Friday, October 9, 2009

Berlin's Dichotomies

Berlin is at once a massive yet tiny city. It is a city of ghosts and of vibrant life. It is a place where the East meets the West, and everything in between.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came to Berlin. But the one thing I didn’t expect was to feel severely depressed for my first month of being there.
After weeks of pondering and agonizing over why I was feeling so down, I finally figured it out: I wasn’t able to ground myself. I was lost. And yet I wasn’t. That was it. Berlin has so many dichotomies, that I wasn’t sure how to feel half the time. There is a constant shift from “hot” to “cold” and my body wasn’t sure how to react.
Most Berliners speak some English, to the point where one can be deceived into thinking that they don’t need to learn Deutsch. Big mistake. While it’s a total blessing to communicate in English while in a foreign country, one has to be aware that all media, websites, signs, and vital information is not in English. Germany is not a bilingual country, even though it sometimes appears to be. Mein Deutsch ist schlect, but I thought I could get by without knowing the language. In reality, one can just get by in Berlin with only speaking English. But if you want any level of success, knowing Deutsch is crucial.
Berlin has so much to offer, but when you just arrive, it’s almost too much. Where do you start? As a dancer, there was a million studios, instructors, and venues to choose from, but it was hard to get an “in”. Even when you think you have an “in”, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. For every club you’ve been to, there are a hundred that you don’t even know about.
There is also a contrast between East and West Berlin, and at the same time a unity amongst all Berliners. So, where to live? I still haven’t figured that one out, although I have found some neighborhoods that I love. Neuk├Âlln and Kreuzburg are my favorite, but I love Mitte and Charlottenburg and Prenzlauer berg, as well. And each neighborhood offers a totally different experience, so it’s a tough decision.
There are way too many dichotomies to list. What I do find comfort in is knowing that I’m not the only one who has felt depressed upon arriving in Berlin. I met a singer/song writer named Orit Shimoni. She wrote a wonderful song called "Sadder Music" that sums up exactly how I was feeling. It was a great moment to be sitting outside at a picnic table on a hot summer night, surrounded by people from all walks of life, listening to Orit spill her soul about Berlin. It’s always nice knowing there is someone to whom I can relate.
After being in Berlin for three months, the depression has passed. I love the city, and all of its quirks and charms. And I sympathize with Berlin. Despite being over 700 years old, Berlin is somewhat like a teenager with an identity crisis. Is the city Gothic, punk, historical, modern, hip, rundown, or just content with being all of the above? Whichever the case, Berlin has a little something for everyone. You just have to be content with whatever the city throws your way.

No comments:

Post a Comment