Berlin is Burning
Before thinking about studying in Berlin I didn’t really have an opinion about this city. Now that I’m here, I think it’s nice. It’s like being in a Brooklyn that has less money and looser alcohol laws. As a sociology major I think it would be interesting to study the city with a ‘sociological eye’. I want to learn more about Berlin’s culture and structure in connection to social problems. It looks like there’s a lot NYC can learn from a city like Berlin.
Reading the article by Katy Derbyshire, “Berlin: It’s not all sex, all the time” was frustrating. I think she missed the point about Berlin being ‘the place to be’. Of course no one has sex or parties all the time, that would be torture. I also understand what Nicolas Hausdorf means when he writes, “her enthusiasm is the true energy source continuously refueling the myth of Berlin” but I think this perspective downplays Berlin. What I’ve found nice about Berlin’s nightlife is that people genuinely seem to be having a good time and being themselves.
A problem that I have with living in NY (in a country that prides itself on “freedom”) is the strong feeling of having my life/behavior policed. On the other hand, living in Berlin actually feels more ‘free’ and independent. This isn’t to say that Berlin is “A 1980s New York” or “a dystopian dream-space melting pot” but the difference is something I have taken note of.
I studied abroad to try to feel happier and it seems to be working. I think this has to do with what Nicolas Hausdorf writes in Superstructural Berlin, that for Berlin, “Although the iron cage of capitalist modernity is clearly perceptible here, it seems softer than elsewhere, not as brutal.” In NYC money means everything. Living in a city that isn’t dominated by skyscrapers is refreshing.
I’m still not sure how I feel about Berlin. Like NYC, does Berlin have problems with segregation, racism, and classism? I think it’s safe to say yes. As a foreign student who will only be staying here for a few months there are both things that I will be able to see as an ‘outsider’ and things that will remain hidden from me.
For now I don’t think I can form a strong opinion about Berlin. What I’m really feeling at the moment is a relief of not being in the United States. I didn’t come to Berlin to party, see Europe, or have a life changing experience. It’s a break from the mindscrew that is living in the US, a break that I am very grateful to be able to take. Exactly why Berlin feels different, more forgiving, I’m not sure. But the city seems to be doing something right somewhere and I’m happy I have the chance to try to figure it out.