photo: Roger Sabaté.
Berlin has been unrecognizable to its long-term inhabitants ever since March 2020. Lockdown after lockdown has gradually changed our carefree reality into an enduring nightmare. What’s the allure of the free-spirited capital when its clubs, bars, and cultural institutions are closed off for an indefinite time? And yet, even in those dire circumstances, some brave souls still sought to make Berlin their new home. How is moving to Berlin in the pandemic different than what most of us ex-pats have experienced?
A Way Out
When I first moved to Berlin at the end of 2015, I felt safe with the knowledge that if things were to go really bad, I can easily pack my suitcase and take a break for a while. My home country was just around the corner. This was so different for people who’ve moved to Berlin in 2020, especially from countries outside of the EU. Once the travel restrictions were on, so was the pressure – you couldn’t casually come back to your home country and return stronger to deal with the expat challenges. If you wanted to stay, you had to stay right now and just make it work.
The isolation imposed by the multitude of lockdowns was something no one signed up for. But while hardened Berliners could try to feel less alone by organizing support groups within their WGs and streaming DJ sets with their party crews, the newcomers only had old their friends in different time zones to talk to. The lucky ones were able to see this isolation as a spiritual journey within, quite contrasting with the more typical novice experience of losing yourself in Berlin’s multitude of attractions.
Berlin, Stripped Of Its Pomp And Frills
The pandemic also offers the unique experience of getting to know Berlin reduced to only a semblance of the world-famous capital. Usually teeming with life, Berlin’s streets were forced to become a dreary backdrop for the state of a worldwide emergency. But if you were still able to catch a glimpse of the sunset from Oberbaumbrücke, marvel at the sky from Tempelhofer Feld, or watch the clouds go by while sitting at the Kanal, we can assure you that it can only get better.
It Can Only Get Better
Slowly but surely, it already does. In the past few months, bars and restaurants have once again opened their doors, starting to recreate Berlin’s easygoing atmosphere we’ve all been missing. Most recently, even the clubs have been reopened. While the situation still feels tenuous, it’s good to feel that Berlin’s still got it, and those that never knew the city pre-pandemic have a decent chance to enjoy its charm – even if it’s a limited-time offer, likely destined to be cut short by another lockdown.
We’re All In This Together
But the best (or really, the worst) thing is that the pandemic paused everyone’s clock. It’s not like the long-term Berliners were unscathed by the dread of Corona. With people getting sick, businesses struggling, and challenges to mental health steadily rising, we all have had a hard time and now need to take it slow while easing back into city life. So all you newcomers now get to rediscover Berlin along with those of us who’ve been here for years.