Expat Voices: Jess Dorrance on living in Germany
The richness of the Berlin cityscape is striking, the Germans are incredibly friendly and helpful, but I miss the baguettes and strong coffees of Montreal.
Name: Jess Dorrance
City of residence: Berlin
Date of birth: 10 December 1985
Occupation: Writer and editor
Reason for moving to Germany: The city of Berlin, in all its gritty glory.
Living in Germany since: November 2008
What was your first impression of the Germany?
When I first visited Berlin, all I could see was the architecture. From the old GDR buildings whose walls were still littered with bullet holes to the golden Gehry sculpture in the DZ Bank building, I was struck by the richness of the Berlin cityscape.
What do you think of the food?
While I love having 24-hour access to haloumi and doners, I miss the baguettes and strong coffees of Montreal.
What do you think about the German fashion sense?
My more fashion-conscious friend who moved with me to Berlin recently declared that she was somewhat disappointed with the Berlin fashion scene. The “hipster uniform” dominates the city’s youth, she claims. However, she does enjoy the Berlin businessmen’s stylish shoes and dress shirts.
What do you think of the shopping in Germany?
My favourite (perhaps only) shopping experience in Berlin is checking out the city’s many flea markets. Berliners, apparently, save everything.
What do you appreciate about living in Germany?
Despite some rumours, I’ve found Germans incredibly friendly and helpful. I’ve learned so much about Germany and the rest of Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, through conversations with people I’ve met here. I also appreciate Germans’ inclination towards being intensely philosophical.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Germany?
Though it may sound stubbornly North American, I am still getting used to not being able to grocery shop and bank whenever I want to.
What puzzles you about German culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I am perplexed why bakeries in Berlin don’t make their own baked goods; an overwhelming amount of bakeries have exactly the same products, from the same mass-produced source.
I miss the cultural diversity of Toronto and Montreal.
How does the quality of life in Germany compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I’m not sure I’ve lived here long enough yet to accurately assess this, but from anecdotal experience, the cheapness of Berlin apartments really does allow an easier lifestyle.
If you could change anything about Germany what would it be?
The problems that I perceive it has with issues of immigration and racism.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Even if you can’t speak German yet, use the German websites to find an apartment. (Google translator can help you through it). If you just use craigslist, you’re missing out.
Selling cupcakes outside of Mauerpark flea market.
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