So I'm not one of those angry expats who has nothing nice to say about the U.S. Granted, I found
myself apologizing a lot when Bush was still in office. I'd give a shrug and say "Sorry. I didn't vote for the guy!" Obama, thank you very much for many things, but most of all for sparing me the constant impossible explanation of my country's politics.
A true West Coast person, I love going home to California. Everyone is so amazingly friendly and open, chatting in the check-out line, making comments about how cute my daughters are. This just never happens in Berlin. Here are the negative sides of Berlin:
1. The weather sucks. (That is, unless you don't mind seeing the sun for months on end!!!)
2. People are generally really closed off and unfriendly. They often talk about how "shallow" Americans are, giving compliments all the time, but when you talk to them about it you realize it is because they think they are unnecessarily friendly. Strangers are enemies and many people have quotas on how many friends they can have (from hardcore Berliners I have so often heard the sentence, "So-and-so is really cool and nice, but I already have enough friends." WTF???)
3. People are often R-U-D-E. Examples: They bump into you (and I'm talking hard enough to leave a bruise...)and don't say excuse me. They start bitching at you out of the blue about crossing the street on red, if they don't like how you're riding your bicycle or (and this one really pisses me off!)they think your child is not being held correctly. They often only help reluctantly if, say, you have a big-ass baby buggy and you are trying to open a door.
4. Occasionally, they are arrogant U.S. haters who talk about what a bunch of savages we are. I mean, there are definitely a lot of things that can be criticized and I can take the criticism if it warranted but their examples are nearly always tired stereotypes and more often than not the most time they ever spent in the country was a two week visit to New York City when they were 15....
So, what's the reason that I've stayed here so long. Simple: IT'S DAMN DIRT CHEAP!!!!!!!!!!
I'm a big city person, but if I lived in San Francisco or New York I would be paying the same amount for a room that my husband and I pay for our three bedroom apartment. Here are some pictures of the place:
Gorgeous Altbau (Victorian), 107 square meters, three bedrooms, a very large living room and, get this, the rent costs less than 1000 Euros a month! And this is in the nice neighborhood of Kreuzberg 61. A similiar sized place could be had for a lot less in a neighborhood like Neukoelln.
In case this post inspires someone to pack their bags and move here (as it should...), I'm telling you, Kreuzberg is where it's at. Kreuzberg 36 or Wrangelkiez if you are young with no kids. Kreuzberg 61 if you are a little bit older, have kids, or shy away from urban grit but still like living in an urban place. A lot of Americans come here and immediately move to Prenzlauerberg, but I've always found the neighborhood overrated. As an American friend said recently, "It is pretentious, concrete-filled, and far away from any water."
As far as the negative sides of the city, you learn to live with them (and can bond over complaining about them.) Besides, there are also lots of cool people here from other, more relaxed parts of Germany as well as from all over the world, so it's just a question of finding them.....
Berlin, ach, wie ich dich liebe!!!