Essay 2 of 2
Reading time: 5 mins
By Alice Austin
As specified in essay 1, Why quitting my job in London and moving to Berlin solved all of my problems, I now have lots of shiny new problems.
For example, yes, the term ‘heteronormative’ is bandied around like an insult, but does this mean I’ll end up 40 years old and in a polyamorous relationship with an elderly couple and a goat that identifies as trans?
Or yes! It’s so great how relaxed everyone is about time! But it’s hard to maintain that enthusiasm as I stare at the bottom of a second gin and tonic at 9:45pm, waiting for a friend to turn up at the ‘nine-ish?’ we agreed.
Or yes, the rule is there are no rules!!! But please, please enforce the smoking ban because all of my clothes smell appalling and my eyes hurt.
Here are a few new problems that have arisen since I quit my job in London and moved to Berlin:
Everyone is a flake
Like, 60% of the time, any plans you make won’t happen at all. It’s not uncommon for someone to cancel ten minutes before meeting, often with no explanation. In London this offense is punishable by sentence of Facebook deletion, however here you just move on and do something else.
This flakiness is contagious as you grow to expect being stood up. I usually will make 2 or 3 vague plans on a Saturday night, because statistically two of those will fall through, and because everyone is a flake no one minds if you don’t turn up. I mean, you can mind, but in your own time.
Dating is really weird
As mentioned in my previous essay, one of the plusses of moving out of London is the lack of pressure surrounding relationships and settling down.
It’s so great, I’m delighted that I can spend all my money on bratwurst and mini breaks instead of eating pot noodles for a year to get my little pinky on the London property ladder, but the other side of that is dating is really weird.
Relationship statuses you’ve never even heard of are dropped in conversation mid-date. Or the dude who looked pretty nice and normal on his profile turns up with a drug-induced tick and a single dreadlock and tries to convince you that in fact everybody is bisexual, we just don’t know it yet. Or you’ll go on a few dates, it goes well, they invite you round for dinner on a Saturday night and make you …a tuna sandwich.
Partying has no deadline
London: 6pm on a Friday rolls around and you know that you have an 8-hour window to get as shit-faced as possible. You’ll go to the pub after work with your colleagues, get a couple of rounds in, Uber it to another pub to meet your actual mates, get some shots in, if you’re feeling crazy you’ll head to da clüb and by the time 3am rolls around you are well and truly destroyed. You no longer serve any purpose as a human being and someone puts you in an Uber home.
You wake up the next morning at a respectable 11am, WhatsApp your mates a pic of yourself looking hungover and confused, have a bacon sandwich, shower and Bob’s your Uncle. You even make it to a farmer’s market by 2pm and can look other people in the eye like you’re an actual person.
Berlin: 4pm on Freitag rolls around. I’ll go to the gym, make dinner and do my laundry. Watch an episode or two of Sopranos and fight the urge to fall asleep. I’ll head out to meet a friend at “10-ish” and order my first drink, knowing full well that I need to pace myself because our friend is DJ-ing at 6am and we need to be there for moral support.
I’ll emerge from da clüb, blinking and confused, at 8am (if I’m lucky) on Samstag morgen and wobble home on my bike. I’ll set my alarm for 2pm that day to try and see some sunlight, and then put it on snooze until 4pm, eventually resigning myself to the fact that I will be jetlagged for the rest of the week. No pretending to be an actual person today, Alice. Not today.
There’s no smoking ban
Remember how outraged we were in 2006? How dare Gordon Brown introduce a smoking ban! And on train platforms? What’s the point, it’s the open air! I’m going to have to smell everyone’s farts in pubs now!
I take it back, Gordon Brown. The smoking ban is wonderful, and having to endure hours sitting in dark, smoky bars in Berlin is actual torture. After ten minutes being in one of those dank crap-shacks my eyes start to dry out and burn and an aggressive lethargy enshrouds me as I strain to hear my friend speak over minimalist techno.
Then I get home and have to throw everything in the wash even if it’s just been washed because everything – everything – even your skin and your shoes, stinks of smoke.
Oh, take me back to balmy London, with its weak, whiny winters that make everybody grumble affectionately about how it’s a ‘bit nips’ but quickly forget about it when we’re in a nice pub and it’s 7 degrees outside.
Christ lord. Shit gets ARCTIC here. My whingey little British bod wasn’t prepared for the straight up drama of Berlin winter. Minus 12! I didn’t even know what that felt like until it happened, and I’ve forgotten again now because my brain can’t handle it. No one goes out for a drink unless the bar is right next to an U-Bahn station, and if you think I’m journeying more than 10 minutes from my house, not only are you wrong, but you’re a bastard for asking.