Soul Searching Done Right: How to Actually Find Yourself in Berlin

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I’m not really the quarrelsome type. I stand by what I believe in, but I’d never try forcing my spin on things upon you and I don’t mind exchanging thoughts with people that have different turns of mind. However, there’s this one declaration that invariably has the ‘’red rag to a bull’’ effect on me even on a small talk level.

I usually kind of feel it coming, because my interlocutor’s eyes inadvertently betray exactly what mood has just crept into the conversation. It can start inconspicuously with them admitting they actually did not go out last weekend, to which I can often relate. They usually mistake this for an invitation, and the first thing I know is them intimately leaning down in my direction and letting me in on the gist of their self-taught philosophy: ‘’Well, because, you know, Berlin is no place to settle down anyway, right?’’

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We’ve heard it all before. Berlin is a ‘’hedonistic mecca of delayed responsibility’’. Berlin is Europe’s NY.  Supposedly, it doesn’t encourage or facilitate growing up. You can’t sustain a meaningful relationship in a place where sexual intrepidness is a valid lifestyle. Arriving at Berghain in a taxi, you feel like a celebrity but have to fight off drug dealers instead of papparazzis.

While I can’t really deny any of these allegations, I cannot concur with the notion that you can’t find yourself in this urban jungle. I came to this mayhem at 19, with no plan other than I had to start earning money somehow, and no connections other than a boyfriend I initially moved here with that just didn’t want me at his place anymore.

Two years in, and it’s a whole new game, although Berlin still continues to tempt me to fall into its many traps and then only rarely extends a helping hand. But now I realize I am the one who falls in the first place. I found myself, so now I know who to hold accountable. And you can do that too.

As I was talking with my friends before writing this piece, we seemed to agree on one thing: you can’t entirely isolate yourself from the city’s crazy lifestyle, but you don’t have to be a part of it either. You can learn to coexist with the party people. Your super ego can even coexist with the id version that wears a nipple free bra to KitKat. Finding yourself in Berlin is all about figuring out just how much of its madness you need to stay sane.

You have to put yourself first. And I know it might have been a more natural process to me just because I had absolutely no one else to care about, but you’ll be surprised how much good can come out of forced loneliness. You can even end up with a hobby.

Berlin, like every other major city, offers plenty of opportunities to pursue those with others. Like an open mic event for spoken words. Volkshochschule, which is the school with undoubtedly the best relation of price to quality, especially when it comes to languages. Maybe find a group for bike enthusiasts. Whatever you do, don’t expect much. I am not Alanis Morisette to tell you that life likes to be ironic and the lamest situations can surprise you in ways you would have never imagined.

Interactions with others are obviously imperative to finding out who you really are, so make sure you’re not stoned 100% of the time. When you don’t limit yourself to only one source of meeting friends, like, let’s just say, a local bar, you’ll be astonished to find out how many have actually managed to find and furnish a place of their own, land a nice job, stop drinking, maybe even get a dog. For real.

If all the Berlin cliches that I feel guilty of spreading are true, then you shouldn’t feel like you’re supposed to do anything but live your own truth. Just own your city experience and resist all the pressures you don’t want to succumb to. This might sound pretty pompous, but what I actually mean here are the extremely unromantic particles of everyday life like staying in to finally finish a project you’ve been working on forever or cutting down on your favorite fat ramen. Because Berlin, like any other city, is no more and no less than what you make it.

Michalina by Michalina
on September 11th, 2017
updated on September 11th, 2017
in Stories
5 Comments »

5 Responses to “Soul Searching Done Right: How to Actually Find Yourself in Berlin”

  1. Boonyi Says:

    Thank you Michalina for your insightful and much needed article.

    There is this narrative out there that in Berlin stable relationships are doomed to failure and your life plans are inevitably going to be hijacked. This mantra may be appealing to many, but I find it untrue and disrespectful. Berlin is so much more than that. Berlin is who you are, it returns your reflection like a mirror. If you want stability, you can have it. Many Berliners have long-time partners and lead Berghain-free lives.

  2. Michalina Michalina Says:

    Thanks so much for the comment! I’m glad you can relate.

  3. A Says:

    …or have long-time partners and Berghain every weekend together…

  4. Boonyi Says:

    Yes, absolutely!

  5. JulianD Says:

    I think Berlin, as well as any other city, will be how and what you want it to be. Of course there’s this Berlin mythic fame about techno, drugs, arts and sex. But that doesn’t mean the city is limited to that.
    I came here for the start-up scene. No Berghain, no speed, no orgies. I spent more time in offices and coffee shops than in bars and clubs. And I love it so far. Times change, cities change and people change. Berlin is much more than the Berlin of the 80s and 90s today.

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