Diary of an Expat, Part 31
Ku'Damm again, weather, customer service
A friend of mine says that weather in Berlin is the responsibility of a crazy German dude who lives in the sky, and behaves in extremely schizophrenic ways just, at the end of the day, because.

So the weather in Germany is generally trending up. It's regularly in the mid-teens, now, and it's supposed to be in the mid-20s by the end of next week. I spent today walking all the hell over the Savignyplatz area, rockin' my Hawaiian shirt because I have a passion for fashion, and I totally did not need the jacket I brought along.

It was like that last week, too. Friday was absolutely gorgeous, blue skies and pleasantly cool spring temperatures, except for the fifteen minute stretch in the afternoon when it hailed and there was a brief thunderstorm. Then that went away, because the crazy German sky dude got bored of it.

Weather here turns very quickly. It rained for about five minutes this evening, when I was fortuitously sitting under an awning eating delicious Greek food. Then that went away, and the blue skies came back. I like this, to a point; it keeps me on my toes. Which is where you want to be, when you're walking around, say, Kufurstendamm.

The Ku'Damm is a shopping district in west Berlin; I've written about it before and now I'm returning to the topic because I am completely at a loss to explain the phenomenon. Berlin, on the whole, is ridiculously cheap. In nearly eight months here (!) I have spent more than €20 at a grocery store maybe three times, and I eat mostly high-quality produce and fresh stuff.

You can snag the essentials of life, from razors to rugs, at absurdly low prices, and this is what most Berliners tend to do. I have a knife; I bought it for €8; it's not a great knife, but it cuts things and it does the job for now.

The stores on the Ku'Damm stand in sharp opposition to this principle. I spent the day at Stilwerk. I'm not sure how to characterise this exactly — it's essentially like a mall of high-end designer furniture and furnishing stores. So if you wanted stereo equipment or shelves, duvets or desk lamps, you could go to Stilwerk and find a store to help you out.

If you could in any way afford it, and you cannot.

A common lamp price, for not terribly impressive designs, was €500. Floor lamps started at €1000 and ran up to €7,000+ (technically, it was "on sale" for a few thousand less). My friend and I played a guessing game around the furniture: "how much does this ridiculously uncomfortable sofa cost?" But it always cost five thousand euros, and we eventually got so depressed that we had to leave.

The last time I was around the Kufurstendamm, I commented on finding a €3,600 bread knife for sale. At the time I thought it was just a fluke, but on my second visit I guess the area caters to a group of people who are willing to drop €6,000 on a couch, but aren't willing to have it handmade and would prefer to rub elbows with the proles whilst they find the right one.

(Or maybe they just come to admire the tasteful designs available for consumption. Like, uh, that, whatever the fuck that thing is.)

What is not clear to me, and remains unclear, is who and where exactly these people are. The area around the Ku'Damm is nice but not ridiculously so; housing there, like everywhere in Berlin, is affordable and unassuming. Nobody I've asked has yet revealed to me the secret areas of Berlin that are hiding the millionaires who must be purchasing these things. At least, I assume they have to be selling; rent is cheap here, but as a business surely you have to sell at least something, right?

But maybe not. I guess I don't understand businesses here, nor how customer service works.

For example, Deutsche Bank has sent me a letter (two, technically, one for my bank account and one for my credit card), the contents of which boil down to: "The address we have on file for you is not a valid delivery address. Please contact us with an updated address." Receiving a letter to an undeliverable address telling me that the address is undeliverable seems a bit of a coup, but when I asked DB for help they told me they didn't speak English.

This is the German-business equivalent of turning out the lights and pretending not to be home when someone knocks at the door. Sometimes I force the issue; in this case, I had to get going so I let it slide. Besides, I figure I'll just swing by the bank in person at some point this week. Have to make a withdrawal, anyway — can't exactly buy four figures worth of lamp with my coin jar.
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