Ich bin ein Berliner

By Charlie Owen on

No, not a jam doughnut. Come on, we're past that joke.

Three years ago, when I first met my partner, I knew that she wanted to move to Berlin. I didn't think anything of it back then, as I was in the first lovely flushes of a relationship, was still in a whirlwind of discovering my new home of London, and didn't know what the future might hold in the next week, let alone years in the future.

To be frank, I never thought it would actually happen. But here I am now, with the same wonderful woman, packing up the last of our belongings as we prepare to move across Europe to another city.

So why am I doing it? Well, love for one thing. I've seen enough bad things in my life to know that a true loving relationship is a precious thing, and that you'll do anything to be with that person. If my partner said she wanted to move to Tasmania, I'd be clamping down on the spider fears and buying a cork hat. If she said she wanted to go to Greenland, I'd be taking snowmobile lessons and learning Kalaallisut.

Happily however, we both want to move to Berlin and in reality our relationship isn't as unbalanced that either of us would drag the other to somewhere they might hate. If I didn't want to move there, we'd both find a compromise and do something else.

But visiting Berlin during CSSconf.eu 2014 gave me my own reason to move. I found myself in a beautiful, weird, dirty, relaxed, sexy city. It's got a quiet confidence that I've never experienced before, a centeredness that lets it and its population do whatever they want, with no care of what anybody else thinks.

It's the polar opposite of London. It's an unpleasant truth that perhaps this move isn't just about going somewhere, but perhaps more about where we are leaving. London has been good to me these last few years. There's lots of jobs here in my area of work, and its filled with interesting things to do, but it's a hard place to live. The competition for housing means that rental prices are through the roof, cycling here is mortally dangerous, people are more concerned about their Twitter profiles than making friends and beer costs £5/€7 a pint. Add to that a resurgent Conservative government, increasing xenophobia and that particularly British obsession with owning property, despite most London properties being unaffordable, and you have a place that suddenly feels very alien and very unpleasant.

This all makes me more angry than sad, as I could spend a lifetime exploring London; I have friends here; and I resent being forced out of a place that has become home. But I need to leave. This place doesn't feel like home any longer, but more like somewhere to survive.

Luckily I'm privileged enough that I've already signed for a new job in Berlin. Once I've finished my contract at the BBC I'll be moving over to ~redacted~ WHAT ACTUALLY TURNED OUT TO BE AN AWFUL PLACE TO WORK, a small software agency in Kreuzberg. I've visited them and they're ~absolutely lovely~ sociopaths. It'll be a wonderful change working in a large, airy and light office - a far cry from the current cramped noisy conditions that London seems to encourage.

I'm also lucky that most young Berliners speak my native language, so I'll be able to learn German while still being able to temporarily communicate in English.

Am I going to stay in Berlin permanently? Frankly, I don't know. I'm still a EU citizen (at least for now) and I'm able to live anywhere in that beautiful region. Beyond that there's an entire planet. So who knows?

Just as I didn't know what the future would bring back in 2012, I don't know what it will bring for me three years on from now, in 2018.

But I'm excited to find out.