Berlin, August 22 2012
Who would have imagined that things would be simpler than I expected. When I first arrived here, I knew that a whole new world would start for me, for sure. Food, punctuality, language… I was ready for all that. But now I notice that you can’t be ready for all novelties. They come to you, without warning, in a train ride in a Tuesday afternoon. As I just sit there, doing nothing, the novelty comes and sits right next to me. And, not having anything else to do, I just look at her and give her my attention. And this is how I meet the German silence. Have you ever heard of it? Well, I hadn’t. And I must tell you that I would never imagine how Germany can be so naturally silent. It is like I woke up in a primary school teacher’s dream (I am sure they imagine the silence I have here, every time they have to control 20 very talkative students in a classroom).
So, imagine with me how it is to be in a train station with, let’s say, 40 people. And all of them are in silence… So, this is it. Most people are reading a book, or listening to music. But even those who don’t have any kind of entertainment still keep waiting in silence. No cell phones, no whistling… If you are chatting with a friend, you do it in a very inaudible tone. And then, all that it is left is silence… But, as everything in life comes in pairs, like winter and summer, salt and sugar, Madonna and Cher, silence here also finds its counterpoint: my good Moabit friends, Turkish descendant Germans.
Last week I had to register myself at the neighborhood city hall. Yes, because here all citizens register themselves, giving their address to the neighborhood office. I had to wait for my appointment in this waiting room together with other 80 people. It was so hot, then! It was as hot as Brazil! But I believe it was worst here, because, in Brazil, when it is so hot, we just look to the person sitting next to us and complain, like it would make a difference (and it does!). You ask someone to open the door, or even (crazy!) you use the form you are supposed to handle to the officer as a fan… And, I don’t know why, it makes us feel better. But when you have to heroically go through the hot temperature, without speaking, without complaining to strangers, without trying to fix the weather… Well, it gets harder. And I believe that, being inside a building designed to face Siberian winters doesn’t help either.
Well, there I was, silently fighting against the hotness and waiting for my number to be called, when a cellphone rang. The music was really loud and, for me, a foreign to everything, it resembled a Bollywood song. The blond woman sitting next to me (I believe she could be a “Bertha”) didn’t like that at all. Bertha looked at the young girl with disapproval in her eyes. The girl, whose cellphone was still ringing, was brunet and used a veil in her head. She didn’t even pay attention to any reaction around her, as she looked for the cellphone inside her bag (and the Bollywood song was almost getting to its end). The music was actually really cool and I almost started clapping my hands, but I decided not to. Bertha might not like it.
Finally, the brunet girl found her cellphone and answered it. She started speaking very loudly, even for Brazilian standards in a language that wasn’t German. And then, the unexpected happened: Bertha looked at me and clenched her lips, disapproving the funny mess that was happening next to us. Of course, I gladly paid her back the confidence she gave me by also clenching my lips, trying to look disappointed by all that noise. Bertha even tried a shy smile. And I really liked that moment. I believe that now Bertha and me could finally inaugurate our friendship and start complaining about how hot the room was. But then, I stepped back. I mean, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, right?