There are three types of people that move abroad: There are those who want to lose themselves, those who hope to find themselves and those who chose to invent themselves. Reflecting on the time I have spent in Berlin I have definitely been all three. I have felt lost. I have felt found. And I have felt the empowerment that comes with inventing a life of your own choosing.
As it marks over a year that I stepped off a plane with only a suitcase, weary eyes and anticipation, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve found while Berlin bound.
Pt. 1: A City of Extremes.
I had visited twice before moving here, however trips of only a few days at a time could not have prepared me for the beautiful bastard that is Berlin. A city of extremes is how I best describe it to those unknowing—and even then it doesn’t seem to do it justice.
Let’s start with the weather, a topic Germans love to talk about and yet the last thing you would move here for. The Winter is obviously cold but it’s the grey that affects you in more than fifty shades. Jokes about hopes of Summer falling on a weekend are common and not completely untrue—yet that weekend feels like it lasts a lifetime and was somehow worth going through all of Winter for.
While sunglasses are practically a mythical accessory, I’ve come to enjoy the change of seasons as it’s something I had never experienced before in Australia. Currently it’s Autumn and the city is littered with leaves of rich auburn palettes, the sun rising later and setting earlier each day and you just know, Winter is coming. Soon it will be dark as night at 4pm, a concept my body clock still can’t quite comprehend. It’s not all bad however, and I can’t describe the excitement of waking up to a snowy wonderland any more accurately than what you see in the movies. While I’m running around making snowballs and taking selfies, I’m sure every German is rolling their eyes thinking ‘she's not from around here’.
There is obviously the other side of this extreme, and after a solid seven months of beanie, scarf and glove wearing, seeing the sprout of a bloom is the most glorious wonder nature has ever given you. It truly is the ultimate symbol representing change and rebirth. The air smells different, the birds sound louder and suddenly you understand why people write poetry and compose symphonies inspired by Spring. Summer comes and Summer goes, once again the leaves start to fall.
Many social norms in Berlin appear very extreme to the average expat. You can legally ride on the road without a helmet, consume alcohol on a public street or mode of transport and buy drugs from any of the 15 men hanging about Görlitzer Park in pure daylight. When it comes to smoking indoors there are literally zero fucks given and yet jaywalking in front of children will have you aggressively yelled at by disapproving parents and onlookers.
Some processes feel insanely archaic such as physically posting house applications or formally excommunicating yourself from the church to avoid paying religion tax. Berlin is a hub for so many innovative startups and yet asking to pay with credit card is like asking to teleport through an intergalactic time and space continuum. I mean, dvd stores still exist… it’s 2015 people!
The night life is intoxicating in more ways than drinking it. You can party in a night club for three days straight but buying groceries on a Sunday? Ain’t. Gonna. Happen. Somehow places never seem to close and simultaneously are always shut.
There are bizarre vegetables like kohlrabi, a mongrel bred from what tastes like potato cross radish cross apple. People that speak fluent English have no clue what ‘capsicum’ means, and there are a few weeks known as ‘Spargel Season’, where people absolutely lose their asparagus over asparagus.
It also turns out German’s are extremely superstitious, making intense eye-contact for every ‘Prost!’ or risking seven years of bad sex. Wishing someone happy birthday before the actual date is treated as straight out blasphemy and the deal is you bring your own cake to the party or cry if you want to. Being brought up in a family that celebrates ‘Birthday weeks’, you can imagine my distaste about that last one.
Extreme is probably an understatement, really. I’ll likely have another list this long in a year’s time.
Nov 15, 2015