In a city full of millions of people to meet and thousands of things to do, how does one find their own path in Berlin? The answer is quite simple: to be and to live. Go out and meet a range of different people, take part in a host of divergent activities and generally experience the city while finding yourself.
23-year-old Corinne, a trainee nurse from the United Kingdom, went through all the motions of growing up while developing into a new place. Moving to the German capital in April 2013, Corinne was travelling around Israel when she received a call for an interview for a traineeship in nursing.
“I received such good vibes and simply got hooked by the place. So I always knew that I wanted to learn here.”
Shortly thereafter, she was accepted into an Ausbilding (a more practical based kind of studying), complete with an 800 € per month salary and health insurance. Corinne’s three-year course and Berlin dream was about to begin. Already fluent in the language courtesy of having a German mother, the only real obstacle came in the form of German institutes not acknowledging her UK A-Levels certificate. However, this only meant that she wasn’t accepted into a university, but emphatically welcomed into the Ausbildung program.
“It was only ever Berlin that I wanted to study in, as it was either here or to keep travelling the world,” says Corinne. “I’d been in Berlin several times for holidays and lived here for a few months some years before. I received such good vibes and simply got hooked by the place. So I always knew that I wanted to learn here, I just didn’t know what at the time!”
Currently living in Kreuzberg, arguably Berlin’s liveliest district, socialising in bars and generally going out is certainly not a hard thing to do there. Corinne lists some of her favourite places as Alta Kantine, Clash and Gretchen – all in Kreuzberg. But what about those nights not studying or partying until the break of dawn, how does one spend those precious hours?
“I found great friends and my social circle through sport and exercise,” explains Corinne. “It’s basically how I’ve integrated and established myself in every city I’ve been. It’s easy in Berlin to meet like-minded people, so whatever you’re into, there will likely be others too. For me it’s playing indoor and beach volleyball.”
“It helped me meet other young people and students and made me feel settled,” she adds. “I train two or three times a week and have matches on the weekend. You meet so many random people on nights out and at parties, but sport was the thing that made me feel settled and construct a solid friendship group. If it’s sport, dance, theatre or whatever, you can find it.”
One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure
As we sit in the kitchen of Corinne’s apartment, I enquire about the large amounts of fruit, vegetables and bread on the counter. Her feet propped up on a chair, Corinne smiles before taking a long drag of a cigarette, then blows out the smoke and answers, “I participate a lot in ‘dumpster diving’ or ‘containering’. We stumble upon fresh food that’s been thrown away by supermarkets, simply because of the look of the product or because the expiration date has passed. We rummage through the bins and find things that are clearly still fine, but just not suitable for the general public.”
“We used to go in the cover of night, dressed up in black with torches and all, but now we’re a bit more cavalier with our approach,” Corinne goes on to say. “Nowadays, we just go in the middle of the afternoon to find supermarket bins and we don’t care if people see us. There’s a whole community for this activity and after a lot of research, we know the most abundant hotspots.”
Stating that it’s usually best to stick to fruit and vegetables, Corinne however shows me the recent haul of large bottles of milk, blocks of cheese and delectable looking pastries. She enlightens that each season of the year brings different products, but that summer is probably the worst, as items will go bad much quicker.
For those wanting an easier approach to cheap or sometimes free types of food, the Tuesday and Friday markets on Maybachufer in Kreuzberg are a better solution. Head down there around 5:30pm when things are starting to close down, and you might find yourself large quantities of food that need be to sold or given away on that date. Corinne warns that the only real danger is biting off more than you can chew, as it can be easy to get over-excited with the sheer amount of discounted food available.
So as we near the end of our chat, Corinne illuminates that her long-term plan may not involve this city after all. Due to finish her studies in summer of 2016, her goal is to become a nurse in aid organisations across the world. “This is why I’m doing my training, to work in underprivileged areas. I can’t imagine working in a hospital in Berlin, so I think even though it’s tough, I’ll be happy to spread my wings and check out another corner of the Earth.”
This post is part of our series “How to make it in Berlin” howtomakeitin.berlin
Text: Joe Garland