Tag Archives: Flat-sharing

The Littlest Hobo

At the end of this month, I will be moving out of flat number five and into flat number six. Not bad going for ten months, even by Berlin standards.

My plans to change the locks in Ailsa’s place failed and I dutifully moved out at the end of June. Ailsa came back from America to a spotless clean apartment, which she was very happy about, and I was very happy that she hadn’t arrived a couple of hours earlier when this was not even remotely the case.

Aware that I was about to be homeless – again – I started putting out feelers to see if I could find somewhere to keep me off the streets for another few weeks. As luck would have it, my German friend, Adalwolfa, was going to the States for a month with her dad and was looking for someone to take over her room. Funnily enough, the flat is about a ten-minute walk from Hermann’s place so it feels a bit like coming full circle.

I’m now sharing with a charming young German gentleman and a (thankfully) sane Swede. My first act in a bid to impress my new housemates was to make a cup of tea with a spoon and a half of salt, which I then proceeded to spit all over the kitchen. Eberhart came to my rescue and pointed out where the sugar was, though probably not before thinking he was living with a complete lunatic.

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In my defence, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone keep salt in a jar with a spoon in it before. Surely that’s just asking for trouble, or is it yet another example of the much-maligned German sense of humour?

Anyway, since then, things have been going just fine. Although some of the décor leaves a little to be desired…

Um...
Um…

and the kitchen would give Hildeberta and Hildegard the willies, I have a huge room, working wifi, nice flatmates who don’t ask anything of me and, most importantly, a roof over my head. As Adalwolfa is a bit of a technical genius, I’ve also had hours of fun with her remote-controlled lighting system, hitting random buttons to see which light comes on or goes off. I’ve even managed to make it through almost an entire month with only one mini-lecture about putting packaging in the bio bin.

However, all good things must come to an end, and conscious of being under serious time pressure, I started looking for a new flat right after I’d moved into this one. And, I can hardly believe it, but I think I’ve found the perfect solution.

There is a company here called Berlinovo, which has apartments all over the city. The real beauty of this, particularly for someone with my sketchy employment history and even sketchier prospects, is that there’s no deposit, you can rent by the month, and only have to give a month’s notice when you want to leave.

The flat is small, but fully furnished (down to a corkscrew – I checked),  there are good transport connections, and I will be living on my own. ON MY OWN – how sweet those words are…

I'm this happy
I’m this happy

Regarding my current area, I will miss my new favourite bar, where it’s rumoured they eat foreigners for breakfast. I, however, have fit in like a dream, and the scary-looking locals have turned out to be lovely German pussycats, who help me with my language skills every time I go there. If there ever comes a time that I need to rob a bank or hide a body, the German that I’m learning from these characters will come in very handy.

I will NOT miss my local Italian restaurant, where the lecherous, elderly Sicilian waiter seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable to follow timid young women (yes, me) into the ladies bathroom, and attempt – repeatedly – to kiss them.

Numerous shoves in the chest failed to convince Salvatore that the feeling was not mutual.
Numerous shoves in the chest failed to convince Salvatore that the feeling was not mutual.

Anyway, for better or worse, soon I will be leaving all of this far behind and making the 25 or so S-Bahn trips it will take me to get all of my stuff from one end of the city to the other. This will probably be a walk in the park in comparison to setting up an internet connection…

Non, je ne regrette rien

Or whatever that is in German.

After the last few drama-filled weeks, you’d be forgiven for wondering if I’m regretting my decision to move to Berlin. If so, you’d be nuts. A little drama never killed anybody. It’s perfectly possible that psychotic Swedes did, but, fortunately for me and my blood pressure, I’m out of that situation now.

Bye bye bunnies. Take care Bjorn doesn't boil you.
Bye bye bunnies. Take care Bjorn doesn’t boil you.

So, why don’t I regret moving to Berlin? Well, aside from a psychotic Swede, a horny Hermann and an insane registration system, Berlin is fantastic. Most days I have to pinch myself to make myself believe that I’m actually living in one of my favourite cities in the world.

Even Queenie likes it.
Even Queenie likes it.

Here are just some of the reasons I’m happy I moved from Latvia to Germany (or Berlin, for those who insist that Berlin is Berlin, and not “real” Germany).

  • German drivers don’t act like they want to kill you.
  • German pedestrians don’t act like they want to kill you, either.
  • Germans are not as punctual as you might think. This is, in fact, rather annoying but it’s nice to know that Germans aren’t as perfect as everyone thinks they are. They do, however, treat long distance bus journeys in much the same way as they treat sun loungers in Majorca. On a recent trip to Hamburg, I arrived fifteen minutes early for the bus. I got on and thought that all of the seats were empty. Silly me. No, the Germans had probably got there at 4am, left their jackets and snacks, and gone home to bed for a few hours.
  • Even homeless people have high standards. I started teaching at one of the major banks in Berlin last Monday. The student was late (sigh), so I waited in the ATM vestibule. While I was phoning the school trying to find out where my student was, I woke up a young woman who had been sleeping behind the ATM machines. “Have you got €20 for me?” “€20??? No, I don’t.” “But you just took out money.” “Yeah, for me, not you.” I waited outside after that.
  • The fashion. Or lack thereof. I’m pretty sure you could dance down the street naked in Berlin and nobody would bat an eyelid. On one of the rare occasions I’ve seen someone wearing heels, it was a dude. Refreshing after all of the falsity in Latvia.

His 'n' hers lovely sensible German footwear
His ‘n’ hers lovely sensible German footwear

  • German people are friendly and helpful. No, it’s really true. They strike up conversations with total strangers on public transport; they help people with heavy suitcases. In fact, I think I’ve had more help from the few Germans I’ve met over the last four or five weeks than I had from the Latvians in four years. I don’t know where the cold, unsmiling German stereotype comes from, but nothing could be further from the truth.
  • German people are amazingly sociable. While I hear rumours that Germans like rummaging about in the forest for mushrooms, I haven’t seen that in person. What I have seen is every café and bar (and that’s a lot) full to the brim with shiny happy Germans holding hands talking and laughing like it’s the most normal thing in the world – which it is.

Shiny happy Germans holding hands. And dancing.
Shiny happy Germans holding hands. And dancing.

  • Germans aren’t shy about drinking on the streets. In Latvia, when you see somebody walking around with a beer in their hand, they’re usually the lowest of the low. Here, it’s the same as walking around with a bottle of water.
  • Germans work. And I mean WORK. There’s no faffing about. You will never see five or six Germans standing around looking at a hole in the ground the way you would in Latvia (or Ireland). They’re there to do a job, and they do it. In Latvia, a bar maid will grunt at you because you’ve interrupted her Youtube marathon. In Germany, a bar maid will come running from wiping down tables, sweeping floors, emptying ashtrays… they just don’t stop.
  • In Germany, if something is shit (and really, there aren’t that many things), you get the feeling that people are trying to improve it. Latvians would rather bitch and moan and, ideally, blame the Russians. (I doubt I’ll live long enough to see this change.)
  • Pretty much everything is cheaper in Berlin.
  • Food – oh wow, the food. First of all, you don’t have to pick your way through 254 mouldy onions in supermarkets to find the one good one – everything is shiny and fresh. The quality of everything is just better. And the variety – you can buy pretty much anything you want in the supermarkets, and I don’t think there’s a single cuisine that’s not taken care of in the restaurant market.
  • They have English bacon, Irish cheddar AND Heinz baked beans. Now I won’t need to bring back an extra suitcase from Ireland at Christmas. I have access to everything I need.
  • I don’t need to wipe down toilet seats everywhere I go. German women pee like women, not like dogs. However, one thing I cannot wrap my head around is the German “poo shelf”. Why anyone would want to examine their poo that closely is beyond me.

Dear god, why?
Dear god, why?

  •  I’m now living with two very hot German women – proof that not all German women are complete munters. And, more importantly, they’re über nice.

They even put sweets on my pillow - all together now, AWWWWW
They even put sweets on my pillow – all together now, AWWWWW

So, do I regret leaving Latvia? Not for a second.

Home Swede Home

As it’s my two-week anniversary here in Berlin, I thought it might be time to reflect on what Riga does better.

Um…

Ummm…

Right, moving on.

Sunday saw me kissing Hermie goodbye Hermie kissing me goodbye, and me clanking down four flights of concrete steps with a 30-kilo suitcase. So much for Quiet Sunday. Still, I made it to Bjorn’s place (now ‘our place’) in one piece and have settled in perfectly. Just to prove the point, I bought a nice pair of slippers, because nowhere feels like home without a nice pair of slippers waiting for your tired little tootsies.

Domestic bliss
Domestic bliss

In the mornings, I wake up to birds singing and this view from my window:

2014-09-23 08.51.46
Not bad, eh?

It might just be my imagination but I’d swear even the birds sound happier in Germany. I looked out just now and there were a couple of bunnies frolicking around the yard/forest… I mean, seriously, is this place for real?

Bjorn also seems happy to have me here. In the mornings, I’m greeted with ‘Hello, Sunshine’ (which I definitely am not), and in the evenings, when I get home, ‘Hello Pretty’, which I also definitely am not. Still, I guess it beats ‘Hello Demon Bitch from Hell’ and ‘Hello Roadkill’.

He says it’s nice having me around the place, which is just as well as it seems like we’ve already synchronised our peeing habits. This was evidenced by me, half-asleep, stumbling in on him in the loo in the middle of the night. He took it well.

He also hasn’t mentioned (or hopefully slept through) me waking myself up from a dream by shouting ‘NO, NO, NO’ at the top of my voice on my first night here. I might have been dreaming about Hermann, but then surely it should have been ‘NEIN, NEIN, NEIN’?

NEIN!
NEIN!

In other news, I started teaching today – and it went well. I’ve been offered five more groups starting from mid-October. Now I just need to get the red tape show on the road so I can actually get paid for them.

My new landlady seems to be having difficulty adding my name to the lease, which is holding everything up – so much for German efficiency. I might set Hermann on her…