Today marks 8 months in Berlin. A love story.
The greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine. –David Bowie
Queers, creatives & outcasts living inside a sprawling landscape of history, Berlin bakes a crazy cake. Stepping from my door into this city holds a surprise always. From a homeless person offering me a beer in return for a smile, a woman calling out another for standing in my way (she was), a stranger berating me for my bad breath (it was) or a super market employee complaining about me dragging my feet (I was), to the endless crazies on the U-Bahn, I appreciate it all for it means there is something rather than nothing. Berlin still believes we can all improve and it's not shy to say so. If maybe you find not happiness but self-expression and congruence (being real yo) worthwhile pursuits, then Berlin will keep on giving.
You're unlikely to become friends with Berliners. What I've found, Germans tend to prefer deep relationships over shallow ones. When first moving here I'd been a few times straight-up rejected someone's Facebook or phone number, unthinkable in the US or UK where people are happy to give out contact details, if only to end an interaction. Germans often stay in the social circle they've built up through work, high school or university, unwilling to put in the effort of strangers.
Berliners tend to have 3 kieze (kiez being the Berlin term for a neighbourhood or borough), one kiez they live in, one kiez they work in and one kiez they go out in. With the city being so sprawled out and more like a collection of smaller citites, finding things becomes harder. Searching for a Yoga studio, I tried a couple and was left wanting, even at the biggest andmost famous one ... until the last day when a great teacher held an intense class ... all throughout me grinning at her for finally giving me what I'd been missing. Only to find out she actually teaches in NYC... London and NYC tend to have fewer, centralised options that have withstood high competitive pressure for years offering servicese that are more refined, standardised. Berlin likes to pride itself on an individuality, collaboration, other players even, are of little interest.
Berlin is very gay, both for emotion as well as mechanism of attraction. I've been described as a touchy-feely person in the past, but Belin's taught me to tread more carefully. One thing I've learned very quickly when approaching another man or being approached is to drop some comment about girls ("Deutsche Frauen oh ja!"). This usually builds rapport as well as establishing the outset of the relationship. These tactical considerations aside, my gay friends here are amazing, expressive, joyful and understanding people and I wouldn't miss them for anything.
Berlin dresses down. And that is quite sad, unlike London and NYC where people actively push & try new things, Berlin's style feels quite out-dated and bland. London's street style is a joyous ode to colours, textures and shapes. Berlin's street style is a mish-mash of grey, black, brown clothes in odd, outdated shapes. With dirt everywhere, I've also started to veer towards grey and black-tones. Trying new things with clothes in London adds to the mix, in Berlin it makes you one of the weirdos.
Berlin is a city condemned forever to becoming and never to being." -Karl Scheffler
Rents are low, space is vast, opportunity is ripe. And this attracts many youngs and hopefuls. They come empty, they come wanting, needing. Wanting experiences that stretch. Wanting to be understood, for the first time in their life. And for this they are willing to give. Their energy, their time, their Euros. And they go through that cold winter to find each other in places that stimulate them, be it at Berghain where the speakers make them feel music so deep, jaws gnawing. Or at a philosophy meetup in P'Berg debating happiness, work, motivation and life purpose into the early morning hours. Berlin hosts people from all walks of life, some rising to incredible heights, others falling into the endless cycle of drugs & parties.
8 months in I can't say the cold & dark Berlin winter hasn't made me look lustfully towards say Brazil or Thailand, but for the sheer opportunity, quality of life and personal as well as cultural freedom, I'm happy to call Berlin my new home on the Spree.