I was born and raised in the south of Berlin and never really left: Going from Tempelhof to Steglitz to Friedenau, my ‚Kiez’ has always looked remotely different from that cliché ideal of glorified Berlin. Always standing out a little, going through a scene phase as a teenager, and then adopting that ‘stereotype Berghain style‘ (wearing all black, being pierced and tattooed), people normally assume I come from central Berlin. But no, I don’t have my after-work beer at my neighborhood Späti nor did I spend my weekends in the Mauerpark. Also, have I never actually been to the Berghain. So when I do visit these parts of the town (Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, etc.) I always feel like a tourist. I love it! It means I don’t have to travel far to see some colorful streets, with little concept shops, and amazing restaurants. And to finally feel that my fashion choices make sense, but there is always this little part that tells me that this isn’t my place. I guess my introvert character fits more to the calmer side of town. And although I don’t feel at home in some parts of the city, I still feel lucky to call Berlin my home.
Corona changed a lot of my assumptions about what’s normal. Being out whenever you want, spending time in restaurants, being close to strangers, welcoming the warmer seasons in one of the parks with friends, a beer, and a good laugh. This year we had to be a bit more creative.
That part of my beloved Berlin (the coming together of people from all around the world) is dearly missed in these times. Corona being a worldwide pandemic puts even more emphasis on our city’s diversity and thus, its immigrants. Growing up, I never saw people as immigrants or foreigners. What was special about Berlin, at least in my mind, is that there was always a place for everyone, regardless of where they came from. Of course, part of growing up is to see the truth of things, and I realized that things in Berlin are far from ideal, and many of the immigrants who come here don’t feel really accepted.
At this time of crisis, we have time to contemplate important questions, like the question of the feeling of belonging, home, strangeness, and acceptance. And now that our lives are so limited to the borders of our home, the feeling of belonging and the safety in calling a place a home is more important than ever. It makes me wonder What is Berlin, or home to that effect, in the virtual place? Home for me is not only a place, but it is also the people in it, and when the place is gone all that is left is the people we surround ourselves with. My Family and my friends are my support system, and to have a strong support system means having a good community around. So let’s focus on the good, seek and give help where it’s needed, and be kind to one another (with safe distance), and most importantly, not to surrender to hate and misunderstanding.
So when the time comes, and we can walk down the streets again without worry, the city will be even a better place to be a local tourist.
Lisa K. was born and raised in Berlin. Currently, she’s in the midst of doing her MA in literature. She upgraded her living situation from living with 4 guys to live with 40 plants.
Adi G. is a graphic designer and illustrator, she moved to Berlin 7 years ago with her cat. She still struggles to say Kichererbsen.