It can’t all be sunshine and roses when you move to a new place. There are going to be some things that take some getting used to. Here is a list of things that, over the past 3 weeks, have made me feel like I do not quite belong here.
1. The tea. It’s not proper tea. It’s like they’ve gotten everyone’s old, used teabags from the UK, dried them out and then re-sold them in Germany. It’s so weak.
2. People don’t like jaywalking. People don’t DO jaywalking. As I have always considered my jaywalking not so much an illegal act but more a demonstration of my ‘elite road-crossing skills’, this makes me sad. Why won’t you let me demonstrate my amazing skillz, Berlin?? It makes me sadder when people glare at me as I jaywalk from their cars, their bikes, their safe positions on the footpath waiting for the green man. Not sad enough to stop me doing it, mind, but certainly sad enough to write a couple of sad sentences about it.
3. I live on Eisenbahnstrasse, ok? A couple of weeks ago, I was heading home after having walking all day. I was exhausted. I was hungry. I was weak. I saw a sign pointing down a street which read Einbahnstrasse. To my untrained eyes, this looked like my street name. It wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why someone would put a sign up with my street name on it which was pointing to my street. A few days later I realised, of course, that wasn’t my street name. Walking around Berlin over the next few weeks, I kept seeing this street name everywhere, ‘Einbahnstrasse’ and an arrow. I thought, wow! This must be the main street of Berlin! It goes everywhere! It goes all the way through all the suburbs! I wonder if it is like their National Highway or something! Then, two days ago, I looked at the sign again and realised it meant, ‘One Way Street.’ Yeah, thanks Berlin. I feel suitably stupid.
4. False advertising. Berliners seem to have an obsession with things that are ‘donation only’. I’ve heard about bars, restaurants, venues that are all ‘donation only’. However, I warn you, fair traveller, that the people running these bars, restaurants, venues say you can pay what you like, but if what you like is smaller than what THEY like, then be prepared to be humiliated and made to feel tiny and insignificant and THE WORST HUMAN BEING IN THE WORLD until you pay them more money. Alex and I went to a concert that was ‘donations encouraged’. Alex put 20 Euro in the bucket as we left, however, I didn’t see this and the woman with the bucket didn’t know we were together. I opened my wallet and realised I had no cash. Hurriedly pulling some coins together, I threw them in the bucket, which made a huge clang. She said (in terrifying German, with a terrifying stare), excuse me, why so little? I tried to explain I had no cash, that I would go talk to my friend and see if I could get some more and then come back, whilst she stared at me as if I was lower then the filthiest and smelliest of dog shits. When I found out that Alex had put in more than enough for the both of us, I didn’t bother going back, we left as quickly as we could. A few things I find upsetting about this:
- We had paid more than enough between the two of us
- Despite the fact that we had paid more than enough between the two of us, if you are going to say, ‘donations encouraged’ (and what I read about the venue had said ‘donations encouraged’), then you have to take what you get and be grateful about it. If you think that there is a minimum that people should be spending, then you be upfront about that. For example, ‘Pay-What-You-Can Tuesdays’ at Belvoir St Theatre used to be minimum $10. If, however, you have not stated this, then you should not ritually abuse and humiliate the customers who chose to take you at your word. Because this will just encourage them never to come back (I will never be going back).
- This woman had absolutely no idea who I was or what I did. She didn’t know that I was an artist or currently unemployed. She didn’t ask any of these things. She just thought I was being cheap. She didn’t know that I had done a show for donations only last year and I had smiled politely every time someone gave me Jersey money, or who sneered at my bucket and left without putting anything in. Sure, that might make me poorer and more stupid than this terrifying German woman, but, nevertheless, she had absolutely no right to question my commitment to, or valuing of, the arts.
5. The transport maps. OH MY GOD, the transport maps. ‘Let’s take the navy blue line to get to the cyan line to get to the lavendar blue line to get to the sky blue line to get to the…’ I assume they’ve been coloured geographically or thematically, and that theme is ‘be as confusing as possible so that it’s easier to spot the lost tourists so we can then laugh at them’. No, that’s not fair. I’m sure there is some perfectly logical reason someone designed it that way. And that reason is that Berlin hates me.
6. The plane trees. OH GOOD GOD THE PLANE TREES. You know they’re called London plane trees? Well, if the number of plane trees is anything to go by, I am more in London now than I ever was in London. If you get me. Do you know how allergy advertisements always have those incredibly exaggerated pictures of pollen and fluff and leaves and you’re always like, ‘Ha! As if that’s anywhere real.’ Well, I’m here to tell you people, that Berlin in Spring is like living in a hayfever ad. Or, it’s like living in this:
Except, instead of volcanic ash raining down on you it’s that itchy, sneezy, fluffy white stuff that plane trees release every Spring. I’m beginning to think my insides are now entirely covered in white Plane Tree fluff (is there a technical term?), because every time I go out, it goes up my nose, down my throat, in my ears, in my eyes and just settles ominously inside me…
7. The coolest bridge in Berlin is also the one that smells constantly, entirely and overpoweringly of urine. Many buskers play there too, which is nice, but does beg the question, how can they possibly stand it?
8. Making a reservation at a bar for 7pm, then turning up and finding the entire bar empty. Why? Because everyone’s napping at 7pm! No one goes out ’til 9:30pm at the earliest! For dinner! They don’t go to the bar until midnight! Maybe! Or maybe they’ll have another little nap and go straight to the club at 4am! This is what happens to people when they don’t have to worry about catching the last tube.
9. It’s finally sunny and 28 degrees and NOW I have a cold. Seriously, WTF, Berlin? WTF.