The New York Times have recently published an article about Berlin describing the experiences of a temporary expat in the city. As always, whenever Berlin gains international attention, Berliners feel somewhat flattered. It’s nice that New Yorkers might think our city is interesting enough to publish words on it. But the article in question does not only reflect the uniqueness of Berlin. It’s more or less a critical analysis from the perspective of someone who moved to Berlin with high expectations, and who realized that he might not find what he was looking for in the first place.
Still, it seemed that everyone we met was creative-minded and drawn to Berlin for the same reasons we were: to pursue their art. Except that very few of them seemed to have any coming exhibitions or book launches or gigs. “I spent a lot of time talking about the arts over beer or coffee, or at 4 a.m. over a mirror,” Pat ruminated recently, “but I didn’t see a whole lot actually being created.” I found it difficult to disagree with him.
There are important things about this article which I really appreciate. The perspective of the author shows us that Berlin has been reproduced as a hub for art, creativity and laissez-faire. Although I’m sure these perceptions are true (the cause for these basics will be found in the vast and complex history of the city, but it would get out of hand if we tried to discuss them here), they’re not necessarily right. What the author failed to mention is that Berlin might have the perfect infrastructure for (almost) every kind of life a person would like to live, but that most of it’s shell is a shallow myth.
It’s not the exceptional creativity that is currently drawing people from all over the world to Germanys capital. It’s marketing, be it word of mouth and subconsciously, or the economical/political agenda of the citys government. Berlin is a huge party, a great platform, cheap and exciting — go tell that your friends and don’t mention the downsides. They will all come and join you in the fun. But here’s the deal: if you over-hype Berlin like that, you’ll never find the city to be a comfortable place to live. Escapism from the the rest of the world to Berlin might work for a couple of weeks, months or years even. But as the author has been saying: at some point you’ll want to grow up and get back into “real” life. That’s sad, because it leaves a bitter aftertaste for everyone. Those who held on to twisted dreams about a city leave like the aforementioned author. Those who stick to Berlin, who do work and who create wonderful things in the city and beyond, have to fight against the chaos and pick up the pieces eventually.
Berlin, just as much as any other city of global importance, is what you make it. I’m putting emphasis here because I know that many of our readers are B-temps, foreign students, expats or simply travelers who’re staying longer than the odd week or two. There are people here who live and create without raving 24/7. If you don’t want to be part of that, that’s cool. But show respect when it’s due and desillusion yourself. At some point, there’ll be rents too high to pay for people who’re actually trying to make a living. And at some point, YOU can return back to New York, L.A., London and Melbourne, but you’ll leave a big footprint in Berlin. Simply consider that. You’ll only enjoy the laidback lifestyle if you have something to compare it to. Knowing that I can go partying every day and night, to any museum or cultural happening, is a blessing. But actually doing that religiously is going to destroy my ability to appreciate it.
Berlin is not Neverland, not Alices Wonderland, not Hedonist Paradise. It’s a city like any other. If people keep sticking to their ridiculous expectations, they’ll end up disappointed. I hope that our readers can appreciate the wonderful things about the city and don’t leave resentful because they’d been mistaken about a myth.
Please also understand: we know that FindingBerlin.com has a certain position, usually pointing out only the beautiful things that Berlin has to offer. These things are sometimes in danger because they’re taken for granted, not only by foreigners but by locals just as well. I want to take full responsibility by saying that we ALL have to take care of our environment and living conditions, but it’s up to most visitors to realize that they will do great damage if they’re not wary of the consequences. We resent xenophobia and I, like many others, find the mix of cultures in the city wonderful. That’s why we’ve established FindingBerlin in the first place, that’s why we like to promote Berlin even without consistent profit. But we can all — each and everyone of us, no matter how long they’ve lived here or if they’re just a temporary visitor — fight against the negative sides (gentrification issues, cultural brawls, resentment against either foreigners or locals) and try to keep Berlin an amazing city for everyone. That includes all those who, simply put, don’t give a shit about art, creativity, partying or looking flashy and just want to make a living.