Berlin

Berlin’s tech class

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I hate talking about money, especially my money. Last night the tech class topic came up and it has a lot this week since I just moved into a nice new flat. My friend thought I should write about it. So, here we go:

I want to share this new apartment with friends but I feel embarrassed by this display of wealth that doesn’t represent me. Or maybe it does and I’m in denial. It seems to disregards the Berlin ethos of taking only what you need and doing more with less. It’s hard to even write about this because it sounds like my problem is having too many nice things: what a horrible thing to complain about. Stay with me and please give me direct feedback if this post comes across sour.

It was so frustrating to be a Silicon Valley person in San Francisco because it seems like having a tech job means you can live comfortably. But even with rent control and mindful budgeting, saving money is hard work. It’s so ridiculous. I can see my tech presence in Berlin creates more jobs which is great. But not more jobs for the artists who built this city into the creative, vibrant, experimental place it is. Maybe it indirectly creates more demand for services and luxury goods but that again is outside of the Berlin ethos as I understand it. In both cases, friends insist gentrification is part of the urban cycle and it’s not my fault or guilt to carry. But Nina in Berlin is a problem if I only take from the city instead of participating in the local and creative economy.

When people see my apartment, I keep wanting to include an asterisk about how hard I’ve been hustling the last fifteen years. I worked at the student newspaper until midnight throughout college and started my passion career in journalism during the recession. After the inevitable layoff (sorry Dad, you were right) I worked three different jobs with a day off once a month to make ends meet. I grudgingly lived in cheap Indiana for nearly a decade and worked intense hours to pay my way graduate school. I did this to create a future where I could continue doing work I love. However, unlike journalism, my new industry came with a good salary and job security.

I want to enjoy my successes, not apologize for them. My company helped with German legal documents, banks, taxes, cultural training, and a nice flat so I can focus my energy on the job that needs done. The German systems can be complex, irrational, and are rarely in English. So, I’m wildly impressed by my artist, freelancer, and food friends who figured this out on their own.  The job to be done is not easy work, either. But who’s job is?

In casual conversations about my move, I want to go on a diatribe about how long and hard I’ve been working to get here. But why bother? Everyone’s hustling for something. So I hold my tongue, say thank you, and acknowledge the privilege I have.

Conversely, I’m finally out of a hotel and have a home. So if you want to come over for a glass of wine and listen to some nice tunes, I’d love to have you.

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Nina Mehta is a writer and product design leader in Brooklyn, New York. She began her design career in journalism and has been writing online for 20+ years. Nina is from outside Chicago has since lived and worked in San Francisco, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. Learn about her work at ninamehta.com.

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