Berliners. They’re an interesting breed. I’ve lived here for seven years now,and I still can’t figure them out. They can drive you insane some days, but then they can turn around and surprise you on others.
So what are Berliners like? They’re direct. They’re a bit rough. They’re bossy. They lack grace and joie de vivre. At their worst, they’re brash control freaks who bump into you on the streets because they don’t look where they are going (although here in Berlin it’s your job to stay out of their way). At their best, they’re efficient get-it-doners pay attention to detail and who make sure things are done right (which is why I love the medical field here, for example). But kind, relaxed, and friendly they are not.
To be fair, it’s not entirely their fault that they are the way they are. This is Northern Europe – we’re actually further north than London. In this part of the world winter can last a good half of the year or more. And by winter, I mean days that darken around 4 p.m. and in which grey skys with rain or snow prevail.
At the very least, the majority of the population is likely Vitamin D deficient – the stuff isn’t added to milk here, six months of winter means six months of too little warm rays. And it’s common knowledge now that too little sunlight/Vitamin D leads to depression. So really, how happy can you be long-term in a place without enough sunlight? Not very happy. And it’s no wonder there are so many grumps here.
Beyond the weather, look at the history of this area. As my father pointed out ages ago (in response to one of my rants about how difficult Berliners can be), this part of Germany was Prussia. And the Prussians were bred and raised to be warriors. Apparently they were good at it, and if you’re familiar with military types, you’ll see a bit of soldier in many Berliners. I was both a military brat and married to a US Marine, so I know the characteristics and I see it here quite often. At times I swear people here are marching rather than walking.
Beyond the Prussian-era, Germany has two long and rough world wars under its belt which decimated country economically, culturally, and spiritually. Then slap a few decade of part of the country living behind the Iron Curtain with a wall dividing its capitol, and WOW – you have a lot of years of heavy. And the burden of history does take a toll on a population.
Add it all up and it’s a bit easier to understand how the general population here in Berlin is not the most carefree of people. Of course there are exceptions – there always are – but in general this is not the lightest of crowds. As a happy-people-loving Southern girl who loves sun and living as carefree as possible, I have to ask myself some days what I am doing here and now much longer I can stay. But that, my friends, is a topic for another day.
For anyone reading this, I’m curious to know what your experience with Berliners has been. Are Berliners as tough as I make them out to be? Am I exaggerating? On point? Do tell!