No earplugs required [Emma Kennedy, Freie Universität Berlin]

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Germany is not particularly famed for its musical exports in recent years (Rammstein anyone?) but it’s definitely a place where the crème de la crème of music from other countries head to perform. Most famous commercial artists have played a gig in Berlin at some point, which is excellent if you’re a live music fan and if you fancy a change from the techno (the most famous and headache-inducing genre of music in the city) that tends to be played in most clubs. Last week I went to a concert. It was not my first experience of live music here in Berlin – my Mum and I saw a piano quartet perform at the Berlin Philharmonic, and I also couldn’t resist going to the free Robbie Williams concert in October (verdict: he was definitely better in the 90s) – but it was going to be my first proper sweaty, crowded, belting-out-the-lyrics gig here, or so I thought. In actual fact, I found the German crowd extremely civilised compared to when I’ve seen live music in Scotland. No rowdy cheering or chucking of beer here, no elbowing in the ribs from people pushing through in order to get a better view. People simply stood, watched and waved their arms appreciatively. The crowd seemed strangely muted, not singing along to every word like the crowd at home would. It was a pleasant change to see such polite behaviour in a situation that I’d usually associate with drunken lewdness, although I think it would have created a better atmosphere if the audience had been noisier!

In contrast, last weekend, whilst taking the train home  at the very reasonable hour of 1.30am after a night out, my friend and I found ourselves in the midst of one of the famous S-Bahn parties. I’d been told about these before but wasn’t sure if they were just a myth. But no, we pulled into the station and at least 50 boys along with an enormous home-made speaker system on wheels boarded the train. For the next 15 minutes they danced, shouted and discarded copious amounts of empty beer bottles, all in one very small carriage. All I can say is I wish I’d had a video camera with me; it would have been YouTube gold.

The Christmas markets have all opened, the outdoor ice rinks are up, temperatures are falling into minus digits (and I’ve heard there’s been snow in Aberdeen) – we have well and truly arrived in December. Like every other celebration in Berlin, it is being embraced wholeheartedly, with Christmas trees, beautiful light displays and market stalls cropping up on every second street. Never too old for chocolate in the mornings, I bought myself an advent calendar  (a no-frills affair from Lidl costing 70 cents, no foil-wrapped freshness here). The other morning I opened one of the windows to find a chocolate in the shape of a lion. I’m not quite sure which part lions played in the nativity but I’m sure it was very important.

The calendar serves as a reminder of just how fast the days are going by. With a little over 2 weeks left until I fly home for the holidays, we are now over halfway through 1st semester, and time is movingly frighteningly quickly. As I hear from my friends in Edinburgh that they are preparing for their first set of exams, it feels odd to not be revising, too. The start of December is a time I usually associate with long library sessions  and essay deadlines, but our exams this semester aren’t ’til February. I think I prefer the Edinburgh system, as it’s nice to have the exams out of the way and then go home for a well-deserved Christmas break. However the lack of exams at the moment allows me to enjoy December in Berlin in all its Christmassy glory, and for that I am very thankful.

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