Is it Possible to Fall out of Love with Berlin?

PHOTO: Shoshi Khaddour
All good things come to an end. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Some love affairs become lifelong commitments while others, sadly, fizzle out like candles coming to the end. The same goes for this city.

Berlin could be compared to Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. Ok, some people might not admit the latter part of that statement but it starts becoming true after a while…right? Sitting in Queen of Muffins on Postdamer Strasse and having coffee with my friend Tom, an expat in Berlin, I realised that this seems to be the case for a lot of expats.

Tom came to Berlin in May 2007 and fell in love with the city for the same reasons we all love it. “Berlin is a great city,” he said, “affordable rents, lots of events going on and great people with relaxed personalities.” That aspect of Berlin appeals to all of us, you don’t have to be an artist or a struggling musician to appreciate that side of the city and that’s why a lot of people move here.

As a stopover hub, where people come and stay for six months or a year before moving on, a lot of things can be done easily in Berlin, finding a quick job, getting a cheap apartment and making new friends on the party circuit. For Tom, it was like this, even when he left and decided to come back. “I left twice and came back twice all because it’s ‘easy’ here. I have friends, connections and never had a problem finding a place to stay or finding a job, sure it’s been call center work but now I feel different. I need something new, I need excitement, challenges, and Berlin isn’t offering me this anymore.”

His story is something that I relate to. Maybe not everyone will recognise their own experiences in what he’s saying but I feel that at some point or another we’ll all have this feeling and we’ll all ask ourselves the same question, what else does Berlin have to offer me?

Again I stress it’s not the same for everyone and Tom’s own experiences back me up. “When I moved here I was really motivated to have a career and saw opportunities arise but it never happened for me. Maybe it’s me. I get bored easily and am easily distracted and the lifestyle promoted in Berlin kind of discouraged me to try hard to succeed in a career.”

Obviously, life isn’t all about work and the great thing about the city is that it encourages us to enjoy the little things in life, art, hobbies even free time becomes sacred and something to cherish. But there comes a point when we have to either tone-down that nonchalant attitude or step away from it completely. Our futures (wherever we live really) aren’t secured and let’s be honest there’s a side of the city that almost accepts failure. If you lose your job there’s always unemployment if you can’t find an apartment, there’s always a short-term sublet somewhere in the city.

Tom is moving to Asia soon and feels that he’ll never come back to Berlin. But there’s no resentment there. He thanks Berlin for this change in his attitude. The same passion he brought along with him all those years ago is now a passion for something new and exciting in Asia.

“It’ll be a new chapter in my life and who knows, it might motivate me to do something more than just fall back on call center jobs. It’s hard to renew yourself when you’re in the same place for a long time. Abroad, I can meet brand new people, discover new passions that I just couldn’t find in Berlin.”

For me, the hardships that I’ve endured in Berlin shattered that illusion that Berlin was an easygoing place to live in. So everything that Tom’s been saying resonated with me. I understand his need to escape the drudgery and banality of the same old routine and find something exciting elsewhere. Maybe I’m falling out of love with Berlin too.

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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