My first week studying and living abroad in Germany has been fascinating and somewhat exhausting as I adjust to the new environment. After landing in Germany, I quickly noticed many social and cultural differences. For example, the public transport in Berlin is massive and like nothing I have encountered in South Carolina. At first, I was intimated by the sheer amount of U-bahn, S-bahn, straßbahn, bus, and taxi options, but after a few days of commuting back and forth to my university, navigating the sprawling network of various trams and trains has become almost automatic. Despite the size, it is extremely easy to access too. Buying a monthly pass on your phone allows you to seamlessly hop between every type of transport without having to present money or show your ticket unless randomly asked by an authority. I also noticed that many school children utilize the public transport system and I have not seen a single school bus here. Compared to the public transport system that I use in Charleston it seems that Berlin has nearly perfected its daily commute.
Another aspect of German life that differs from America is that the people here seem to be more conscientious of their energy and water consumption and recycling. I have noticed my host family’s house and buildings like the university I attend lack a central heating and air system. Instead, there is a heavier reliance on natural ventilation from open windows which are much different than windows in America. In Germany most houses have windows on the roof for every room and they all open via rotation and not a sliding mechanism. The climate here in Berlin is much more forgiving than the hot humid air in Charleston and people here take advantage of it to save energy. All around Berlin there are places to turn in glass or plastic bottles for ten to twenty-five cents per bottle. It is customary to place glass and plastic bottles on the ground near a trash receptacle so that people can collect them for a sum. In addition to this the living spaces are smaller than I am used to, and the Germans do a phenomenal job of utilizing them. Overall, I would say that a typical German family has a much smaller footprint than what I am accustomed to in America.
The culture shock I have experience here in Germany is like nothing else. I am thankful for this opportunity to experience life outside the US and I have learned many valuable things. I have a new appreciation for things that I may have taken for granted in the US but I also realize that many of those things are somewhat excessive.