Berliners have issues about the freedom of speech. Others’ freedom of speech. Don’t dare beef about things you might not like here. This is “our” city and we shall fight for its dignity.
This man said he hated it, couldn’t wait to go back home. “It’s too big, too loud” and “people are conceited about living here.” He was a businessman from Frankfurt and we, the native Berliners, didn’t need to give it another thought. The enemy was instantly eliminated from our discussion and definitely from our future leisure time plans.
A Spanish friend of mine got furious, when an acquaintance of hers from Munich said that Berlin is not so exciting for entrepreneurs and starting new businesses. “Imagine,” she told me afterwards, “he said Berlin is in the middle of nowhere and I’ve been running my business here for five years.”
People who have obsessions are dangerous. And if someone suffers from this disease, it’s the “new” Berliners. No matter which continent we come from, we have something in common: we idolize this city. We behave like conquerors, who discovered some sacred land – we must defend it from insults. For us, Berlin doesn’t compare to any other German city, any other European cultural centre, any other place in the universe. It’s part of our imaginary paradise.
Proud Berliners – not an endangered species
Politicians live in this paradise, too. Or at least they pretend to. Some time ago, I was given a political flyer from the Social Democrats. The first sentence of their campaign was “Berlin is a city like no other.” (Of course it is!). Well, I guess that’s something that makes voters in Berlin happy. Show them that you love the city and they’ll be satisfied. Or give them the opportunity to express themselves. Like a few years ago, at the Festival of Lights, when organizers projected Berlin fans’ flattering messages for the city onto the Brandenburg Gate.
And of course, other times of year, there’s the Berlin Film Festival, Fashion Week, the ITB International Tourism Fair. Who cares if the Fashion Weeks in Milano, Paris or New York are well established international style events? Berliners have their own cup of tea and that’s all that matters.
Another hobby of ours is to count Berlin’s superlatives. Berlin’s been setting new records of tourists, of design companies, of the best club in the world, the most ecologically-oriented metropolis in Europe, best public transport, and of course, the most fascinating European train station.
Who else on earth would throw an open air party dedicated to the train station, like the Berliners did in May 2011 for their Hauptbahnhof, to celebrate five years since the inauguration?
I, no different than my fellow Berliners, like to check, now and then, the ranking of the world’s best cities to live in (with the hope that Berlin will be under top 10 again, so I have an argument for possible skeptics from Frankfurt). According to a recent index by the Institute for Urban Strategies in Tokyo, it ranks 6th, after New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Singapore. Not bad.
Love is blind
Yes, we love our city and we’re not afraid to say it aloud. So loud, it sometimes hurts our own ears. In 2011, Berlin’s then mayor, Klaus Wowereit, announced the start of another hallucinating admiration campaign for the capital, on Facebook. “Make it a Million” aimed at gathering one million love messages for Berlin. Fans all over the world were invited to upload 30 second videos containing tribute songs, pictures and even poems. And the city did crack the one million mark, becoming the most popular European city. On Facebook. But we’re taking it for real, of course.
It feels like in an exercise in socialism, except only now we do it voluntarily. After all, Berlin had a few decades time to practice the techniques of the personality cult and learn from the best.
So should you dislike something about Berlin, keep it for yourself. Don’t tell it to the locals, unless you are willing to take the risk of being skinned alive.
Because what you’ll do is remind us about things we secretly hate as well- bad services, noisy construction sites, dirty streets, or the terrible weather. Don’t tell anyone, but in the end, yes, we are a bit nuts, but we are not as bad as it sounds.