From the moment I stepped into SFX, the international airport located in the southern outskirts of Berlin, I knew Germans had a unique relationship with their electronics. There were cafes selling croissants with apricot jams, mall-like areas glowing with chocolates wrapped in gold foils and “I heart Berlin” refrigerator magnets, and baristas with hair back in long, rope-like braids serving German beers in warm glasses. But there were no power outlets to be found.
It’s not that Germans don’t have cell phones (they prefer the term mobile phones or in German,
I connected to the free airport WiFi to call a cab through Uber. This was not the common practice — slews of people were pouring out the baggage claim exits and heading for the busses and trains. I wouldn’t know about these options until later, and I thought I had a chance of befriending a German if I took a cab. I noticed lines of pale yellow taxis, but dismissed the option in case the drivers required cash payments. I was warned against using currency exchange booths inside the airport.
My Uber driver spoke English. He was a young Turkish man who had come to Berlin for university and had never left. He pointed out various buildings, murals, and statues on the ride, explaining their historical significance. He said that older people would tell me that Berlin just wasn’t the city that it used to be, that it wasn’t even German anymore. There were so many immigrants, refugees, and ex-pats that came to the city for the jobs and culture that Germans hardly seemed to live there anymore. But Berlin was globally praised for its culture of art, music and friendliness, as well as the community’s focus on living an eco-friendly humanitarian lifestyle. There was an incredibly diverse culinary universe within Berlin, as well as a focus on maintaining the city’s abundant natural areas, parks, canals, and gardens.
“What’s not to like?” I asked.
“People just don’t like change,” he said.
This is only the very beginning of my story in Germany. If you want to hear more about my journey and studies of technology behaviors in Berlin, check out my ethnography, linked here!