Berlin: has the snap turned into the bite?

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The Berliner Schnauze (Schnauze = snout) is a term used to describe the rough, brusque, brutally frank and for all intents and purposes, rude snappy nature of the Berliners. There is prevailing myth that says before you get to know the true worth and warmth of the Berliner you must first pass through the snappy road of uncouthness. I say myth, because in some cases you never get past the Schnauze

For anyone who moved to Berlin, either by force, circumstance or for love, you will know that this is one tough town – probably the hardest to adjust to of all the places I have lived in. Caught between being a a haven for all artists and free expression and being a hotbed for syndicated crime and racism, Berlin has something for everyone, and then some. You simply have to accept the fact that it is never going to be served to you on a silver platter or sugar coated, and in some corners of this city the dogs are much more friendlier than the humans. You name it, you will find it in Berlin, one way or another,

I am partial to South Germany, basically anything south of the Main River, when the accent becomes heavier and makes dialect almost indistinguishable from high German, basically because of the general friendliness and openness I have experienced and taken to heart. My relationship with Berlin has been anything but smooth, it has only been this second time around that I came to terms with this volatile place, reconciling my soul with the city and its versatility. It’s not exactly love, but maybe we can agree on an infatuation.

There are days, however, when I question my sanity for having move here at all, or those of the locals, especially when the Berliner Schnauze surfaces with fangs. #lockdown2020 and COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, and now that Berlin is entering Phase II of the lifting, we just discovering just how much has changed. Today was a major eye-opener for me, and it shook me to the core.

Berliner Schnauze Moment #1:
A man got on the bus this morning, and although his mandatory face mask was attached to his ears, he had forgotten to pull it up over his nose and mouth. A woman sitting two rows in front and wearing her mask turned around and shouted at him to put his mask on properly – twice! She said it in such a tome that it really sounded more like a bark from where I was sitting. Apparently, gone are the days when you could get on the bus and remain anonymous. Everyone is on their guard now.

Berliner Schnauze Moment #2:
A few minutes later, I transferred to the subway, took my seat and waited for the train to depart. Two older women were sitting further away, observing the prescribed distance of 1.5m between them, chatting loudly through their masks, when suddenly a man came on board, without a mask, but obviously a bit lost. He approached them to ask a question about the direction the train, and normally Berliners will not hesitate to help anyone who is lost, even if it is to tell you they have no clue. This time, both women shooed him away with hand motions and berated him simultaneously to put his mask on. One of the women even turned her head, refused to even look a the man, but kept shooing him away. Eventually he got off, none the wiser, and the moment the doors shut, four people began discussing the atrocity of anyone getting on the train without a mask. Wow. Times sure have changed and the aggressive nature of the Berliner Schnauze has reached a new level which I now choose to refer to as the Berliner Biss (bite).

Otherwise, going around the city, you will see signs of lockdown slowly retreating, but shopkeepers continue to wear their masks, and lines outside shops, pharmacies and bakeries are long, but people are relatively patient. Until someone approaches without a mask.

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