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How living in Berlin can make you a better person

  • Berlin
  • 7 min read
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Moving to Berlin was something that changed my life completely. I didn’t know that before coming here and wasn’t ready for all of this. But living in Berlin changed my habits and way of seeing things, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the same guy who left Brazil anymore.

And I blame Berlin for that.

Maybe it’s just living abroad. Perhaps it’s Germany. But I believe living in Berlin somehow made me a better person. Below, you can look at why I feel Berlin can turn you into a better person.

The Lack of Nationalism

I never believed in nationalism or being proud of coming from a country. I always thought that the fact that you were born somewhere is nothing to be proud of. I even have a name for it; I call it a geographic coincidence. The fact that you were born somewhere had nothing to do with you, so why would you be proud of that?

Germany is weird when it comes to nationalism based on everything that happened in the last century. Berlin is even more uncomfortable with nationalism, and I even remember reading some social media posts complaining about the presence of German flags on the windows during the 2014 World Cup.

Even a video of Angela Merkel’s 60th birthday shows this really well.

I never believed in nationalism or in being proud of coming from a country. I always thought that the fact that you were born somewhere is nothing to be proud of. I even have a name for it, I called it a geographic coincidence. The fact that you were born somewhere had nothing to do with you, so why would you be proud of that?

I came to Berlin believing I had a critical mind, but I was surprised when I started learning and observing how Germany deals with its past. This made me rethink my personal beliefs and turn them into something even more against nationalism.

And I blame living in Berlin for that.

What is the right way to question technology?

I was surprised to learn how difficult it is to pay your bar tab or lunch with credit cards. Berlin seems to be a city that consistently prefers to use cash. I’m not sure of the reasons behind it, but I heard so many of them that it seems like a conspiracy theory is behind it. I prefer to think that this is a fear of technology somehow. German even has a word for it: Technikfeindlichkeit.

But this hostility towards technology doesn’t happen only when it comes to money. I see it everywhere. Social media in Berlin is something weird. People don’t get it or never learn how to use it properly. Coming from Brazil, a country known for its social skills, it seems Berlin uses the internet like we did in 2004. And that is nothing something cool for a city that wants to present itself as the Silicon Valley of Europe.

Either way, this changed me. The way that I see Germans questioning technology and social media made me start to ask how I behave online and my personal choices regarding media consumption. And I believe that I’m not the same person I was before I decided to move to Berlin. I can even see that when I return to Belo Horizonte and start talking to friends about life here. Everything is different.

Recycling and Upcycling

Before moving to Berlin, I was only in the city for a week, and this short time was enough for me to fall in love with the pfand system. Every country on Earth should use the bottle recycling system as an example of good behavior. The fact that I can save a few cents on each of the many beer bottles I drink made me secure a place for it in my living room, and I even carry empty bottles in my backpack if I drink on the street.

I also love how every building has these color-coded bins for paper, plastic, and all the rest. Learning how to use them took me a while since we don’t have anything like this in Brazil, but now I’m a pro. And I love it.

Living in Berlin made me question my need for things as well. Sometimes, the things you own have no use for you but can be precisely what other people are looking for, like the saying that one person’s trash can be another’s treasure.

Walking the Berlin streets, you will see couches, tables, and even some loose pieces of wood labeled with something like zu verschenken. This means that someone else is giving it away, and you can take it.

At first, I thought it was a little weird, but now I love it so much and consider it an essential part of life in Berlin. But you don’t need to walk around the streets to find the furniture you want. There are Facebook groups that can help you with that. Free Your Stuff Berlin is one of the biggest and has more than 100.000 members.

Why do I need a car if I have a bike and my subway card?

Before moving to Berlin, I lived in São Paulo, a city known for traffic jams. When I moved to Berlin, I decided to go the other way, and one of the first things I bought after moving was a bike.

Today, I cannot imagine myself not cycling through the streets of Berlin. My bike is almost a part of me. Really.

Cycling in Berlin is fun since the city is pretty much flat. The people in the cars know how to behave when cars are on the road, and the only thing that scares me when I am on my bike is other people on bikes. You know the type. Cyclists without any bike lights, talking on the phone, and not paying attention to those on the road. I hate them so much.

Before moving to Berlin I was living in São Paulo, a city known for its traffic jams. When I moved to Berlin I decided to go the other way and one of the first things that I bought after moving was a bike. Today I cannot imagine myself not cycling through the streets of Berlin. My bike is almost a part of me. Really.

Back to the topic. Berlin has more than 600 km of bike lanes, and most people in Berlin have at least one bike. Of course, they do. Why would you need to have a car to drive around if you can do it by bike and exercise? If it’s raining, just take the subway, and you will be dry, and everything will be alright.

In the first months of living in Berlin, I recall losing some weight just because I was cycling everywhere. It’s really the best thing to do.

Living in Berlin taught me to eat better.

Germans want to know where their food comes from, and I had never thought about that before moving to Berlin. Organic food culture is big here; you can see it in every supermarket you visit, from the cheap ones to those focused on food. There are even labels that tell you where a product comes from.

When I first arrived in Berlin, I fell in love with all the different ways you can buy bread and all the varieties of sausages. But after a while, I started to question my meat consumption in the same way that I questioned my online behaviors.

It might be weird at first to learn that Berlin is one of the best places to be vegetarian. The city was even named the vegetarian capital of the world in 2015! One in every 10 people in Germany are vegetarian, and no other country in Europe has such a high number of non-meat eaters.

How living in Berlin can make you a better person

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani is a passionate designer with a penchant for crafting unique experiences and a mixed taste in music. As the curator behind this blog's explorations, he takes pride in discovering fascinating destinations. Whether unearthing hidden gems or sharing captivating historical narratives, Felipe is the creative force driving the stories you find here. Join him on a journey of design, discovery, and the delightful rhythm of unconventional tunes.View Author posts