Well, German keyboards are sufficiently confusing. The keyboard I'm typing on now could serve as a good analogy for my stay in this country so far. Overall, I feel fairly comfortable. A new city with new public transportation, grocery stores and neighbors, but overall everybody is friendly and personable and I can live a normal life.
Similar to how this keyboard is set up exactly as those at home, with some minor changes.
The language is the hardest thing to get used to. I should have listened to a few more German language podcasts, paid better attention in a few more German classes, or perhaps picked up a few more books written in German to decipher. However, I have faith I will become more fluent in the upcoming weeks. I know enough and am willing enough to learn that I am sure it will happen. Comparably, the z and y keys on this keyboard are switched. For a frequent and adept typer, this is a huge roadblock. Z is not a letter all too frequently used, but the Y is very common. There is enough typing in my future, however, that most likely by the time I get back to the states I will have difficulty remembering the old position of the y key (although hopefully, I don't have any difficulty remembering the English language).Keep Reading...
I must commute everywhere by public transport and/or a bike, very different from the suburbs I grew up in and the easily walkable area of State College. I live close enough to Philadelphia at home that public transportation has always been available and a constant in my life, it's just difficult to learn to acknowledge it now. It makes me feel like a real part of this city, riding in with working adults and families every day, something I've never had to do before. Similarly, this keyboard is littered with letters that have umlauts. Ä, ö, and ü are all on here, in a fashion I've never seen. They take up the spaces of keys I'm not even sure are missing, although I'm sure my typing fingers notice their absence.
Last but not least, everything shuts down here on Sundays. A lesson I would have done well to learn before leaving, seeing as I arrived late on a Saturday afternoon. I bought enough food for approximately two meals and then promptly fell asleep until late Sunday morning.
When I woke up and began to wander around, there was nobody in the streets and not one single grocery store, restaurant, or atm was open.
I finally found a little place off the beaten path and bought chicken döner (good thing these umlaut keys exist) and that was filling enough for the whole day. However, I was itching for human interaction, real food, and a chance to really explore come Monday morning. I had to ask somebody to clarify that the city is like that every Sunday, thinking I stumbled upon some rare Sunday that everybody goes into hiding.
Alas, that was the norm. On this keyboard, the question mark is moved all the way to the top and is rather small, sharing a key with an s-set (ß). I actually had to ask the girl next to me where it was, as I was clueless.The bottom line is that Germany is exciting and new, but definitely takes some cultural adjustment. There are many things I wish I knew coming into this experience but with so many things changing, it'd be hard for anyone to properly inform me of every new experience I'd need to prepare for! The keyboard may only be a small challenge in my upcoming 8 weeks, but having arrived and moved into my apartment and life at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) smoothly, I know I have the important things down and can move on to many more German experiences.