Life in Berlin

Even though I had already been to Berlin twice before my adventure of the exchange semester, I was still able to discover and explore a lot about the culture. At first glance, the differences between Germany and Switzerland don’t seem to be that great. We have the same time, we wear the same clothes and have similar traditions. Are there any differences at all? Trust me, there are differences.

The interesting thing is that Berlin doesn’t just have one culture. The city has about 3.7 million inhabitants and people from 190 different countries live here. So obviously there are many different cultures and subcultures in this metropolis. When I arrived in Berlin just over a month ago, I thought there were almost no cultural differences. But little by little I noticed various differences. One of the biggest gaps is in communication. In Switzerland, and especially in Bern, we are used to being very friendly and considerate to people. In Berlin,  people aren’t unfriendly or unhelpful, but I think they are very direct. And this directness is  exactly what affects me. As a Swiss guy, it seems rather unfriendly and sometimes a bit arrogant.

Many famous people have lived in Berlin, for example David Bowie, Willy Brandt or Quentin Tarantino. Everything is a little bigger than in Bern. The German capital is a cosmopolitan city and very important for Germany and the world from an economic point of view and that’s exactly what you notice. Maybe that’s why some of the people seem arrogant to me.
But at a football match I had a completely different experience. One Sunday, I went to the game Hertha BSC against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the Olympic Stadium. A fan named Uwe was sitting next to me. I had never seen this man of advanced age in my life, and yet it soon felt as if he was an old friend of mine. He told me all about his love for the club Hertha BSC and later, he also told me private things, such as about his cancer. In Switzerland, I have attended numerous football matches, but I have never had such conversations with strangers. And that is the beautiful side of Berlin. People tell you their life stories, no matter how sad or hard they may have been. They are interested in you and can give you the feeling of home. It’s hard to describe how they give you this feeling, but it’s very special. Another beautiful yet sad side of Berlin is its history. Probably no other city is so marked by the history of the first and second world war. In postwar Germany, the Berlin Wall was built and significantly changed and shaped the city. Today, as is well known, only the remains of the wall stand as a monument. However, the people of Berlin are still dealing with these dark chapters of the city’s as well as the world’s history. Memorial plaques, so-called “Stolpersteine”, can be found everywhere. It is very impressive how much history is anchored in this city. I don’t know this to this extent in Switzerland. I think that Switzerland can take a leaf out of Berlin’s book here.

After a good month in the capital of Germany, I was already able to gain a lot of experience with residents of the city and its history. Especially the history of the city fascinates and captivates me very much. I think it’s really strong how the people come to terms with the dark chapters and deal with them. Although there are many different cultures, people live (more or less) peacefully with each other. Also because of the history this is not self-evident for me. It took me a while to get used to the tone of the people. However, now I can say that Berlin has given me a new home. This is also thanks to the people here.

Micha Kuchen

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