“You have GOT to go to Berlin,” one of my French friends recently told me. I told him that I study youth culture and the cultural zeitgeist, and he insisted even further. “You have to go to Berlin. It’s a must.” Strangely enough, or maybe not so strangely, most creative young people I’ve met who’ve had a chance to explore the city have said the same: you HAVE to go to Berlin. So I did. I wasn’t so sure what to expect, especially since I don’t know a lick of German.
Not long after I rolled into town, a young DJ who also offered me some MDMA said to me: “Welcome to Berlin! This place is either hell or paradise, depending on how you look at it.”
After about 40 hours in Berlin I am completely obsessed with the place and I’m here to tell you that a trip to Berlin is in fact a must for creative young people. Berlin is not necessarily a beautiful city, not beautiful like Paris or London, but that’s not a bad thing. In a lot of ways, London and Paris are both museums, they can grow no more, but Berlin is still growing, still reaching its potential. And that’s only one reason it’s the hottest city on earth. There are others, though!
1. It Has A Strong Creative Class
I love it when you ask someone “What do you do?” and they’re like…well… That’s when you know there’s going to be a story! Berlin is a city filled creative young people — DJs, artists, writers, performers, aspiring Djs, artists, writers and performers, and other creators from every walk of life. This makes for a super interesting socio-cultural dynamic where there is always something going on, always something to see, always new people to learn from. The “creative class” is a term coined by Richard Florida and it describes people who work in the world of ideas. Imagine living in a city full of people who are all pursuing their individual passions — where they can actually pursue them because the cost of living is amazing, rents are low (for now) and some people don’t even have to work full time to support their art. Not like New York where you have to work 25 jobs and maybe turn tricks on the weekend just to make ends meet! A pimp ho has to really hustle!
2.The Nightlife Is AMAZING
Berlin has always been a party city, and my agenda when I got there was to go out. I felt bad initially because there is like nice historical stuff to see, like the Brandenburg Gate and the Peter Eisenmann-designed Holocaust Memorial, which I did manage to see. But mostly I just wanted to go to the clubs, partially because I study nightlife and partially because I was anxious to see what all the fuss about Berlin nightlife was about. Let me tell you: nightlife in Berlin is serious!!! As soon as the bus dropped us off I went to my hostel, showered, changed, and went straight to the club. At 3 in the afternoon. You wouldn’t notice the ://about blank club if you tripped over it. Located in a relatively desolate part of the city, the club has an awesome outdoor garden with a DJ and a room that is basically pitch black minus the lights emanating from the DJ control panels. I rolled in at like 3PM on Saturday afternoon and the place was POPPIN. Then later that night when I was at Berghain, the greatest place on EARTH, I danced my ass off for hours and hours in a pool of sweat. I must have had like 7 bottles of water, and a solid 15 of the 32 hours I spent in Berlin were at Berghain.
3. Berlin Is Poor But Sexy
I had a whole pizza (huge) and a big-ass glass of wine at a fancy Italian restaurant in Kreuzberg AND THE WHOLE THING COST ME 7 EUROS!!!!!!! This is outrageous. I didn’t even eat all the pizza so I basically had a snack for later on, too! That’s because unlike most cultural centers — New York, London, Paris — Berlin is not a money city. Money doesn’t seem to drive people like it does in other places. That’s also why in a 2004 interview Mayor Klaus Wowereit famously said that “Berlin is poor but sexy” — Berlin ist arm, aber sexy. You couldn’t come up with a better way to describe the place.
4. It’s A City On The Edge
Everyplace has its problems, and I don’t want to come off as naive. What I do know for certain, however, is that Berlin is a city on the edge — where IT is happening. Living in Berlin right now means being part of a fascinating cultural moment. History is full of these kinds of moments, when certain cities, neighborhoods, or places were absolutely known for a certain type of activity. I live for the cultural zeitgeist — what people are doing, how they are making sense of their own moments and time in the world. You know how people talk about things being “it” or “hot” and stuff like that? Well, whatever it is, rest assured it’s happening in Berlin. That’s why so many young people, and young creative people in particular, are flocking to the city by the thousands to create, make art, and pursue their creative passions.
5. Because It Is An Underdog
I was reading Tobias Rapp’s amazing book Lost And Sound: Berlin, Techno and the Easyjet Set, which you have to read RIGHT NOW, and one of the things that struck me was his argument that Berlin is a city for 5 million people, but actually only 3.5 million live there. He says that there are basically no major money-pumping industries based in Berlin — just government and nightlife and creative fields. This makes the city somewhat of an underdog, in a way that New York was an underdog in the 70s. Poor but interesting. I don’t want to compare Berlin to New York, but I will say that the poorer underdog is always way more fun and inventive than the rich cousin who is probably already set in her ways.