It was one of the first days of October, last year, when we arrived in Berlin, me, my boyfriend and our dog. We have left behind a whole life in Bucharest, with family, friends, jobs, places we used to go, things we used to feel so comfortable doing. I remember that crisp and golden autumn day, with the sun shining, trees changing colors and everything so new and exciting around us.
After the first couple of days, when I came to realize what was really happening, and after the first couple of weeks when I get to know basic stuff about living here, a question came up to my mind: How and when am I gonna call this place a home?
After all, what are the things a place should possess in order to have that “home feeling”? Obviously, it depends. It depends on people, personality traits, social needs, and, most of all, on the ability to face and embrace change.
Six months later, I realized I can (finally) call Berlin my new home. It was not something that happened overnight, but more a slow transition from “what am I doing here” to “yeah, it feels like home”. This is how I did it, and maybe it will help you too:
Observe and accept the differences
I get, somehow, to learn about others and respect our similarities and our differences and not find myself slipping into a judgmental mindset.
You may have heard Berliners are grumpy and cold people, most of the time irritated by the hordes of tourist and expats invading their beloved city. But I think this is quite a stereotype. Yes, they have the tendency to treat strangers rather formally, but that’s their way. Give them time, you’ll never know when you can turn strangers into friends.
Try to speak the language
You’ve heard it before: German is a difficult language. But I like it. I like the composed words, the grammar, and how it sounds. I don’t speak it (yet) fluently but I’m learning. And I think learning the language helps you a lot when you’re in a foreign country; you will feel more immersed and connected, you win the opportunity of having a comprehensive experience of the life overseas.
Otherwise, you’re the one missing out so many things. Like understanding what are talking about those two next to you in the subway. Maybe it’s about you. Joking.
At first sight, Berlin can be overwhelming. So many things to see, so many experiences to try and so many spots to visit. But I took my time, getting to know the city step by step. I know I have not seen even a small part of what Berlin has to offer, but for sure I’m gonna do it. But what it’s different now and gives me that peaceful “I’m kinda home” feeling is the coziness I get when I walk home and everything now is familiar – the streets, the buildings, the smell of the rainy afternoons, people faces.
And yes, there are already so many familiar faces. The neighbor from the first floor, always smiling and talking loudly, the people in the U2 subway who are going home every night, the girl I always intersect with at Samariterstraße Station, the old man who is selling newspapers in front of Schonhauser Alee Shopping Centre, the beggar with the cute dog at Eberswalder. They don’t know me and I don’t properly know them, but for me they’re the familiar faces in this new city, giving me a sense of belonging.
Being far away from your real home can be daunting. But it can also be just amazing if you open up to new experiences and take everything piece by piece.