I had an excellent time in Scotland and both Edinburgh and Inverness were brilliant holiday destinations but now it’s Christmas time, I think it’s time to write about “home.”
Home for me is Berlin.
Hi! My name is Victoria. I’m an expat and I live in Berlin.
At the very beginning of this blog – just a mere nine weeks ago – I told you how happy and proud I was to be not only a Berliner, aye, but a British one as in what the heck is Berlin all about anyway… Being British and an expat has its advantages and as it’s almost Xmas and you deserve a present, here are a couple of reasons to be an expat in Berlin.
1. Get invited for embassy stuff: I’ve been invited to the British Embassy for “cheese and wine,” “a few drinks” and other social engagements, and I’ve always felt honoured in being so. This summer I was especially invited to a Reception Party to celebrate British diversity. Most importantly, we got to dress up in lounge suits for the men and pre-cocktail attire for the women, and generally rustle around looking important!
2. Join the Boy Scouts: Having a child in another country generally tends to mean that you try to introduce your country, customs and culture to your offspring so that they know “where they are from”. In my case: England. “The Tall Young Gentleman” went to an international school and although he speaks German to “The Music Producer” and all the German side of the family, “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I have spoken, and continue to speak, only in English to each other. That way, he gets the best of both worlds and is perfectly bilingual. However, we’re still in Germany so we need to imbibe some “normal” Anglo-American stuff into his everyday life too.
In short, boy scouts.
Germany isn’t fond of uniforms and regimentation of children because of the brainwashing situation of the Hitler Youths and the very terrible reputation of the storm troopers also known as “Brownshirts”… It took me a while to convince my husband of the normalcy of being a boy scout.
The fact that this branch happened to be an American one probably helped…
Berlin has an excellent relationship with America so even though I’m the only British parent there, we registered “The Tall Young Gentleman” with the Boy Scouts of America who are based in the old United States quarter of Berlin. And does the “The Tall Young Gentleman” like the boy scouts?
He loves it.
He gets to hang out with other international, bilingual boys like himself. He gets to speak English and he doesn’t have to worry too much if the other boys “get it” or not – being American n’ all! I do have to watch that he doesn’t get a transatlantic accent, but he loves hiking, camping, rafting, eating real American food and the highlight of the year – summer camp.
Summer camp isn’t the norm in Germany so this is a big deal. I also love the fact that he has to aim for goals and leadership skills and get badges. All the stuff that I did as a Brownie and a Girl Guide when I was young: a piece of my homeland.
3. Be involved in charity schemes: Recently, I was invited to an event called “Movember”. It was held in an expat café in my neighbourhood called “St. Gaudy Cafe”. It wasn’t your usual topic but a “one night only” charity event to raise awareness for men’s health and various prostate and testicular cancer. We all showed support by wearing moustaches in some figure or form. It was an interesting evening hosted by English-speaking comedians, stage performers and musicians. It was a good laugh and I even managed to accidentally win myself a pair of shoes! If that wasn’t a good night, I don’t know what was!
4. Celebrate Thanksgiving even if you’re not American: Funnily enough, I seem to know more Americans in Berlin than I know British people, hardly surprising as there are almost 15,000 US citizens in Berlin and only about 9,000 British ones!
In Britain, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving of course, but in Berlin we’re all put together in one category as “English” or “American” here and therefore “the same”, so we celebrate each other’s feasts and festivities including American Independence Day and the Queen’s Jubillee.
In November, I went to a cool Thanksgiving party that was so much fun. I may be British, but I do appreciate a good turkey! It was hosted by an American girlfriend of mine.
Oh my God, there was so much yummy food, lots of singing, playing the klavier, guitar, ukulele, and other instruments. It was jolly good fun and even though it was a school night, and we got home after 11 p.m., all the kids had a great time!
5. Meet famous people: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met famous people in Berlin but some of them are the following: I met Wyclef Jean of “The Fugees” when I volunteered to work at the Olympia stadium for the FIFA World Cup. Everyone thought we were siblings!
I met Noel Gallagher of the band “Oasis” in Paris (it’s not Berlin but I’m including it LOL!) and I gave him my lipstick! Both my husband and I walked passed Christoph Waltz, of the Quentin Tarantino film “Django Unchained” on the stairway of our son’s international school and I even walked shoulder to shoulder next to Rihanna – the pop starlet – on the top floor of Berlin’s branch of the luxurious French department store – Galeries Lafayette.
In the spring of this year, I met the British stand-up artist and comedian – Eddie Izzard at his first time in Germany performance at Berlin’s 1910 revue and operetta venue – Admiralspalast.
Just a few months ago, I accidentally bumped into Hugh Grant at Berlin’s most famous 1907 luxury hotel – Hotel Adlon Kempinski and for those of you who don’t know him, Hugh Grant is the British male lead actor of “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill,” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”
6. Be a part of any “scene” that you want to be a part of: Most of our Anglo-American friends have taken advantage of everything that Berlin has to offer in the way of business and artistic advantages. A lot of our friends are actors, musicians, artists, writers, poets, or entrepreneurs.
I myself, have set up two new educational businesses in the past and became a Head-Teacher / School Manager. I’ve also dabbled a little into acting and TV, took opera/musical singing lessons and briefly hip-hop/ ballet sessions, and have frequently been asked to get myself involved in theatre and stand-up comedy!
My husband “The Music Producer” used to have a stint as a radio DJ in his home-town of Osnabrück before establishing himself in the improvisation German and English acting scene in Berlin. Now he’s producing and mixing a whole compilation of different musical styles and fronts.
We’ve both been learning the virtues of tango dancing and in Berlin, there is a forum for open-air dancing in the summer which everyone and anyone, can join. I confess that I haven’t been brave enough to do that though!
Recently, I’ve thought of getting into theatre of the spoken word and writing, both for academics and for pleasure, so a fortnight ago, I went to the first monthly event of “Works in Progress” which was organised by a bookshop very near where I live called, “Shakespeare and Sons”. The bookshop event is to be a monthly event open to writers of every kind in which we would have only five minutes to read anything we wanted. I decided to read parts of my blog.
I had an absolute blast there and the organisers were enormously nice. They seemed to like what they heard but I was a little nervous as my name was the first one to come out of the “hat”. Hopefully, nobody saw my shiny brow and my quivering hand!
7. Have every type of sport at your disposal: Berlin is a city of value and by Anglo-American standards; enormously cheap. Europeans are also serious about getting fit and healthy living. Organic food, a vegetarian lifestyle or vegan cooking is topping the list. Practically, everyone has a bicycle and uses it LOL!
Berlin is a very green city and one of Europe’s safest so you can run, walk, eat, sleep, relax or go nude on or in, the many parks, fields, rivers, lakes and canals that Berlin has. All for FREE! You can sail your boat, swim, play football, basketball, handball or volleyball, tennis or badminton, do yoga and pilates and right now, martial arts is pretty “in” all for a meagre amount, many regulated, or according to income.
8. Actually have real snow in the winter: Berlin is the capital of Germany and Germany is in the Northern hemisphere therefore, in winter, we can have snow. SNOW! Real, good ‘ol snow.
I like snow. I like skiing. As an expat in Berlin, skiing won’t cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, you don’t have to go far. Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and of course Germany, offer snow activities and freedom at any price and quality you desire. You don’t even have to leave home if you don’t want to, as the last few years have shown. We’ve had so much snow in the winter that people were skiing in the local park!
9. Be famous yourself: I’m not called “thebritishberliner” for nothing you know. Being dark-skinned in Germany means I stand out.
Being British in Berlin means everybody wants to speak to me and be friends with the dark English girl. Apparently, I’m exotic.
One psychotic lady actually screamed on the street while staring madly at me and shouted “Who do you think you are? I know you. Everybody knows you!” For a moment, I actually thought that she did. She didn’t. She used to say that to everybody!
10. Get yourself a handsome German husband, a pretty wife or both: Germany is an international, civilised country with a long respected history of culture, music, literature and science. Many people want to live here and do. In Berlin, you’ve got the best-of-the-best: young, attractive, intelligent, ambitious, creative people. As an expat, you’re exposed to all that is good in Berlin. Why wouldn’t you want to grab yourself one.
Being an expat is great.
The British Embassy in Berlin can be found on: https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-embassy-berlin/office/british-embassy
Boy Scouts of America: Troop 46 (Berlin, Germany) can be found on: http://www.troop46berlin.scoutlander.com
St. Gaudy Café can be found on: http://www.gaudycafe.com
Atheist Shoes can be found on: http://www.atheistberlin.com
Galeries Lafayette can be found on: http://www.galerieslafayette.de
Hotel Adlon Kempinski can be found on: http://www.kempinski.com/en/berlin/hotel-adlon
The Admiralspalast can be found on: http://www.admiralspalast.de
Shakespeare and Sons Bookstore, Berlin can be found on: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shakespeare-and-Sons-Bookstore-Berlin
The English Theatre in Berlin can be found on: http://www.etberlin.de
Thanks for the image of the turkey dinner.
This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my absolute own.
Are you an expat? Would you live in another country? Have you met anyone famous?
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