Month: August 2015

Hamburg versus Berlin

As probably one of the last official posts I will make for this site (since I am planning on changing up my site to reflect my new position in life), I wanted to present you with a side-by-side analysis of Berlin and Hamburg. I spent a good amount of time in Berlin near the end of my stay in Germany, because my mother was teaching a study-abroad group there, but obviously spent a year in Hamburg and really got to know it.

In the comments, I’d be interested to see which city you would want to visit first. Enjoy!

  Hamburg Berlin my verdict
Center With the impressive Rathaus, Hamburg’s center and downtown are easy to find and explore

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Known for being a patchwork of many small towns before it became Berlin the city, Berlin also fails to have one real center. For seeing the “what’s what” of a city by foot, Hamburg wins. If you have several days, however, Berlin can be more vielseitig, multifaceted.
Transportation HVV
S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Bus routes, some Strassenbahn, ferry boat from Hafencity/Stadthausbruecken to Blankenese
BVG
S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Bus routes, some Strassenbahn, ferry from Wannsee to Kladow and back
Since I was a student in Hamburg, and had to pay for each individual ticket in Berlin, Hamburg wins this round
Theater Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Thalia und Thalia-Altona, multiple other theaters
Musicals- you take a ferry… which pretty much wins Hamburg in this category
Berlin used to be the center of theater and the arts in Germany, and much of that cultural presence still remains. One can find it in the Berliner Enseble theater, the Deutsches Theater, and various others, most often small and private. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been able to take advantage of the Berlin theaters or so, but the theater presence wasn’t as strong for me in Berlin as it has been in Hamburg Hard to decide, but since Hamburg has both music and theater, they win
Museums Beautiful art museums, a fantastic anthropology collection A whole Museum “island”

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The vast number of different museums, usually very accessible for tourists and non-tourists alike wins Berlin in this category
Tall buildings/ landmarks Fehrnsehturm, St. Michaelis, Elbsymphonie Fehrnsehturm, Funkturm, Siegessaeule, Brandenburger Gate Hamburg has a cooler skyline
Green spaces various parks, Volkspark, Altonauer Park, Planten und Blomben Gruenewald, Tiergarten, various other small parks

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I actually liked Berlin’s green spaces more, maybe because I walked around in them more?
Water the Alster, the Elbe

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Spree, Wannsee Hamburg, all the way.
Sports HSV, St. Pauli, both in danger of downgrade

The HASPA Marathon!

Marathon 3

Hertha BSC, in slightly better shape than Hamburg’s teams, but not much better

The Berlin Marathon (where the world records are always made)

Eh. I don’t really care
Any last words? I called it home for a year, and it’s the second largest city in the country Capital of the country Both are definitely worth visiting

Coming Back

I’m not quite sure how I feel about coming back. But as I am reminded every time I see an old face, I am definitely back.

I’m a study-abroad alum now!

I am thrilled to be back among my family and friends, be back in a familiar environment where I don’t have to worry about doing something wrong and saying something wrong, and to take up old routines and habits again.

At the same time, seeing how everyone has continued their lives while I’ve been abroad makes me surprise myself in how much I’ve changed. Just working through normal bureaucracy at the Uni reveals that I’ve become more assertive and less patient with the services I need. It’s because I’ve become used to a higher standard. Towards the end of my stay, I found out how expensive things like lawn and plumbing care are in Germany, and I was told that it has to do with the higher standard of service. I didn’t think that the same work is valued differently in the US than in Germany, but it has to do with the higher training Germans have. Even the cashier at the supermarket has an Ausbildung, an extensive program 1-2 years of training. Compared to that, the 12 hours orientation the day before starting at Target are a joke. Therefore, when I walk into some administrative offices now, I almost feel like I have to tell the person how to do their job, but I try not to be rude about it.

On the other hand, my jet-lag has worn off, and it feels like I’ve been back here for about three months versus a little less than two weeks. Part of my transition has been sped-up by how quickly I was put into a new position and started work. I guess it’s a good thing. It means I have less time to reflect, but reflection can only be so healthy before it becomes obsessive.

Welcome back!

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen… Goodbye?

wordpress asks you to “share your story” here, when you go to write a post. But isn’t there some sort of rule against posts that are too long? Any story I chose to write ends up including way too much detail to be a “short” post. So, I won’t share my story, but I’ll share the drafts to it.

I’m going to spend the next several posts recapping my last weeks in Germany during my study-abroad time. I spent some time in Germany after leaving Hamburg, and already I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my experiences there. I guess four words sum it up:

work hard, play hard.

People often describe their experiences as “adventures.” As much as the phrase is used (dare I say overused?) the newness, excitement, sharp gusts of dangers during extended stays abroad for work or study  do justify the use.

I’ve been on an adventure, and it will take me several posts to describe it all.

As I started this post, I was diving away from the city that hosted me for 10 months. I can’t really wrap my head around the difference between how I felt when I arrived, and how I feel now, but I need to acknowledge that I’ve changed while being in the city, and my experiences through the VDAC have changed me.

I am am stronger. This is to be expected. Obstacles, bureaucratic and otherwise are more difficult when in a country of different customs, habits, and language. If I’ve trained to run on mountains, of course hills will be easier. I’ve learned to be polite, but direct, when requesting things and to be patient, but know my rights. This came in handy today, such as when I had to make sure my transcript was ordered, reflected my recent status as a graduate, and was sent to the right office. The old me would have accepted that it would take a while and figured the bureaucracy would work itself out. The new me was able to walk out with the envelope that I could and over to the intended party.

What I didn’t expect is that I’ve become a better listener. When I first arrived, I was so occupied with my own plans, my dazed experience, and comparisons to the U.S. Throughout the year, however, I’ve been complimented by many close to me that I listen more to them, and am easier to talk to. I don’t know if I should feel insecure about how I must have used to be, but I am grateful to recognize that my experiences have made me secure enough in my own experiences and strengths to be more open for others. I think part if it is that I’ve learned not to jump to conclusions about people, and let them talk it out.

I want to write so much more, but I already said I would use several posts to catch up, and so I won’t give you too much to handle now. I just want to say that I don’t think leaving Hamburg is “good-bye.” Rather, it’s a chapter in my life that lays out the foreground for much of my future life (I hope), especially if I get accepted to a PhD program there. We shall see, and I’ll keep writing.

In the meantime, here are some photos of Hamburg/Berlin, where I spent the last weeks with my family after they came to join me!

The Berliner Dom

The Berliner Dom

Need I mention what this is? I took the photo while siting in public transportation, so it's not the best quality.

Need I mention what this is? But I’m sorry I took the photo while siting in public transportation, so it’s not the best quality.

My brother in front of the statue of Neptune in Altona, Hamburg

My brother in front of the Neptune fountain in Altona, Hamburg

The old Nationalgaleri where an exhibition of impressionist and expressionist artists were presented, side by side

The old Nationalgaleri where an exhibition of impressionist and expressionist artists were presented, side by side

Things I find myself doing that remind me I’ve spent a year abroad

I’ve only just gotten back from Germany, so clearly I will have a bit of jet lag (six hours time difference). But there are other differences in my behavior that make me stick out from other U.S. Americans like a sun-burned man in Ireland.

  • I write the date as day/month/year versus month/day/year
  • I use 24-hour time when telling people when to meet
  • I bring a shopping bag to stores and get weird looks when I use that instead of a cart or a basket, and I don’t go to get a cart because I don’t feel like looking for a coin that fits in the slot to release the cart from the cart in front of it.
  • I look for a way to stop the flow of water during the flush of the toilet. In Germany, there’s usually a way to raise the lever or push the slab used to flush a second time to make the water stop when the waste has gone down; it’s an effective way of saving water.
  • I want to separate my trash into paper, packaging, or waste. Thankfully, this is something the U.S. (at least public administrative buildings) are getting better at accommodating. It shocks me how much is thrown away here, much more than it did before I left.
  • I get confused when the teller or cashier is talkative or friendly… it’s almost overly friendly.
  • I need a dollar and start looking for a coin (at least, those do exist. Conversely, there is no such thing as a 1 Euro bill)
  • I avoid going to a public restroom because I think I’ll have to pay, and I don’t have any money on me. Not having to pay is something I appreciate!
  • I say “Tschüß” reflexively when saying good-bye to people. I may keep that.
  • edited to add: after finally getting used to the German keyboard, it seems that I’ll have to learn to get used to the English one again… especially when typing in German.

These are just a few things I’ve caught myself doing, but as the week goes on, I’m sure there will be more. Hopefully, nothing too embarrassing!