We have now been in Europe for an entire week. We arrived last Wednesday the 17th. In the seven days that have followed, I cannot believe the amount of information I have learned about Germany and about the other CR9ers and myself. Of all the things I have learned, I have noticed several differences between the culture and environment back home at TCU and the places we have visited. This should serve as no surprise, of course, but some were definitely unexpected.
In the first half of the week we spent in Berlin, I first noticed how people looked on the streets. I always had the conception that most European fashion consisted of well-fitting clothing and shoes. I felt a little surprised by what I saw for a couple reasons. I didn’t see excessively tight clothing or anything that looked super fashionable by the images I had in my head. Most people still wore classic business attire and casual clothing that I would see in the U.S., but a difference existed in the colors people wore. Almost everyone stuck to neutral colors: black, grey, brown, and then white for t-shirts. Besides a random neon running shoe, I rarely saw anyone in flashy clothing, especially in comparison to the clothing I see at TCU. Wearing shorts seemed to be another uncommon style. In fact, wearing shorts on the street seemed to be an obvious flag that someone was a tourist. While most people in the city did only wear pants, the locals in parks or other casual places wore shorts more than what we saw in the city (the younger crowd seemed more apt to wear them as well).
In addition to slight differences in clothing and style choices compared to Americans, I saw differences in transportation. In both Munich and Berlin, almost every street had a designated bike lane and it is definitely utilized. To make it even more obvious that we are foreigners in an unknown environment, there have been a few times we stood in the bike lane which has caused an angry ringing of a bell or shout from the bikers attempting to get past. Oops. With that said, I think the group has significantly improved on watching for bikes and we still haven’t had any collisions! Obviously, places exist in the United States where biking or walking is a prominent mode of transportation but I think the bike culture is more prevalent than I have experienced in American cities. I think riding bikes provides people with a cheap and fast way to travel to point A to point B in these cities where most things are close together. Also, having a car only creates more problems, such as finding a place to park and inevitably more expenses. I have also seen an emphasis in both German cities on conservation of the environment. Even in the building-packed metropolitan of Berlin or Munich, trees can almost always be found. The decision for many people to ride bikes and walk reflects that idea of being environmentally friendly as well as serving as a practical method to navigate.
Differences in transportation and clothing would be expected when traveling to a new city, but I did not expect the prevalence of cash and coins for purchases. At TCU or back home in Nebraska, I would argue that most purchases are completed with a credit or debit card. For many Americans, cards are quick, mostly safe, and probably the easiest method of payment. From what I have seen in Germany, however, cash is the most prevalent. The purchases I have made have been small (mostly food) and I feel like the odd one out if I use a card to pay. Weird at first, but I understand why now: it’s faster. While people wait to pay, they get out their wallet and have their cash and coins readily accessible. With 2 euro, 1 euro, 50 cent, 20 cent, and 10 cent coins and the fact that almost everything is in 10 cent intervals, people can easily use coins to pay for smaller purchases after the cashier tells them how much they owe. Even when the cashier has to return cash, the coins and prices that are standardized to 10 cent intervals allow the cashier to return money quickly. I am curious to see if paying with cash remains as prevalent when people buy more expensive items rather than small items like food.
These have been the main things I have noticed in the short week I have been here, but I’ve also noticed that almost every single door handle looks the same, the high amount of BMWs and Audis and Mercedes on the streets, the surprising number of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, and a slightly less friendly disposition people display compared to Fort Worth. In one short week, I have enjoyed looking to search for differences in the culture in Germany compared to Texas as well as trying to understand why. Moving forward to Switzerland and Italy, I look to not only find new differences compared to America but also to the places in Europe we have already been.