City of Exiles

by Guest Blogger

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

Berlin: no man’s land, frontier, a city adrift in the sands of Central Europe. Destroyed, divided and held captive during a century of chaos and upheaval, borderless Berlin has yet remained a city where drifters, dreamers and outsiders can find a place — and finally run free.

In City of Exiles, Stuart Braun evokes the restless spirits that have come and gone from Berlin across the last century, the itinerants who are the source of the Berliner Luft, the special free air that infuses this beguiling metropolis.

Read more about City of Exiles here, attend its launch at Agora, read an excerpt below and, after that, find out how to win a signed copy of the book. 

I needed to get out of
Australia, and Berlin had
long been my Plan B.

It was, I’ll admit, a pretty vague plan. I’d spent some inspired weeks in Berlin in ’96, had often professed love for the city. But I was young then. The years passed. That fabled summer was fading into the mists of my wasted youth.

Yet out of all the cities I had travelled and sometimes lived in, Berlin was the one that gave me hope. It was my promised place — the salve for my savage restlessness.

In Australia, I’d been making documentaries about the Aboriginal people I had met on the streets of inner-city Melbourne. Maybe I was trying to belong, trying to connect with the indigenous history of a land I believed was not really mine.

I was also doing bits of writing but it hadn’t quite clicked since I’d returned from Tokyo—the city I escaped to in the early 2000s, and where I consolidated my career as a journalist and writer. Melbourne was a nice change from my hometown of Sydney. I had many friends in the city. I had found love in Melbourne. But I kept dreaming of escape. I kept dreaming of Berlin.

What was the problem? Hard to say. Australia’s beautiful. It’s supposed to be wild and free. I find it very controlling. Too many rules. And competitive. Stressful. Trying to get ahead. To fulfil the dream of owning a big house — two big houses, preferably.

Melbourne was once a little like Berlin. It was affordable, sort of European, home to many artists. But these days you need a million bucks to live in Melbourne. It started to feel segregated, as my Aboriginal friends who were getting kicked off the streets they call home will confirm. And you had to drive. You sat in traffic a lot with all the people trying to get back to the safety of their big house. I don’t know. I suppose I’d always felt a kind of anxiety in Australia.

It was 2006, and like a good citizen I got a bank loan and bought a house. Mine was off-grid, fitted with a couple of solar panels, the cheapest one bedroom in the state on a dirt road to nowhere. A little cottage in the mountains where I could escape the city, write and build some kind of foundation. It was paradise up there in the rainforest with the kookaburras. A real sanctuary. But I kept thinking that I needed to move to Berlin.

I was making a documentary about the Aboriginal community in the Fitzroy district of Melbourne—the Black Mile that was being recolonised through gentrification — when I decided it was finally time to go. Luckily, my partner Melisa agreed.

It had been 13 years. I could barely remember Berlin. But I had a strong sense of it. As we flew in over the outlying forests and lakes in the autumn of 2009, I felt like I was coming home. People welcomed us into the city, angels on trains and sidewalks showing us the way. After a week in Berlin, I wrote this in my notebook.

In the city where Walter Benjamin and the National Socialist Party were born, a city of great humanity and horror, my companion and I have decided to create history. One is only as good as his and her address, and so our metropolitan moment can now be had, our time on the good strasse where the world has come to meet, merge, emerge. It’s the time of the gypsies and we’ve made it, just, easily, not knowing how, when, where, why, but staying on track, on song, en route to this prehistoric, predestined, preternatural gathering in the land of the goths.

The National Socialist Party was born in Munich (something Berliners are proud of), but what did I know? I was writing crap in a 30-cent exercise book I’d recently purchased in India, about a city I had been in for exactly seven days. But looking at the words again a few years later, I’m struck by the line about the place where the world has come to meet, the words “preternatural gathering”, words that resonated and seemingly inspired me to write this book.

Subconsciously, I knew that I was now living in a city of exiles. I was one of many. I was among people who had nearly all come to Berlin from elsewhere. Some were privileged soul-searchers like me, some came because this long divided and bankrupt city was relatively empty and cheap and gave people the freedom to do their own thing, to make their art. Some were real exiles: refugees from war-torn Sierra Leone; Palestinians who had lost their home forever; Germans who had escaped to a walled, demilitarised city in the 1970s to avoid joining the army; Greeks and Spaniards fleeing austerity and unending deep recession. Oh, and don’t forget the dogs. Many are refugees, like our Spanish street dog who was rescued from certain death. We take him to bars, restaurants, the office, on the train. He’s somehow free here and like many of Berlin’s exiles, he needed to get out of somewhere.

When I wrote those words about the time of the gypsies, I didn’t know what I was saying. But now that I think about it, I wrote those words because I quickly felt that a certain kind of vagabond, of free spirit, was drawn to this city. Maybe I was writing in my notebook about the meeting of another Lost Generation, like the one after the Great War, all those disillusioned souls who wanted to be writers and artists and sometimes ended up in Paris, but also Berlin, as I’ll explain later. Maybe Berlin really was a great open street where the world had come to “meet, merge, emerge”. Maybe Berlin was a place where people try to be poetic.

What will I do in Berlin? I thought. Will I write about the Stasi, or the Wall, or drinking and dancing and going to darkrooms and living on very little and having so much fun and losing my soul like they talked about in all the magazines? Berlin was having another mythological moment; it was the golden 1920s all over. But there was something else about this city, something that hadn’t really been written about.


Berlin reminded me of the places in inner Melbourne where my Aboriginal friends had long gathered. They originally came from different tribes across the state, and many ended up in Melbourne after escaping missions, jails and children’s homes in which they’d been imprisoned—often after being stolen from their parents. They gathered in these once working-class streets of Melbourne and set up a meeting place for a displaced generation. They created this place on their own terms, taking back squares and parks for themselves. They were still marginalised of course, and there were drugs, alcohol, fights and police harassment. But there was a freedom, a kind of self-determination that I could identify with, that I was looking for I suppose.

It’s a hazy comparison; but many people had similarly come to Berlin to live on their own terms. It was also a meeting place. Berlin was open to these exiles; it gave them space to build their world from the ground up. Not always. But the potential was there. Like the indigenous people from diverse regions who came to Melbourne and created a pan-Aboriginal identity, a necessary solidarity, Berlin’s global tribes were also getting together. Here you had no family structures to fall back on. You had to work together. Plus there was no corporate money, no big investors or sponsors around. The good money went south to Munich and Frankfurt during the war and wall years and never came back. That’s why all the enterprise — the bars, galleries, clubs, outdoor markets and bookstores — seemed to be independent collaborations. You still don’t see many chains. Meeting people who’d been here a long time, they all talked about this idea of a Berlin family.

As I started to think about Berlin as a sanctuary, and remembered that, in the 1980s, a band of Berlin exiles, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, recorded an old blues song here called “City of Refuge”, I started to realise that people had been coming to Berlin for similar reasons for a long time.

It was 2010, and the American photographer Nan Goldin was in town to promote an exhibition of images taken during her Berlin years in the 1980s and ’90s. She is a legend among some of my friends, and I’d seen her very candid portrayals of the people she knew intimately in Berlin, some dying of AIDS, others living in squats. I attended the retrospective on the day that Goldin delivered a talk, and was struck by the following words:

The best years of my life were here in Berlin. I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been looking for a home all my life. The only place I feel myself and comfortable and feel real love for my friends is Berlin.

Goldin had been a runaway since she was a teen, finally escaping to New York before moving to Berlin. She now lives in Paris with her girlfriend. But Berlin remains the only true home she’s ever had.

My father, who, aged 16, fled Hungary as the Red Army put down the 1956 revolution, told me he could live in Berlin as he walked the city for the first time. He says it every time he returns. If only he had the means, he’d move here. But why would he leave the sparkling east coast of Australia for this dark, decrepit city? Sure, the linden trees remind him of his village in Hungary. Yet it’s difficult to say. He just feels good here.

So I had something to write about: this idea of a city of exiles, this place where different kinds of people didn’t necessarily just fit in, but felt good — not always, but in a fundamental way, a way that had long eluded many of them. I read about the Czech-Jewish writer Franz Kafka and his obsession with finding sanctuary in Berlin, the city that remained his mythical escape until his death, his ‘antidote’ to his despised hometown of Prague.


Many have come to Berlin and have disliked it, or have just found it okay. They have not had the epiphany that Goldin or Kafka had. Some had little choice in coming to Berlin. Like the French Huguenots, who were escaping religious persecution in the late 1600s. They were offered sanctuary. They couldn’t say no. They helped establish a template for tolerance in Berlin that I will get to later, and which partly explains why Jewish people were so integral to this city until 1933 — the year Hitler came to town from Munich, the year Berlin officially marks as the “destruction of diversity”.

In the 1970s, David Bowie, like the Huguenots, found refuge in Berlin. I shouldn’t mention Bowie. His Berlin story is cooked. I can hear my friends now — no you didn’t, of all the people, in the prologue! But Bowie loved this town because he, like everyone else, could just be a Berliner. He moved around as he pleased. He was taken at face value. “I just can’t express the feeling of freedom I felt there”, he said a little predictably.

But what exactly is this feeling of freedom, and why has it endured? Why this city, built on a sandy swamp, a no man’s land bordering East and West Europe? Why, despite the decades of conflagration, the crushing continental cold?

Hundreds of books have been written about a Berlin that grew up so fast, flowered so brilliantly, that was burnt, divided and held prisoner for half a century. They have inevitably pored over its restive history, its cultural effusions and totalitarian darknesses, its decadence, its ghosts, its secret police.

But as my earlier notebook ranting about preternatural gatherings and the time of the gypsies alluded, I believe that Berlin is Berlin because of its strangers, its wanderers, its many displaced people who have come to build a kind of safe haven. These free-flowing exiles are the source of the freedom so many feel when they come to Berlin — they are the city’s substance in a sense.

I know; I’m making a huge generalisation. But it’s a means for me to explain why, as I walk and bicycle Berlin’s cobbled and increasingly renovated streets, I feel so settled, more than I’ve ever felt before. By trying to understand how this city of exiles came to be, maybe I can also hope to understand the place I left behind, and to one day go back.


Just leave us a comment below with the answer to this question:

(apart from Bowie, Kafka, Nan Goldin and Nick Cave)
Who do you think is the quintessential Berliner-in-exile?
And why?

Our 2 favourite answers will win a signed copy of City of Exiles.

You have until 6pm on Tuesday 19th May to enter. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
3. Our favourite comments win. Simple as.
4. If you win, we’ll let you know by email and get your postal address.

Berlintercourse: On falling in love

by Guest Blogger

The ins and outs of dating in Berlin.

I recently stumbled upon a beautiful essay about postwar New York, and one quote in particular caught my attention:

“Many of its settlers are probably here merely to escape, not face, really. But whatever that means, it is a rather rare gift, and I believe it has a positive effect on the creative capacities of New Yorkers – for creation is in part merely the business of forgoing the great and small distractions.”
Here Is New York, E.B. White, 1949

I immediately thought of Berlin today – of everything it’s given me, of the way the city has changed me and how it manages to make me feel more complete every single day. That’s when it hit me: I am in love, and I have been ever since I moved here. Not with a person – because if there’s one thing I have failed at, it’s meeting someone whom I could love in their entirety – but with the city itself.

I have fallen in love more times than I can remember. I fell in love with the way this guy’s curly hair would stroke my forehead when we kissed. With that old woman, her face covered in chocolate, who insisted on offering me candy after I gave her a cigarette. Her blissful smile, her stirring insanity.

I fell for this other man’s mind, and pined after our compelling discussions about privilege and feminism. I couldn’t hide my smile as I received yet another dinner invitation from a boy who was probably just fooling himself into thinking that he really liked me.

All these brief moments have been more than enough to fill my heart with joy. These, and the realisation that I am changing, every single day. I am constantly creating new experiences and doing things I never ever imagined I would, all because of the beautiful, fascinating people who call Berlin their home.

Not just the fabulous DJs, the ice-cold bouncers, the startup founders who firmly believe they are going to change the world and their fellow creative minds, but also the rude bus drivers, the surly Späti owners, my building’s concierge…

After all these months, I finally understand why Berlin is always described as the Stadt der Singles. If you run down the list of the advantages that a relationship provides, you’ll quickly find out that Berlin – yes, a city – is able to provide you with all of them.

The city’s cultural life knows no limits, so there’s always something interesting to do. Rent is still relatively cheap, so you don’t need to find someone to share a bed with to be able to afford a nice flat. It’s entirely possible to rely on your friends for emotional closeness and support, and regular sex is, well, quite easy to get.

Berlin allows you to focus on yourself and to grow as a person. It makes you more independent, more aware of the world that surrounds you, more in touch with the alternative ways to live your life. Having a nine-to-five job, a stable monogamous relationship, going out on Saturday evenings only and spending your weeknights in front of the television, just isn’t the norm here.

The norm, however, is to be hungry for life.

To be curious, political, involved and determined to find out all about what this world has to offer.

And this, to me, is love.

Berlintercourse: BDSM for beginners

by Guest Blogger

The ins and outs of dating in Berlin.

If there’s one thing I never thought I would try out – let alone enjoy – it’s BDSM. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, didn’t know much about its plot before the movie came out, and where I come from this particular kink isn’t as common as it seems to be here.

Before moving to Berlin, I was convinced that only balding, overweight middle-aged men and faded menopausal women were into BDSM, and there was nothing glamorous about that. Sure, I had been to KitKatClub before, but I never gave much thought to what I saw or heard there. And I certainly didn’t identify with the men who crawled past me on all fours wearing dog collars. But, as with many other things, my opinion on this whole scene has changed drastically over the past months.

It all started with an OkCupid match with two guys sharing a joint profile and looking for girls to have threesomes with.

Their writing was very much “on point” and I really wanted to meet them, despite not even knowing what they looked like – their faces were hidden on all of their pictures. Shortly before our first date, they sent me pictures that screamed BDSM. Women tied up, a girl with a gag in her mouth, a man holding a whip…

I was surprised to find that these pictures really appealed to me. Perhaps that was because of the Vogue-esque aesthetic – after all, Slutever has a column on vogue.com now. I didn’t end up having a threesome, but I did meet up with one of the guys for what was to be my first ever blind date. Luckily, he turned out to be a really handsome and surprisingly normal man in his late twenties.

For the first time, I let a complete stranger choke me. He spanked me, and not in the ridiculous, almost cute way some boys had tried to hit me before. This was for real.

The next day, I noticed that my breasts were covered in bruises, but the emotional traces of the night were much more palpable than these physical marks. I felt ecstatic.

I had my second experience a few weeks later. I met an incredibly good-looking man at KitKatClub and he quickly suggested going back to his place. Shortly before we reached his front door, he asked me whether I had ever heard of Fifty Shades. I told him that I had, and was in fact very curious about its themes – despite having little to no experience of them.

What happened then was one of my best memories so far. Once we got to his place, he quickly vanished and came back holding a crazy amount of BDSM toys and accessories. We ended up trying most of them out and he was incredibly patient, caring and open during the whole process. He taught me how to use each of them, asked me which ones I preferred and why, and helped me find out what my boundaries were. When I went home the next day, I realised I felt even more high than I had the first time.

As of now, I am meeting up with a guy who has agreed to be my sex master. He’s teaching me about the more psychological aspects of BDSM, which is fascinating. Our last session involved me being tied to a chair, blindfolded, with a vibrator strapped between my legs, and told not to come unless he allowed me to. He hardly touched me except for several soothing kisses, but here again I couldn’t believe how satisfying the evening was.

Also, and because this is Berlin after all, my flatmates and I recently had a slave over. He posted an ad online offering to go to women’s houses and clean them for free. Since we’re curious (and lazy), I decided to take him up on his offer. I was asked to boss him around a little, and after a few emails we agreed on a date and time.

I couldn’t help but nervously laugh as he made his way up the stairs. I had no idea what to expect, and the fact that one of my flatmates had showed me which kitchen knife to use in case things went wrong wasn’t really helping. Our “slave” also turned out to be relatively normal. I had no idea how to boss him around at first, but after a few hours I got pretty comfortable – so much, in fact, that I had to repress the urge to be bossy to the cab driver and the barkeeper, and pretty much everyone else I encountered afterwards.

As I’d been told before, control is everything here, so there is definitely room for improvement on my part, but I think I might actually enjoy playing the role of dominator as well. For the record, I have no idea how someone could gain satisfaction from cleaning a house, let alone for free and while putting up with orders from someone else.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned since moving here, it’s that you should avoid judging people. After all, the boundary between normal and shocking is very thin, and Berlin is, and should remain, a place where people are free to behave as they please.

Raw Material

by James Glazebrook

EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

Jörg Fauser is one of Germany’s most overlooked countercultural icons. He “drank more beer than Bukowski and shot more heroin than William Burroughs”, yet still found time to write Raw Material, a savage satire about the decay of the dreams of the sixties. Originally published in German as Rohstoff, this semi-autobiographical masterpiece was translated into English last year. Find out how to win one of 5 copies we’re giving away, after this excerpt in which our protagonist takes to the Berlin streets for a radical protest, with a pocket full of LSD trips:

The auditorium maximum of the Technical University was packed. That evening’s topic for debate was the forthcoming vote for federal president, which was taking place in Berlin. As ever the list of speakers was endless. Practically no-one was thinking of Heinemann as a candidate. I was standing right at the back of the room amongst the rank and file, taking care not to become separated from Sarah. Sarah was nineteen and reminded me of the Song of Songs: “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.” Last summer she’d sent me a photo of herself to Istanbul; she was leaning against a tree in the Englischer Garten in Munich, and when Ede saw it he said, “If there’s anyone who’s going to pull you out of the shit, it’ll be her.” Now she was in Berlin too, and I was determined not to be parted from her again.

The crowd jeered and shouted down a young socialist. It was all part of a ritual in which the leaders of the radicals played at being the Bolshevik bosses, and the students and dropouts in the auditorium the riotous masses of St Petersburg. In truth it was much simpler: the leaders were enthroned on the podium and engaged in high politics, while the rank and file stood below, believing in the historical moment. Skilful direction brought the room to boiling point and at the decisive moment the slogan was uttered: “Onto the streets!”

We were still a tight mass in Hardenbergstrasse, but when we got to America House, where the police lay in wait, the crowd soon dissipated. It struck me that I had twenty LSD trips in my pocket, which I’d swapped for a few of the blocks I’d got off the Turk. As I hurried away I looked around for Sarah. She was behind me, being shoved along rather than moving of her own accord. In the police floodlights and nocturnal glow of Hardenbergstrasse Sarah looked far too beautiful and fragile. I tried to grab her and battle my way out to the side, but those advancing from behind dragged me along with them. Stones were being hurled at America House, but word got around that we were to take the Kurfürstendamm, and so we charged onwards, past Zoo station. Stones were everywhere on the ground; I picked up a couple myself – smooth, grey cobbles. I’d soon forgotten the LSD, and Sarah too. I charged with the crowd. There was the Ku’damm, the colourful façades, the onlookers, the massive vehicles with their water cannons, we were coming from all sides, we were storming. There was Café Kranzler, temple of the bourgeoisie, there were the police, chains of uniformed men that entangled us. No sooner had the echoes of our war cries died down than the first screams of those being beaten by truncheons resounded in the street. I threw a stone, then turned around and saw a policeman charging towards me at full pelt. I dropped the other stone and ducked. The truncheon only hit me as I bent down, a second blow found my arm, and another policeman hauled me off to a patrol car, but let me go when a new troop of assailants broke through and made for Kranzler. Cautiously I stood up again. No one appeared to be watching me. I slipped through a kind of no man’s land to the corner of Joachimsthaler. There were stones everywhere, protesters bent over injured bodies, those arrested held temporarily in wrist locks by the police. I felt cold and thought that our attempt to take the Ku’damm had been a complete farce and would be far better without me. I looked for Sarah and found her at a metro station. I took her in my arms. She was wearing a fur coat and I an old, thick cloth jacket, but through all our winter clothes I could still feel her breasts which bore the promise of springtime.

Via a circuitous route we arrived at the flat near Savignyplatz, where Boleslaw and his girlfriend, Sylvia, were waiting. They’d been living in a commune in Potsdamer Strasse and had now moved into this grand, nine-room apartment belonging to two scientists who worked at Siemens and were trying to find a synthesis between computer science and anarchism. As far as I was concerned, their flat was paradise: an enormous kitchen where everything functioned, a refrigerator filled to the brim, tiled stoves, comfortable sofas and leather armchairs everywhere, pictures hanging from the panelled walls, two bathrooms, two cats, books. I offered them all a trip. Sarah was still together with a friend of Boleslaw’s, an ascetic philosophy student in his seventeenth semester, who lived in a tiny hovel without any hot water in Steglitz. I wanted, of course, to prise her away from him. That night we all took a trip, and in such surroundings I sensed I was coming closer to the world of literature.

I sat with Sarah in Bolesaw and Sylvia’s room. To my mind these were the nicest people I’d come into contact with in Berlin. They were good-looking, they were educated without trumpeting it, they’d travelled widely, and they had artistic leanings without pretending to be artists. Their anarchism was an intellectual provocation, but they, too, had picked up stones in the street, and told the state precisely what they thought of it in court. And one day there was no doubt that this society would give them the space they were asking for. I looked down at myself. I felt like a filthy little drug-dealer from Tophane. I could sense the dirt oozing from my every pore. “2,000 light years from home.” That’s how I perceived myself too. Sarah lit an incense stick. She was so breathtakingly beautiful; how could I imagine that she’d be the one to save me from all this shit? The beauty of the Orient flowed in waves from her face and transformed the wall into the Taj Mahal. Sylvia snuggled up to Boleslaw, who smiled at me. I was sweating. I rolled a joint. That was one thing I could do. Although it was good to be able to do at least something, I felt I’d have to demonstrate a little more if I was going to win over Sarah, Boleslaw and Sylvia. The three of them seemed to be fusing into one, together with the candlelight, the music, the smell of the incense. I was sitting beside them like a lump of frozen spaghetti. I was sitting beside them like a heap of unsellable copies of The Function of the Orgasm. I was back in Istanbul, sitting on the roof, the snow seeping through the walls, the foghorns wailing, the pigeons scrabbling at the holes in the plaster, the schoolchildren below filing into the playground and singing the national anthem. Were I sitting there I could write again. Although I didn’t have my notebooks or a radiograph, this biro would do, this sheet of paper with computer formulae on the back. I started writing.

The following morning Sarah went to fetch her things from Steglitz, and we moved into the maid’s room beside the kitchen. Heinemann was elected president.


If you were going to take to the streets, what would you protest against?

Our 5 favourite answers will win a copy of Raw Material.

You have until 6pm on Sunday 29th March to enter. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be 18 years or older to enter.
3. Our favourite comment wins. Simple as.
4. If you win, we’ll let you know by email and get your postal address.

Berlintercourse: The dos and don’ts of casual sex

by Guest Blogger

The ins and outs of dating in Berlin.

I had a few “friends with benefits” before moving to Berlin.

First, there was this boy I used to go clubbing with. I would try to help him find a girl to take home, knowing that if it didn’t work out, I’d be the one he’d end up with. For some reason, I never felt the slightest pang of jealousy, and I kind of enjoyed watching him get rejected by most of the women he approached.

Then there was this other guy who was in a relationship, and insisted on making me spend time with his girlfriend, just so he could pretend there was nothing going on between us. I stopped seeing him when it all became too much for me to handle.

Fast forward a few years and here I am in Berlin, occasionally hooking up with a few guys. Some of them I’ve known for six months now, but I could never imagine developing any romantic feelings for them. So much for the misconception that women are unable to have sex without falling in love, right?

However, despite my previous experience, I realise now that I still had a lot to learn about casual sex when I moved to Berlin – and I have to plead guilty to a few don’ts.

I used to assume that going back to a boy’s place meant that I was sleeping over. I was dead wrong – but fortunately I didn’t have to learn this the hard way. I found myself confused when I had someone over and they’d leave straight after we’d had sex, even if it was 3 am on a weekday.

And I’m pretty sure I overstayed my welcome a few times, but the guys in question were thankfully too polite to say anything. Well, there was this one dude who made me smoke a million joints and then proceeded to ask me whether I knew how to get home, even though I was barely able to make my way to his bathroom. But still, another myth busted: just because your relationship with someone is purely sexual, that doesn’t mean they will treat you like a prostitute.

A huge DON’T, however, is to assume that anyone wants to hear about your problems. There’s no bigger turn-off than hearing you complain about your boss, especially when it’s 1am on a Sunday morning and the other person has already put on their scarf and gloves. Just don’t – you’re only making it uncomfortable for everyone involved.

If you don’t want any of the commitment required of a real relationship, then I’m sorry to break this to you, but you’ll just have to live with the fact that whoever you’re seeing is going to put him- or herself first. One guy did this to me the last time we saw each other and, well, I’m not sure I can go through it again. But instead of trying to change him, I’ll just have to call the whole thing off.

When it comes to casual sex, the single biggest do would be: have fun. Do stuff that wouldn’t make sense to anyone but yourself.

There are few things as amusing as sitting on the U-Bahn on a weekday afternoon, wondering whether everyone around you can tell what you’ve just been up to and why your hair now looks like a bird’s nest. Especially when said encounter happened right after an unsatisfying lunch date with another boy.

To me, casual sex is the ultimate confidence boost. There’s nothing like having a man tear your clothes off right after you’ve entered their apartment, having awesome sex and then leaving an hour later as if nothing had happened. It’s also the best way to live out your sexual fantasies, especially in Berlin. Feel like having a blind date with someone who’s into BDSM and who you would be way too embarrassed to ever see again? No problem.

I guess casual sex has become the norm here, since most people seem to rely on their close friends for the emotional intimacy that a romantic relationship would normally provide. And this is coming from someone whose best gay friend only-half-jokingly suggested we open a joint bank account. In a city mostly populated by handsome young people who happen to be great in bed, it would be a shame not to try some of them out!

Pro tips: shop at IKEA like a BOSS!

by Guest Blogger

By Danilo Sierra.

Going to IKEA is a pain in the butt, but it is a necessary evil, especially for any manager of an office or coworking space. If have a wallet as deep as the Mariana Trench, go ahead and get everything from somewhere fancy like Modulor or Minimum. And if you have endless amounts of time, get thee to the Trödel shops. However, the rest of us need to prepare for a quest.

Here are some tips on how to tackle your IKEA trip like a pro  <ahem, like James, Zoe and I!> and make the most of out of going there:

1. Be prepared.

Do your research. Make sure you are going to the IKEA closest to you. And measure the space you are buying for, because there is nothing worse than hoarding – especially IKEA furniture.

Use their shitty website and read the notes below each item, which describes its exact size. If you are some kind of retro oddball, use the paper catalogue. But go with a list already made!

Bonus points: add the article numbers (in this format xxx.xxx.xxx) to a printout of a mood board-style wishlist.

2. Measure up!

IKEA think they are helping by giving you those tiny pencils and paper tape measures, but they are complete shit compared to a proper aluminium or wood I’m-a-construction-worker-who-drinks-Sternis-at-9-am kind of meter. You know, the ones that cost two Euros in Bauhaus.

Using a proper meter will help you to measure accurately, check your angles, get a sense of the volume of your space, and save you tons of time.

Pro tip: bring a floor plan drawn to scale. Then you can be sure you’ve bought everything you need, and left space for important things like fire exits and humans.

3. Do it from behind <hehe>

You need to know exactly how much time you have, including the commute. If you have two or more hours, go ahead and run the maze like IKEA suggests/forces you to. But if you followed through on points 1 and 2, you should be able to cheat and start from the back.

Walk in through the out door and go directly to the warehouse. This is the best way to avoid the unnecessary showrooms, impulse-shopping, student-parent combos, new families (gross!) and their strollers. You are here in a professional capacity.

Pro tip: if you do find yourself in the maze, look up the short cuts (yes, they do have them).

4. Use self-checkout.

It is way faster!












Have meatballs for dinner. And if you’ve left yourself tons of time, have meatballs before you shop, and hot dogs after.

As well as these culinary delights, treat yourself to a taxi, Möbeltaxi or delivery service. IKEA do same-day delivery through another company, with the cost based on how much you bought. If you don’t mind waiting something stupid like three weeks, buy online and pay them to assemble the stuff for you. That way, there are fewer things for you to mess up, not least your back.

6. Stay loyal.

Consider signing up for a loyalty program, like IKEA Business or IKEA Family. You will get proper invoices, gift cards, and a not-that-bad user interface which you can use to track your business relationship with IKEA (and download the old invoices if you lose them). It works, bitches!

Try these tips and track how fast you go from UGH to NOM! Meatballs!

Berlintercourse: The ins and outs of dating in Berlin

by Guest Blogger

Dating in Berlin can be weird. I’d been warned before I moved here: “In Berlin findet man mehr Sex als Liebe”; “Everyone is single in Berlin”, etc. But I still had hopes that I would work it out – I even decided to make a challenge out of it. I mean, how could a young, fairly attractive and relatively intelligent girl like me stay single in a city full of hot, interesting and like-minded people? Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to realise that things weren’t going to go as smoothly as I had expected.

I turned to my smartphone as soon as I arrived in Berlin, to make sure I wouldn’t lose too much time out of the game. I figured Tinder would be my best bet, as I didn’t have enough acquaintances or work colleagues to allow me to meet boys through friends. Little did I know that I was entering a world made almost exclusively of dates serving as both first and last encounter, plenty of shattered hopes and – here comes the silver lining – pretty awesome sex. It’s been over six months now and I still haven’t won the game. I have, however, learned some of the rules. And here’s tip number 1: don’t get indignant if you hear that the Berlin dating scene is insane. Just thank whoever was kind enough to warn you.

If you haven’t been greeted by a guy opening his apartment door with his balls hanging out, and a cock ring dangling between them, then how can you be sure that you’ve really lived?

Before you ask, yes, that did happen to me. But I’ll save that story for another time! Anyway, I’ve learned a lot over the past few months. I’ve gone from almost falling in love upon first meeting a guy to having blind sex dates with people I met through OkCupid and knew nothing about. Not necessarily because of Berlin, but because I had just got out of a four year relationship which had repressed what I would describe as mild nymphomaniac tendencies. And what’s wrong with that? I always make the guys wear condoms, I haven’t got pregnant yet and I’ve experienced my fair share of crazy stories.

My dating spree has introduced me to the good, the bad and the ugly of the Berlin dating scene. And no man that I’ve encountered has behaved in a way that could be described as remotely normal. I blamed online dating for this, until I stopped using dating apps for a month. To my horror, I realised that the men I met in the standard, pre-21st century fashion ended up behaving in an even more absurd way.

To give you an idea – I got dumped by this one guy I wasn’t even dating, by receiving a Whatsapp message at 7am on a Monday, as I lay in bed with a boy I’d met at Berghain.

We’d been to KitKatClub the Saturday before, and, after telling me we were absolutely going home together and convincing me to leave some of my clothes at his place, he got off his face on ecstasy and suddenly decided he wanted nothing more to do with me. In the meantime, he had actually introduced me as his girlfriend and asked what our rules were for the evening. We agreed that kissing strangers was fine, and that we would ask first if we wanted to actually sleep with anyone else. I guess it took him 24 hours to decide that the sensible thing to do would be to break up with me and dare to include the words “let’s stay friends” in his message – because why not, right?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to sharing all these fabulous encounters in even more excruciating detail. Stay tuned for a journey in the life of a desperately single Berliner trying to figure out the in and outs of this sex-obsessed city, one or two insane boys at a time.