Monday, 6 September 2010

Berlin via Brussels

by anakit

I don’t usually condone my fellow expats in Brussels complaining about everything Belgian. Sure the weather is unstable, but hey so it is in London, yet even movie stars choose to live there. The traffic in Brussels is ruthless, nobody obeys any rules, but then again, sometimes you get to turn your four blinkers on in the middle of the street and hold up traffic for 15 minutes, because everyone is already used to it. The check-out ladies at the super-market are slow, though not as slow as the post office ladies, still, you never feel rushed while you carefully stack your eggs and broccoli in your bag. And the services! Never mind the reluctance of shops to make any business with you, God forbid something goes wrong with your Internet subscription – though it inevitably will – and God forbid you need to deal with any sort of administration!

You can be sure that at some point one or all of the above complaints will come up at any lunch or dinner table in the European Quarter. I always feel you have to take the bad with the beer, the chocolate and excellent train connections to European capitals. But maybe it’s because I’ve been there for so long I have stopped noticing.

That is until I came to Germany. Luck, life, fate wanted it that I come spend two whole months in its grand capital. I have to admit, though not unfamiliar with this country and its culture, I did not expect much, except perhaps greasy food and lots of casual fashion. But I started living here and although I felt like the only person wearing pastels and sandals in August, I soon started enjoying the SERVICE. Oh the German efficiency! That alone is worth moving here. My jewelry supplies are delivered regularly, even on Saturdays (a blasphemy in Belgium) and the postwoman climbed up six flights of stairs to my apartment to deliver the package. Of course I met her half-way, worried she would have left with my package if I didn’t hurry enough, not unlike her Brussels counterparts. Silly me. Even out of breath she delivered the package with a smile.

Berlin is a city that takes charge. When you already think you’ve seen what there is to see, it leads you down a side street where huge painted cows are plastered onto a wall of an apartment building. It discloses a small shopping street after you have given up on ever finding shoes again. You take the wrong public transport and end up at the place where the Wall began to fall. When you ride the tram you’ve taken many times before you suddenly realize there is a planetarium nearby.

Idyll in Kreuzberg

Deserted Graphitti Boat on the Spree
Kreuzberg, Berlin
This city is a temptress, at first it plays it cool then slowly pulls you in, until you no longer remember you don’t really live here.

Recommended for Etsy lovers: Sunday fleamarket at the Mauerpark on Bernauer Strasse. It's more than just a flea market, it's a way to spend your Sunday. People flock there from all over the city, set up stands, perform in the adjacent park or just sit back and sip on their beer. Even if you're not interested in thrifting through piles of old dishes or handmade items, there's plenty more. You can enjoy music and lunch within the market itself or just hang back on one of the benches along the remnants of the Berlin Wall and feel the relaxed atmosphere.


  1. Great post, Anakit! I admit I found it entertaining, especially as I occasionally post on an expats forum for Germany, and the expats here make the same complaints you listed about Belgium!

    I find it to be just fine here, never had any problems, although I do find the occasional law or regulation somewhat bizarre...

  2. Heh, Eva, that IS funny. In our expat community in Brussels Germany has an aura of the promised land, where everything works!

  3. Here the "Promised Land" amongst our expats seems to be either France or Spain! Frequent complaints here... LACK of customer service, rude shop clerks, staring Germans (especially on trains), cold, insular people, lousy food... I was beginning to think I was either crazy or an anomaly, since I never experience any of that. Glad to see it just seems to be a little expat-itis! :)

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post anakit. That's so interesting you two. Two sides of the coin.

  5. Shirley/Artophile6 September 2010 at 20:00

    Lovely! It makes me want to go there. Man, I miss Europe!

  6. This is such a great post! I lOVE Berlin, I spent a weekend there once and declared I could live there. We stayed in Kreuzberg, I am so in love. Everyone has dogs which are happy and the food is great and everyone I met was so lovely. And the trains run all night! Genius!

  7. Thanks for this post. Love the pictures of the Landwehr Kanal. It makes me long for summer all the more. Viva la Kreuzberg and the German post office! ;)

  8. Curious Knopf, those pictures were taken last Thursday ;) I fear the summer has left a couple of weeks ago.