Moving to a different city is one of the most interesting, exciting and occasionally terrifying experiences I’ve had the joy of putting myself through over the past few years. So much so I’ve now done it 4 times! And luckily there’s been unique characteristics about all of my homes that made me enjoy each one as much as the next. I loved Auckland’s natural beauty and diverse cultural influences, I loved Wellington’s food scene (easily NZ’s best), I loved London’s people, pubs and parties (and those pretty historical buildings), and Sydney well… it was really really hot!
And then there’s Berlin, described to me in my first week of living here as “where the weirdos of the world come to be even weirder together”. We’ve been here almost 3 months now and it was only last week after we visited Leipzig did I truly understand this description. You see, Leipzig looked and felt European. The classical buildings, the impeccably dressed people, the string quartet busking in the town square, these are all things you could reasonably expect to see in a European city, but not Berlin. It’s not that Berlin is better or worse than anywhere else its just… different. Things that you think you were familiar with from back home really have their own identity here, and I love it. So here’s a few of my favourite things that Berlin just does…differently.
Back Home It’s… Bright eyes, bushy tails (literally…designer dogs are a must to fit in), and an almost sickening amount of liveliness. After all, only true morning people get to catch the organic produce, health products and overpriced handmade items at farmers markets because they all usually finish by 1pm. Useless for the night owls amongst us whove been dancing into the early hours of the morning!
In Berlin It’s… The best array of vintage clothing you’ll ever find… because the weirdos who wear it can turn up as they please and sell whatever they like! And it’s not just clothes, we’ve spied cameras, bikes and even DJ decks over here, and did we mention there is ALWAYS beer available? Half the time its a bar or club providing the venue, provinding a bit of extra atmosphere to enjoy your shopping. Berlins flohmarket culture is always great people watching and a fascinating window into the lives people lead in the city.
Back Home It’s… Singer-songwriter types hoping their accoustic ballad will be the next hit, pianists recycling the pieces they remember from childhood lessons, and bbq reggae band after bbq reggae band after bbq reggae band… yes it’s all quite easy on the ears but doesnt often stretch the boundaries of creativity, and probably doesn’t pay the rent either.
In Berlin It’s… every genre of live music under the sun, and not only that, Berliners love to dance any chance they get. Simply bring whatever you can to lay down a groove and theres a good chance you’ll develop a crowd in no time. And they’l tip you good money too! The fact comitted musicians can actually make a decent wage on the street means Berlin is home to some serious talent. Amongst the wonders weve seen include a guy layering analogue acid house beats outside a train station, a drummer keeping a crowd of 100 people on their toes with no accompaniment, and a seemingly run-of-the-mill reggae fusion band pull off a thundering cover of Radiohead’s ‘The National Anthem’. I’ve never seen such an ambitious cover pulled off so well!
Back Home It’s… Some questionable meat, a bit of shredded lettuce and tomato, a dollop of hummus, all wrapped up in pita bread and ready to combat whatever hangover you’re fighting or whatever state of inebriation you might be in. The king of midnight snacks. Yes, we all hate to love a dirty kebab in our hour of need, but wouldn’t dare visit our local shop during daytime hours, or worse yet actually take visitors there to sample some of the best food in town. Berlin can’t be any different, right?
In Berlin It’s… completely different. Yes, the meat is still questionable but the similarities all but end there. After all the modern kebab or Doner was actually invented right here in Berlin! Sure, you can opt for a classic like you’d find back home, but then you’d be missing out on some of the best tasting drunk food in the world. Try asking for a gemuse kebap, packed full of veges and ready to make you pretend you’re healthy. Or opt for delicious kofte meat instead of that shredded junk. Some of these places are so good they attract lines lasting for an hour or more, and that’s not even late on a Friday night when the kebab truly shines! They say Berlin isn’t known for its food, I say those people haven’t been looking hard enough.
Back Home It’s… Activewear in every colour of the neon rainbow, a 7am start to catch the days first light, green smoothies and bliss balls for breakfast and an instructor oozing more spirituality than your office combined. You marvel at their daring to leave behind the 9 to 5 slog in the pursuit of wellness, and wish that you too could quit the day job, joining the mystical ranks of the yogi. Either that or you think it’s all a bunch of hippie bullshit.
In Berlin It’s… Well in Berlin NOBODY works 9 to 5 and EVERYBODY is a spiritual guru. You try use that as your selling point for your yoga class and you aren’t going to get very far. You need to be a little different, a little weird, or in some cases very weird. At the lower end of the scale there’s bier yoga, which as the name implies, focusses on worshipping and expanding your connection to the humble longneck rather than any kind of celestial presence. And then right down the other end of the scale there’s naked tantra yoga, which focusses on a whole different kind of self exploration… Spirituality and wellness in all its forms is big business in Berlin, and luckily there’s enough weirdos for everyone to sustain themselves!
And of course it’s all held together by the…
Back home it’s… all about the house, the job, the 5 year plan. Satisfying enough for most, largely uninviting for others (like us!), and refreshingly we meet people like that every day here in Berlin because…
In Berlin it’s… like a little alien planet where anyone can be anything they want and nobody bats an eye. A true haven for the world’s weirdos free to spread their wings and live life by their own rules. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever lived before, and I couldn’t be happier to be different… just like everyone else.
Are you another one of Berlin’s weirdos? Or a traveller who felt at home while passing through? Let us know what you love the most about what makes our home so different. We’ll be sure to check it out!