The Lonely Metropolis


People come and go. That’s how it is and that’s how it’s always been. Berlin isn’t an exception to this rule.

People come to Berlin for different reasons. For some it’s all about partying; re-living that carefree lifestyle they experienced on a weekend trip a couple of years ago, but this time without the prospect of ever returning to responsibility. For others it’s a chance for new opportunities and a place where jobs and growth are in abundance - the abundance of jobs is somewhat debateable now, but that’s another think piece. And for a third group of people, well, they don’t have much of a choice.

We all find our way though. We find a way to get used to the comings and going of those that we meet; find a way to adjust to the inevitable silence when some of the people we have made connections with move away.

It’s no secret that Berlin is the city of transitions and turnovers. Look back at your time here and count how many people you have come to befriend, that have then simply decided to leave the city.

I’m drawing on this idea from my own experiences, of course, so this might not apply to everyone, but bear with me. In the four years that I have been here, I can attest to knowing enough people that it amounts to the double digits, who have come to Berlin, lived the experience, and then decided enough was enough. They were not all close enough to be privileged close friends, but they all count.

It can leave you feeling lonely, especially if you came to Berlin alone to begin with. I came to the city four years ago, solo, but a few months later was joined by my best friend and partner.  If people come here alone, they usually rely on the bond that builds from having roommates or flatmates. I was alone for the first 8 months and felt restricted by the type of work that I was doing, as well as by how far away I was living at the time. Gradually, and after realising that Berlin would be my place of transit for a while, I built up friendships based on the everyday struggles we were all encountering in the city.

Our friends became a kind of escape from the hardships - trust me there were a lot - and in many ways they became that family that people in a foreign land need to finally make it feel like home.

The problem with this is that these very hardships that help the bond to form start to weigh down on people and ultimately push them to leave. That’s when it gets empty. The people you get used to seeing everyday start deciding that Berlin is no longer the place for them and opt out of the city all together. Suddenly the family you made for yourself is disappearing.

That network of support we build around us when we’re somewhere unfamiliar and in times of stress and need is important for our own sanity and survival. The fact that Berlin causes that network to be so fragile makes it an unstable place. A lot of people might not want to realise this about Berlin; it could burst that bubble and force them to look at the city in a different way.

Berlin is lonely. It surrounds us with distractions so we don’t realise it, but with these distractions the alienation only grows. The city can drive people away, people we need, and more and more it has been doing that to people I know. It might be getting to be time to leave this loneliness behind.


By Shoshi Khaddour
Damascus born, London raised, Berlin based. Shoshi is a journalist with a focus on a range of social and political issues. A former broadcast journalist, her interests include food fairs, films, current affairs and space. She showcases day-to-day Berlin life on her Instagram and Blog.
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