Made it through another Berlin Fashion week. Which doesn’t mean that I had anything to do with it or attended any events. But having our office in Berlin-Mitte means that we can’t escape it entirely. But as it seems to move more to the West or the fringes of Berlin (more space for less money), it’s easier to avoid. You still have to pay more for lunch that week and forget about getting a table for dinner.
I always enjoyed that Fashion Week allows you for two weeks a year to comment anything obnoxious or ridiculous you see on the streets of Berlin with “Oh, well, Fashion Week…”
Before you move to a city like Berlin, you expect that everything that is happening in the city affects everyone living in it. Like someone saying “I saw that Putin is in Berlin,” almost expecting you to run into him. Then you move to the city and get lost in everyday life. Only when you turn on the evening news and see your city, you realize that so much more is happening around you. You wonder about all the helicopters until your remember that Obama is in town.
Fashion Week is just one example of a huge bubble happening without most of Berlin citizens noticing it. It’s a huge ecosystem of large and small events all over Berlin. But it can happen without you ever crossing paths with it. Which is a fascinating aspect of large cities. All these different bubbles and layers and subcultures and scenes that coexist with sometimes only minimal overlay.
People sometimes are astonished when they ask me about the Berlin nightlife, and I tell them that I have no idea and only been to Berghain twice. It’s about context and projections, I guess.
But Berlin is also one giant bubble. I always become aware of this whenever I leave Berlin. Like last week. I was invited to the north of Bavaria in the middle of Germany, to speak about digital transformation at an event from an insurance company. Bavaria is the German state that has given us the CSU, the sister party to Angela Merkel’s CDU. The ones who fight hard to put a cap on the numbers of refugees Germany accepts (nevermind that it’s unconstitutional). The monastery that the event was at is a “stronghold” of the CSU (with the portraits of the party elders on the kitchen wall
At breakfast, I overheard three conversations, and every single one featured the refugee crisis. It was fascinating how different the tone of conversation on this topic was compared to Berlin and my bubble there. There’s a refugee home in the school gym across the street from my flat. So the situation is not one far away for me. But still, the conversation at that breakfast table had much more urgency and dread. It helped me put all the news about right-wing movements in Germany into context.
Once more I realized how important it is for me to travel more outside the Berlin bubble. I’m consciously aware that perception is different outside Berlin. But it’s hard to grasp that while in Berlin.
And then later that day, the moderator of the event introduced my talk with this anecdote:
In the local town of Coburg, most of the refugees would gather in the marketplace. Quickly, the rumor emerged that they were planning something. So the local radio station just went to them and asked them why they always gathered there. The answer: “It’s the only place that has free internet…”