Living in Germany, or at least from the lens of living in Berlin, for the past three weeks has mainly been focused around settling in.
Here are some of my thoughts from being here for three weeks. Take note that I’m internally comparing to all the places I’ve lived in before so these are all based on my personal frame of reference.
- Berlin has a slower pace of life compared to London but not necessarily boring.
- Really amazing transport infrastructure. This has been my qualms in places like Dublin, Vancouver, and Toronto where if one part of public transport fails it pretty much can derail your day. Not so here. You can move on with your life with little to no interrupting if there was a service ending at a stop earlier than expected.
- The quality of life here is great – and even better is that it is truly accessible to a lot of people (in the ways of cost, public transport, availability in a lot of places). There is a lot of choices here in Berlin, and they (as far as I’m concerned) won’t break the bank. For me, a simple act of buying food or random homeware stuff (more on this later) is like paradise. Although, I don’t know if I’m still in honeymoon stage here. But yes, it truly beats the faceless, depressing concrete blocks of Walmart or Costco in North America. I look back on those days like some sort of nightmarish haze.
- The food here is really great. The kind of food items that you buy in ‘specialty’ shops in Australia, in the UK, in Dublin, in Canada is food that you can buy at any grocery store that you step in.
- There is no such thing as the ‘best place to live’ in Berlin. A lot of things you need are all fairly accessible and there is a neighbourhood type that suits you most.
- One of the cons is that I still feel really awkward when I try to navigate simple things when prompted to in German like lining up to the till or asking for a plastic bag. One of the shop assistants in Charlottenburg (where I was shopping) seem to have a mini anxiety (ok, not anxiety but still…) when she asked in German if I wanted a plastic bag, and I couldn’t understand her so ended up doing some nodding yes when pointing at the shopping bag.
- Even if I get lost, there is something new and exciting around the corner. A museum, a memorial, a cool shop. I walked into a store thinking that it’ll be your run of the mill cheese-and-bread shop but it ended up being this awesome deli with people standing around and eating inside.
Since I move around a fair bit and in the past few or so years, I’ve been staying away from purchasing really frivolous things related to a ‘home’. I can’t remember the last time I bought cutlery, kitchenware, homeware (I bought a lamp in 2015 for some Philips Hue lights that I later gave away), those sorts of things. I’ve only stayed in the essentials. Bathtowels – and even then I still moved around with my cheap Walmart bought towels. Beddings – I have only ever purchased one, a House of Fraser pillowcase from when I first moved to London during my first ‘domestic’ shopping trip. Kitchenware – the last time I bought a mug must have been in 2011. The last time I bought picture frames was in 2010 and they were gifts. The last time I splured on ‘domestic household’ stuff was probably in 2012-2013 when I was living in London. Ever since then, a lot of items were in the rentals or from friends. And I was fine with this. And it wasn’t because I couldn’t afford these things. In one way, I was attempting to save up but at the same time, I wanted to get into the mindset of doing less consumerism. I just felt so guilty buying things and having ‘more’ things. I don’t feel guilty when I purchase things that will be ‘used up’ and perishable anyway like food, makeup or skincare or items that I know can be sold on like high quality clothing. But when it comes to homeware, I’ve skimped on this part.
However what was bad about this is that I was always on the mindset that I would not even bother making a ‘home’ because I’d be leaving anyway. So, I was constantly at a mindset that I will always leave, so what’s the point? After spending a few years with that mindset across 3 to 4 cities, constantly thinking that you’ll be leaving anyway is not really a good mindset to be on. So in my attempt of trying to make a home I’m out there to the homewares shop, buying Parisian room fragrance, rearranging some dried grass, and drinking an aerol spritz out of my recently bougth hipster glass mug with a paper straw.
I find it interesting that there is still this desire to tie up identity and ‘homeliness’ with certain things – with purchase and subsequent ownership of such things. I’ve lived in five cities over two years now so I’ve had at least five different homes – and let’s not forget stayingn in countless ‘in-between’ places while I look for a place or wait for a rental contract to start.
I’ve been able to starve myself of this – like being happy with simple things. Sunshine (free!) going through the curtains (not mine, the apartment’s). Comfortable bed. Working Internet. I’ve always felt some sort of disdain towards that need to buy decorations, homewares. Do you really need a pink butter dish? Do you really need an aqua blue milk foamer? Do you really need seven types of chili sauces? Do you really need those fake flowers?