Tag Archives: berlin

Living in Berlin Lesson #471

Germans react poorly to the salutation ‘hey punk’.

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Filed under Germany, Personal

Ticking Away the Moments That Make Up a Dull Day

Over the last few days I’ve been snacking on this New Yorker article about the different ways the brain perceives time. Einstein said, ‘An hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour’, and it turns out there’s a whole field of academic research built around testing this out.

Moving around a lot has demonstrated to me that this principle works for periods of time as well as for individual experiences. The first three weeks you live in a new country feels like a year.

After landing yesterday and unpacking, basically the only thing I did was get groceries, which was a bloodbath. Everything’s in a new language (how do you say ‘chicken stock’ in German?!), all the locations are switched around and, compared to Denmark, a proper supermarket feels like an orgy of choice.

Not recognizing the brands and not being able to read the labels means having no information upon which to choose a product. I picked out a brand of coffee by recognizing the word ‘Ethiopia’ on the label. I picked out a yogurt by comparing the smiles of stock-photo families on the packaging.

I think novelty makes your brain perceive time differently. Places seem farther away the first time you visit them. Even a weekend-length vacation makes home feel remarkably foreign. The hour and a half I spent getting three meals’ worth of groceries felt like a daytrip.

I have to admit to sort of liking this period of slow motion. Moving to a new country turns routine experiences into minor triumphs. Yes, I got the right kind of detergent! I figured out how to do my taxes! I asked for directions in a foreign language!

I’m spending most of this week attempting further logistical victories. A friend of mine from Copenhagen is visiting next month, and I’m sure the first thing I’ll say to him when he arrives is ‘I haven’t seen you in ages.’

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Filed under Berlin, Personal, Serious

Going Once, Going Twice

I got a job in Berlin

And i'll be moving there in six weeks

This'll be the fourth time I've moved to a new country by myself

Every time I do this, I overpack

I bring T-shirts I never wear, pillows I replace, mementos of events I firmly remember

On the last three moves, part of the preparation was thinking of all the things I wanted to change about myself in my new country

That'll be different this time, I would think, jotting down habits

It's tempting to think of a relocation as a reboot.

Or a facelift.

But really it's just a costume change.

You're the same lumpy you, just with a new social security number.

So this time I'm focusing on the stuff I want to do, not be:

Run, not walk.

Laugh, not think.

Show, not tell.

Make, not spectate.

Ultimately, your bad habits are the only thing you really take with you. And I'm not leaving a single one of mine behind.


Filed under Personal, Pictures, Serious, Travel