B-Town, Simplicity and Authenticity

I’ve been in Berlin now for all of three weeks, so this may well be premature, but this city seems to embody simplicity so much more than London.

I’m moderately hard on London in my posts. I wonder whether this is because it was the city I grew up in and, therefore, an expression of some internal discontent that is more about me than my birthplace? Or perhaps London truly is difficult and anti-simple? Most probably a mixture of the two.

Instead of being a bore and continuing the anti-London rant, here’s why Berlin seems so great, so far:

There is a latent authenticity, captured in the melting pots of the city, the attitude, in people’s clothing – a general sense that people are following their passions, without any regard for financial or status-driven motivations. The city seems filled with artists, musicians, poets and writers.

Living with housemates well into your 30s is not considered poor form. Being broke isn’t frowned upon. For some, it is a badge of honour overtly displayed to celebrate the focus on one’s integrity.

Whereas money is overtly displayed in London, Berlin has a healthy disregard for bling. Clearly Berlin is poor and that life can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you have to go work for a bank.

In many parts of the city, Berlin is ugly, but that doesn’t mean that an individual cannot make their corner beautiful and different.

It may well be that it’s August and I’m a foreigner, but at cafés, bars and out on the streets, people seem remarkably friendly and much more willing to engage with one another. It is highly unlikely that in London a German would be welcomed into people’s social lives on first meeting, yet here people offer you friendship with genuine grace.

More important, wherever I go, people seem to be walking slowly, and enjoying themselves.

I’m told that the winter months are extremely difficult here. Perhaps I’m just witnessing the blooms of summer?

Nonetheless, with increasing love for the city, I wonder whether I’ll be here for a month or a year. Then I remember to try not to plan and let this next month pass before I step into the next.

Either way, Berlin seems like a never-never land, with a similar spirit to my beloved San Francisco, where people seem freer and happier, friendlier and ready to ‘carpe diem’. A place where life is lived.

Thank you B-town.

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