Don’t let the label labels Berlin

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I come from Hong Kong, an urban jungle filled with traffic noise, countless neon signs, and hustle and bustle lifestyle. All my connotation about ‘international city’ is closely related to my experience in my homeland. I have changed my mind after coming Berlin. Seldom could I hear the angry blare of car horn – It is a quiet city with relatively slow pace of living, yet artistic and vigorous. My first impression about Berlin is the graffiti-covered city landscape. It is impossible to see graffiti on the postbox or inside the train in Hong Kong as it would be treated as vandalism. In 2014, 70 works by a French urban artist Invaders was cleared by Hong Kong government in the name of rectifying cityscape. It is consistent to “the processes of urban cleansing” all around world mentioned by Hausdorf and Goller in “Superstructural Berlin”, but it does not affect enthusiasm of street artists in Berlin. The graffiti is appealing not only because they are beautiful, but also their revolutionary nature – Art is not confined within four walls of museums or galleries. It is no wonder Berlin is attractive to artists from all over the world.

Berlin is also famous for the hedonist lifestyle where sex is never a taboo while beer is cheaper than water. Before coming to Berlin, I wondered why the heavy historical background does not ruin people’s interest in party and feast nowadays. The article by Katy Derbyshire “Berlin: It’s Not All Sex, All the Time” uncovers the mystery – hedonism comes along with history. Since industrial revolution, alcohol and sex have helped people temporarily left the drudgery behind. It does not mean that they are forgetting the history. On the contrary, hedonism is part of their history that shaping the modern Berliners to have compatibility in different cultures and values. For example, queer is not a fresh concept when many countries still have fierce controversy on whether homosexuality is a crime. The desire of sex is not something unmentionable, but a biological need similar to hunger and thirst. By the same token, Terrible history is not something let them down, but a lesson learnt for the descendants. It is no wonder why sorrowful historical evidence and hedonist culture coexist here.

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One day, when I was wandering around Pankow, I saw this sticker on a wall. I found it really meaningful not only because of its literal meaning, but also because it existed in Berlin, “the City of Freedom”. Every individual could have their own ways of life with free will. Barely no one could simply summarize what Berlin actually is in few words. I also believe this feature makes Berlin “the place to be” – the diversity and variability allow miracles happen here. Therefore, many artists and entrepreneurs would gather in Berlin to accomplish their dreams. It is an important reminder for me to enjoy the freedom in Berlin without hindering by the norms and stereotypes from my homeland. Maybe I also can be the one who makes miracles.

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