“Ticket to Berlin” Spanish kisses and Egyptian impressions

Both of the teams of “Ticket to Berlin”
Both of the teams of “Ticket to Berlin” | Photo: Daniel Pasche

“Ticket to Berlin” is a new video series for students of German in which two teams – six candidates – make their way across Germany tackling adventurous challenges like soapbox derbies, stand up paddling contests and German cooking tasks.

Almudena from Spain and Nasser from Egypt give us some of their personal impressions and unusual insights about the Ticket to Berlin project.

Almudena from Barcelona

Almudena, what were some of the things you had to deal with in “Ticket to Berlin”?

Sometimes it was culture, sometimes sport, sometimes cooking. Every day we had to solve a problem and nearly every day we were in a new location. The team that solved the problem correctly got a point. Stand Up Paddling in Hamburg was an athletic challenge where you had to paddle a large surfboard out into the water, get a bottle and bring it back without falling off; if you fell off you didn't get the point. That was really fun and the people who taught us how to do it were really nice.

One of my favorite tasks was in Cologne where the two teams met face-to-face. We were outside the city and had to find our way back to the cathedral using as many forms of transport as possible. There were no limitations and we could use anything we wanted – cars, buses, tractors, etc.

… tractors?

Yeah, there was a construction site on one road and we jumped on a tractor for a short ride. It was funny (laughing).

Can you imagine living in Germany?

Yeah, I already lived in Tubingen for a year and really liked it there. Munich was beautiful as well. I stayed there for five months for an internship. I did miss fruits and vegetables there, though. You have them in Germany, but not quite in the abundance or diversity that we have in Spain. Things are also much cheaper here.

What German food was new for you?

Onion tart and Hamburg shrimp sandwich – those were both really tasty. At one of the Christmas markets I had gingerbread and mulled wine for the first time as well. At first it was strange to drink hot wine. I thought, “That won't work at all.” But then I liked it. Christmas in Germany is wonderful. There is a great atmosphere at that time of year.

What surprised you in Germany?

Our perception of Germany changed a bit in Spain as a result of the financial crisis. I think people work more efficiently there. They take fewer short breaks and get more done in the same amount of time.

At first I thought Germany would be more homogeneous, but now I have the feeling that it really does consist of four main regions: north, south, east and west. Ticket to Berlin gave me the chance to get to know the different areas and that was really interesting. The landscapes are different, as are the people.

… and what surprised you about the Germans?

At the start I thought they were a bit frigid, reserved or aloof. But that was just the first impression. Once you have established a friendship they are good friends. What I like is that you don't always feel obliged to kiss someone when you first meet them. In Barcelona, if you go into a restaurant and 10 people are sitting at the table you have to go and kiss every one of them – that's 20 kisses if you include each cheek. It's more or less required, but you may not even really know the people at all. I like that it is not obligatory in Germany.

Nasser from Cairo

Nasser, what surprised you about Germany and the Germans?

I was very impressed by the environment there. Natural green landscapes crisscross the whole country. I could never have imagined that the color green was so beautiful. I live in Egypt, of course, where we have some green areas, but they are man-made.

I also learned from a German teacher in Egypt that the Germans are very serious and don't know how to laugh. I didn't find that, though. I had experiences with Germans where I laughed so hard I had to hold my stomach.

What was a challenge for you?

In Germany the weather was of course a big challenge for me. It changed all the time and I got a cold on the very first day. The restaurants were a bit tricky too, because there were very few Turkish shops where I could get halal food. I didn't really have any problems with the language, and even the different dialects were manageable – except Bavarian.

What part of the country did you like in particular?

I was in Freiburg for a month and it is beautiful there. It is a small city with loads of bicycles, green spaces and quiet streets and not so many cars. But I was also fascinated by Berlin. There are tons of things to do during the day and at night people are out till the early morning hours. People say here that Cairo is the only city in the world that doesn't sleep. I would say Berlin is Cairo's sister in that regard!

Could you imagine living in Germany?

Yeah, it was always a dream of mine to come to Germany but I was a bit scared to do it: first time away from my family and from home. I thought I would get homesick, but I didn't and I am really glad I was able to have that new experience.

What sort of opinions do Egyptians have of Germans?

Some say there are beautiful women there. Others say they are big fans of FC Bayern Munich. We like watching the club's games at cafés and it can get pretty crazy. People walking by probably think Egypt is in the World Cup Final or something.

With regard to politics and business, people often mention the Economic Miracle after World War II and how Germany is now a competitor with Japan and the United States.

You are back in Cairo now. The political situation in Egypt is pretty tense at the moment. How does that affect you and your daily life?

I got involved in politics after the revolution of January 25, 2011. I feel that having a foreign language like German under my belt will help me. On the one hand, I can read German newspapers and look at German public opinion about the various political situations around the world and in Egypt. On the other hand, I can communicate these opinions to the people here in order to keep them informed of what is happening in other countries.

What are your plans for the future?

Having completed my German Studies, I want to get a masters in German as a Foreign Language. I want to live there for a long period in order to learn more about it. It's a fascinating country – having said that, I definitely still want to be in Egypt when I die.

“Ticket to Berlin” is a joint project of Deutsche Welle and the Goethe-Institut.