From Daydream to Nightmare: A Berlin Flatmate Experience


I spent 29 nights under the same roof with a German tap dancer. In the spring of 2014. In the heart of Berlin. In my artistically-starved senses.

It started with a simple Craigslist search. I was looking for an accommodation with a limited budget in a week’s deadline. The reason? I had been offered a tremendous job opportunity at a startup in Berlin.

The money was mouth-watering. Given my absolute lack of ambition, I had already started dreaming of retirement in five years. Ergo I jumped at the opportunity and packed my bags, which were only two at that time. And moved to what I call the Bohemian Silicon Valley of Europe.

I was enthused to work among respectable professionals during the day and schmooze with pretentious artists in the evening. That was my plan. But finding an apartment in Berlin was like finding a steady boyfriend on a dating site. You had to go through a series of bizarre/eccentric/not-so-right ones to be able to meet a half-way mediocre one.

Pick me, pick me please!

I was thrilled when I stumbled upon this: Looking to immediately lease out a lovely, fully-furnished room in a spacious 80 sq ft apartment with baroque architecture. Located in Prenzlauer Allee, surrounded with cafes and restaurants. I am a tap dancer and a friendly guy who likes mutli-culti experience. Have a spare bike to share. Send me an email if you are interested.

I wrote a long email describing myself as a financially sound candidate with an artistic bent of mind and an exotic Indian lineage capable of making chicken curry for potential flatmates. Bam! I got the apartment. I moved in over the weekend and was (as if vengefully) shown the smallest room to dampen my excitement.

The room had three key features: a single bed that would scream and creak in pain every time I turned or tossed in the night; a table with a miniscule lamp that created a halo of light barely covering the odd, oblong pear that refused to ripen during my stay; and a row of three kitschy Ikea shelves hooked to the wall.

Oh yes the artsy landlord also threw in a mini laundry rack in case I decided to wash my negligees. I submitted to all these shortcomings thinking that perhaps this was the way tap dancers lived. Creating the illusion of space with lesser objects. Or perhaps he was just experimenting. A minimalist, Zen way of living.

And one day when he would have taught me how to tap dance or moonwalk on the dilapidated, wooden floor, I’d be able to forgive him.

photo: bronx. / CC

Tap dancers are like horses

But my disappointment became palpable when I was woken up to the sounds of not-so-rhythmic taps in the middle of the night. Now I consider myself a heavy sleeper. But this guy was giving me no predictable patterns to sleep to.

Sometimes the taps would be incessant. Like a horse running at an incredible speed on a treadmill. Sometimes they would be erratic. Like the horse had thrown a fit for lack of audience. And sometimes they would just be regular. Like the horse was in a trance. And the hooves were doing their stomping without thinking.

This continued for 29 long, tiring nights. And no amount of complaining, dissuading or threatening deterred this nocturnal ninja from practicing in the wee hours of the night.

My Grudge List

“I go in my zone in the night,” he said unapologetically. Ignoring all my pleas. The zone started somewhere around 2 am and lasted till about 5 am in the morning. That’s when I turned petty and created a Grudge List:

  • I think he ate my Camembert cheese
  • He definitely drank a quarter of my Soya milk
  • He moved the banana peel that I left on my table. Meaning he entered my room in my absence.
  • He lied about the baroque architecture of the building. At best it looked like an insignificant relic of World War II.
  • He gave me a spare bike that had no breaks. A conspiracy to break my bones.
  • How come he never toured to perform?

Anyway, I left at the end of the month for I found a beautiful, sun-facing apartment in the heart of Berlin. Located next to the oldest bookshop cafe of the city.

As my last act of pettiness, I gave my number to the sweet Swedish soul singer who moved in after me. I told her she would need it. She looked as obliviously happy as I did at the beginning of my stay.

To my dismay, it has been two years and she hasn’t called.

Text: Ripu Daman Singh, Photos. bronx.

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Ripu Daman Singh is almost neurotic when it comes to writing or ranting. Her devotion toward coffee and cake is insufferable. She has covered news for print media, built PR operations for startups and coached C-level executives in Communications for almost 10 years. Yet her biggest insecurity remains communication, or the illusion of it.

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