Saturday, February 02, 2008

5 Months In

All right, people, I'm sorry I haven't updated this in a while. Now, after a few complaints, I bring you my rundown of my Berlin experience so far: what's hot, what's not, and how to cope with gray skies day after day, especially when you have only four hours of daylight.

1. The general mood of Berlin is unbeatable. This city is so relaxed, devoid of pretention, and couldn't really care less about you. That sort of ties into disadvantages about Berlin (i.e., anyone you interact with couldn't care less). But I didn't go through an adjustment period. There was no culture shock. When I first got here, I kept waiting for it to hit me. And it never did, and most of my friends voiced the same experience. Far from welcoming you with open arms, Berlin just gives you a little stare, and then goes about its business. However, that makes it very easy to fit in.
2. The price of falafel. Yes, I know this is my favorite topic. But, hey, it's my favorite topic! I'm still a big fan of lil' ol' Lale and their 1,50€ falafel with spices sauce and spicy sauce (that's how it translates, I promise).
3. The public transportation (the BVG). It's phenomenal. Where else do you find a transport system that tells you when the next train is arriving (and it's accurate)? You can get anywhere using the BVG, and it's cheap, and easy. Berlin is a big city, and the BVG lets you see all of it.
4. The rent. When I move in a little over a month, I will be paying 280€, and living in a highly desirable location, right in the heart of Prenzlauerberg. In contrast, I will have to pay $600 (440€ish) to live in Toronto next year, and the flats here are much, much nicer.
5. The diversity of the nightlife (and general social life). When the fateful day comes and I leave Berlin, I will dearly miss the range of activities to choose from. I have been to a Johnny Cash night that was attended by everyone from middle-aged Americans to Danish hipsters, a house party with a neon-dress code, two parts in a once-a-month rap history series, and a reading of pieces that Berlin writers had written about Mitte, the midtown-Manhattan-like neighborhood.
6. Bakeries, everywhere.

1. People aren't polite (but that's Germany as a whole).
2. People will, and do, stare (also all of Germany).
3. There's not much good shopping to be done.
4. We see the sun so seldomly that, in my humble opinion, sunny days should be declared impromptu national holidays.

That's about it, really, which segues nicely into my bonus section,
Accept it, don't try to fight it, and don't expect other Europeans to commiserate. They are used to it. Embrace the day when you first realize that it's 4:30 and it's not pitch black yet. Try not to sleep in until 3pm, because then you will have missed all of the day's light. Enjoy everything else that Berlin has to offer, and try to forget about the fact that you haven't seen the sun for two weeks.