berlin, germany - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 30s

posted by anonymous on 11/27/13.


How much time have you spent in Berlin?

Seven years in Germany, three in Berlin.

Which best describes how old you are/were while in Berlin?

Early 30s.

What brought you to Berlin? Where were you before?

Was attending Uni in the Netherlands but couldn't find work, so I went to Germany where it was easier. Without an EU passport, the job scene in the Netherlands is pretty much closed. Of course there are exceptions. But, as much as I hate to say it, in my experience, this has less to do with the economy and more to do with the NL protecting their labor market

I've been offered jobs only to have the conversation end the minute they found I didn't have a legal right to work in the NL. After a few months (even with student visa) I simply gave up. Plus, Dutch language is usually a prerequisite, and how many non-Dutch people really speak Dutch?

On the other hand, in Germany, the level of Native English is lower, so they will be hiring non-Germans a bit more to support their communications. Aside from that, Germany is just bigger with more cities and more companies. So it's easier.

But I've always worked in marketing, so I'm sure other fields are different, like medical and engineering.

Describe your impressions of Berlin.

Best city I've ever lived in.

Ive just always been in love with Europe, even before I got here I knew it had something the US is missing and that something was what I wanted. I'll just call it lifestyle, there is no other word really.

As far as Berlin, living in the Netherlands isn't really an option, so I'm more or less committed to Germany, and am I'm lucky to be in Berlin. I like the unpretentiousness of it. It's just "cool". People ask me what does "cool" mean and I reply, what comes to mind a when I say "cool city"? Well, thats it. It's not fancy, it's not schticky, it's just a bunch of cynical people who still have a sense of humor.

I like the standard of living i can afford. I live in a really hip neighborhood, but there are still new, quiet places and you can get out of the city pretty easily. It'll be my home for the next few years at least.

I'd probably take a promotion in Utrecht if there was one:) but I'd want citizenship.

I'm a huge WW2 buff, but the nightlife here is legendary. I live in East Berlin. The nightlife is simply face melting. Perhaps the most salient feature is that its rather unpretentious. In the East, beer is cheap and the bars are generally no-nonsense. Dirty, graffiti, broken windows. Its a very much come-as-you-are feeling. heres an example: For weeks, I had people stop me and ask me where "About:Blank" was. I said, "No clue dude. There aren't any clubs around here". Two months later I read about it in an EasyJet in-flight magazine and realized that the old busted up squatter house on the corner, the one with all the bottles in front, WAS the coolest, most happening club in East Berlin!

You can walk by derelict buildings and that old bombed out shell just might be the next super-club. Plus, everyone just seems to want to be here. Maybe its all the tourists, but its got a "tonight is the night" feeling. Its not universal, but people seems to be sort of traveling in small groups and looking to make friends for the night.

I can also add that the sunrise simply doesn't stop the party. There are clubs that cater to the Sunday afternoon crowd. Yes, drugs play a very large part of the scene. And I need to point out that the door policies are just brutal. You can wait 3 hours just to be turned away for speaking English or whatever.

What are the the people of Berlin like? In what ways are they different than people in other places you've lived?

The younger population is quite transient. Many are tourists, students, interns and folks on extended holidays. But, in general, the everyday Berliner is similar to a New Yorker - comfortable, confident and not impressed by you in the slightest.

It's totally swamped with hipsters. There are a lot coming and going. I'd say that the extreme influx of new totally cool people is the death knell of the city. I really feel it.

Was making friends and meeting people in Berlin in general easy or difficult?

I'd say its rather easy to meet people of the opposite sex. Making actual friends might be a bit tougher, but still easier than most places.

How did your social life evolve? What did you do to meet people? How does/did your social life in Berlin compare to how it is/was in other places you've lived?

Everyone goes out a lot in Berlin. 6AM is not unusual. So in that sense, it's a lot like college. Friends of friends. Germans tend to make friends slowly, but Berlin is a bit of an exception.

Has your race, nationality, gender, etc. ever affected how you were treated or how people reacted to meeting you in Berlin?

I'm American and you'll get the occasional anti-American-type comment, but by and large the door has been open for me. But if you are dark skinned, yeah, it can be tough.

Were there any language barriers? How did they affect you?

Yeah, sure, German is tough to learn. But most people here will speak English to you if needed. But if you want an apartment, job, visa or anything like that, you're gonna want to do it in German. You can get by on the basics and some people never learn German at all. But I wouldn't try that outside of a major city.

Any social/cultural advice for others who might come to Berlin? How do people in place socialize differently than other places you've been?

In general Germans are slow to make friends, but will be utterly reliable once a friendship is made. They find Americans to be superficial and overly optimistic. So don't expect to be treated with flowers and rays of sunshine, you don't matter until you matter. It can be tough for an American, especially at first. Knowing it is not the same as experiencing it. Customer service is pretty crap too, it takes some adjustment.

What sort of work do you do there?

Software marketing.

Does your money go further or not as far as it does in other countries and cities?

Yes, Berlin is getting expensive, but its still quite cheap. A beer in a bar can be had for 3 euro and you can still find a room in a shared apartment for 200 euro. Turkish markets offer really cheap produce/Veg and street food is never more than a few euro. But if you go the Mitte or the West, everything is twice as expensive.

There seems to be a common perception online that Berlin is the cheapest highly developed European capital city. True? False?

True and changing far faster than you could possibly believe. Just in the last two years I've seen 1,000,000 euro apartments going up in my working class Kietz. When I moved here a few years ago I got a nice room in a shared apt for 180, right in the middle of a trendy area. Same room costs 380 now, and people are lined up out the door to get it. I have a good friend who just moved here and the only apartment he could find was in Wittenau. Look at that on the map.

I went to see a decent two bedroom apartment and the line to see it went out the door, down that hall, out across the innenhoff, through the front doors and ended halfway down the block. Easily 500 people looking at one apt. Guess who won't get it? The hipster from Australia.

So yes, the massive influx of tourists and yuppies is really killing the scene. I've caught the tail-end of something awesome. I cant claim to "know it". If you come now and you'll be here for the first phase of the "commercialization" phase, which many believed started years ago.

I should add that I am also part of the problem. I am here for work, while I indeed like it, I didn't come here to hang out. In fact I was pretty uninterested at first. But I am one of those people who are driving the Anarchists and real Berliners out of their neighborhoods.

Do you have any stories/observations to share about dating, relationships, or sex in Berlin?

In general, there is a lot of casual sex. I'm not single, so I can't comment much further. But I can tell you that people are people, no matter where you go. But I can suggest that US/UK girls seem far more interested in proving their equality over and over. A typical EU girl doesn't feel the need to always prove her independence and how she 'doesn't play games" or "doesn't take crap". By comparison they can come across as more laid back and confident. I can also add the most UK/US girls tend to dress rather slutty. You won't see a German or Dutch girl in a club with her tits hanging out.

Any good stories you can think of that you haven't mentioned yet?

Last week I saw a guy taking a shit on the sidewalk. Middle of the day.

What are your favorite things about Berlin? Least favorite?

I love the nightlife, history and laid-back lifestyle. I hate the winter, but it keeps Berlin from turning into Paris, London or Amsterdam.

What things about Berlin surprised you?

The filth - dog shit, cigarette butts, broken bottles and graffiti everywhere.

What do you miss that's not in Berlin?

The sun.

Would you recommend Berlin as a place to live, travel to, or neither?

Yes, both. I would recommend it for a visit, for sure. But you have to decide if you want to see cultural stuff like museums or if you want to go out, because you can't do both. You just can't. The city is huge, you need at least week to see it.

I can also recommend it for living. But come check it out first. It's not always what it seems. Plus, it's tough to live here. Really tough. Lots of competition for apartments and jobs and a lot of people are really struggling. If you plan to come here, be sure to have a job lined up first, if you don't, you really need to reconsider. If you come here on a wish and a prayer, you better be prepared to hustle, I mean really hustle. My dog walker has an MBA. Just let that sink in.

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