by Anna Patton
With its famously liberal attitude to sex – the proud hometown of fetish parties, swingers’ clubs, a Gay Museum and an ‘Erotic Museum’ – Berlin doesn’t exactly conform to the image of Prussian puritanism. And so Berliners replace, recycle and update their ‘fellow companions’ at the blink of an eye, much as the city itself falls in and out of love with the latest fashions. No wonder so many residents could identify with the quirky ‘Museum of Broken Relationships’, a Croatian travelling exhibition, when it toured to Berlin – with great success – in 2007.
This whole mindset of living very much in the present doesn’t just apply to relationships. It seems to be engrained in the way people live and work. The lengthy years devoted to studying – the average age of graduating in Germany is 28 – and the high unemployment rate in Berlin makes ‘settling down’ a distant prospect for most twenty-somethings. And even if you are ready to put your roots down here, there is little tradition of buying homes in Germany – worlds away from Londoners’ obsession with ‘getting on the property ladder’. You’re much more likely to rent for many years before even thinking about a mortgage. Choosing to settle in Berlin, then, is only as final as your contract with your landlord dictates. Another opt-out from making those life-changing decisions.
I thought I was being uncharacteristically decisive, however, by when I purchased my own bed on moving to Berlin. It seemed like statement; after all, a 140cm-wide lump of furniture wouldn’t be quite as easy to pick up along with the backpack anytime I got restless. I’d have to stick around for some time. But it seems I wasn’t being so decisive after all. For, as a friend pointed out, these 140cm-wide beds – the halfway-size between single and double – are precisely for people who can’t decide if they want to be single or attached. Seems I’ve already been infected by the Berlin mentality of committing to nothing.