It is banal, because it is one of the fundamentals of being abroad. Nevertheless I like it a lot: the challenges. That is one of the reasons, why the culture shock comes and goes in waves: sometimes you like it, sometimes you hate it, the daily challenges. One example is the picture I took today on my wa back home from the supermarket. It shows the back part of one of the elder houses in Kopenhagener Straße, which is one of the most expensive and clichee parts of town, where latte drinking moms and oldtimer-motorcycle-driving dads live (among other people like me, and yes: I do admit, that I am very prejudiced about this place nowadays).
The picture shows a warmly lit brick building, the run-down charme, that most of Prenzlauer Berg had a couple of years ago and that still fuels the imagination of thousands of people. It’s an old building with a history and some (not too much of course) patina. What can you do with it? How can you transform this into your dream-appartment? It is these kind of burgeouise middle-class dream, that I am used to. Some years ago, you could even have the chance to buy a house like this relatively cheap and make a good profit out of it. Those days, of course, have long gone.
Today I was walking past this building wondering, what I would think of it, if I would see it standing in São Paulo. Where would it be? What would people think? Would I be nervous because of the favelina-style, wondering if there are criminals living in it, like some older people from out of town would? I will have to build a new (aesthetic) frame of reference for a lot of things. Housing might be one of the first challenges…
Fête de la musique
They are rare and therefore even more valuable: the hot summer nights in Berlin. But if you are lucky, they are one of the best things, that can happen to you. Even better, if the yearly Fête de la Musique happens to be a hot summer night, like yesterday. Fête is awesome in itself, the city allows everyone to play music on the streets between 4pm and 10pm, after that there will be concerts indoor. This year there were mroe than 50 “official” stages with a musical program, enough to find something for everyone. But there are “wild” stages everywhere. This year we’ve been in Kreuzberg, started at Görlitzer Park where a band without name was playing pretty awesome and laid back soul music. A couple with an amplifier and two microphones sat behind them and did acoustic background support. People were dancing in the heat.
On our way to Schlesisches Tor we passed about 5 “wild” stages with music ranging from “awfull” to “interesting”. You just grab a beer from one of the Spätis or sit down in on of the street-side bars who happen to have a stage an listen in. And this goes on for hours (unfortunately due to the ridicolous noise restrictions police literally pulls the plug at 10.30pm the latest. Nevertheless it is simply awesome to drift through the city, drink beer, listen to music while the sun simply does not set (the picture was taken at 11pm). Crosing Görlitzer Park in the not completly dark night my wife reminded me, that this would not be possible in São Paulo, where you don’t leave the house for a night out without taking precautions like not carrying valuables or too much money. Hot and worryfree summer nights out in the city – one of the most awesome things about Berlin.
Did I say it was over? You should never be too euphoric, especially when dealing with German administration, because being married is nothing, as long as it is not registered or recognized in your country. Would that be difficult? I had different answers to this, from: not at all, the Danish marriage will easily be valid in Germany to: of course it will be difficult, because you will have to file all the documentes as if you would want to get married in Germany.
The Ausländerbehörde was the next and probably the biggest hurdle on the way to us living together in Germany, because Germany is a country with one of the most restrictive immigration laws. Maybe this still dates back to exaggerated nationalist ideology and it is something I hope will change soon due to the European Union. But if a Brazilian citizen is involved, even the European Union does not help.
It’s interesting, the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners office) is maybe one of the most feared institutions and I know people who have no pleasent memory of their visits there: from arbitrarily declined applications to horribly unfriendly employees. Surprisingly my first call to the Ausländeramt was nothing but friendly and helpful, in fact, it was so friendly that I was worried, that a very cruel game was being played with me. Because we got an appointement to visit and file the application for a prolongued stay for my wife just 4 days before her tourist visa would expire. We had already been married in Denmark by this time and we had to wait some weeks to see the Ausländerbehörde. When we both arrived with all our documentes (passports, wedding certificate and proof of adequate language knowledge) we were both quite nervous.
Being humble and patient
Finding the right place was the first task, because the building is huge and we were given different directions by two employees. But then we found our waiting area, made sure that our appointment wasn’t forgotten and waited. And got nervous. We were called into one of the offices rather harshly, told to sit down and then had to explain what we wanted. I did most of the talking, and when I told the woman, that we got married in Denmark, here eyes narrowed and she asked sharply: “why?”. Suddenly I found myself in a defensive position and had to explain myself. I said what I always said: that Denmark accepted the Brazilian divorce papers and that by now it is a family tradition to marry there. Both of which is true. The woman handed us two documents, told us coldly to fill them out and to to this (“gefälligst”) in the waiting area next door. She would call us in again. Bye. My wife was shocked and I was rather upset by this treatment, but what were we to do?
“Sie sprechen schon Deutsch?”
After having filled out the papers and after we waited for another 20 minutes or so, we were called back again, awaiting something like a death sentence. The woman checked our papers, looked at my wife and asked “Sie sprechen schon deutsch? (you already speak German?) “to which my wife answered “Ja” (yes) and then the woman smiled, handed back my wife´s passport and said something like, “well then here is your Aufenthaltserlaubnis and I see you again in two years”. That was it. My wife´s “ja” had been the proof of German language (which you need in Germany if you want to be able to work or stay for a longer time) and we only needed to pay our 60-something euros and were out the building again. Was that a pleasent experience? Definetely not. But it was also not as unpleasent as I imagined in my worst dreams.