EAST BERLIN -- A slick Fiat ad ran on East German television the other day, right after an old Communist propaganda film about a People's Police dog that heroically tracks down anti-state criminals.
Up on the 37th floor of the Hotel Berlin, East Germany's first casino has opened. They even take East German marks, the virtually worthless currency that will cease to exist a month from now.
These are confusing days in a country that is beginning to taste Western ways but can't quite seem to get a full meal.
Consider the casino. The croupiers are all West German employees of the West German company that entered a joint venture with the East German government-owned hotel. Although the casino accepts local money, one would never know it from the crowd inside.
The East Germans mostly stand around and watch. The folks at the gambling tables are overwhelmingly "Westies," as grumbling East Germans derisively call their brethren from across the wall.
"They've taken over everything else, they might as well have this, too," said Carlo Franke, an East Berliner who came -- without money -- to watch.
In bars and supermarkets, on the highways and in remote villages, East Germans watch warily as the onslaught of West Germans swells -- tourists, relatives, entrepreneurs looking for business sites, former residents inspecting land they once owned.
If there wasn't already an epidemic of anxiety about the July 1 merger of the two German economies, the widespread feeling of being left out is beginning to have an effect on East Germans. Their stress is showing in increased crime and drunkenness, in random attacks on foreigners, in street demonstrations by frightened workers.
East German psychologists report record numbers of patients seeking help. Doctors and social workers talk of a storm of visitors who cannot sleep, feel depressed or just wonder about their futures.
"I see a catastrophe coming," psychologist Christoph Siedler told a local reporter. Siedler and other professionals are trying to cope with a population that is being taunted with the delights of the consumer society. Starting in July, East Germans will have West German marks to buy whatever they want, but they may lose their jobs as East German businesses collapse under competitive pressure from the West.
Even if they can't afford Western luxuries, many East Germans would like to retain some aspects of their society. Women have taken to the streets in an effort to keep their right to abortion, which is largely prohibited in West Germany.
Many women want to protect a social structure that makes it easier for them to work. Almost 85 percent of East German women work outside the home, compared with less than half of West German women. To keep working, women say they need not only jobs, but the child care and convenient shopping hours available in the East.
Those benefits are in danger. The West German government intends to impose its day care system, which is neither free nor guaranteed to all, and West German unions are adamant about enforcing their country's strict shop-closing laws, which ban shopping on nearly all evenings and most weekends.
East Berlin politicians are trying to retain the 60 mph speed limit that applies throughout East Germany. But West German Transportation Minister Friedrich Zimmermann has made clear that the West German speed limit -- or lack of one on major highways -- will prevail.
Zimmermann also left no doubt that the tough East German drunk driving law, which provides literally no tolerance for any trace of alcohol in a driver's bloodstream, will not survive German unification.
At the national level, much of unification is yet to come -- monetary union in July, pan-German elections perhaps by the end of the year. Locally, however, unification continues full steam ahead. New rail connections opened between East and West last weekend. In East and West Berlin, ambulances, taxis and newspapers now cover both cities as if they were one.
But much of the Berlin Wall still stands, and alongside it a wide no man's land that developed over the past 28 years into a de facto sanctuary for trees, birds and other wildlife.
A prime piece of that untouched property lies in the traditional heart of Berlin, Potsdamer Platz, now a hodgepodge of vacant lots, grassy areas and elevated railways.
Whither Potsdamer Platz is the dominant issue in city planning circles. There is popular pressure to make a virtue out of the folly of the past by turning the no man's land into a park running through the city center.
But there is also heavy economic pressure to link the two Berlin downtowns. Daimler-Benz, makers of Mercedes cars, wants to built a major commercial-office complex on the plaza.
The two Berlin governments are searching for a quick compromise. As West Berlin Mayor Walter Momper said, "One ought not make such an investor wait." No one at East Berlin's city hall disagreed. So the city asked architects around the world to enter their proposals in a competition. A decision is expected by the fall.
The life of constant change is not restricted to the East. West Berliners, who have been coping with a daily storm of East Germans for seven months now, have had an extra dose of difficulty lately, as about 120,000 Poles poured into the city each week to buy food to resell back home.
The Poles, needing no visa to cross from East Berlin to the West, have emptied out many supermarkets, creating very unhappy West Berliners. Poles line up for blocks outside Aldi discount markets, waiting to buy as much milk, cheese and canned goods as they can carry. Back in shortage-plagued Poland, only an hour's train ride away, they sell the food at enormous markups.
A barrage of complaints from locals forced a change. The Aldi chain last weekend posted signs in Polish and German limiting "our Polish customers" to two cartons of any item.
Despite demonstrations against the chain's "racist keep-out policy," the West Berlin government is joining the effort to halt the buy-out. City fathers won permission from the three Western allies, who still control West Berlin, to require Poles to get the same visas they would need to enter West Germany proper.