Wedged between stern men and impeccably behaved children on the U2 to Pankow, I was positively triumphant. I’m….commuting? On the Berlin underground!? I am so blending in right now – not just a hapless tourist trying to find the Brandenburg Gate, but a real Berliner just heading home from work. Man, I’m am good at moving countries.
Minutes after my heartening realisation, a I am asked to pay a €60 fine for buying the wrong fare earlier that morning.
“But I’ve only just moved here! It’s my first day of work!” I pleaded with the conductor, who bears an expression suggesting he’s had it with these daft Brits and their shite German.
I hand over the cash.
A pair of creative twentysomethings jump ship from the UK to Berlin. God, that’s a cliche. People like us are immortalised in monochrome Tumblr accounts aplenty. We are the literally the worst kind of hipsters. Thankfully, we don’t quite fit the stereotypes; yes, we both wear a lot of black, but we loathe techno and just hearing the Berlin nightlife stories make me want to to spend some time in church.
But we did it anyway. After weeks in which every email from LinkedIn felt like a bitchy, personal dig, I landed my first post-uni role for an awesome travel company in Berlin. I even managed to persuade my boyfriend to take the leap with me (a process which was nearing dangerously close to a PowerPoint presentation).
After two weeks of being here, I can safely say that moving countries has been exhilarating, daunting, joyous, upsetting, thrilling and challenging. I could have never prepared myself enough for it. Even having spent much of my childhood moving around, including about a decade in Germany, flying the nest yourself is an altogether more terrifying experience, but absolutely no less rewarding.
Everything about being here still manages to impress me. From the brilliant cycling amenities to the even better recycling culture, we’ve spent many a conversation reflecting on how much things just make sense here. Yep, taxes are high, and we’re yet to find an acceptable substitute for Bisto gravy, but I’ll take both hits for a – wait for it – great quality of life. Plus the fizzy juice here just tastes sensational.
Yet what surprised me the most was how even after starting my job and successfully tackling the paperwork, it all still didn’t feel…normal. While I had anticipated taking some time to settle in, I had not expected to feel very anxious, very confused, and very unsure about what on earth I was up to for more than just a few days. Really, I felt as lost as the Brits I see every day on the u-bahn, just trying to find the Brandenburg Gate.
Contrary to what more seasoned travellers might insist, life-altering adventures don’t always begin in a blur of parties and selfies with all your new international pals: they mean weeks of questioning your decision, weepy goodbyes which only get harder with every minute in departures, and quiet, consolatory airport breakfasts in Spoons. They tip your comfortable world upside down and that may not mean endless, Instagram-perfect euphoria. It does mean being forced to confront a whole lot of scary shit, learning more about yourself and your limits, all while getting used to life in the big city.
But with those new challenges means ample room to – ugh – “grow”, which I’ll be writing all about here. In between dodging tourists, agonising over my new favourite German cake and complaining about Brexit with other expats, I’m going to be writing an honest account of life of a young, jittery but plucky Scot trying to work things out Berlin.
Right now, things are looking positive. Ask any foreigner living here – if you can emerge from the German bureaucracy unscathed, you’re off to a pretty bloody wunderbar start.