As Shakespeare once wrote, ‘What is a city, if not its people?’ Bricks. Concrete. Trees. To truly know a place, you need to first know the inhabitants of that city. For someone who has spent their entire life either in or close to Berlin, 25-year-old Elisa is as much part of the foundations, as the buildings and nature that surround us.
After growing up in Neuglobsow, a small village a little more than a stone’s throw away from Berlin. Elisa moved to the German capital with her mother at age 12, where she currently studies Environmental Protection.
“For me, Berlin has never really changed that much,” admits Elisa. “Of course it looks a bit different and there’s more people, but it still feels like the same city that I used to visit when I was a child, even before I moved here for good.”
“I think for finding work or an apartment, it depends how picky you are […] but if you are open minded and resourceful then it’s easy enough.”
Now residing in the Northwest district of Moabit, Elisa states that this area is by far her favourite place to live in Berlin. Sandwiched between Wedding and Charlottenburg, Moabit might be a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ expanse to some, but that’s something that suits her perfectly.
“I really feel that the people of the Northwest are more authentic Berliners and have a great spirit,” Elisa explains. “I just like a quiet place and one that’s close to the river. I don’t mind that it can take a while to get to the party areas like Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain. I love Moabit for its multiculturalism and the mix of upper and lower classes. This area seems to have more students and people from different nationalities lately, which as a result, new coffee shops and bars in Berlin have appeared and it’s a nice change.”
Brimming with laughter and happiness, Elisa is as virtuous as they come. On the frontline of social change in Berlin, she participates in assisting at welfare kitchens, food drives and Big Sister programs.
“A few times a week I help out at a homeless shelter, to provide them with meals and also someone to talk to,” says Elisa. “In addition, I contribute to food sharing events around Berlin, where we distribute food that’s been donated by the people and anyone is free to take it. One of my favourite activities is spending time with a 4-year-old girl. It’s a program to help disadvantaged kids who are new to the city. I help her discover culture here and sometimes we just play games, read books or go to the cinema, things that she wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”
Set to finish her studies in one year, Elisa is adamant that she’ll want to work and stay in Berlin, but for the moment she is still just happy that she found her perfect apartment in Moabit. “It took me about six months to find this place, which I discovered through the website WG Gesucht,” she declares. “I think for finding work or an apartment, it depends how picky you are. If you don’t speak German then it might take a while longer, but if you are open minded and resourceful then it’s easy enough.”
Surviving the Elements
As the weather starts to take a sudden change for the worst, we turn our heads and take a moment to stare at the bleak rain that drums against the window. It’s hard not to think about Ned Stark from Game of Thrones grimly stating, “Winter is coming.” With the cold season lasting from roughly November to March and with daily temperatures at around 2.0 degrees Celsius, a German winter is nothing to scoff at. But how does a Berliner deal with the cold winds, snow and ice?
“I actually just end up eating a lot of chocolate!” laughs Elisa. As even the chilliest of weather doesn’t seem to break her upbeat attitude. “Chocolate makes me feel happier, but I think it’s important to go out and see friends as well. The steps around the U-Bahn stations can be dangerous when icy, but as long as you go to bars or the movies and try to be active and social, then that’s my best advice. However, Berlin is definitely the best place in Germany. I’ve been to other German cities like Munich, Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, and there are far more opportunities in Berlin. Plus, it’s my home,” she says with a smile.
This post is part of our series “How to make it in Berlin” howtomakeitin.berlin
Text: Joe Garland