This whole adapting to a new life in Germany is a tricky business. As if the language and the extensive public transport system isn't enough of a headfuck, there are a whole host of bizarre cultural nuances that us expats have to wrap our little brainboxes around to avoid being ostracised and reviled by the Berlin population.
Our first Berlin WTF moment came when we went to the bar to order a drink in a small Kneipe (a pub, basically) in Charottenburg. Shouldn't have been much of a hassle, right? In the UK it's a very simple process. You go to the bar, order, pay up straight away and receive your drink. It's a bastard if there's a queue, but it's a surefire way for the bartender to ensure that you ain't gonna leg it out of the building without paying off your tab. Not so here.
In a couple of bars (mostly clubs, TBH) we've visited, that whole shebang is fine and dandy. But the smaller bars are more trusting - they don't seem to have that in-built British suspicion that everyone is out to rip them off. The barkeeps are more than happy to collect your order from the table, ferry your drinks over all night and ask you how many you had when you settle up. Bizarrely, the one thing that does prompt them to raise an eyebrow is if you go to them.
"What are they dooooiiiinggg??" cried our German buddy Max, as Oli and I sauntered to the bar and proceeded to have a terrifically awkward, unintelligible conversation with the small blonde lady who was serving. She looked distinctly unimpressed by the two bumbling Brit jokers stood in front of her (which was only exacerbated when I accidentally asked her if she could speak German), and the rest of the clientele shot us the kind of 'this is a local pub, for local people glare' that I've only ever previously seen on the League of Gentlemen, or at the Clifton in Splott. Humbling.
We returned, red-faced and beerless, and Max dashed over to apologise profusely to the lady for the faux pas we didn't even know we'd committed.
"Don't worry about it," whispered fellow expat Ursi. "It's just a bit different here."
W. T. F.
Betti Baudelaire xxx