Berlin’s four different methods of transportation (U-Bahn, S-Bahn, tram, and bus) make my life a lot easier. Understanding the public transit was a bit rocky in the beginning. Unless I wanted to allot extra time for every place I went to, I knew I had to quickly learn how to use the U and S-Bahn. I hated looking like a tourist everywhere I went. (Tip: Take a picture of the map, which can be found inside the station, and subtly look down at your phone instead of congregating with other lost travelers.) Luckily I got the hang of it within a week.
Before I arrived in Germany and discovered the wonderful world of BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe – Berlin Transport Company), I assumed I would rent a bike to get around Berlin. However, the efficiency of the U-Bahn was too good to neglect. I find that efficiency is Germany’s best quality. Public transport is an excellence example to prove this. Today, public transit is how I – and several others – get around Berlin. My host mom told me there really isn’t a point to buying a car in Berlin. From what I have seen, I would have to agree. Apart from being more eco-friendly than driving cars, public transit allows more time for exercise. This past month that I have lived in Berlin I have been surprised to learn I have not gained a lot of weight, and I think that I have public transportation to thank for this. Taking the subway means I have to walk from station to station. By the end of the day, the miles add up. The only downside to the transportation system is that it doesn’t get you to places as fast as a car would. I feel that it is safe to say you can get to most places within 40 minutes or less. Yet, I think those couple extra minutes are worth it.
Apart from being efficient, the public transit here in Berlin also creates independent people. When speaking with my host mom, she told me her twin daughters began to use public transportation since the age of 11. Coming from Texas, a place where public transit isn’t really a thing, I was extremely shocked to learn this. For Texans, it’s quite an eventful day when we turn 16 because that means we are headed to the DMV to take our driver’s test. Up until then, we are dependent of our parents to take us places. That is not so in cities like Berlin where the public transit can take you anywhere.
When riding the U-Bahn I see a lot of headphones and serious faces. I don’t want this to reflect the stereotype that Germans are cold because that is not always the case. However, they are a lot more reserved when they ride public transportation. People are either listening to music, reading a book or newspaper, or thinking to themselves, so it’s easy for me to blend in since I am always listening to my music. It is always very easy to distinguish who the Americans are because we tend to be very loud on a quiet subway car. During the day, the U-Bahn tends to get more packed than the S-Bahn. People who like to have personal space, and those who aren’t punctual might struggle with using the U-Bahn. BVG has an app that provides timetables and suggested routes for those who are organized. If you are running late, you may experience having a door shut on you, then having to use your mediocre human strength to open the door to let yourself into the subway car.
Overall, getting around by subway calls for 4 rules:
- Keep to yourself
- Be on time or learn to speed walk
- Wear deodorant
- Know how to read signs
The world awaits…discover it.