You know you’re a Berliner when…

by Guest Blogger

Adam Fletcher is the author of a Picnic for Perverts a book neither about picnics or perverts. He is also the creator of Berlin Bingo, an amusing guide to Berlin made up of 64 city challenges.

Let me start by saying, Berlin’s ego is big enough already. It’s like the goofy, nerdy girl from the rom-com who let her hair down and took her glasses off some time back in 2005 and everyone collectively gasped, “Berlin – you’re hot!” Once we found out she was also cheap, that really sealed the deal – and naturally many of us flocked here to try and make lives for ourselves, which makes the idea of being a “real Berliner” a particularly challenging proposition in a city of such constant reinvention.

With all that in mind, I’ve still done my best to collate a list of 11 signs you’ve become a Berliner, which I hope most of us, despite our greatly varying backgrounds, can agree on.

1. You only have two moods, winter (sad) and summer (happy).

It can be challenging navigating the spectrum of all possible human emotions. Quite time consuming even, all that working out how you’re really feeling. True Berliners have simplified down all that emotional complexity to just two basic binary moods – happy and sad. Sad occurs during the horrible, long Berlin winter, in which we all struggle to remember, why did we move here? Happy occurs during summer, when everything is just damn peachy.

 2. You’ve viewed a flat with 60 other people.

I know someone who moved to Berlin seven years ago. He laughed, telling me how easy it was to get an apartment in Neukölln then. He said you went to a real estate agent, who gave you a big set of keys and a map before you took yourself round to look at the apartments. He even slept in some over-night, to check the neighbours and noise levels and all that good stuff. When I moved here with my girlfriend, some three years ago, it was already chaos. We never saw an apartment on our own, rarely with less than 40 other people. Everyone carried this big “please pick me” pack containing credit reports, references, employment contracts, begging letters, an essay they wrote when they were seven about a particularly enjoyable summer holiday – anything they thought might help. We didn’t even really look at the apartments – we fought our way up the stairs, barged through the door and with single-minded determination headed straight for the agent, laid the charm on thick, proclaimed our love for the place, told a joke or two, tried to be memorable, gave him the pack, shook hands, and left. Next Besichtigung. Hustle, hustle.

We viewed more than thirty apartments, said yes to twenty five, got offered one. Accepted it. I don’t even remember viewing it. I thought we were moving into another apartment, and when we arrived I was convinced they gave us the wrong one. Now, three years later, I don’t even want to imagine how bad flat hunting has got. I assume they just give you a piece of paper with an outline of the human body on it and you mark what organs you are willing to trade for a Zweiraumwohnung out in the ass end of nowhere, also known as the Ringbahn.

3. You’ve danced at a U-Bahn station.

I’ve never understood people having sex in toilets. I get that they are there and sort of semi-private. Or at least they have a door even if it doesn’t always reach to the floor. Yeah, I’m showing my age here, I know. But that’s a place in which people defecate and put up stickers promoting their startup. Presumably you have a bed. Go there.

So it’s with the same confusion that I disembark the U1 at Schlesi on my way home some weekend nights, only to be greeted by a popup club blocking all the exits. We have places for that already. With bars, designated dance floors, mood lighting, toilets (for sex)… Maybe I’ve just become too German over the years, but I now humbly suggest we just use for everything for the function it was intended. Oberbaumbrücke you’re no better! Shame on you! I liked you better when you were a bridge I could actually walk across at night, before you became Buskerhain.

4. You’ve whinged at the constant stream of foreigners infiltrating “your” city.

Remember when in Back to the Future Michael J. Fox had to be really careful about changing stuff in the past and causing a rip in the space time continuum? There was a lesson there about the fragile inter-connectivity of all things. Know that every time you stand outside your favourite cafe, angry at not being able to get a seat and bitterly complaining about all these new expats arriving and ruining your Kiez, just two years before, probably in exactly the same spot, someone else was standing there and saying exactly the same thing about you, then, two years before that, someone else about them and so on and so on. That repeats all the way back to the very first ape who climbed down from the trees and decided to walk upright, who was then copied by other apes, much to his annoyance, as everything was much better on the ground in the good old days before they came along. He probably then ran off to start spray painting “Schwabenape raus” everywhere.

5. You’ve gotten thoroughly, thoroughly lost.

I don’t mean geographically. That’s a given. I mean lost among the people and the possibilities on offer here. There’s a rather dazzling array of (mostly GDP negative) ways to spend your time. There’s not something here for everyone, there are 67 things. If it’s a Wednesday night and you decide you’re in the mood to perform Reiki on a midget, there’ll be a meetup for that.

Berlin nights begin at around 11pm, when you’ll innocently close your door to head out and see what’s happening, before bumping into some girls in a Hof, decide to join them to go meet this other guy, then that guy’s heard about this party from a dude he met juggling in the park. Which leads you somewhere, which leads somewhere… and before you know it its 4:30am on the following Tuesday and you’re in a club with no name, wearing someone else’s pants, dancing with people you just met, but love dearly, yet couldn’t name, and all-consumed with smug satisfaction at the joyous serendipity of life, or at least Berlin.

6. You’ve heard groups of people meeting in a mutual second language.

As far as I’m concerned the single most compelling reason to live in a city is friction, cultural friction. Cities force you out of your comfort zone. Small towns are great breeding grounds for ignorance and prejudices (hence the term “smalltown mindset”), because you’re not confronted every day by those people, on the metro, in parks, sharing your table in a full cafe. You’re not forced to see how ridiculously similar they are to you.

In a city like Berlin there’s a constant friction of different cultures meeting and trying, sometimes more successfully than others, to find ways to live together. It keeps you young and open minded. So some of my most endearing Berlin memories are eavesdropping on street conversations where a Spaniard, a Swede, a German and an Italian are all trying to have a conversation in beautifully broken, yet endlessly creative, English.

7. You hate the Zollamt.

As a general rule, if it contains the word “Amt”, you probably won’t enjoy going there (Burgeramt excluded). And the Zollamt is THE WORST. It’s a giant building of twisted, sadistic, reverse Santas who instead of giving out toys, steal them all and make you go all the way to Schöneberg to take a number, wait for an hour and beg, plead, cry and then dance like a Russian bear until you look so pathetic they take pity on you and finally let you have that new vinyl you ordered from the US, taxed at only double what you paid for it. Presumably, then, after a hard day’s work annoying the bejesus out of everyone they probably go home and do similarly evil things like leaving the toilet seat up or their dirty socks on the bathroom floor. I mean, I don’t know, I’m just speculating here. Nothing would surprise me.

8. You’ve redefined your expectations of customer service.

In general Berliners don’t have a reputation for being the warmest, softest, cute ickle bunnies. But where they really excel at failing is customer service. You may have heard it referred to as the Berliner Schnauze. In this city customer service is an abstract concept lost in the suggestion box of some Amt somewhere. It’s not that people are unfriendly as such, that implies that they make the effort to be hostile. Here it’s more a complete disinterest. Sometimes when being completely ignored by a heavily tattooed barkeeper at a hip basement bar I’ll actually pinch myself, just to check I have not become, inexplicably, invisible.

9. You’ve witnessed at least one daily act of crazy.

We all have an inner voice. It’s what keeps us company in the lonely hours. Mine likes to distract me by shouting things like “KILL THE DONKEY”, or “VOTE PEDRO” when I’m trying to concentrate on important tasks like eating chocolate or killing a donkey.

The inner voice is where our thoughts first manifest themselves. Think of the brain like a big production line, down which our earliest ideas travel. At the end is a filtering mechanism I imagine to be a big giant crusher ball on a chain, known as sanity. This swings back and forth crushing to a pulp all of our stupid thoughts before they can go anywhere dangerous. The best ideas get to dodge the crusher and come flying out of our mouths. But, should you walk the fine graffiti-strewn streets of Berlin you’ll see that there are a very high population of people here possessing no internal crusher. Anything can come out at any time. You’ll spot them easily; they’re the ones dressed as shabby neon pirates and wandering around muttering to themselves incoherently. Sometimes the muttering becomes loud SHOUTS of nonsense. Berlin has more than its fair share of crazies.

10. You can’t find a job.

I know several people who packed up old lives, moved here, never found work, were forced to pack up their lives again and move somewhere else. People, there are no jobs here! Don’t move here unless you already have a way to sustain yourself, even if you will need vastly less money than in other cities. €1k a month is enough to live reasonably well. So work online. Freelance. Do a startup. Take a year out and write that book. Do “projects”. THERE ARE NO JOBS HERE. At least not real jobs. Let’s just agree on that now, so no-one has the right to be annoyed later when they find that out. That’s part of the reason it’s cheap to live here in the first place. If it had industry, it’d be Munich. Do you want that? Do you?

11. You have regular Berlinergasms.

I don’t know the right word for it, so I’m coining “Berlinergasms”. I was on the tram recently and overheard an English guy turning to his two friends and saying loudly “I fucking love living in Berlin. I just love it. It’s just so fucking great”. What he possibly lacked in eloquence, he more than made up for in enthusiasm. He was having a Berlinergasm.

The reason we developed cities was the same reason we developed towns, was the same reason we developed outposts, was the same reason we developed something a little smaller than outposts but which I’m too lazy to research. Humans are best when we pool our resources. Everything gets more economical when it’s shared. Cities should make your life easier, not harder. Berlin does this very well (at least once you have an apartment). Firstly it’s not too densely populated and has incredible public transport that rarely closes. Because of its unique history as a divided city, I’d argue that Mitte has a far lower importance than most city centres (London, I’m looking at you in particular). So the major travel routes into the centre don’t clog up with people like they do in other cities. Berlin is more like six or seven large interconnected towns. You can bike everywhere with a minimal fear of death! What an arrogant luxury in a major European city.

So you’ll live here, and in the words of that Englishman “you’ll fucking love it.” You’ll be happier than you could ever be in whatever boring, little, stifling town you came from. Sometimes that happiness will feel hard to contain and will just sort of overflow into a wave of temporary euphoria of thanks; thanks that you escaped that town, thanks that here you’re free to reinvent yourself as you always wanted to be, just simple thanks that you get to live here. Berlinergasms.

So, how did you do? Can you think of any traits that all Berliners share? Feel free to share in the comments below. Tschüss!

[PS props to the following people for submitting pictures of Berlin Crazies: M R S P K R and Emma Johnson.]

Adam writes for several websites, if you want to know when follow him on Twitter.

EXCLUSIVE: Behind the Scenes of CRIME’s New Video

by James Glazebrook

CRIME "This Party Blows" by Alexa Vachon

Berlin-based noise punks CRIME have given us an exclusive behind the scenes peek at their new video, and it looks RED HOT. In fact, “This Party Blows”, directed by Tom Ehrhardt, Mika Risiko and Stefan Fähler, is going to be screened as part of the shorts section at the Porn Film Festival Berlin! The video will be released soon, but until then you’ll have to recreate it, by listening to “This Party Blows” (click play below) and, I don’t know, scrolling up and down through Alexa Vachon’s stunning photos, and opening and closing your eyes real quick. Expect to read more about CRIME, the queer DIY duo formed by members of Sissters and Scream Club, because their hollowed-out goth electro is currently shaking the foundations of überlin HQ, like, 25/7. Enjoy.

New music video ‘This Party Blows’ by Berlin band CRIME explores the representation of beauty on and off screen, taking real life social interaction as the source of inspiration. An atmosphere of friction and heightened gestural awareness unfolds in in this intimate portrayal of beauty and boredom

CRIME "This Party Blows" by Alexa Vachon 2

CRIME "This Party Blows" by Alexa Vachon 3

CRIME "This Party Blows" by Alexa Vachon 4

London Fashion Week SS13: Powder Blue

by Zoë Noble

London Fashion Week SS13 1

London Fashion Week SS13 2

London Fashion Week SS13 3

Music Montag: Depeche Mode, “Everything Counts”

by James Glazebrook

Rewatching the video for Depeche Mode’s 1983 single “Everything Counts” prompts two questions: what is that thing Martin Gore’s blowing on? And… IS THAT BERLIN? I can’t help you with the first thing, but the awesome Kreuzberg’d blog can confirm: yes, that is Skalitzer Strasse, and the Berlin Wall, and yes, there the pasty Essex boys are hanging out at Wannsee. I had no idea that the Mode recorded two albums at Hansa, the Berlin studios that Bowie made famous, or that the city featured so heavily in this video – so thanks to andBerlin for pointing out that Kreuzberg’d have a DM crush as big as ours!

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags

by Zoë Noble

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags 1

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags 3

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags 4

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags 5

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags 6

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags 9

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags 7

London Fashion Week SS13: We Heart Handbags 8

The Gentrification of a Beirut Concert

by Guest Blogger

This is a highly self-indulgent guest post from Adam Fletcher, author of A Picnic for Perverts and creator of Berlin Bingo, a humorous guide to Berlin.

Beirut - Øya 09 by NRK P3

Beirut – Øya 09 by NRK P3, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) licence

My favourite band is Beirut. I say that not for your praise, for to me it is not special or noteworthy to say or know this particular fact. It doesn’t require thought, I know it like I know at the end of this sentence I’ll place a small circle to the bottom right hand corner of its final letter. There you go. There was a time when I didn’t know to do that. Then there wasn’t. So it is with me and Beirut. There were other bands, then there was Beirut. Now I don’t think about it, and here comes another circle.

I made a rule with myself at the last Columbiahalle gig I went to, which was Bright Eyes. I said I wouldn’t go to any more concerts at Columbiahalle, or any venue as large. Personally, it’s just too big a venue for my tastes. Plus by the time a band is big enough to play it, they’ll have attracted a large fan base of assholes, who will have just heard the band’s latest single on the radio and brought a ticket just to shout for that song and drink too much and stand on my shoes. I’ve been a Bright Eyes fan for a long time. Again, I’m not bragging here. It’s a fact and it’s relevant to what comes next. Oh, I remember now, since I discovered Fevers and Mirrors, so for about nine years. I’ve seen them many times. I’ve seen them live only once at a venue the size of Columbiahalle. I’ve also seen them only once at a venue in which, when standing near the front, a guy barged me out of the way, turning to his friend and saying as he past “watch this, this is how you get to the front, Brian (shouting to no-one and holding his drink up aloft) Brian, I’ve got your drink. Excuse me, excuse me, can I just get through to my friend”. After getting several rows closer to the front he then turned to his friend again and said “Who is this band anyway, Bright Star?”  That’s only happened once and it happened at Columbiahalle. Draw your own conclusions.

Columbiahalle by Bernt Rostad

Columbiahalle by Bernt Rostad, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence

I purchased Beirut’s first album Gulag Orkestar one week after it came out on a then small label called Ba Da Bing! When it arrived, it had a hand written note on the PayPal receipt from Zach, thanking me for the support. Again, I say this not to brag, well, not primarily to brag, but because it’s relevant to what comes next. I was thinking about all these things last night, as I stood to the right of the stage amongst 3,500 other people and tried to listen to the support act, Helmut. He was great, I think –  I’m not sure because everyone was just talking over him. He wasn’t Beirut after all. So he really should have just got out of the way and stopped blocking the stage. That only would have been polite. While trying to listen to him, I was thinking about how everyone secretly wishes they’d allocate concert audience real estate by level of fandom. Because everyone believes they should be right, right, right at centre front. Within licking distance of the mic. Last night I thought and believed that. Then I caught myself believing it. I started thinking that if a table was assembled of members of the audience last night, ranked by length of their Beirut fandom, I’d have been in top ten oldest. Possibly even in a medal position. Then something else happened. I realised what a prick I was being. It was one of those rare moments where you’re able to step outside of yourself, where the usual heavy fog of self-centeredness lifts enough that you can see you’re, well, actually, watch this video first then we’ll talk more:

I realised I was one of the bad guys. One of the people who believes I have a divine right to enjoy something more than other people because I discovered it first. Because it talks to me more deeply, more personally than it ever could to them, and I resent them for even trying. It’s a common human fallacy. Length of enjoyment is equal to depth and/or right of enjoyment. As is normal with passion, if left unchecked it has a tendency to slip towards possession. The same way we all know our partners are the greatest members of the opposite sex that we could ever hope to meet, yet we are arrogant enough to hog all that greatness to ourselves for as long as possible.

Is any of this starting to sound familiar and related to another hot Berlin topic that caused so much debate on The Guardian this week? It should, at least for the Berliners reading. Hearing Aüslanders complain about rising rents and the influx of yet more foreigners into this city is just the same. It’s cheap and it’s easy to think like that. It’s very hard to imagine a world that we’re not the dead centre of, that doesn’t pivot around our axis. I fail at it almost all of every day. To get angry at tourists who slow down our streets by gawping at buildings and sights we barely even glance at now, so blunted are we by our daily routines. It’s a “what’s water?” way of thinking, in short, self-centred. The same qualities that attracted you to this place are attracting other people to it. That’s insanely logical when you think about it. Berlin is not yours. Everyone is someone else’s Aüslander all the way back to the first ape that climbed down from the trees.

Oh and to Zach, I’m sorry it’s taken me so many years to answer your letter. Know that it meant a lot to me, you’ll have my support for as long as you want it. If you want to make a few bad albums, I’m cool with that, I’ll love them all the same and maybe we can head back to those smaller venues and have some closer contact, like in the old days. I promise to continue illegally downloading everything you make, forever.



Adam writes for several websites, if you want to know when follow him on Twitter.

The Solution is Irrelevant

by James Glazebrook

I’m always complaining that there’s so much going on in Berlin, that I have no chance of seeing/doing it all. I know, I know, #firstworldproblems. Case in point: The Solution is Irrelevant, an interdisciplinary music and art project which, from this (uncut) video and these images, looks unmissable… Oops. TSII featured music from Sneaky, Lars Kirchbach, RQM, and Robot Koch – from überlin fave Jahcoozi – alongside an installation built and controlled by 44flavours and Clemens Behr. Check out the exhibition website for more information, or read the project’s aims below:

The Solution Is Irrelevant, the title of the upcoming exhibition curated by 44flavours and Clemens Behr, is meant to evoke not only an approach to creativity and the act of creating, but also a life philosophy. For the duration of the vernissage, the Epicentro Artspace will be transformed into a multimedia, interdisciplinary laboratory, where performance and video art, design, music, spoken word, sound treatment, sculpture, painting, and installations will interact simultaneously without a screenplay or a preset agenda. On board for the experiment: the 44flavours art collective, installation artist Clemens Behr, film directors Pol Ponsarnau and Yves Kasten, musicians Robot Koch, Sneaky and Lars Kirchbach, and spoken word artist RQM. The entire “performance” will be documented on video and will be screened at Epicentro art daily; presented in the form of video installations alongside other finished artifacts.

The Solution is Irrelevant 1

Image by Marlene Grell

The Solution is Irrelevant 3

Image by Marlene Grell

The Solution is Irrelevant 2

Image by Marlene Grell

The Solution is Irrelevant 4

Image by Marlene Grell