Today I shut my door of my Berliner flat for the last time. It marks a great point of my life, turning the page and moving on elsewhere. I have started working in Málaga, Andalucía and will stay there for the foreseeable future. Hence, this blog will go to sleep… until I feel like writing about Berlin again.
I am very grateful for the five years I have spent in this exciting place. I have grown as a person, I have experienced all the faces of the city and lived my life to the fullest, as if I knew my time here has a validity date.
I have returned to Berlin for a flying visit to wrap a few things up and today I am walking around the city, somewhat still feeling at home, but a stranger again. For now, I miss it from time to time, but I acknowledged I moved on and found my new happy place almost 3000 km South. Still working in tech, still surrounded by incredible internationals and locals, but being healthier, happier and starting off new passions, such as sailing. There is a great green field and momentum for this part of the world I would like to take place, including cultural and tech scene.
I will keep coming back to Berlin, as I left a great piece of my heart and soul, and friendly faces too. I hope if you read it, you will receive an invitation to come back here, reflect on the great moments I’ve lived and maybe my experience can be useful for someone lost in the web.
At the same time, I will keep running lusofonetica.com as I plan to re-visit Portuguese-speaking countries more often now, since I am closer. I aim to reduce air travel though, trying to find alternatives for the transportation and one day, hopefully, sail around the world.
Auf Wiedersehen Berlin, I know we will meet not once, not twice and who knows when our paths will cross again, and who will we be then.
It’s been over 4 years of living in Berlin for me and I’ve managed to spend my first Christmas (and New Year’s) season here only for the first time. There are many reasons to it: the most trivial one being lazy, and hesitant to spend more time at the airports, paying for the overpriced tickets to only get away to more sunny, appealing side of the world. Secondly, it’s a brand new state of living together with my partner and actually caring for staying at home (!) with our family, and last but not least: experiencing the ‘abandoned’ city vibe, empty streets, peace and quiet at once. Yay!
First, I felt a bit panicky about the fact that for a few days there will be very little to do with our parents who have (thankfully!) seen Berlin-as-a-tourist-place already and in case we run out of food, there will be nowhere to go to eat out. We definitely didn’t feel like spending the whole time in the kitchen and running around with all the schlep related to it.
Fortunately, most of the Asian, Indian and Turkish places, including our favourite ones were open and running during the whole holiday season, and there were many patchwork-expat families like ours enjoying the atypical dining. For three days, we enjoyed not only cooking at home, but also relaxing from the end-of-year hustle.
Another highlight, recommended by a colleague was the special Großes Berliner Weihnachtskonzert at the Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt. On the 25th, we attended a concert of Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau who performed ”Der Freischütz” overture of Weber, Mendelsohn-Bartholdy’s concert for violin and orchestra e-moll and Smetana’s pieces from ‘My Fatherland’.
With this I could definitely recommend staying in Berlin during winter holidays, slowing down, bonding with your family and friends, especially if you have some expat ones, who are missing their nearest and dearest, and often also the sun and human warmth.
You know my other (blog) half already, and therefore you probably know the other part of my mind, which lives somewhere in the Southern sphere without moving from Berlin. Or at least escaping a few times per year to where it belongs.
This month I travelled to Lisbon aka LX again, partly for business and to connect with new people, partly for being with my best friends and to reconnect with them. The business part of the trip was due to the annual edition of the Web Summit – my first experience at the conference thus far. I expected big hype and crowds, but what I saw was really intimidating in numbers (not only to me), especially in a city that is one of the tiniest European capitals: almost 70000 participants!
The less intimidating, and rather promising one, was the ratio of women attending the event: 43%. It was not only visible in the crowd, but also in the networking focus and number of female speakers and panelists, as well as politicians attending, giving a good role model aspect to the aspiring professionals in various roles in tech.
The number of talks and its focus varied and was obviously impossible to track everything. Some of them stating the obvious, some of them: mind-boggling. I felt a lot of the questions I have for various branches in tech were not necessarily answered but at least well posed. It’s good not to feel alone, but less assuring to see same question marks and not too strong answers on how to move forward. Same comes for democracy, privacy and generally: staying human in technocratic world, while taking the best out of it.
I feel that getting to know inspirational entrepreneurs, mostly women, sharing experiences and ideas, looking for this positive needle in the stack, was my highlight of the event. I left with a few new ideas on my mind, good feedback and hope for the tech industry.
Last but not least, contemplating ocean waves from the Westernmost continental part of Europe was a bliss like always. Sharing this time with my best friend and great business mind in one person, and gave me a lot of hopes for women and for tech, together.
Three is a magic number. For me it meant different things in the course of my life, and has often related to my relationships with people and places. Now it’s the time to celebrate my 3rd Berlinversary looking back to what I’ve experienced so far and look out in the future what’s about to come.
‘You are not about the people, you are about the places’ said once a good friend of mine to describe me. And that’s me, working by my own choice, with people, all the time.
The other friend doesn’t believe I can stick around for longer than three years in one place and keeps asking me what my next destination is. Funnily enough, my initial thought when moving to Berlin was to stay here for max. 3 years, get some amazing work experience, learn German like a pro and visit all the places in the city I wanted, including clubs, galleries and abandoned places. I didn’t know it’s quite an ambitious plan for 3 years!
So here I am, not willing to move out and having hard time thinking which city would work better for me. I’ve just started my 3rd job, and it’s not that I didn’t like my previous experiences, it’s because this city is full of exciting opportunities. Having said that, lesson learnt #1 is to have a good work/life/travel/party/nature/urban balance. It’s so easy to get passionate about what you do (in my case it’s music tech!) and find like-minded people to accompany you alongside, whatever your thing is. But it’s also important to have a quality ‘solo time’ and wind down.
My German still has a lot of room for improvement, to put it nicely. I can read and understand a lot, write reasonably well (thinking that its structure is a good mental exercise of putting your thoughts together), yet I still feel very shy speaking. Maybe I should re-adjust this plan for the upcoming next 3 years?
I’m still not done with doing things, going places and trying out new stuff, which feels like a bucket with no bottom filled with endless options in this dynamic place. Not all the changes I like though, nor I accept certain grumpiness/negative/coolness vybe branded as ‘a Berlin thing’. I love the community and solidarity aspect which I hope will not get forgotten in the further gentrification and commercialization of the city.
I’ve been through love/hate phases of my stay here, and all the states in between: from bittersweet loneliness to over-socializing, from shivering in the winter to dripping sweat in the summer (*of 2015, never happened again), from Spati-crawling to eating out in a Michelin-star restaurants, you name it. And this is just a partial description of the diversity of Berlin I love.
And by the way, I took this picture today on my way to work <3.
I am back in Berlin after taking some time off to re-discover, re-thing and re-charge, which in my case meant: enjoying the last weeks of summer travelling, sometimes even without moving. This week I have just started a new role and I am super excited about what is about to come. Looking back though, I would like to focus on my connection to Barcelona, a city where I spend around 4 years in total, before relocating to Berlin.
I call Barcelona yet ‘another home’ on this planet and you can put either #2 or #3 or #4 to it, depending on the mood and proximity I share with this place at the given moment. Fortunately, it is quite easy to travel these days between Berlin and Barcelona, so I rarely get to feel very much ‘home sick’ in this sense. For some reason though, coming back this week from this beautiful city made me feel incredibly heart-broken. It was just a little bit confusing to feel so much at home again.
Autumn is one of my favourite periods to travel to Barcelona, given that I can’t stand millions of visitors during the summertime, which partially was a reason for me to move out back in a day. Still, the weather is great: warm and balmy, and occasional rain only ads to the beauty of the city. Autumn 3 years ago was also the time when I took the decision of relocating to Berlin: not an easy, but nevertheless a good one, after seeing what I had achieved and lived.
These days, it is incredibly interesting to me to come back and see the changes: the changing state of affairs, the economy, the improvement in quality of life, and at the same time – horrific gentrification, which is probably another topic for a long entry. In many ways I feel that the processes are similar both in Berlin and in Barcelona, given their focus on innovative tech industry, attracting well-paid professionals from whichever part of the world, causing imbalance with the existing community. Often, leaving the community behind without offering any reasonable solutions or including them in the change.
It is also quite amusing to see how Berlin and Barcelona inspire each other in trendsetting: although they are cities situated in a totally different part of Europe, they are still the coolest kids of the continent, competing within the range varying from the breakfast clubs, gin & tonic bars, terrace parties to music or art events. I would probably say that competing is a wrong word, since both cities are priviledged in a different way; I would rather say, they are complementing each other. I would not look for Berghain in Barcelona or Gaudi’s architecture in Berlin.
In essence, Berlin and Barcelona are two hedonist cities that are attracting people who live to the fullest in a creative and loving way to the world. I can’t live without any of them and I am caught in between the love for both. Thank you my friends in Barcelona for staying here and letting me come back anytime and for those in Berlin to make me feel here so much at home, even when the days become gloomier and darker.
So, I can tick the box entitled “one year ago I started a new chapter in Berlin”. Here are some thoughts and learnings acquired during the last year:
Location: Berlin is the centre of the world. Oh well, Europe at least. Although the real airport might never be opened (?), it is relatively easy and cheap to fly anywhere in Europe, or connect with the transcontinental flights. I guess this year each month I did at least one weekend getaway abroad (little getaways to Poland and other German cities/sites included). I even went to one tip of the world: to Arctic, which was one of my dreams. It took me only 6 hours to get there though! But Berlin can be a little universe itself and it takes years to discover it fully.
Visitors: Friends still come and visit you, even if you don’t live at the beach (comparing to my previous life in Barcelona). It’s also pretty centric and easily connected, not to mention it takes me literally 2,5 hours to go to my home city in Poland.
(Job) Opportunities: The start up scene scent is still there in your nostrils, and it is very common to support the local innitiatives and emerging products. Even though the job market is very dynamic, comparing to other German (European) cities, salaries are not amazing. For now the cheap life has been paying off enough, but seems that each year the frequency of using the G-word (‘gentrification’) in different contexts is rising.
Language: German is not as vicious as they say it is. It took me one year to land somewhere near the B2 level, which means I can easily read the newspapers, understand most of the TV shows, sometimes even go to the cinema and most importantly have a conversation. I still don’t feel too comfortable talking to newly met people, especially if the music is loud, you know. In 2016 this should be OK-ish!
Architecture: So once upon a time, it was all about the Post-War, post-industrial abandoned buildings both on the “East” and “West” side. Berlin is much more than that. There are few cities offering the rainbow on a block of flats’ facade, aren’t they?
Cuisine: Monday – Vietnamese, Tuesday – Israeli, Wednesday – Spanish tapas, Thursday – Russian, Friday – Indian. Next week you can replace this selection with any other cuisine, and you will find the place to eat out within 1 km radius, I am pretty sure. Berlin is heaven for foodies, and it is still very cheap!
Lifestyle – described as “whatever works”. Questioning the normality, creative mindset and open-mindedness is probably what I like most about living in Berlin. History of Berlin had it all: pain, tears and joy. When nothing is taken for granted, many things can happen… Like these urban gardens in the centre of the city, or the club opened on the commercial centre’s rooftop.
Yes, Berlin is probably overrated, but it is still the best place in above-mentioned terms I’ve lived in so far (sorry, Barcelona, you are also awesome and I miss you badly!!!).
Not easy to start all over again, but here I am: new job, new place, new friends, new city, new country and last, but not least: new language. Much as difficult the process of adjusting is, it is also extremely exciting. It’s been a month since I relocated, and I am happy to announce: I will be shortly moving in to a new flat! In Berlin, aka: Silicon Allee, the Silicon Valley of Europe.
My colleagues and local friends have been very supportive in the whole process of tedious searches, interviews and screenings (yes!) before getting myself to sign a tenancy agreement. Some of them – expats like myself, some of them – German but from another parts of the country went through exactly the same process a while ago. The Berliner community has been also helpful in terms of finding furniture for free or for bargain prices. So this piece of writing will probably start off for good as soon as I will unpack my last suitcase.
Berlin is not only about the history, culture and urban landscape. It is mostly about its people and their creativity/productivity even in a very casual, almost laidback context. Let me share its highlights as time moves along.