Thinkpiece: My Berlin Sabbatical

Guest article by Serita Braxton

The first winter was a serious struggle but everyone told me about how great the Berlin
summers were. “Just wait until it gets warm,” they said. “It’s like a whole other city,” they said.
“The summers are so great here,” they said. But when summer time finally arrived I was
disappointed at the mere 70 degrees (21 °C) and rainy weather of most days. The sunny and
warm break I was waiting for never really arrived.

When I originally visited Berlin, the city was so new, shiny, and free spirited that I fell in love
after being here for less than 24 hours. After I moved, I discovered that there was a completely
different lifestyle from the one I had in the US. People could wear whatever they wanted without
feeling judged, there was a place for everyone to explore what made them different, plus you
could drink alcoholic beverages outside at any hour. For an entire year I was so grateful and
excited about living in Berlin, until my second winter came.

I still tried to make the most of it – going to the park until it rained, bringing a jacket to outdoor
festivals, and drinking späti beers outside until I forgot I was cold. Then before I knew it, winter
had returned – even though it was only October. The weather got colder, the days got shorter,
and I had to seriously consider if I could make it through another gloomy and chilly 6 months.

It gets cold where I’m from. On some occasions cities are even shutdown because there’s so
much snow. The cold isn’t the problem, it’s the amount of time that it lasts in Berlin. Having a full year with only a few full warm and sunny days was depressing. Add to that the many days
where the sun didn’t rise until 8AM then after being hidden by clouds all day, went down at 4PM.

Despite my love for everything else about the city I didn’t think I could take it anymore. One of
my freelance jobs ended in January and there was no work lined up for me after that. Did I really want to endure another few months of this dark and cold weather along with having no work to look forward to? The answer was no.

I needed a break from Berlin.

So I flew south to Spain. I decided on Barcelona because it was almost as cheap to live in as
Berlin, there was just as much to do, plus there was a beach. I had planned to explore the city,
finally get some fresh seafood, and sit out in the sun while listening to the waves of the ocean
for 2 months.

When I arrived I was excited to explore the city but I didn’t get that same excitement of
everything being shiny and new as I did went I came to Berlin. There was plenty to do there –
tons of bars, nice restaurants, beautiful scenery. I even met some really cool women from all
over the world. Still, something was missing.

Even though every day was sunny, it was still wintertime in Europe, which meant it was only
slightly warmer than Berlin. More importantly, you couldn’t buy alcohol outside of clubs and bars past midnight. I began to walk around the city reminiscing about how the U-Bahn in Berlin runs for 24 hours on weekends and how, if I wanted, I could get a beer at any time of the night and how I didn’t get as many looks for my outfits when I walked down the street.

What it really boiled down to was that I missed Berlin. I missed the drunk people on the public
transport, I missed the women who wore whatever they wanted and did it confidently, I missed
the free-spirit of Berliners. There’s no other city in the world like Berlin and in order to enjoy all
of the amazing things it has to offer, we have to also endure the surly people staring at us on
the train, the endless amounts of dog shit on the sidewalks and yes, the terribly long winters. I
mean no city is perfect, right?


Bio:
Many move to Berlin with an idea of what it will be like to live, work, and build
relationships in the city but shortly after arriving they realize things are vastly different. Berlinerin aims to change that.
By covering well-known and not-so-common places, events, and information, highlighting the
wonderful women making their mark on the city, and providing a platform for women to connect, this blog is dedicated to discussing the reality of life in Berlin.

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