Sumit In Berlin

What I learned when I moved to Germany – Part 1

I always wondered how much things would change if I moved to a new country. Yes, I would need to communicate in a new language, and I’d hopefully make friends native to my new country, but not much else would would really change, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. Germany offers something to expatriates that in my opinion no other country in the world can.

My encounter with Germany started as a student. I vividly remember the time I first landed in the capital city of Berlin. Up until then, it was a city I only knew from history books. As the plane touched down you could see that winter was setting in. Drops of snowflakes covered the tarmac as we touched down.

Transport differences in Germany

I quickly realized that things are very different from Calcutta, India, where I come from. The ticketing system took me a while to get used to; you can choose from at least 4 ticket types for the same destination. But then I realized it’s great that there are so many options for travelers. The public transport system in Germany is simply incredible. Don’t worry if you miss a train, bus or tram. Chance are you will get another one in ten minutes or less!

Rush hour? Not if you’ve planned properly!

The rush hour in Germany is not like the typical rush hour we are used to seeing in Hollywood movies. Yes, there is an increase in the number of cars on the road and the subways and trams have more passengers, but it ends there. There is no crazy rush from employees to reach their office cubicles. Everyone plans their journey well in advance and the transport system never disappoints. Everything working in synergy to create the ‘German efficiency’ we always hear about.

Guten Tag! Greetings like a German native

The thing I like the most about Germans is their way of greeting everyone they meet. Be it a kid or someone in their 80s, chances are you will hear ‘Hallo’, ‘Guten Morgen’ or ‘Guten Tag’ if you cross paths. But the conversation generally stops right there and they don’t get involved with small talk. This seems very unusual coming from certain other parts of the world! But these conversations always take place in the native language. I already have a top priority item on my to-do list: Learn the German language!

Work-life balance

What amazes me is the work-life balance that people in Germany have. The government is really strict on this and has set a fixed number of hours that an employee can work every week. Exploitation of labour in any form is punishable by law. There is a minimum wage that needs to be paid irrespective of the type of work done. The Germans like to spend their weekends with their family. That is why all offices are closed at the weekend and the only places you find open are eateries and places of entertainment.

You can see how much I had to learn in a short space of time! But wait! I have not told you yet how cold it gets here. Maybe I can save that for my next blog post. Watch this space for more.

—Sumit

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