A few days ago, I realized with finality that I have been in Berlin too long.
I had suspected this for a few weeks, in fact ever since early February (I´ve been here since mid-December, with occasional trips to Amsterdam, Prague, Munich, and the like), but an incident on Saturday really drove the point home.
You see, I was waiting for a friend of mine, who is also studying in Berlin. We were to meet at Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten, and then proceed to an open-air market. Well, this guy is the most chronically late person I know, and so I was waiting for a while, nursing a beer and wishing I hadn´t eaten all my Bratkartoffeln and sausage so damn quickly, and a rather timid English tourist (I could tell he was English from that damnable accent, and the tourist part was quite obvious), after much prodding from his wife, approached me, clutching a ticket for the public transportation system, and asked if I spoke English.
Let me point out that this is a new one on me. I have been asked if I speak German by Czechs whose German is more ungrammatical and thickly accented than my own, which is an accomplishment. After I had been around Berlin for a month, people even started asking me for directions once in a while, and I was always so proud when I could help them. But I digress. The point is that someone actually and seriously asked me whether I speak English. This both made me somewhat happy, because apparently I look like one of the Germans now, and somewhat scared, because I apparently look like one of the Germans now.
I didn´t mull this over until much later; I simply replied, ´Do you speak French?´
Upon recieving an answer in the negative, I said, ´We´ll speak English then,´ and proceeded to direct him and his equally befuddled wife to the S-Bahns, so that they could find their hotel (in old East Berlin, and not the nice part of old East Berlin, but rather the part where the Neo-Nazis hang out and beat up tourists... I warned them never again to ask directions from a guy my age in Berlin, reminding them that mothers with young children are much less likely to fly into a rage when asked for directions... a story I shall have to node later).
Fortunately, I will be back in America, home sweet home, where it´s safe to eat the beef, a week and 12 hours from now, and I vacate Berlin on Friday night, so I can be getting back to normal soon enough... but hanging around Paris for three days, speaking no French and looking like a German, should be interesting, by which I mean scary.