As a mini herd of six hunger yet adventurous students, we shuffled along the sidewalks of Kreuzberg in search for decently priced food. Glancing at what seemed as an endless row of restaurants that carried cuisines from all around the world, we ended up settling on a burger place. We certainly did not step outside of our comfort zones on our first evening in Berlin. However, the seeming basic decision became our first introduction to the converging and diverging “cultures” between the U.S. and Germany.
Believing that we would find refuge from Berlin’s sweltering heat, we entered the main dining area of Loui’s Burgers to locate a seat. To our dismay, we discovered that Germany rarely used AC systems as the summer weather was typically more forgiving. In most public spaces in the U.S. that I have visited, AC systems blessed us with constant frigid breezes to the point that I would complain I was too cold. To adjust to this new structural difference, we sat outside.
When the waiter came to the table to take our food orders, I was surprised that they charged for water. On the flip side, I could order free and endless amounts of water in the U.S. The biggest surprise of the evening came in the form of the words, “We do not accept cards.” This became the dreaded yet frequent response when we purchased anything in general. As a result, we had to run to the nearest ATM and take out Euros, which is an obvious difference in currency than what is used in the U.S. (I think the multi colors of Euros are much more aesthetically pleasing to look at). After I finished my Thai Burger (I definitely recommend this meal), one of my peers had to look up whether it was culturally appropriate to leave a tip for the server. Contrary to the expected tip leaving culture in the U.S., I learned that it is not obligatory to tip in Berlin, but if I enjoyed the meal then it is customary to leave 5 to 10% gratuity.
Whether I am eating burgers at a restaurant in the U.S. or eating burgers at a restaurant in Berlin, I enjoy the company of those that surround me. Looking around at the other customers, I noticed they were all conversing with the people that surrounded them as well. Holding casual conversations when eating are customary in both settings. The atmosphere of dining out in both spaces are relaxed and pleasant. The menu at this particular restaurant was written in English, which suggested that anyone who attends is expected to speak the language even though we are in Germany. Overall, the slight alterations in eating customs were not difficult to adjust to and the constant reminder that I am even standing in another country is surreal in itself.
Best Regards on Embarking Upon Your New Journey!