“Ich bin ein Berliner!” – several of my Swedish friends sent me the one and only line they knew in German when I arrived here. Well..first of all: there aren’t any Berliners. Second, I was the one who had suddenly found myself at a shitty hostel in the capital city of Germany, wondering what the fuck I had just got myself into, reading “encouraging” texts that made no sense at all. Third of all: I wasn’t “ein Berliner” either. I was just an impulsive Swede who had booked a one-way plane ticket to the city of beers.
But quickly I figured what I was supposed to do before even thinking about calling myself ein Berliner. Apart from getting a place to live, a place to work, and effectively trying one beer after another at the Späti’s while starting to roll my own cigarettes, there were still a few social tasks, cultural missions and demands on the To-Do list. I’m talking about the B’s. Berghain and Bürgeramt. And it occurred to me that these two had a lot more in common than I first figured..
Let me lead you through a situation that I went through, not unique at all, but in fact quite recognizable to anyone who took the same decision in coming to Berlin as I did:
Early morning, still night, still dark. The alarm clock sang a little tune of “what the hell am I doing” and on my way over to meet my friend I met a guy drinking a Sternburg Radler and that somehow made me feel less alone. Hey, it’s Berlin! Me and my friend were prepared for the obvious: a line longer than a kilometer. We were prepared for a challenge, but it was a tough one. We had listened to all the advice from people who had been there before: be nice to the staff, bring valid ID, do not show up too drunk.
When we arrived the line was as long as we feared it would be. We asked ourselves if we had picked the wrong time and day of doing this. Still half asleep and a little bit nervous I anyway felt that I was ready to give this the time and energy it demanded. It was going to be worth it, once I was in. The line was moving slowly. Nobody was dressed up at all and everybody looked like complete opposites: different subcultures, hair colors and attitudes. But most of us had the same in common: we were quite young and from all nationalities in the world except from Germany.
One and a half hours later we were inside. Total disorientation. I started to look for people selling drugs in the corners: they should be here somewhere, I thought. Somehow I had the feeling of being locked in. The hours flew. Suddenly we had spent a lot of hours in there, with no idea about the weather changes outside. The smell was disgusting, and people were suffering constant mood changes. From up to down to up again, from crying to laughing, to completely giving up. Douchebags in every corner. The feeling of never knowing what was happening in the room next door, and a constant fear of getting kicked out.
But everyone had the same goal: no matter what you will keep awake. You have to do this at least once, you simply have to! It’s gonna be worth it, and we’re all gonna have a story to tell!
Crowded. Bad air. The sounds from everywhere started to get annoying as the hours flew by. I built up courage and went into a room you can call The Dark Room. I’ve heard stories from there. You never know if you’re gonna be the one to give or to take: it’s out of your control. You can be totally screwed over if you’re not smart.
I lost my friend in the big group of people in that huge building: when I found her again we high-fived and after six hours in there we were out in what was now broad daylight. I lit a cigarette and looked down at my stamp. I’d done it. The almost impossible: I’d got in!
I had finally registered at the Bürgeramt. And I was alive.
Article by Emma Karlsson
Photo by Nicor
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.