People Watching In Berlin: A Culture Shock Both Mental and Physical.

Authored By:

Marcus P.

There is absolutely no air conditioning on the entire continent of Europe. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but in my opinion, it’s a warranted one as we arrived in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in Berlin history. On July 29th, I and my fellow cohort members from the Bison STEM Scholars Program from Howard University, America’s top HBCU arrived in Berlin in order to take part in a partnership between them and CIEE in order to increase the number of diverse people in global health.

After settling in for a few days, a few of us decided to cool down and set off on a journey to Badeschiff, a pool inside a river. Being American, we weren’t quite sure how to get there so we relied quite heavily on google maps. Let’s just say that there were some difficulties and we ended up having to wait over twenty minutes for our bus-which by the way had no windows so you can imagine the kind of stress we were under.

Either way, most of us didn’t particularly mind because it provided us a prime opportunity for people watching as we sat down and ate sorbet on Karl-Marx-Straße. It was very interesting to see the different kinds of interactions people have with each other as compared with Americans. In one particularly memorable observation, we noticed that a man was holding a rather long and skinny pole, to which its use was unknown to us, but the man accidentally hit a young woman solidly in the face with it. However, it was shocking (physically, for the young woman) to see that the two had a nearly silent conversation about it before continuing on their way less than three minutes later. One of my fellow cohorts mentioned that if this was in New York, the city where he was from, there would be yelling and fists flying right now.

German people as a whole seem to be more punctual as well, as evident from the many times we were almost run over by both cars and bikers who took offense to our habit of jaywalking and standing in the bike lane which was honestly understandable. While we did also see some Germans crossing the street at their leisure and using the lights as more of a suggestion rather than a law like most of us were used to, the overwhelming majority sticked to the rules-something that I feel we could benefit from considering how late we are to everything all the time. It is rather difficult to maneuver over thirty people to walk to one place punctually, however, so I’ll cut us some slack.

It was a fun experience to actively observe German daily life and an added bonus was the delicious ice cream. Although we never got to actually go to Badeschiff as the line was just way too long, it was a valuable experience that we hope to repeat soon. Badeschiff Take Two is scheduled for Monday!