05 September 2007

The first week

Well, we are here in Berlin, in an area formerly east of the wall called Prinzlauer-Berg. It’s a bit what I imagine Greenwich Village was like 70 years ago, when it was still affordable, although it probably won’t be affordable to its prior residents within the next 10 years. Very cute, but not family enough and we are hunting for short term apartments in the Charlottenberg area, which is west of the line, more settled, and with a Jewish Community Center and kindergarten that I hope to get Thing1 into. Right now we are staying in a pension, and this is the first time that I have lived without a washer/dryer at least in my building in 24 years. It’s definitely worse with children.

The trip over was better than it might have been because we upgraded to business class with miles. I went through a whole rigmarole to get Felix microchipped and get him an international health certificate and then we wound up walking through immigration with him: we realized later that the border control didn’t notice him because the German was carrying him in a soft sided container around his neck. Now we wonder whether Felix is in the country illegally… On the flight itself, Felix wound up getting out of his carrier (the silly thing was able to be pushed open unless you pinned the sides and I missed it, always having used a hard sided carrier before). The German woke me to tell me that one of the attendants had come and taken the carrier away and I rushed back to see why only to discover F being dandled and pampered by an attendant who said that she had found him in the aisle: luckily, they were all cat lovers. And everyone was very nice to us in business class: definitely worth the upgrade.

I’m online because (old East) Berlin has free (slow) wireless, because there is no landline in the flat and although I might have gone insane without internet, we won’t get broadband until we are in a real apartment.

So far my culture shock has been primarily that even Germany moves at a molasses pace compared to the US. I mean, I knew it because German HR was so darned slow, but nothing beats walking into a Citibank to open an account (we have one in the US to facilitate international transfers) only to discover that one needs to make an appointment and that the earliest one can get is two days away. Or that it will take 4 weeks to get a landline, if we decide to get one, or to install DSL. And I couldn’t be part of the bank account because I am not yet registered with a “permanent” address here in Germany, even though I have a certified copy of my marriage certificate and my passport and the German already had a registered address (with his parents). There’s more, but I need to digest…