Overheard in a Café: Opening up

We were sat in a café on Potsdamer Strasse over the weekend, the sun was shining, people were out and about and the happiness of a sunny day was showing on the face of every passer-by.

I was sat outside while my partner ordered inside, my face directed towards the sun trying to soak up every bit of sunshine that I had missed over the winter months when I started to (inadvertently) pick up bits and pieces of conversation from two guys sat on the table to my left. It doesn’t happen that often in Berlin but when I hear English being spoken my ears prick up and I suddenly become interested, it’s as if I haven’t heard English in forever and need to remind myself what it sounds it.

So I started listening to the conversation, not in a malicious way of course but I was genuinely interested in what the two friends were talking about. One fellow, in his late twenties/early thirties, was talking to his friend about a recent relationship he had just started with a German girl. The relationship seemed to be starting out pretty well; they met over Christmas, started dating in January and were already talking about going away on vacation together in the summer.

That was nice, I thought to myself, someone sharing in the happiness with his friend, love blossoming as spring starts to peek around the corner after a cold winter. I thought that that was that for the conversation and then I heard the “but”.

“But I don’t think her parents like me.” Carry on, I silently urged him, I wanted to hear more.

The story goes that when his girlfriend’s parents were going out of town, they asked her to take care of the dogs; she had invited him to come over and keep her company for the weekend. The parents found out and were not happy, they didn’t want this man in their house. Here sat this man, confiding in his friend about this bump in the relationship, he was obviously looking for a comforting ear and some sound advice from his friend.

Despite this bump though, the boyfriend seemed adamant that he would continue with this relationship, this complication didn’t deter him from pursuing the woman he liked. His friend respected that, encouraged him to give it time, maybe her parents would come round soon enough and give him a chance.

The idea is that in this cosmopolitan city, where faces change on a daily basis and friendships evolve because of the changing nature of the city, our insecurities and problems are not being addressed for the simple reason in that some of us feel alone here.

Most of us come to Berlin alone, starting a new job, starting a university course and with that comes the daunting task of starting new friendships and relationships from scratch. That doesn’t come easily for everyone.

We’re all vulnerable opening up to new people and showing weakness that we feel might lead us to get hurt, be that with new friends or new partners. It can be that fear that keeps us alone when we try to find our way here. And whether we’re here for a year, two years or looking to settle down here we can all learn a lesson from café guy, if something is standing in your way in a new city, if there are obstacles making you feel alone then it doesn’t help to keep all of that to yourself. What makes Berlin are the experiences that come with meeting all different types of people, people from all different walks of life who all have a story of how they ended up in Berlin. Isolating yourself to that will make Berlin a lonely place, no stories to tell of how you found that crazy friend or dating stories detailing your search for that one person that gets you.

So here’s to making ourselves more open in Berlin, more willing to accept that there will be obstacles in our way but that those obstacles mean nothing when we have our Berlin family around us.

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.

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