The Christmas season has fully hit Germany now and the festivities are in full swing! For a few weeks during the holiday season all German towns and cities have their own Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). Small villages may have just one, while a massive city such as Berlin has numerous. They are really done over the top which creates an amazing experience, especially for a visitor like me. The weather is also abnormally mild at the moment, which of course adds to a more pleasurable time.
The layout is quaint. Little wooden huts are erected in rows and they sell everything from arts and crafts, to delicious meals, to Christmas desserts. Specialties include roasted sugarcoated nuts, stuffed crepes and gingerbread. Stages are built to host concerts in public spaces. In Berlin, there are amusement park rides, picture opportunities with Santa, games to be played and there was even an artificial skating rink constructed. The most famous drink during these festivities is Glühwein. It is a hot wine punch which is spiced and served very hot. Almost everyone has a glass in their hand.
All the trees on the mains streets have Christmas lights on them. Most stores are decorated with lights and even trees as well. I must bring up a peculiar observation I made back near the end of September. I went to Ikea and the entire store was already decked out and set to go for the Christmas season! They sold everything you would expect to find a week before Christmas. Maybe they get a bit too excited for the holidays here? Personally, September for Christmas is a bit too early for me.
With this whole Christmas/holiday season and all the buying of gifts, I would like to mention something what I noticed about Germans and how they make their purchases. The society, I would argue, is heavily based upon solid cash transactions. No one really uses credit cards to buy their goods. They like to have their wallets and purses stuffed with money. One lady I observed wanted an appliance or something big and simply pulled out a couple of 100 and 50 Euro bills and bought it. I remember once going to a restaurant (not a bar/pub kind of place) to have a few drinks with some classmates and I had no cash on me. I wanted to simply use my Visa card to pay, but there was a 30 Euro minimum purchase that was needed in order to use a credit card. Back in Toronto, I would sometimes buy fast food with credit without any problems at all. I guess it is a good thing over here as it discourages spending money that you don’t have.
Well, this is the last blog that I will be writing for the semester. I know that the semester back at U of T is coming to an end with the approaching winter holiday break. As I explained in an earlier post, the German university system starts and ends later. The first semester for me ends in February. I will be writing for the Centre for International Experience again during the next session as I am here for the whole academic year. I would like to thank everyone who followed me thus far at the Humboldt University in Berlin and all my experiences here. I am certain there will be many more great moments which I will share with you all in the future- my adventure here is just beginning. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! Take care and until next time,