Diary of an Expat, Part 16
Rain. Rain, and how Berlin can sometimes be godawful.
So there is a lot to like about Germany, as you may have gathered from my posts over the last four months (!). But it's not all sunshine and roses. And I was going to write about this in a little bit more detail. I was going to come up with an exposť concerning the omnipresent but generally subtle racism endemic in the country. Or about Germany's troubled non-relationship with the concept of irony.

Instead I will say that Germany can sometimes be aggravatingly miserable.

It thought about snowing yesterday, although not terribly hard — the flurry lasted for perhaps five or ten minutes, and none of it stuck. This permitted the rain, on its return, to pretend that nothing had happened. Therefore every street has substantial pools of standing water, and nobody makes much of an effort to avoid just driving straight through them, so you can pretty much count on your pants being soaked.

This is because if you are much of a walker (I walk pretty much everywhere) you will discover that the German crosswalk situation is maddening. Divided streets might merely have an additional light at the median strip; if the metro tram runs along the street, count on another light for that. These are not synchronized, in the sense that you will frequently wind up stuck in the middle of the street, so that cars coming from either direction can splash water on you.

So that's cool.

You will also discover that Germans are the slowest people in the history of the universe. OPERA has discovered that German pedestrians arrive at the far side of a crosswalk just barely faster than a control group of people who are standing still. Recent archaeological evidence suggests Qin Shi Huang's terracotta army is actually just a German tour group.

Anyway this means that when it is raining and the wind is blowing (and the wind is bitterly cold) you will have lots of time to stand pretty much motionless and contemplate how the world appears to have it out for, specifically, you.

I am finding that the combination of the weather and the utter lack of sunlight is not doing good things for my mood. It's pretty much dark here by 4, and "major city at night" dark by 4:30. There's enough light for you to consider it "morning" by maybe 8:30 or so. If you work in an office and it's not the kind of office where you spend large amounts of time frolicking outside, this means that you are liable to go for an entire week without really soaking up a whole lot of solar awesomeness.

I don't care to speculate as to the psychological effects of this, I just know that it makes me grouchy and exacerbates the listlessness of my current less-than-cheery outlook on life. I am told that you get used to this, and that Berlin is much better in the summer, when it is always light. I guess I could see that, but this fact — even if true — doesn't do me a whole lot of good now.

You don't hear Germans talking about this, so I presume that you do in fact acclimate over time. Otherwise I'd expect to hear more about seasonal disorders and light box therapy and the like than I do — though this is an avenue I've been halfway considering, myself, and I'd certainly welcome any advice any of my readers have, because honestly this does suck quite a bit.


That doesn't seem particularly upbeat, so let me find something else to end on an up note. Perhaps berliners? I don't know. I have mixed feelings about filled pastries, in general, because I don't like the sensory experience. You're getting into the cake bit, and then suddenly bam cream everywhere. I want to enjoy my friggin' pastry, not go down on it. But berliners, which you can fill with various jellies and nougats at your pleasure, are small enough to be inoffensive in that regard so maybe you should get a couple when you're over here.

Language is picking up, though, I think. I was able to acquire a kitschy German Christmas thing and have a conversation about it and pay for it (I think I gave the right amount, anyway) all in German. This is a coup, because Germans seem to take a special pride in speaking the language that you don't want them to be speaking at any given point. Really need to find someone that speaks English (like in a government building, say)? People will look at you like they've never heard the language. Want to practise your German? Suddenly everybody hails from the Brandenburg part of Kent.

I think there's something in my accent that tips people off to the fact that I'm not a native speaker, because when I say something in German (even something very simple, like from a phrasebook) half the time they still respond in English. But the lady selling German tchotchkes didn't seem inclined to slip into English, so we passed the time in trying to sort through my broken but well-meaning German.

So it took longer than it might've otherwise, but, hey — beats standing outside in the rain.
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