It has been four weeks since there were tears on toast in Glasgow departures, and the sun rose over the Kilpatrick Hills with the kind of glow which made us wonder why we’d even want to leave.
After what feels like decades later, we’re now beginning to feel more settled in Berlin. We can navigate our way around the city, we enjoy our new positions, and we’ve made friends with some excellent people. I mean, what says “you’re home!” like being half-cut on €4 wine while complaining about Brexit?
For sure, it feels like a small victory to have gotten to a point where this vast city doesn’t feel abnormal. Instead, Berlin is starting to feel like it’s ours, and we’re not just outsiders waiting to be spat back out to whichever dive we came from.
But when you get used to a new place, you get used to everything about it; the good and the bad. So here are four things I love about the city, and another four which give my own dive the faintest sense of allure.
Four things I am head over (hot pink) heels for:
- Coexisting peacefully with cyclists. Unlike Britain, Germany has twigged that it is a huge benefit to all for proper cycling lines to be implemented in public spaces. Nobody needs to battle with cyclists on pavements, and people are encouraged to be active in a way which doesn’t patronise. Watching hundreds of cyclists making their way to Mitte from Schönhause Allee each morning is one of those moments which remind me in the most brilliant way that I am far from home.
- Sundays. The shops being closed on Sundays originally seemed like a ridiculous inconvenience – never before has a humble fry up required so much planning. But having spent the last few Sundays taking strolls around the city, enjoying brunches and generally slowing down the pace, I’ve come to enjoy how Sundays really do force you to relax.
- The diverse population. A population made up of individuals from different nationalities, cultures and faiths is typical of any capital, but I particularly appreciate this about Berlin. The company I work for has colleagues with 32 nationalities in total! As Berlin still seems to be finding its identity after years of profound change, I love that Berlin’s people are as varied and vibrant as the city itself. Every day is fascinating when you hear a different language at each crossing.
- Yes, the history. The city has been a site of vast social and political change over the last century and the evidence is everywhere. From the remnants of where the wall once stood to the imposing architecture built by the Nazis, I am endlessly fascinated with how Berlin both confronts its troubled past and signals an ambitious future.
Four things which can get in the bin (recycling, preferably – we all know there’s no shortage of them here…):
- The rental market, which deserves a blog post of its own. Berlin might be cheap, but the rest of the world knows it. Consequently, competition is extremely high, and moving into our own place seems unlikely any time soon.
- A cooler social attitude. My home country has its issues (many it believes it is exempt from…) but one thing I truly applaud Scotland for is the fact that its people are generally warm, friendly and self-deprecating. In Berlin, people are somehow less open; small talk between strangers is incredibly rare, let alone a good “blether”. Instead, conversations are direct and on the brisker side. Now, I take great issue with people quite crudely claiming that Germans are “rude” – very rarely the case in my experience. But this colder culture has taken getting used to.
- The “Supermarket Cashier” experience. German efficiency is peddled out to the world, and rightly so, but sometimes this efficiency goes a step too far. Yes, of COURSE I am referring to the colossal speed of having your items scanned in the super market. Never in the UK would I get so psyched up before going to ASDA, because here your entire morning shop will be scanned before you’ve said so much as “Gut Morgen”. That kind of adrenaline rush before 10am does nobody any favours.
- The fact that I can’t even think think of a number four right now. As you may be able to tell from the “harrowing” nature of the previous point, I’m struggling to consider what seriously irks me about this city. Yes, I miss some British quirks (my mum saw to that by bringing a suitcase of tablet and Dairy Milk) but overall, life in Berlin is shaping up to be pretty damn gut.
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