Sunday, 8 March 2015

My First Week in Germany

So this is it, I’ve finally moved to Germany! A full week has passed since I’ve arrived, so I’ll mark this occasion by looking back on and sharing my experience thus far.

It was pretty much exactly a week ago Sunday when I touched down in Frankfurt airport, all delighted at the prospect of getting to know firsthand how the powerhouse of the European economy and the wellspring of foreign policy, works.

But, but… here I am getting ahead of myself and talking about things in a grand manner when I’m neither in Berlin (center of politics) nor in Frankfurt (the center of economy), but instead just a student of the German language in Heidelberg.

But even so, it’s hard to just brush aside first impressions; extremely accessible public transport, massive support struts of massive train stations (My goodness, I get turned on just thinking about those), and everything else being just so very orderly.

But nevertheless, it’s good to stress that I’m not exactly a blind romantic. There were a few hiccups, the first of which came at Frankfurt airport.

After taking my time and getting off the plane last, I casually make my long trek to the baggage claim area to wait for the conveyor belt to start hauling-in everyone’s luggage. Now for a start the whole area itself is extremely underwhelming, lacking vertical spacing and not to mention dark (a.k.a. not well lit).

But then on top of that, even after - what was probably - 10 minutes of walking to the belt, the conveyor belt had no intention of starting anytime soon. We waited, and waited, and waited for about 20 to 30 minutes before the first luggage was hauled in. I mean how disorganized is that? But thankfully there was a silver lining to this story (for me anyway), and that was my luggage being the first out of the belt! Couldn’t believe my luck and while feeling the ire of all the other frustrated passengers, I awkwardly and with a blush took my bag and made a mad dash away from the mob behind me, haha.

Another hiccup came on that same day when I was on the connecting train from Frankfurt Main (Downtown Frankfurt) to Heidelberg. Now thank goodness I’d done some homework about how German public transport works and more specifically the honor system that’s employed, whereupon if you’re caught without a ticket, then you’re publicly scolded and shamed in front of everyone before being made to buy the ticket.

Now obviously I had bought the ticket from the official website. In fact, not only had I forked up a dozen or so €uros extra for first class in case they wouldn’t accept me in economy with my luggage; I had also paid an additional few €uros to travel with green energy for the good of mother earth and Polar Bears everywhere.

Nevertheless, a few minutes into the journey, the ticket lady comes into the cabin and asks for the ticket from all four of us there. The other 3 were just a bunch of kids anywhere between 15 and 30, so I must’ve been the oldest one there. Anyway, 2 of them show the bar code and all details printed on an A4 paper, while I reach for my smartphone to show the bar code with all additional details on the screen. Before I realize what’s going on, she completely flips out at me in German with what I presume only be to insults aimed at my ancestry and the fact that I wasn’t aborted at birth.

She then tells me one word in English, “Credit Card”, before vanishing. So I take out my credit card while still holding the smartphone open with the bar code and just sitting there in silence thinking about what the fuck had just happened.

Then a few minutes later she returns and begrudgingly - with yet more of what I presume to be insults - processes the ticket using the bar code on my phone, and using the credit card as a confirmation that the ticket was really purchased using it. Then immediately following her episode with me, she happily swipes the bar code off of the phone from the passenger next to me and then leaves. Go figure.

And the funny thing about the whole incident was that since I saw the whole episode coming from a mile away; as soon as she was about to start yelling in disgust, I had a “Oh here it comes” kinda look on my face and playing it completely cool. Something I presume must’ve irked her even more, ha ha. I mean, I’m sorry lady but I still have no idea what you were on about, although… someone has since told me that perhaps I should’ve checked-in my ticket at the station (or should’ve activated it somehow before boarding the train).

Another unwelcome surprise - more like a train wreck in fact - is how difficult the German language is. The first week of class hit like a hot water on my body; something I literally haven’t had happen to me in years. After making a lot of effort I still can’t put a single sentence of German together fluidly. That’s 1 of 40 weeks gone before C1 exam and I’m still at level 0, and I’m not even kidding.

But besides those incidents it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Heidelberg itself is very photogenic and I imagine the type of city one probably wouldn’t mind settling down in and making a family. Little traffic, lots of people, extremely – but extremely efficient public transport, and for all those into that sort of thing, a mild winter considering its location.

One luxury I have here that I never had in my beloved Cyprus is cold water. The type of water that when you take a shower with, it tightens your skin so hard you instantly look 10 years younger (and if you happen to be 10 years old then you get the look of an infant).

One memorable moment that I won’t forget was when I was walking to school, I think it was Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Now understand that I’m trying to lose my beer belly, so even though I had with me a monthly public transport pass (€66), I was doing the 3.5km journey on foot. At the time it was -1 degrees (C) at 8 AM, and ice had formed overnight on top of cars and windshields.

In order to avoid reaching the language academy in sweaty order, I was wearing long athletic type pants but with a regular summer type short sleeve t-shirt on top of a sleeveless t-shirt (wife beater). Needless to say I was conscious of the fact of the type of circus act I must’ve been appearing to any onlookers. Anyway, this lady who didn’t see me coming was struggling hard to clear the 1 or 2 centimeter ice from her car’s roof and windshield. Then, as I was within a meter or two of her, she turns around and to her shock and devastation sees me happily bouncing around with my school bag on my back as if it’s 25 degrees outside.

She doesn’t just look but she stares with wide open eyelids in a manner as if she had authorities for child or person abuse on speed dial. Was truly hilarious how she dropped scraping the ice and just got all serious for a moment… tracking me until I had my back to her. But hey, if I can get used to the cold in Cyprus then I’m sure she can do it too, in Germany.

And finally I’ll include a breakdown of how I spent my money in the first week. I learned a few lessons along the way so hopefully I’ll get a little better at managing expenses it in the weeks and months to come.


The reason why water cost that much is because I forgot a 6 pack of it in the bus and had to get another one.

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