Expat Berlin · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

Living in Berlin: A few survival tips

I was born and raised in a rainforest climate where at the sight of any snowfall, everyone heads underground to the closest bunker and doesn’t step foot outside until the rain has returned.   I arrived last March during one of Berlin’s coldest winters, I have never experienced such cold and large amounts of snow over such a sustained amount of time.  I was new to the city and shocked by the weather, I barely made it outside the first couple of weeks here.  Maybe if I had spent more time outside last winter, I would have been more prepared to save myself this week from one of my most embarrassing moments since I arrived – I may have been brutally attacked by a sidewalk sander.

When I did make it out last winter, it was most often to the Sony Center to watch a movie.  This is where I learned another small piece information anyone originating from North America should know when planning to see a movie in Berlin: BYOB.  Further, if you are one of those, like me, that like to stop at the grocer to stock up on candy and save before heading into the theater, take heed, almost all stores are closed on Sundays.  And after all your experiences here you may want to write a few letters home, but be careful, make sure they are to Deutsche Post spec, a little off and you will be shocked at the cost to buy postage to send those letters home.  So, los geht’s to those tips to save yourself some frustrating moments during your Berlin adventure!

1) Something to avoid: The Sidewalk Sandblower

This machine makes its appearance when the snow is falling and people sans auto require to venture outdoors on foot.  Like I said, coming from a rain dominated climate, I was not prepared for this sand spitting monster.  So those unaccustomed to a harsher winter season, take note, these machines are responsible for sanding the sidewalks of Berlin.  They not only distribute sand, they hurl out the sand at HURRICANE forced winds, and take no prisoners.  If you happen to be in the path of one of them like I did, TAKE COVER.

2) BYOB: Bring your own Butter

Yes, you read it right.  It is mid January and we all know what this means, OSCARS!  If you are like me, you are planning to take cover from the harsh winter weather and cozy up to watch some of this year’s nominated movies.  This will most likely include a couple visits to the theater and a gain of a couple of pounds from all that popcorn and melted butter.  Key word: BUTTER.  Don’t expect any on that popcorn you ordered at the theater.  Bring your own – I mean who likes dry popcorn?  Clearly not me.

3) No Shopping for you on Sunday 🙂

If you have never visited Germany on a Sunday, or have a friend living here, you may not know: No grocery shopping, or no shopping for that matter, on Sunday in Germany.  It can be refreshing that somewhere in the world they still honour family values, but once you wake up Sunday morning without milk for your coffee, or eggs and bread to curve that crazy hangover, you will miss the accessibility to grocery stores on Sunday.  My tip here, plan carefully and always stock up on Friday to make sure you have enough to last thru Sunday!

4) Planning to send an old-fashioned message home?

Not via classic pigeon carrier, I am talking about the classic letter via the post.  I am really into DIY since I have found a limitless amount of time on my hands.  I bought blank 5.5″x5.5″ cards to embellish and write sweet notes home.  But after all my fun I was quickly made speechless when I went to buy postage to mail them home.  In Canada, postage for a standard letter size appears to be a lot more open to interpretation than here in Germany.  Deutsche Post wanted 3.50€ per card being mailed to Canada.  I decided to give them to my mother when I see her in a couple of weeks and save myself a load of cash.  Tip: Be keenly aware of Deutsche Post specs before planning on mailing anything home.

There are so many other goodies I wish I could share, but these are some recent events that challenged me to practice acceptance and patience.  So I offer my experiences and guidance in hopes it may help you in avoiding unnecessary disappointments and annoyances during your time in Berlin.

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