If you were a young reveller, like I was the first time I moved overseas… newly single and experiencing real freedom for the first time in my life (I had not lived out of home until I moved to London), and you came to Berlin, it may swallow you whole. The amount of freedom you are given in a city like Berlin is beyond what Australians or Kiwis have ever known. You are not automatically labelled a drunk and disorderly adolescent if you are walking around the street with an open bottle of alcohol. In fact, it is completely normal. Adults are trusted in this society (funny that?!) to look after themselves. But nor do you see many locals running around making nuisances of themselves like you would see on a Saturday night in the city of Sydney.
The attitude towards alcohol is certainly different, but what else?
Apart from not wanting to seem like a drunk obnoxious tourist at a cool Berlin club or bar, why else would you need a “mature” outlook to make it in this city? Well I’m not sure my 24 year old London FOB self, looking to make friends with everyone she spoke to (including the guy who served her food at Dinerama), could have handled the seemingly “cold” or “straightforward” nature of the Germans.
Yesterday I went to a job interview, and the location of the office on google maps was 2 doors down from the actual location. I had to bring up the email and follow the PDF version of their instructions, which were accurate. When I arrived in the office, I apologised for being (2 minutes) late because I was lost. The man who let me in asked “Were our instructions not clear enough?”. Had I not been used to this, I would have been slightly taken aback, but as I’ve been here for 3 months now, I had a bit of a chuckle to myself and answered him honestly.
To this day, I have not made any real new native speaking German friends (I’m told it takes at least a year for them to properly warm to you), and my London social calendar (mostly filled up with facebook events and raves every weekend) makes my Berlin calendar look a bit empty in comparison. Perhaps my younger self would have looked on that as a failing, but if I take a closer look at what it is filled with instead, it genuinely makes my soul happier. Last week, I went to German classes, a workshop on Healing Herbs for Digestive Health and my first Yin Yoga class. I’ve also been Crystal shopping, only buying second hand clothes, biking everywhere (what is the tube?), spending time in nature…
It’s a much more interesting and varied calendar than different bars with different people and all nighters in clubs every weekend.
Don’t think I’ve given up my party animal ways – I still enjoy drinking and dancing. It might just be a chilled €1.70 wine at the nearby cafe / bar after yoga (after all – it is about balance) and some girl chat, having a picnic by the lake with my housemates, bar hopping down the trendy hipster Weserstrasse with a crew, or donning my dancing shoes and not coming home until the sun comes up. It just doesn’t happen EVERY weekend, and why should it? Give yourself the opportunity to experience everything Berlin has to offer, not just the totally hedonistic side.
Berlin is the right city for you if you are ready for self discovery, to push the boundaries of what you thought was “normal”, to be exposed to things you might have to google before you say yes. There’s an amazing spiritual side to Berlin which I have never experienced. Yoga is not just so you can get toned abs and arms, it is mixed in with meditation, Chi Gong and is as much a spiritual experience as a physical one. Travelers are united by one cause, to find their way in this crazy place.
It is said to me often that all the weirdos of the world
come to Berlin because they can be themselves.
That might mean that you see some crazy clothing or behaviour on the streets and especially in the clubs, but not in a “I-need-to-cross-the-street-to-get-away-from- this-person” kinda way. It’s an endearing way that makes you want to join them too. One of the happiest and most accepting places I’ve been on earth was the music festival Nation of Gondwana, that took place about an hour outside of Berlin back in July. I encourage everyone to go to a lesser known european festival, it is a completely different vibe from anything you have experienced.
Freedom to be yourself ignites pure happiness, and you can see it on Berliners faces. They encourage you to be your weirdest self, whatever that may be. When you have so many options in front of you, pulling you in whichever direction your intuition tells you to go, why wouldn’t you try them all? Do you want to tell your grandchildren that you lived in one of the craziest cities in the world, and all you did was get drunk and dance in dark rooms? I mean it’s fun, but it’s definitely not all there is! And sometimes your younger self may not see that. It is a time for experimentation that I believe has perfectly coincided with my current level of maturity. You think your early 20’s was when you found yourself? There’s plenty more self discovery ahead.
My advice? Come to Berlin with an open mind, and try everything once.
What have you done recently that’s broadened your horizons, or pushed you outside your comfort zone? Tell us in the comments below!