I came to Berlin in November 2011, but I’ve known since the summer of 2006 that I would live here one day. Back then, I’d just moved from London to Barcelona to work as a journalist and travelled to Berlin and Hamburg to meet editors and establish myself as a freelancer. I remember arriving in Berlin and immediately feeling that I belonged, that it was my kind of city filled with my kind of people. And that was still true five years later, after I’d done everything I wanted to do in Spain – edited a magazine and two books, wrote about politics and drugs and porn and crazy traditions, and met a whole bunch of fantastic people – and decided it was time for a change of scene. I came to Berlin to grow up, and it worked.
What I love most about Berlin is that it manages to accommodate so many different kinds of people, from so many different cultures, and remain profoundly relaxed at the same time. It’s a city of opportunity but little pressure. That may not be apt for everybody (one hears horrific tales of new arrivals who get sucked into four-day benders and re-emerge scarred for life) but I find it extremely conducive to work and creativity. No, wait – that’s what I love second most. What I love most about Berlin is its food scene.
My favourite neighbourhood is the one I live in, Scheunenviertel in Mitte. It combines cosmopolitanism with a small-town feel: there’s always something happening, always people in the street, always a new shop or bar or restaurant opening, yet it feels profoundly familiar. Partly that’s due to the fact that I live in a former squat and all other residents have known each other for over 20 years, so it’s a bit like living with a big family or on the set of a soap opera. I work in Kreuzberg, which I also like a lot, but more as a visitor. And I try to get around as much as possible, both in Berlin and Brandenburg. That would probably be my main advice for new arrivals: don’t become a Kiezkartoffel! There is so much to discover, so much to be surprised by, go buy a bicycle. (But not in Mauerpark – you know, karma.)
This is a bit of a cliché (and yes, also less true now than it used to be), but Berlin encourages creativity because it’s possible to live here with relatively little income, at least for a while. Critics argue that this also discourages people from actually turning their creative ideas into viable businesses, but who says that that should always be the final goal? Berlin allows you to have side projects, hobbies, and passions that can take up a substantial part of your life, and I firmly believe in their importance for personal and professional development (and yes: for fun, too). It allows you to try things out. But it also provides enough examples of people who’ve “made it” with their ideas to encourage you to work harder – and those same people are often open for suggestions of collaboration.
Finally, as my sister tends to observe every time she visits from Munich: there’s so little police here! The kind of creative outbursts you see happening in the street or other public spaces would be unthinkable in most other cities, and we should cherish them while they last. And look – dumplings!
Take a look at Kati’s portfolio to get an idea about her various creative projects.