Unleashing my inner German

I’ve just got back from six days in Berlin, and wow, what a fantastic time I had. Berlin is an amazing city, full of life and energy. I did some touristy stuff, did some less touristy stuff, met some great people, checked out various neighbourhoods, went to the beach, drank excellent beer, ate delicious sausages, went to the Pride parade, watched a lot of football, and basically, had an absolute ball.

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Needless to say, I’m not overly thrilled to be back in Riga. Today, the temperature is 13 degrees, it’s raining on and off, and my heating is back on – in late June. Even though it’s Līgo today, my heart just isn’t in it. (A walk around Riga earlier revealed the same miserable-looking faces, only now with flowers in their hair and leaves on their cars.) In short, I think my days of trying to get excited about Latvia are over. If that makes me a Līgo grinch, then so be it. Instead, I’m going to try to keep the German feeling going.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m planning to move to Germany in September, and I’ve decided that Berlin is the place for me. So this trip, while a bit of a jolly, was also intended to see if I could actually ‘do it like a German’. Step one was to rent an apartment instead of a hotel.

The apartment had looked nice on the website, had had a couple of good reviews, and was close to a tram line. Funnily enough, it was located just off Baltic Sea Street, which should have given me a clue as to the weirdness that ensued. On entering, I was surprised to see that the living room contained a sex swing and a complicated series of ropes hanging from the ceiling. There was also a rope ladder to nowhere.

Probably not a sex swing but still funny

Probably not a sex swing but still…

Ropes

Ropes

Rope ladder

Rope ladder

OK, I thought, a bit odd, but maybe this is how Germans spend their free time? I know they’re quite active people so maybe they like making moving around their apartments more of a challenge? I promptly tried to make my way from one end of the living room to the other without touching the floor, but clearly, I was not German enough yet.

I moved on to the bathroom where everything was relatively normal, apart from the bizarre toilet flush which liked to spurt water all over your hand if you held it down for too long. More exercise in the form of leaping backwards and yelling – clever Germans…

Surprise!

Surprise!

There was also this little mirror, positioned at crotch level, that gave you a very nice view of your feet. I deduced that foot care and the correct footwear are also very important to Germans. However, after a day or so, I noticed that if you sat on the loo and leaned forward, you could smile at yourself in the mirror. This seemed like a far more likely use for it, as Germans (from what I can tell so far) are a cheery, friendly bunch. I suppose they smile at themselves in their little mirrors first thing in the morning to give themselves a little extra pep in their step for the rest of the day. It was what I started doing anyway.

Guten Morgen!

Guten Morgen!

Of course, the other reason for renting an apartment was that I figured I could save a bit of cash on eating out all the time. First stop was the Penny supermarket across the street to buy teabags, eggs, bread, milk, biscuits and, naturally, wine. I’ve clearly been in Latvia for too long as the speed that the cashier beeped everything through made my head spin. I was half-trying to put the first item into my bag when she’d finished. Then I was rummaging around for my card in a panic, while a growing queue of Germans waited. And of course, my card didn’t work, so I desperately had to scrape together every bit of change I had in my wallet. I gave myself a ‘Disappointing. Must do better.’ on this particular aspect of becoming German.

Another thing that I had failed to factor into this money-saving scheme was that cooking at home produces waste. In my apartment in Riga, this is no problem – everything goes into one black sack and then, while I can still carry it, out to THE bin.

Easy.

The Latvian system.

In Germany, it’s not quite that simple. Everything has to be separated in order to go into the correct one of 4 million bins.

The German system

The German system

After a day in the apartment, I was wandering around a bit like Quasimodo, only repeating ‘the bins, the bins…’ Bottles, plastic, paper – OK. But what about other stuff? I’d heard stories of people being complained about for not separating their rubbish correctly. Take a tea-bag, for example – do you have to take the paper tag off the tea-bag and throw that into a separate bin? Do people really check this stuff? Clearly, I have a long way to go on this score also.

Still, all in all, I felt like the week was a massive success, even though I have some stuff to work on. As well as my German, I may also have to master my volume levels as some German men actually prefer to listen to the football commentary rather than an Irish girl cheering in their ear…

But for now, it feels like Berlin and I will be a good fit. I think German toilet roll sums it up perfectly.

I think so too.

I think so too.

 

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About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Expat, Humor, Humour, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

149 Responses to Unleashing my inner German

  1. I love Berlin. We have been there twice and just think it is one of the best city ever…have fun in settling there. It will certainly be very different life than the one in Riga!!! (Suzanne)

  2. Germans may have apartments to exercise everything under the moon, but they don’t have giant penises to hug like in the Amsterdam sex museum.
    p.s. I never knew that about the museum, might post about it ;-D

  3. bevchen says:

    I WARNED you about the speed scanning of groceries! I still haven’t got the hang of packing my bags fast enough. All those bins though! Woah! We only have three (and we might be getting a fourth – Karlsruhe city is still arguing about whether to introduce a paper bin).

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, it’s going to take some serious practice! I think the trick is to just throw everything back into the basket/trolley as it comes through then bag it somewhere else – at least that’s going to be my new approach 😉

      • bevchen says:

        Baskets usually have to be given up at the start of the checkout (they sometimes even have a tag on so they set off an alarm if you take them through), so a trolley is your best bet 😉

        I don’t have a Penny near me otherwise I would definitely buy Happy End toilet roll 😉

      • Expat Eye says:

        At least I already know ‘I’m really sorry – I’m from Ireland’ 🙂 That’s going to be my go-to phrase for the first few months I think 😉

  4. So glad that we hung out together in Berlin. You’re a scream. Even with the sex swing in your apartment LOL!

  5. spencercourt says:

    I always thought Europe was “greener” than the U.S. but the it looks like the U.S. is ahead in the recycling aspect. Many U.S. cities, including where I live, have replaced the separate bins for separate items (paper, bottles, etc.) with one container for everything. This is called “single stream” recycling. All the different items are sorted and separated at the other end. Maybe that will come to Berlin soon.

  6. Chloris says:

    You didn’ t mention the little platform in the loo for you to admire what you have excreted. Don’ t tell me there wasn’ t one. Most German loos do. I find them disconcerting but they seem an essential part of German sanitary ware.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Hmm, I really didn’t notice that! You mean like a ledge IN the toilet??

      • Expat Eye says:

        I really didn’t notice!

      • Chloris says:

        Well it’s something to look forward to. Germans take a great interest in these matters. I used to be married to a German and when staying with the in laws, every morning over breakfast they would kindly enquire about each other’ s bowel movements. Of course with the help of this little platform they were able to give each other a detailed report. I’m afraid I was never able to join in these discussions with much enthusiasm.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Oh my god! That’s hilarious! But probably not for you at the time 🙂 I think I might have to marry a German for blog material…
        There’s a TV show in the UK and this woman called Gillian McKeith (I think) picks through people’s poo and lectures them about their diet 😉

      • Chloris says:

        I remember it. Seriously weird.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Scraping the bottom of the bowl 😉

    • bevchen says:

      The toilets with the platform (my sister cals it a “pooh shelf”) used to be really common but I haven’t seen one for ages! My flat doesn’t have one and neither does my work.

  7. That sex swing comment at Free But Fun makes so much more sense now. Which is a good thing! Because it was a little strange out of context.

  8. rower says:

    ropes and mirror around your waist -line is a definite sign that previous occupants either had kids or were a circus liliputs. not that i have something against circus or liliputs…

    it’s good to hear that you had good time 🙂
    and for a ride… a ride to the germany ? you invite us to invade them ? 0_o

  9. Bahahahaha! I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Germany is amazing, and I’m jealous that you’ll be moving there! We will be popping over for a visit in just a week or two, and I can’t wait! Never seen that brand of toilet paper before though…

    • Expat Eye says:

      They have it in Penny anyway, not sure about other stores! Good for a giggle 🙂 As were lots of other things! Hope you have a fantastic trip – I’m jealous of you going in a week or two! 🙂

  10. Paul says:

    I’m still trying to get my mind around the ropes and ladders in the apartment. I think I’d sterilize them before touching – or use gloves. Wild. Well, definitely looking forward to seeing Berlin through your eyes. be they upright or upside down (ropes).

  11. freebutfun says:

    Haha, I remember being told off because of the waste: I had put all clear glass bottles in the same bin. Stupid me the foreigner didn’t see the difference, the green dot on some, they had to go in a separate bin. Do those green dots still exist?

  12. Yay check outs and bins, it’s the stuff lots of drunken expat convos are made of, you will fit right in!

  13. isbergamanda says:

    Maybe you can prepare further for Germany by getting a GoPro that you can attach to a headband or something so you can film your next ropes course from your point of view. I would have had so much fun trying to cross the apartment without touching the ground. haha. Cheap entertainment! I’m really looking forward to more Berlin blog posts!

    -Amand at http://teachingwanderlust.com/

    • Expat Eye says:

      You’ll have to wait a little longer I’m afraid! Unfortunately! But I’m really hoping it works out. And the GoPro is a great idea! You’d also get to hear me laughing hysterically 😉

  14. mmarinaa says:

    I want a rope course in my apartment!!!!! That’s so ridiculous, haha.

  15. Hey, I will be in Germany in September, too! Albeit in the wine region….

  16. Deanna Herrmann says:

    Woohoo!!!!! I love Berlin! But what the hell was up with that apartment? I once stayed in a hotel there where the room was just big enough for the single bed and the few steps to the bathroom. Kind of claustrophobic but it was still great! So excited for you!

  17. Diana says:

    “50 shades of berlin!” ha, ha, ha….that is so great.

  18. linnetmoss says:

    I still favor the sex swing theory.

  19. god help the Germans, but if this sex rope-monkey bridge thingy is any indication of what Germany shall be to you, I’m all set for you to start this new adventure, and already resupplying my stock of tissues, just in case I once again have to cry with laughter, etc. etc.

  20. Helen says:

    I love Berlin, I’ve had a great time every time I’ve visited! Hope you enjoy living there and that EEOG is as fun as EEOL!

  21. Can’t wait for your take on Germany! I’m sure that you’ll have an amazing time there!

  22. Anna says:

    Wow you seem positively smitten. I feel like a jilted lover already for Riga!

  23. That apartment is very “50 Shades of Berlin.” But that’s a different blog. 🙂
    I see a bright future for you in Germany. The beer alone is worth the move!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Totally agree! Every one I’ve had so far has been fantastic and I plan to keep on working my way through them! 🙂
      50 Shades of Berlin, eh? Hmm… 😉

  24. Aussa Lorens says:

    Oh my gosh, you were NOT exaggerating about the swing. Incredible. Clearly your house was previously inhabited by a troupe of acrobats.
    I remember being completely overwhelmed by the trash bins in Germany. I think I just brought all my trash home with me because I didn’t know what to do with it.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I did consider that – or flushing it all down the loo. But the loo was a bit scary as well haha! Someone told me that I should have taken the tiny staples out of the tea bags and put them in a different bin. There are some mad rubbish sorters in Berlin this week 😉

  25. NancyTex says:

    YES! This is the best news I’ve heard all day! I’m SO, SO, SO, SO happy for you!!

  26. barbedwords says:

    Whoah, that apartment looks seriously weird! But I think that Elaine is right and it’s supposed to be a nautical theme. I’ve heard Happy End is the loo-roll they use in all the best massage parlours 🙂

  27. Cindi says:

    What a wonderful trip, and … um … interesting apartment!

    I lived in Berlin in the early 80’s — behind the Wall, and my oldest daughter was born there — but it’s a completely different city now. I hope to get there for a visit before moving back to the States.

    So, what are your future blogging plans? I need your sense of humor and honesty in my blogosphere! 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thanks! EEOL will be left online – as a resource for future people thinking of moving here 😉
      But I’ll be starting Expat Eye on Germany in the next couple of months! I can’t wait 😉
      Berlin is amazing – hope you make it back! When are you moving back to the States? And will that be for good?

  28. The ropes were a warning of some medieval torture if write about Germany what you wrote about Latvia…

  29. lizard100 says:

    Oh my! We once stayed in formerly east berlin in what can only be described as a brothel! It was an apartment too. I must look out the address for you!

  30. I agree that flat is a little weird (I mean ropes everywhere), but otherwise it looks good. I really think you will love Germany and Berlin, which isn’t too much ‘germanize’. You are nearly done with Latvia and Latvians.;) Have a sunny summer and I will be interested in your new experience in Germany.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I feel like I’m pretty much done here! Much as I was looking forward to enjoying my last summer here, it seems like the weather isn’t going to co-operate! It’s more like November here today! My heating is back on for God’s sake! 😉

      I can’t wait to move – and the weirder the better, well, within reason 😉 Funny blog posts, not so much fun in real life!

  31. Ice_Badger says:

    The only thing missing from this post is a video of you attempting to circumnavigate the apartment by rope 😀

  32. I wondered if the apartment owner was trying to go for a nautical theme, based on the fact that the street is named Baltic Sea Street?

  33. Emmi says:

    hey Linda
    german apartments can be quite strange and dodgy, watch out where you move in. I would recommend to rent a place for 2-3 months than search for smth once you are in Berlin. glad you loved it there it is one of my favourite cities.

    btw please do not turn this blog into expat eye on Germany. then people wont be able to find the Latvia blog and in general it feels weird. do what most other people do – close that blog with a final goodbye post and open another one expat eye on germany. Im sure your readership will follow you – I certainly will!

    • Expat Eye says:

      That’s my plan! In around 2 months – possibly sooner – Expat Eye on Latvia will be shut down. Well, still online but I won’t be writing anything else. A ‘Tchüss’ and that’s me done 😉 A lot of other people seem to have started up blogs on LV since I did so there will still be plenty to follow – not nearly as entertaining, of course, but then you can’t have everything 😉

      And yes, I LOVE Berlin – this was my second visit, just to see if I liked it as much as I did the first time. I did 🙂

      • Emmi says:

        when you rent an apartment make sure heat is included and make sure its without limit, same price each month. otherwise you may get very cold. inexpensive heating may be a problem in germany

      • Expat Eye says:

        Thanks for the tip! I’m used to crazy heating charges from living in LV but it’s kind of a surprise that I’ll still be paying for it in June 😉

      • rower says:

        just do not forget the link in last page “my new blog is THERE” .. 🙂 we’ll follow, for sure.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, don’t worry! I’m looking forward to having you all along for the ride! 🙂

  34. Zimbabve says:

    As a Latvian expat who moved to Germany a few years ago, I’m sure this blog will continue to be interesting for me. I hope you’re equally funny about the German way of life, there are definitely some peculiarities, although Berlin is sort of a melting pot and probably easier to fit into:)

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thanks! I hope so too! Of course, I could have just written a ‘tourist guide’ to Berlin and a run down of what I did all week, but to me that’s not particularly interesting. I like to focus on the little oddities – and yes, I think there will be plenty of those! I find it funny that several Latvians have warned me about the ‘coldness’ of Germans – to me, they’re anything but! What do you think?

      • Zimbabve says:

        I think it really depends on the area. I haven’t traveled around Germany THAT much, so I have a somewhat narrow view right now. Where I am (Dusseldorf), people seem a bit stuck up, more formal, it did not feel very welcoming to me. In the inner circle of friends it is, of course, different by now. It is a city with a lot of financial institutions, banks, major companies, so many “suits” type of people, it seems. Berlin seems like a breath of fresh air afterwards with all the artsy and more freethinking crowd + I had a lot less problems with my less than perfect German skills. But I only visit Berlin every once in a while, haven’t actually lived there.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, I think you have to live somewhere before you really know, but I have a great feeling about Berlin – just hope I can find work there! I haven’t visited Dusseldorf, but I found people nice in Bremen, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin – I still have a lot of places to go to!

  35. Mārčuks says:

    LEEG-WAH, by the way! 😀

  36. Daina says:

    Hmm, yes, that apartment is a bit strange! However, I have to admire Germans for being at the forefront of the recycling movement. It was already something they did to some degree in 1987-88 when I lived there as a kid, and more so in the early 90s when I was there during university. They have elevated recycling to a fine art! In so many other places, it’s something that isn’t even considered, which is just plain sad.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Agreed! I even went out and looked into the bins a few days before I had to put anything in there, just to see how other people were doing it 😉 I must have looked like a total weirdo – still, I’ve got to start somewhere!

  37. Ah, finally, the long-awaited post.
    Gosh, what a seriously weird flat you picked there! I’ve never encountered rope things… nor do I know anyone who has them! The toilet flush, yes. It allows you to CONTROL the amount of water you use with each flush. I trust that your (albeit still embryonic) German side sees the appeal in this.

    I’d forgotten about those lightning-speed checkout assistants. Seriously disconcerting.

    • Expat Eye says:

      My embryonic German side can see the appeal in a lot of things 😉 Do you have them in Spain too? I’m guessing the rope things were for kids but still, a bit odd 😉
      And seriously, the speed those women in the supermarket worked at! I’m sure I’ll speed up in time though – well, let’s hope so!

  38. Kavalkade Krew says:

    I am now listening to some Wagner.

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