After the Paris student’s revolution of ’68, Berlin, especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has become the capital of millennial protest and laid-back culture. It has attracted many non-Germans because of that special “anything goes” spirit, and because for a long period of time it was dirt-cheap to live here relatively well without having to make big money.
Unfortunately, in the last five years real estate developers have discovered Berlin as the newest “gold mine” and the housing prices are soaring. Indeed, the most exciting political event of the summer will not be the impressive protest against the German far-right, AFD, but the neighborhood- and Berlin-wide “insurrection” of all those who pay rent. According to a recent opinion poll, 73% of people paying rent in Berlin see a steep increase in rent as an existential threat. How soon is it before “paradise lost”?
The non-work ethic
To most Berliners under 50 and, certainly, to those foreigners attracted by the Berlin way of life, what matters is to live relaxed. Making money is surely not their first goal. Typical are the signs I often see on relatively chic shops – Either “The shop is closed today because of the overbearing heat” or “Today I don’t feel like bicycling to work”. Most shops anyhow don’t open before midday.
Typical is also the non-stop brunch. It starts reluctantly (especially Saturdays and Sundays) around 11:30 a.m. and finishes, just as reluctantly, around 3.30 p.m. In general, people prefer brunch and a late dinner to three meals a day.
Ecologically conscious. Green crazy. But hopelessly dirty
Many Berlin families create their own flower beds on the pavement in their street or register for a communal garden plot, where they can plant and grow their own vegetables. Most of the shops in the “with it” districts, have information posted about when they would receive eco-friendly, bio-eggs from the surroundings of Berlin.
Paradoxically, the average Berliner of any age is very dirty. They throw everything on the pavement, and since weekend picnic in the park are very “in”, I would not advise a walk in the park on a Monday morning.
Berliners are constantly upcycling objects, in particular, discarded furniture and unwanted clothes. And they constantly, by trial and error perhaps, invent new materials, which they claim to be lighter, airier or simply more fun.
Many, especially, among millennials, constantly upgrade themselves too. Spiritually, that is. The number of spiritual enrichment courses the average adult can take before or after work is amazing. Yoga is the main trend, with a bewildering choice of practices. There must be a yoga-studio in every street in Berlin. But the Berlin Kabbalah School is also a great success.
Market as a second home
Covered, sometimes ethnic, markets exist in abundant numbers in Berlin. Apart from offering a large variety of food (the more exotic, the better), they are social life centers where many cultural events like Jewish breakfasts, concerts and even plays are organized at least weekly and where you can encounter extremely interesting adventurers, like a French-man behind a crepe station, who in his previous (professional) life was a Californian film maker.
So, freedom fighters and freedom artists – Berlin is, contrary to expectations, a city of anarchists, with an overpowering exotic flavor.