You don’t have to go far to be far from home

With only a six hour drive from the Dutch border, I didn’t expect a major culture shock when starting my internship in Berlin. But even though cultural differences may seem minor in the places closest to home, it are often these small things that determine how comfortable we are with a place. Berlin is full of these small culture shocks that may surprise you.

Surprise #1: German efficiency is real

Since the housing market in Berlin is extremely tight I was forced to spend my first weeks in a hostel. Standing at the check-in counter after an eight-hour bus trip, with six months of luggage dragging behind me, I had my first encounter with Berlin. I hadn’t even received a ‘good evening’ yet but the German on the other side of the counter had started explaining me — with exceptional accuracy and speed — the rules of this hostel. I was so perplexed that I didn’t notice him checking me in while continuing his rant, and before I knew it I was in my dorm with a set of rules heavier than my luggage. This set the tone for the months to come, and I hadn’t expected the stereotypes to be this accurate: efficiency and rules are everything, fun and jokes come later.

Surprise #2: Is this a developed country?

The Germans are often honed for their technological advances, yet some of the systems they employ are pre-2000’s (which, let’s face it, were the dark ages of technology). Apparently it has something to do with Germans’ desire for privacy that they pay cash everywhere. I’m guessing that’s the same reason why they haven’t digitalized any governmental service; privacy seems to be the only thing that can win it from efficiency. Now, I can’t say it felt bad that my bank had no idea I was having pizza for lunch each day. Did you know a German pizza pepperoni does not have meat on it? They really are living in different times..

Surprise #3: Grimy can be beautiful

Berlin is generally not regarded as Europe’s most beautiful city. To the contrary: Berlin is often labelled outright ugly. Swarmed by dirt and homeless people, the grimy streets of Berlin emit a whole other kind of beauty: diversity, respect, and openness. Each of Berlin’s districts has its own unique personality, unified through the character of the city. This type of diversity works on all levels, as various contrasting personalities wander the wide, spacious streets, each showing mutual respect. Even the homeless contribute. If only we’d define beauty as more than just appearance, Berlin would certainly qualify as Europe’s most beautiful city.

Do or don’t?

If you get the chance to stay close to home, do it, and it will give you a new perspective on a culture you thought you’d already knew. You may not find chopsticks or hotpots, but the fun of travelling anywhere is in not knowing what you’ll find or where you’ll find it.

This post was written by Frank van Doesum. Frank went on an exchange with AIESEC in the Netherlands. We offer international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth. 

Read more
Your exchange packing list

Your exchange packing list

As the summer vacation is approaching, so are many volunteering projects and internships. But what to pack on such a new exciting experience? Even if you have been abroad many times and are an expert in packing, there are sure to be moments when you miss a thing or two. To help you have the best preparation for your project, or any other vacation, we made a special AIESEC exchange packing list!

Inspired, empowered and ready for change: The story of four young leaders in the contemporary world

Inspired, empowered and ready for change: The story of four young leaders in the contemporary world

When we talk about young leaders, people quickly think of Greta Thunberg or Mark Zuckerberg, due to their media attention or Greta’s well-known, activist speeches on climate change. But more quietly, the world is packed with young, inspirational leaders, trying to create a more stable, sustainable and inclusive world for future generations, minority groups or the society they are part of.

Discovering culture in Morocco: An exchange to Marrakech

Discovering culture in Morocco: An exchange to Marrakech

When I decided to participate in the Nour project of AIESEC, I felt like I did something impulsive yet brave. I never went abroad on my own before. I always had people I could depend on like friends and family. This time I wanted to challenge myself by doing this project on my own, and I wanted to discover and embrace another culture.

3 Inspiring TED talks on inequality

3 Inspiring TED talks on inequality

We’ve pulled together some inspiring TED talks for you to watch about inequality. The speakers in these videos describe their view on inequality and what the world needs in order to change this. Let these people inspire you, to create new ways of thinking about inequality and the road to changing this.

4 Tips to make your CV stand out

4 Tips to make your CV stand out

On average, recruiters spend 5 to 7 seconds screening a CV before deciding whether to continue with the applicant or not. It equals the average time that we spend looking at an Instagram post on our feed. So, here are some tips that can help your CV stand out in a large pool of applicants.

My AIESEC volunteering project in Italy

My AIESEC volunteering project in Italy

In January 2020 I participated in an AIESEC Project on environment and sustainability in Castellana Grotte, Italy. I was lucky to stay six weeks in one of the most beautiful small villages I have been to. My work was about teaching the kids in the local Highschool on the UN SDGs and sustainability. My fellow AIESEC students were so kind to pick me up in Bari. They made sure I was safe and showed me how to travel to my destination.

Handling stress of working from home

Handling stress of working from home

Many people regard working from home as an overall goal for their work-life balance. They work with the help of evolving technologies such as Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Slack, Google Hangouts and cloud computing. Recently, the work from home job force has gotten a push by the current global coronavirus pandemic.

Interested?

Take the first step.

Book a free consultation call in one of our cities to explore your opportunities!