Want to learn how to do adulthood properly? Ask Berlin…

Moving to Germany aged 18 I was always struck by the stress free approach to adulthood that Berlin seemed to encourage, so far removed from the life I was used to in London. Inspired, I decided to take a leaf out of the Berlin book of life. Here's what I learnt.

Be your true self

Often, we’re told that adulthood means constructing a new ‘mature’ identity that will look good on a CV, and help you in making new friends. On the contrary, Berliners are some of the realest people I’ve ever encountered. Berlin is a raw and exposed city, uninterested in bows, ribbons, or fake personalities. They’re not afraid to discuss real issues, and they certainly won’t hide away or feel shame in their desires. As a visitor or resident, you’re encouraged to be your true self rather than keep up appearances.

street art in berlin

Partying has no age limit

I was told by my hairdresser once that partying on a Sunday afternoon is the Berlin version of going to church. No matter what background, age, or social status, Berliners gather in congregation on a Sunday to be one with the music at Berghain or Tresor. Berlin is a city where ‘partying’ and ‘nightlife’ are two separate entities, with many partying during the day and even into the morning before work. Entering a club in Berlin can feel like stepping into an alternate reality: the young mix with the old, and all social stigmas seem to melt away to the techno beat. It’s commonplace to see older adults partying just as hard as the young – and it’s safe to say that Berlin puts a defiant middle finger up to the view that going clubbing has an age limit.

Slow and steady wins the race

Berliners are in no rush whatsoever to graduate or study, with the average age of graduation in Germany sitting at 28 years old. Due in part to the accessible free higher education (yes please!) and the fact that you can take as long as you want to complete your degree, most of the Berliners I’ve encountered have prioritised gaining life experience over completing education in their young adult years. I was often met with a furrowed brow when I discussed my rush to get a job so that I could start saving for a house, having completed a degree straight out of secondary school. The same socially imposed measures of success, such as buying a house, don’t necessarily apply in Berlin – with many Berliners commonly renting rather than buying in the city.

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a U-Bahn train in berlin

Money isn’t everything

Berlin has a low cost of living, and they hold their famous café and beer culture in high esteem. Go into a café or biergarten in the middle of the day on a Monday, and it won’t be as empty as you’d expect. I used to wonder “why aren’t these people at work, don’t they have jobs?”. Of course people in Berlin have jobs – but I soon learned that the same obsessions that Brits have with financial stability don’t exist in the same way. Many adults in Berlin have no shame in working lower paid jobs to afford them the time of day for leisurely activities.

Badeschiff in berlin

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Earlier this year, our ground floor apartment in Berlin became flooded due to a freak storm in the city. Streets transformed into rivers, and basements were destroyed. Most shocking of all, however, was the response of the affected locals. While my family and I ran around in hysterics, feeling that our home and lives were destroyed, Berliners took it as an opportunity to have some fun – before cracking on with life as normal. People swam in the streets, putting bin bags over their feet and popping out into the rain for a splash. In the face of adversity, the atmosphere remained cool and collected. It reminded me of how much I stress about minor things, and serves as an important reminder that some things are out of our control, so go with the flow – and don’t take life too seriously! Since then, any time I’m faced with a stressful or overwhelming situation, I find myself asking “what would a Berliner do?”…

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