Berlin’s San Franciscans
Summer has passed which means at least a third of San Francisco’s nomads have wandered though Berlin. The two cities are obvious matches for one another: both with their own versions of alternative lifestyles, young spirits, immigrants, and deeply complex socio-political issues.
Bay Area techies and house heads love coming to this cheap, spacious, creative, more underground, concrete version of San Francisco. Berliners regularly seem charmed by the optimistic dreamers and coastal views.
“When the wall came down, everything became possible.” That’s what native Berliners tell me about the magic of the German capital.
And it’s that very ideal seems to draw Gold Rushers to Berlin: possibility. I’m curious how many will stay. San Francisco used to offer creative, expressive, grand possibilities. Almost anyone could try on a new religion, new style, new sexuality, new job, new politic, new beliefs. The city would celebrate whoever you want to be this year, this day, this hour, and it didn’t matter how much money you had.
Silicon Valley looms over San Francisco like the evening fog. If you’re unprepared, you’ll be left shivering in Dolores Park. Even if you can pull off living in SF economically (hello rent control!) and will put up with smelly streets and sloppy public transit, the new rich culture makes many other city charms, that possibility thing I was talking about, much more difficult.
Which brings us back to Berlin. It’s an incredible place for San Franciscans to take a holiday. But living here is not so easy. We are not so patient with inconveniences. Rules, paperwork, structure, and formalities. Learning German is difficult but I believe is necessarily if you will actually LIVE here. If you’re not white, some things just won’t come easy. Most of you probably read my racism post and a lot of you disagreed so let’s not get too deep into that here.
Several of my German friends have sadly left this city because they couldn’t find a work. People in my demographic want to live here but the money and jobs are in Munich and Frankfurt. Good work seems to be hard to find in Berlin.
There is a tech scene here but VCs seem hesitant to take leaps on innovative concepts and practitioners are only now starting to get permission to do user research. And I hear my German startup friends complaining about legal barriers. It’s hard to launch in Germany! Techies need to ship. Things get pretty rough if you can’t move fast and break things.
I love Berlin. I love it so much. I think I’ll live here again someday. But despite all the problems in San Francisco, I haven’t found another city that has both a fetish for fetishes and Redwood trees on demand