And no. It’s not all about the money. But sure, yes, a lot of it has to do with money.
1. London or New York rents in our gritty Berlin.
Listen: I knew what I was getting into when I moved here. It’s glass shattered on sidewalks and rollies raining from the fourth floor above, and it’s buildings with a grey flatness, coated in bad graffiti. But my rent—anywhere between 250 and 450 per room since the big move almost three years ago—can’t be beat. Not even in my Indiana home.
With another flat search underway, I find myself hunting through the upper-500 buckeroos to live in Neukölln and Kreuzberg—and all that in a WG. Finding some place on my own as I surge into my upper 20s and early 30s? I can’t imagine it’ll be easy, or cheap. As the rents tick higher, will I remain? Is there anywhere else to go?
2. That mall going up near Warschauer Str. is almost enough, actually.
That barren strip of hell called Warschauer Str. (the part that dips down toward the Wall) hosts a massive construction site. And that site—just a few blocks from Berghain and the cozy Boxi Kiez, will one day stretch its cement shoulders to the sky and become—
a fucking mall.
But we’re meant to be Berlin. We’re scrappy and strange, lifting up old sweaters and half-gnawed shoes from cardboard boxes on the road and calling them ours. We’re supposed to be fighting the “man,” the beast of the mall-verse. With the mall there, can we go on pretending the rest of the world doesn’t exist? I don’t know.
3. Another Australian café on the corner.
I am gentrification, just as much as the hat-wearing mustachioed hipster at the corner café down the road, and I know that. But I’m trying to get better, just as the city’s taking a turn for the worse. Most cafés I enter these days open with English, hollering “mate,” rather than “Guten morgen.”
But what are we left with, if we dive deeper into American and Australian coffee culture? I didn’t move to Melbourne, and you didn’t move to Brooklyn. And another Australian café on the corner tells us that Berlin’s heading further away from what it could be on its own, rather than whatever the rest of the world is doing.
4. Newbie DJs continue to swarm.
I’ve met real DJs in Berlin. Ones with talent, a kind of magic spinning behind their eyes that burns bright orange when they’re performing. There’s a difference between these men and women and the ones clearly here cashing in on an “idea” of Berlin. A DJ I met recently told me he’s bailing on the city because shit DJs are taking his jobs. Quality is no longer key. Will we hear a difference in the open airs? Is this the dying gasp of the Berlin music scene?
5. 4 euro beer in a .4 (or even .3!) glass.
It’s creeping up on us. Beer prices at my corner kneipe remain stalwart, but elsewhere—hip little exposed-brick and candlelit joints are tipping the prices higher. And despite the prices being far and away better than most other places in the world—we don’t live in other places of the world for a reason. Keep our pilsners light and our wallets heavy, thanks.
6. Another place closes due to German complaint.
I can rag on us expats and gentrification forever. But it’s true that some things in Berlin sincerely clash with the German way of life. Spice-heavy Indian and Mexican restaurants are forced to close due to smell complaints, whilst venues latch their doors due to noise complaints. Sure: we party, we eat, we live a bit too intensely, here in our adopted city. But Germans as tattletales? It’s unbecoming.
7. We really throw up our hands and forget our artsy-fartsy dreams.
With cheap-o beer siren-calling from every corner, and drug-filled taxis scurrying up on the streets, it can be difficult to commit to “life dreams,” whatever that means to you, me, or that collage-maker in your WG. Nothing in Berlin feels like reality, and thus, we often find ourselves lost in a sea of vices, unaware of the passing of time.
8. We hear of another artist “making it” off his/her parents’ allowance.
Scrambling to meet deadlines is something of a constant for many Berlin freelancers: rushed and hungry and scraping the bottom of our purses for späti beer money. But too often, we’re faced with “artists” “roughing it” in the “big gritty city” in their single-bedroom apartments, living off an allowance and waiting for their big dreams to take flight.
We can call this one what it is: jealousy. It’s not pretty on anyone.
9. Lisbon’s (or anywhere else) allure becomes too strong.
Winter doldrums. Hipster Brooklynites. A lack of local culture, and a desire for vitamin D, dancing, a bit more nature and life. Is Lisbon (or another, warmer-climate-city of your choosing) the answer to these pressing alarms? Perhaps.