“In Berlin, You Never Have To Stop”

by Sara · 26.11.2012 · Kiez Life · 8 comments

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 Find​ing​Ber​lin​.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.

  1. Wort!

  2. i know lots of artists type people that come here expect­ing to be dis­covered and they for­get to work and show what they can do and they get stuck. ber­lin is what you make of it.

  3. Sorry Guys, you are part of the Gentrification…where do you live? Neuk­ölln? See…why are the rents going up there? Because People like you live there.

    Dont get me wrong, i see Gentri­fic­a­tion as a part of the Pro­cess, as sad as it is..it hap­pens all over the World.

    What i dont like that you com­plain about it and in the same time being part of it.

    Also you say that you are point­ing out beau­ti­full things, wich are in Danger…so why you point them out? Because you want traffic on your Blog…if you really want to pro­tect those things then be hon­est to your­self and dont pro­mote them…the people who want to find those places will find them any­ways, the other can go to Orani­en­bur­ger­strasse and get wasted…

  4. Felipe’s right, it’s what you make of it.

    Ber­lin sure has a long tra­di­tion in escap­ism, as does any lar­ger city. Yet, it can be more than that if you are ready for it.

    When I read that NYT art­icle I though: Who told these kids art was some­thing along­side spring break? Bukowski lov­ing high school teach­ers?
    I mean, how could any­one assume artistry is a mat­ter of place? A place who’s lan­guage I am not in com­mand of? I am impressed with the exuber­ant hopes that inter­na­tional young­sters seem to link to Ber­lin — the place to be, as the offi­cial face­book page promises.

    While mar­ket­ing prom­ises are one thing, Berlin’s eco­nomic fail­ure is legendary, and any res­id­ent will tell you: I prefer Ber­lin for its cul­tural options, but career and income moves are made else­where: Frank­furt, Munich, Ham­burg, Lon­don or Beijing. While this may not be equally true for the arts, I still feel aspir­ing artists could know if they read more than just pitch­fork art­icles or fash­ion blogs.

    All this said, I would like to point out that I believe my city greatly profits from the inter­na­tional impact we’re exper­i­en­cing today, and I highly wel­come any­one who’s here to start some­thing, cre­ate, invent or simply live a life. In my mind the whole dis­cus­sion is not so much about xeno­pho­bia, as some argue, but about mutual basic respect.

    My clear advice to any­one plan­ning to achieve more than tem­por­ary pleas­ures in Ber­lin, the place to be: Learn Ger­man. Any­body who wants to make it in NY or Lon­don is expec­ted to speak decent Eng­lish, and I am not even talk­ing about Paris.

  5. David: Thanks for your answer. I want to reply to you spe­cific­ally because you raised an expec­ted point about Find­ing­Ber­lin and our role here, and I want to cla­rify some things.

    I am not com­plain­ing about gentri­fic­a­tion. While I don’t think the issues at hand are pos­it­ive for every­one, I under­stand gentri­fic­a­tion to be a com­plex pro­cess that will take place in an eco­nomic city, whether we like it or not. It is up to us to ask our rep­res­ent­ing politi­cians to make the pro­cess as smoothly as pos­sible by whatever means, but I don’t think pro­mot­ing the beauty of the city is the cause of the harm. I think pro­mot­ing it for *the wrong reas­ons* and in a dam­aging way can be harm­ful, yes. Repro­du­cing the techno hype? Selling the laissez-faire drug life­style and the cheapness by the citys mar­ket­ing chiefs?

    Because as we are wit­ness­ing: people who come to Ber­lin are expect­ing some­thing out of the ordin­ary. While it might be dif­fer­ent in con­trast to their respect­ive homes, those vis­it­ors will have to face real­ity after a while. This is not just an indi­vidual thing, this is not some­thing that one per­son alone can take respons­ib­il­ity for. I do under­stand that you want to keep cer­tain secrets because they will not work if they’re over­crowded or infilt­rated by people who don’t “under­stand”. But that’s the whole point I’m try­ing to make: MAKE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS CITY IS ABOUT. Because neither I nor you will have the power to actu­ally make them stop com­ing without suf­fer­ing ourselves. Ber­lin is not only a major city, it is THE MAJOR CITY of Europes most power­ful coun­try at the time of writ­ing this. Even if Ber­lin wasn’t super cool and cul­tur­ally loaded, people would STILL COME, albeit they’d prob­ably not find what they were look­ing for because jobs are NOT just lying around here. So instead of telling the tour­ists to get the fuck out, why don’t we teach them how to appre­ci­ate the city for what it is — not for what it ISNT.

  6. Hey Sara, thanks for your answer…it explained your point of view and i totaly agree with you…i´m just not sure that people com­ing to ber­lin see it the same way…

    but there are so many things to see & go, so i for myself just dont go any­more to places wich are overcrowded.

    Keep on with your work, i love your blog and read it daily!

  7. that was pretty amaz­ing :) Just moved to Ber­lin from San Diego and I have to say this web­site kicks ass!! Thanks for all the hard work and great writing!

  8. they just needed more mcdon­alds and starbucks.