1. “I’ll only be friends with Berliners.”
The reality: You know a Juan, a Jesus, a Carlos, a Carlita…
In fact, you’ve now got friends from every region in Spain. But actual, real Berliners? Not so much. And that one friend of yours — Hans? Yeah, we all know he’s from Frankfurt and moved here two weeks after you did.
2. “I’ll never be like those try-hard hipsters ruining Kreuzberg.”
The reality: Dude. You just signed up to taxidermy lessons and started a zine written entirely from the perspective of Karl Lagerfeld’s cat. You are so. far. gone.
3. “I’ll get to live in a palace for €150 a month!”
The reality: What do you think this is, 2008? Have fun paying €350 to live in a converted toilet in Neukölln.
4. “I’m going to spend the weekends doing cultural things. Museum Island for life.”
The reality: You go to the Pergamon just once, and only then because your parents are in town and footing the €12 entry fee. True, climbing an Ancient Greek altar surrounded by 4,000-year-old marble gods probably is the best thing ever, but somehow, the 2-hour queues to get into Berghain seem so much more worth it — all that filth and grime and gurning feels as close to Dante’s Inferno, as close to feeling alive, as it gets.
But now your Sunday afternoons are spent curled on top of your sweaty bedsheets, twitching about like a decapitated howler monkey, manic and exhausted and depressed but somehow grinning like The Joker while wondering if sleep will ever come. Because Berghain, man.
5. “Winter won’t be that bad, right?”
The reality: You now know winter in Berlin is like living in the miserable pit of God’s hangover — FOR FIVE MONTHS. A permanent blanket of dark clouds more oppressive than a Roman Catholic education scuds just above the rooftops, and the entire population lopes around looking like 3 million renditions of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Only less happy.
6. “Summer in Berlin = hell yeah!”
Reality: OH. HELL. YEAH. There is probably no better place on Earth than Berlin in summer — Sternies and sunsets by the canal, late night bike rides through Plänterwald, sunbathing and swimming in Ice Age lakes, Tempelhof dudes who look like edgy Jesus, beer gardens and open airs and clubs that never close. THIS is the hot white whirl of a city that you moved for. This is IT.
7. “Mauerpark every Sunday.”
“I’ll hang out at the bearpit drinking Club Mate and swaying along to the open-air karaoke like a real Berliner. Sooo geil!”
The reality: Mauerpark stopped being fun after week two, and now you see it for what it is — a crush of desperate tourists blowing cigarette smoke in your face while you sweat last night’s drinks from every pore.
True — anywhere that sells Nutella crepes is pretty sweet, and you love all the kite flyers and buskers. But you long ago realized that while Mauerpark has hundreds of market stalls, they’re all selling the same tat on a Groundhog Day loop: broken prams and stolen bikes, old fur coats, cheap trombones and plastic badges saying ‘I heart Jason Mraz’. Nowadays, you know Nowkoelln Flowmarkt is where it’s at.
8. “Silicon Allee is so hot right now. I’ll work at a start-up.”
You’ve read Wired. You know where the wunderkinds are and it’s Berlin. Ping pong tables and bean bags and free beer for all!
The reality: Yeah, that €400 a month they offered you to intern with them? That was a pretty big clue you’d be working for over-privileged rich kids with no idea that most people don’t have trust funds to fall back on / keen to keep all their seed money to themselves.
And that free beer on Friday nights? Totally calculated to keep you in a state of low-grade Saturday morning ennui where you can’t do anything more productive than gnaw on leftover kebab.
If you did anything really fun, the Bertrand Russell in you might just start to wake up. And then you’d remember, “Wait a minute…Isn’t there more to life than a 9-5? Wasn’t I talking about cycling to Prague or making a house out of garbage or something? What the hell am I doing in this corporate hell? I’M OUT!”
9. “Berlin is in its Golden Age! I’ll freelance and live among the rooftops of Berlin and…”
The reality: Remember how rent is twice as much as you thought it’d be? Not so fun ghostwriting dozens of blogs for $5 a post just to pay the rent, is it?
10. I’ll only eat German food.
The reality: You’ll go to a fancy Bavarian restaurant exactly once, and only then because your spinster aunt came to visit and she was paying for the spätzle.
Aside from that — kebab, falafel, City Chicken, bulgogi, tom yum goong — those are your eating-out staples.
11. I want to live somewhere edgy, yeah? Neukölln or Wedding. The real Berlin.
Someone tell me where Wedding’s edge is, because to me it’s synonymous only with dodgy arcade centers and pavements covered in the local dogs’ dirty protests.
Two months into your lease, you realize that actually you do need beauty in your life. Sometimes you cycle to Prenzlauer just to see tree-lined avenues, breathe in fresh air, and wander among Art Deco buildings so clean you could kiss the stucco. That’s right Schwabing yummy mummies know good living!
Photo by Chris.Jeriko