Brexit checklist: a valid passport, Anmeldung, a print-out of your online registration form for the Ausländerbehörde, a paying job, German health insurance, a German bank account, a German driving license, and a year’s supply of decent cider.
The 29th of March is nearly upon us, and after more than two years of “robust” negotiations, it’s looking more and more like we’re headed for a no-deal Brexit. So what does that mean for those of us from the UK who have decided to make Berlin our home? As we get closer to the big day, I’ve accepted that I can’t keep sticking my fingers in my ears and hoping that this whole thing will go away. I decided to finally do a bare minimum of research, pump a couple of clued-up friends for information, and see if there were any shreds of certainty in the sea of Brexit doubt.
Before I proceed, you should know that I am Black and a first-generation immigrant. Therefore, it is not completely lost on me that my feelings on this subject of identity will be met with resistance, disagreeing opinions and questions, all of which may emerge because “Today, I feel German” will be considered by many an atypical declaration. It is not every day a man who was born and raised at the heels of Mount Fako, Cameroon audaciously declares himself part of a giant colonialist nation, Germany, in such a public format. These are not feelings I am allowed to claim ownership of, because possessing such opinions can easily be mistaken for the denouncement of one’s own traditions and heritage in the quest to insert one’s self onto a culture that has no place for one’s sensibilities and difference.
Ah, December in the city. Have you spent winter in Berlin before? No? Well, then here’s a list of my Top 5 things not to miss during my favorite time of the year – because all of a sudden, everything’s magically different.
Sometimes getting along with your neighbors could be more difficult than releasing your childhood traumas. So, in order to smooth this process, we squeezed through your future neighbors’ windows to chronicle their lives, and give you a sneak peek at how they might look like.
From the family that “incubates” their hardcore-punk band in their apartment to the friendly gay couple that is obsessed with their visits to the psychotherapist — here is a short guide to the family next door depending on your neighborhood.
Disclaimer: No stereotypes were harmed in the writing of this text.
Glamorous personalities have all experienced it: The moment the mob gathers around, thrilled to have found a victim who dares to be different. Like a crowd of grey pigeons staring down at the colorful bird of paradise. Laughing, in the absurd belief that they are better because they are many. Lots of grey against a spark of glamour. Too narrow to see, it is this spark that makes all the difference. It is what makes you special and them so very simple. Too blank to understand that it is you who is the winner and them who lost so long ago. They lost themselves in the thirst to please each other. One grey pleases another grey. Now they like each other, but the fewest like themselves. It is hard to know who you are when you put on a uniform.
One of my favorite things about living in Berlin is the ridiculous amount of kooky events available at any given time. In the last month I’ve attended a Kundalini Active Meditation (where you literally “shake” your body whilst standing for a solid 15 minutes in a room full of strangers), danced from music from all over the world (Karnival de Kulturen) while ending at a open air rave in the middle of one of my favorite parks (Hasenheide), and attended an immersive art/dance performance/therapy session by the Mexican American artist Jazmin Medrano.
Because I’ve lived in Berlin for three years now, nothing really shocks me anymore. Once I went to the infamous Berghain club alone and was approached by a normal enough looking man wearing only tennis shoes and a leather harness on his chest. “I can massage your feet if you want,” he offered. “No thanks, I don’t feel like taking off my shoes,” I replied truthfully.
photos: Alicia Kassebohm
The following guest-article is brought to us by our favorite Berlin-based Yoga teacher and founder of Your Space Michaela Aue who is making the iHeartBerlin team sweat like animals and giggle like kids in all of her classes.
Berlin is Yoga heaven but Berlin men can be a Yoga hell. But before I go into this in detail let me tell you just a bit about me. I am yoga teacher living and working in Berlin for many years now. My best friend would probably describe me as a white-wearing creative chaos of some sort. For most of my adult life I have been consumed with the search of the ‘Mind-Body-Connection’. Sounds so cheesy, but it is so true. Some might call it ‘the moment of bliss’ while others call it ‘being in your center’. The balance between body and mind is probably something we can all agree on for now.
photo: Deutsch for Dich
Earlier this month marked my third year anniversary of living in Berlin. Though I have a permanent WG in Schillerkiez (the best Kiez in Berlin), a handsome German boyfriend with no interest in polyamory (the holy grail!), and a close-knit group of hilarious friends, I still don’t feel like a true Berliner.
Why? Because I don’t speak German.
I can read and understand most things, but every time I try to say something other than “Tschüs!” I freeze.
When I was visiting family in the USA a few months ago, I was amazed at my charisma. I was cracking jokes with the Waffle House waitresses, articulately asking for directions to the nearest Target and politely inquiring where the Kombucha section was in Whole Foods. I couldn’t believe how confident and shiny I was, not just around my family and friends, but out in the real world. Who was this girl? In Berlin, I shrink inside of myself every time I have to speak German with anyone. Upon returning and feeling my shiny-self dull more and more, I decided that learning German was no longer some frivolous thing expats like me talk about doing, it’s something that I needed to do order to let my true self shine.
Lycra, lights, DJs, sweat and slings. This could be another night at Berghain, but instead we find ourselves at the Velodrom at the 107th Six Day Berlin race– the world’s oldest six-day bike race- thanks to the kind invitation of GASAG who is one of the sponsors of the event. Do you want to experience it as well? We have tickets for you to win!
Berlin is a city of bikers. We use bikes to get around town and to work more so than most people in other large cities. And, most of us have a close relationship with bikes. They can be a fashion accessory. They get you where you need to go. And, they are generally more reliable than the last person you talked to on Tinder (just don’t park it near Kotti, otherwise it will also disappear).
photos: Felix Russell-Saw
Sometimes I wonder if our generation is more obsessed with fairy tales than previous ones. Faced with a reality of the gig-economy, serial dating and an all too uncertain future, who can really blame us? And honestly, nothing prepares you for life in Berlin quite like a steady diet of stories about abandonment, witches and cute animals. The revelation that fairy tales are not real (for better or worse) is one of the milder let-downs of adult life. As grown-ups, we just have to conjure up our own magic. The good thing about this is that we can be whoever we want to be. Siding with the witch, especially if she is beautiful and satisfyingly revengeful might be the best choice in the end.
I have met a lot of people in Berlin and despite an excellent memory I surely don’t remember all of them. Few people became part of my personal lore and some just vanished. And there is one that managed to do both: I call him Hansel.