Moving to Berlin was something that changed my life completely. I didn’t know that before coming here and I wasn’t ready for all of this. But, living in Berlin changed my habits, my way of seeing things and I’m pretty sure I’m not the same guy that left Brazil anymore. And I blame Berlin for that.
Maybe it’s just living abroad. Maybe it’s Germany. But I prefer to believe that living in Berlin is the reason why I believe I became a better person, somehow. Below you can take a look at some of the reasons why I believe that Berlin can turn you into a better person.
The Lack of Nationalism
I never believed in nationalism or in being proud of coming from a country. I always thought that the fact that you were born somewhere is nothing to be proud of. I even have a name for it, I called it a geographic coincidence. The fact that you were born somewhere had nothing to do with you, so why would you be proud of that?
Germany is weird when it comes to nationalism based on everything that happened in the last century. Berlin is even more uncomfortable with nationalism and I even remember reading some social media post complaining about the presence of German flags on the windows during the 2014 World Cup. There is even a video of Angela Merkel’s 60th birthday that shows this really well.
I came to Berlin believing that I had a critical mind but I was surprised when I started learning and observing how Germany deals with its past. This made me rethink my personal beliefs and turn them into something even more against nationalism. And I blame living in Berlin for that.
The right way to question technology?
I was quite surprised to learn how difficult it’s to pay your bar tab or your lunch with credit cards. Berlin seems to be a city that prefers to use cash all the time. I’m not sure the reasons behind it but I heard so many of them that it seems like there is a conspiracy theory behind it. I prefer to think that this is a fear of technology somehow. German even has a word for it: Technikfeindlichkeit.
But this hostility towards technology doesn’t happen only when it comes to money. I see it everywhere. Social media in Berlin is something weird. It seems that people don’t get it or that they never learned how to use it properly. Coming from Brazil, a country known for its social skills, it seems that Berlin uses the internet like we did in 2004. And that is nothing something cool for a city that wants to present itself as the Silicon Valley of Europe.
Either way, this changed me. The way that I see germans questioning technology and social media made me start to question how do I behave online and my personal choices when it comes to media consumption. And I believe that, again, I’m not the same person as I was before I decided to move to Berlin. I can even see that when I go back to Belo Horizonte and start talking to friends about life here. Everything it different.
Recycling and Upcycling
Before moving to Berlin, I was only in the city for a week and this short time was enough for me to fall in love with the pfand system. The system of bottle recycling is something that every country on Earth should use as an example of good behavior. The fact that I can save a few cents on each of the many beer bottles that I drink made me secure a place for it in my living room and I even carry empty bottles in my backpack if I drink on the street.
I also love how every building has these color-coded bins for paper, plastic, and all the rest. It took me a while to learn how to use them since we don’t have anything like this in Brazil but now I’m a pro. And I love it.
Living in Berlin made me question my need for things as well. Sometimes, the things you own have no use for you but can be exactly what other people were looking for. Like the saying that one person’s trash can be another’s treasure.
When you walk the Berlin streets you will see couches, tables and even some loose pieces of wood labeled with something like zu verschenken. This means that someone else is giving it away and you can take it if you want.
At first, I thought it was a little bit weird but now I love it so much and consider it to be an important part of life in Berlin. But you don’t need to walk around the streets to find the furniture that you’re looking for. There are facebook groups that help you with that. Free Your Stuff Berlin is one of the biggest ones and has more than 100.000 members. You’ll find anything there.
Why do I need a car if I have a bike and my subway card?
Before moving to Berlin I was living in São Paulo, a city known for its traffic jams. When I moved to Berlin I decided to go the other way and one of the first things that I bought after moving was a bike. Today I cannot imagine myself not cycling through the streets of Berlin. My bike is almost a part of me. Really.
Cycling in Berlin is fun since the city is pretty much flat. The people in the cars know how to behave when there are cars on the road and the only thing that scares me when I on my bike is other people on bikes. You know the type. Cyclists without any bike light, talking on the phone and not paying attention to those on the road. I hate them so much.
Back to the topic. Berlin has more than 600 km of bike lanes and most people in Berlin have, at least, one bike. Of course they do. Why would you need to have a car to drive around if you can do it by bike and exercise? If it’s raining, just take the subway and you will be dry and everything will be alright.
On the first months of living in Berlin, I recall that I even lost some weight just because I was cycling everywhere. It’s really the best thing to do.
Living in Berlin taught me to eat better
Germans want to know where their food comes from and I never thought about that before I made the move to Berlin. Organic food culture is big here and you can see it in every supermarket that you visit. From the cheap ones to those focused on bio food. There are even labels that tell you where a product comes from.
When I first arrived in Berlin I was in love with all the different ways that you can buy bread and all the varieties of sausages. But after a while, I started to question my meat consumption in the same way that I questioned my online behaviors.
It might be weird at first to learn that Berlin is one of the best places to be vegetarian anywhere. The city was even named the vegetarian capital of the world in 2015! One in every 10 people in Germany are vegetarian and no other country in Europe has such a high number of non-meat eaters.