(originally published September 14, 2018)
It’s been about three weeks since my arrival in Berlin and let me tell you, between trying to nurse my circadian rhythm back on track, showing around our friends who have been visiting Berlin for the last two weeks and going through the process of getting me all registered with the city, it’s been a busy few weeks.
In these recent weeks I’ve been exploring the city primarily by foot, since Berlin is such a walkable city, but have also been taking advantage of the city's excellent subway system. The U-Bahn travels mostly underground, while the S-Bahn covers a large portion of the city above ground. The subway system is efficient, extensive and pretty easy to use, which makes it totally possible to live in Berlin without owning a car. We are definitely not planning on getting a car any time soon.
Here is a map of the metro system:
Use the link below to download it:
(image credit: https://www.graceontheroad.com/2017/12/berlin-snow.html)
I have been using the Berlin Subway phone app to see a breakdown of all the train stops between destinations and the BVG phone app which is the official ticket app for the subway system. Using your phone to buy your ticket, your ticket is automatically validated (unless I’m using the app. wrong), but if you are purchasing a physical ticket, be sure to use one of the validating machines before you get on the train! Just last week, on the way to the health insurance agent I got fined 60 euros for not validating my ticket (because I didn’t know I needed to. Thank you Nick). The ticket validator stamps your ticket with a date and time stamp and is good for two hours following the time stamp.
Here is what it looks like:
(Image credit: https://www.german-way.com/travel-and-tourism/public-transport-in-germany/)
The visit to the health insurance agent is one of the steps we needed to take to get me registered with the city, which would then allow me to apply for a visa. We started the paperwork, but the process isn’t officially complete until I have a general checkup/physical with a doctor which I have scheduled for next week. The appointment itself was long. I pretty much had to answer a number of health related questions that were in German, which our agent helped us to translate. This was much better than me trying to understand a 200 page packet that was written entirely in German. When he asked me what my height was, I instantly blurted “five feet four inches” without blinking an eye and completely caught him off guard. “Uh, I don’t know what that means.” he looked concerned. “Oh! Sorry!” I responded as I quickly had Nick translate it for me in centimeters. 163 cm. I then had to do the same thing for my weight. It's extremely satisfying to see your weight go down to just two digits. Instant weight loss. I just dropped 1/3 of my weight (in digits). Sigh. This is not going to be easy.
My favorite part was the "occupation" section when our agent asked if he should just put down “housewife” for my occupation. I literally laughed out loud. But he wasn’t laughing back and, to my very obvious surprise, was clearly not joking. I looked at Nick with an Oh-no-he-didn't-just-call-me-a-housewife-look and still wasn't convinced this wasn’t a joke. Nick, with his hands pressed together in his lap, was quietly looking down chuckling and enjoying every second of this.
I kindly asked him to change it to “Interior Designer” that he magically translated it to "Innenarchitekt?" which to me sounded like beautiful poetry and made my eyes light up. I couldn't stop smiling and nodding as I agreed with him. I was impressed. I can still be an Interior Designer without a job right? Why not? If I didn't have a background in Interior Design, I would have preferred to write "unemployed", "job searching" or heck, even "artist" under the "Occupation" section. Up until that moment I never realized how traumatized I'd be by being referred to as a "housewife", and with that much trauma, I can guarantee you I'm going to have health issues. Health insurance? Yes please. I'll take two.
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