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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, coaching, effective communication and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free food and good movies.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Why Berlin?" or my very personal answer to THE question about the life as an expat in Berlin

I moved to Berlin almost six years ago. It was November 2009. 

Long time ago, somehow, not only because living abroad as an expat can be both very rewarding and interesting and also very hard at the same time, but also because six years in a city that changes as fast as Berlin do really feel like twenty years in another city or even thirty years in a small town.

The grandson - A book?
Grandpa - That's right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I'm gonna read it to you.
The grandson - Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa - Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...
The grandson - Doesn't sound too bad. I'll try to stay awake.
Grandpa - Oh, well, thank you very much, very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.

Fred Savage as the grandson
Peter Falk as Grandpa
The Princess Bride by Rob Reiner (USA, 1987)

[Will I ever have a perfect true love 
like Westley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride?
Well, I already have: it's called Berlin]

So I get asked about Berlin and this matter on a regular basis. 
Why Berlin. What do I like that much about the city? 
Why Berlin. Why I decided to move exactly to Berlin. 
Why Berlin. How it is to live in Berlin for almost six years now. 
Why Berlin. When... etc.

Did I already say that people ask why Berlin?
So, why Berlin.

I could reply to this question while talking about how international and funny Berlin is. 
How cheap the flats were when I first moved here. (Don't get too excited about this one, they are not any longer. Sad sad story, I know)
How veg-friendly the city was and still is, the perfect paradise for every fellow Vegan. 
How easy it is to find your niche and your tribe, it doesn't matter if you are in for a goa party, a salsa convention, a movie from Kenya, the most expensive Korean restaurant or the latest art exhibition about Expressionism.

I will talk about love, instead.
Falling in love never came easily to me. 
I am the gal that has a new crush almost every week, it doesn't matter if we are talking about people, places, things to do. And yet I get bored as fast as I initially get interested.

Getting my attention or at least my curiosity is easy. Keeping it? A completely different story, I am afraid.
But after almost six years I am still in love with Berlin as I was the first day, probably even more than I was back then because now I know the city pretty well and over the years it became not only a cool and funny city but also my city.

[My first day in Berlin, or...
Love at first sight like Romeo and Juliet 
according to Baz Luhrmann. And to William Shakespeare]

I am so in love with this city that sometimes I think that if I could fall in love with a man with the same passion I am in love with Berlin,  I would have a love story worth a novel then. A good one, of course.

Maybe I already have it, since Berlin became the love of my life. Living here definitely changed my life, for sure.
In the first two years spent here, while experiencing on a daily basis every and each nuance of frustration, pain, culture shock, reverse culture shock, misunderstanding and so on, every time I was about to quit I kept asking myself the famous three questions and it always went like this:

#1. What do I want? 
I want to live in Berlin.
#2. How much does it cost? 
It costs loneliness, pain, misunderstanding, discomfort, frustration, time, energy, effort.
#3. Am I willing to pay the price for it?
Oh, yes. Ooooh yes. YES.

In Berlin, I feel at home. 
I feel normal even if people stare puzzled at me because of my Purple colored hair, my tattoos or my clothes or all of this at once.
I feel that everything is possible. Still possible, no matter what. 
I feel that I have so many chances and I just have to pick mine. And that I am able to change my mind if I want to.
I feel that I can be whoever I want to be. So I can be myself without having to fight all the time, to hide for this, to feel ashamed without reason, to justify myself with someone who doesn't even know me.
I feel free, and safe at the same time. 

And I can enjoy the flair and all the opportunities of a very big city without the crazy prices and the stress of cities like London, New York, Paris or San Francisco. (Well, at least for now. And let's hope it will stay like this)

In Berlin, I feel happy. Every day.
It is enough to walk on the streets, alone, to feel happy. 
Even in incredibly dark days.
Even in awfully windy days. 
Even in absolutely bad days, like today. 

[Forever Marilyn, the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe 
by Seward Johnson, in its first location...
The famous subway scene of The Seven Year Itch (1955) 
could take place pretty often in Berlin, in windy days] 

When I am sad and I have the impression that nothing makes sense anymore, it is enough to go out, take a walk and have a look at the streets the people and the places of this amazing city for being sure, once again, that everything will be alright, eventually.
Maybe not today. Maybe not even tomorrow. But soon.

So, why Berlin?
Because Berlin means a true, big, perfect love to me. The biggest I ever had.

How about you?
What does true love mean to you?
What are you in love with?

Tags: Being an expat, Culture shock, Living in Berlin, Being in love

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