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, 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 Germany’s capital. It’s marketing, be it word of mouth and subconsciously, or the economical/political agenda of the city’s 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. 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 said: 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 finally depart with a bitter taste in their mouth – and leave nothing behind but destruction for those who have to stay.
There are people here who live here, period. They can’t just up and leave once they’ve decided they aren’t comfortable with the people, the language or the job situation. Not everybody is partying 24/7. Not everybody can afford to lose control for a while of their financial situation or of their family responsibilities. Ballin’ is cool and all – but those who come temporarily often underestimate the footprint they leave.
Berlin is not Neverland, not Alices Wonderland, not Hedonist Paradise. 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. A city is a city.