totally overrated, but whatever.

Well, our licence number was the last visual thing that connected us to our homeland. Believe me, it makes a difference if you are driving in Berlin with a Swiss licence number or if you are just one of thousands with a B xxx number on your ride. Well, but let’s start telling you our story about getting a German licence number. My hubby took care of it. He made an appointment at the Kfz-Zulassungsstelle in Kreuzberg. He had to wait for two weeks to get one and then D-day had arrived.

When it was his turn, and all the papers were found correct, the civil servant asked him if he had a wish number in mind. He did not know what she meant because in Switzerland, you cannot choose the combination of your licence number, so he was a bit stumped for an answer and asked how much longer it takes to do a customised one. The lady estimated another hour and 10 euros on top. He declined because he did not want to be late at work again. After paying, he was sent away, confronted with a new challenge. He had to go to get the tag for his licence number right away. He hesitated and asked about the procedure. The lady told him he had to go to one of the shops in front of the office and just buy a tag. It was that simple! Well, how much would it cost to produce a tag? “Ask someone you run across in the hallway; the prices are different, and I am not allowed to tell you what’s an appropriate price,” she told him. Thus, he did ask anyone he met carrying a tag, and the price range was from 20 to 70 euros.

When he was outside, he found himself in a bazaar-like situation. Tag dealers approached him and offered him a “very good price.” It was way too much. Of course. What the hell was going on? Was he still in Berlin? Yes, he was, and he finally got his tag for an appropriate price and was happy to tick another to-do point off his list. When he arrived at his office, he showed a picture with his new licence to one of his colleagues. He was so happy that he made it in time and that he could go back to work. His colleague laughed out loud and said, “Did you choose that number yourself?” My hubby looked sceptical. Well, he got BFC 123. For him, it was just a licence number, but the guys in his office suggested he go back and redeem another one. Why? What was going on?

BFC represents a Berlin football club that tends to be right-wing extreme, and it is a statement when you have such a licence number on your car. The fact that my hubby is bold would make it even worse. Well, he first thought they were making fun of him, but then Google approved it. He got the Zonk* (Zonk is a duffer well-known from the German TV show called Geh aufs Ganze). When he came back home, he was mad and tried online to get another appointment at the “Kfz-Zulassungsstelle” to get rid of that unlucky licence number. Well, due to the fact it was close to Christmas, he had to wait for six weeks to get another appointment. However, there were two lovely side effects. We went back to Switzerland by car, so nobody paid attention to BFC, and we had enough time to think about our new number. After the holidays, my hubby went through that procedure like a pro, and we were all smiles when he came home with our new BZH 123 tag. (ZH stands for Zurich).

registering a car in Germany
Living in germany

A Swiss in Germany – Shopping

A swiss in Germany - Shopping
© by Jarmoluk via Pixabay

With my new life here in Berlin, I also had to get accustomed to the different shopping habits. To be more precise on what I mean, I got the feeling that here, in Berlin, some of the shops assume that you are a criminal. And as far as I can tell, they are probably right to be that aware. Even on the shopping baskets, you can read in capital letters: Geklaut bei Kaisers (Stolen from Kaisers). I often shop at the Kaisers next to our house because I am not the type of person who is very well organized, so I have to buy some food and household goods every second day.

There are some things which are very diverse from shopping in Switzerland. I think you have to look more precisely at what you buy, and if the quality is good enough. For example, eggs; check to ensure they are not broken. With vegetables, here, you choose, check them if they are still fresh, and then put them in a bag. In Switzerland, you do not have to eye them precisely, and you scale them yourself, press the related number and then you got the price. Here, you do not do that in most of the shops. I do not know if it is so risky that someone would press the wrong number on purpose to pay less. Many things such as coffee beans, some kinds of alcohol, cosmetics, and razor blades are locked up. Even coffee beans are 5 euros. You have to find an employee and ask if he/she can unlock it, but it is sometimes hard to find the one with the key, so if you are in a hurry or if one of your children gets nervous, you have to give up.
Then, there is this thing which I will never understand or get used to. If you dare to approach the shop employees, they seem pissed at you because you are disturbing them while they are restocking the shelves, and if you expect them to say hello or give you a smile, dream on. Well, there’s something I like when you are at the counter. You have the choice of the no candy counter (Süßigkeitenfreie Kasse). It can be very helpful if you are with children. You know what I mean.

When you are at the counter and everything is on the moving floor and you are there, ready to pay, one of the strangest things happens. The cashier looks up in the mirror, which is placed on the ceiling right above where you are standing with the stroller and the empty shopping cart. At first, I was very irritated, but then I realized that they have to check on every person if there’s nothing left in the cart or somewhere else. This final check, before you pay and pack your groceries, was new to me. And it was also strange. At Lidl, it is even worst. They stand up to look into your shopping cart. In Switzerland, I have not experienced such forms of control. Well, as for me, it keeps me observing the different things, and that is what I like most about living abroad. And please, do not get me wrong, I like being in Berlin.

A swiss in Germany - Shopping
Living in germany

A Swiss in Germany – Hiding

a swiss in germany - cat
© by Rihaji via Pixabay

There are some days when I try to avoid contact with other people, and it is amazingly easy to do so in Berlin. You do not have to talk if you are not in the mood. That is a bit sad, however. You can go to the supermarket, or for a walk, or to the playground, and you do not have to say anything to anyone. Once, I queued up at the post office, and a guy shoved me away and went in front of me. I did not say anything because I was not in the mood to defend myself in front of other people. I was not afraid of the confrontation, but rather of speaking German. I felt insecure, and I did not want to expose myself and my different way of talking, so I kept quite.

As a Swiss from Zurich, I naturally understand and speak German. However, it is not possible to hide my nationality because of my accent. I figured out that people are sometimes irritated by the choice of my words or when I try to be funny. Humour is a very tricky thing in a foreign language, especially when you are so close to that foreign language that people expect something from you. German people mostly understand what I am saying, but it sometimes can lead to misunderstandings or strange situations. I once tried to buy some bread at the bakery. I thought the slang word for a sandwich was “schrippe,” which is just a plain white bread roll, but it was in fact “stulle.” I pointed at it and told him in my best German that I’d like a schrippe. He nodded and rolled his eyes and then answered impatiently in English: “What do you want? A sandwich?”

Sometimes others try to copy my accent and make fun of me. I paused to visit my favourite coffee store, and one of the waiters shouted through the entire place, “Grüezi” when I entered the store. I am sure he just meant to be nice, but I felt uncomfortable to be exposed. I do not wish to talk about cows, mountains, chocolates or gold – not with strangers and not with my friends – although perhaps about Swiss cheese because that is something I really like. I wish to adapt to my new daily colloquial, and I realize after having been in Berlin for a while that I have to learn a new language. Moreover, I think it is much harder to relearn than to learn a language from the very beginning. Sometimes I wish I could, at least, pretend to be German to feel like I am undercover. I also think that prices increase when store employees recognize that I am Swiss. Especially when I go to the organic farmers market at Kollwitzplatz. Is it just a feeling that I have? A Swiss inferiority complex?

During one of the parent assemblies, we were told what to bring for our kids to the preschool called Vorschule. (During the year before they begin school, children attend Vorschule. It means that they learn some basics in writing and counting once a week). I did not understand half of the equipment we were supposed to organize for them, for example, Federmäppchen (a case for writing tools), Hefter (a folder), and Riss which means a Papierstapel (a paper stack).

While I was watching my daughter’s favourite movies, I also detected that they often have characters with a Swiss accent in the German version. For example, in Frozen or Tinkerbell. I do not know why it is often the characters which are a bit daffy. Don’t get me wrong. I really like being Swiss, and I know I am privileged. I can live abroad and be very comfortable with my everyday life here in Berlin. However, I can comprehend how many people have to deal with prejudices, language barriers, and inhibitions. As a consolation, I will soon go to the movies to see the latest Heidi movie.

a swiss in germany - cat