by Redfern Jon Barrett.
In two weeks’ time I’ll have been in Berlin for three years. I love this city – though I’m not one for attending trendy ‘discotheques’ whilst taking ‘Columbian Baking Soda’, and ‘[INSERT THIRD TONGUE-IN-CHEEK OUT-OF-TOUCH REFERENCE PEOPLE WILL TAKE AT FACE VALUE]‘.
Even so, Berlin is full of interesting, open-minded people, and as a queer-thinking, polyamory-loving, witch-being vegetarian leftist (whose entire identity can be summed up by those five categories), being here is like getting to live in the 19th century if you’re a massive conservative. In short, it’s weirdo Disneyland.
But some things in Berlin can be annoying, and in the spirit of ruthlessly criticising everything I love, I present:
THE TEN BERLINMANDMENTS
1. THOU SHALT NOT ENDLESSLY DISCUSS HOW GUILTY THOU ART FOR NOT LEARNING GERMAN
Because really, this only affects you. If you feel bad that you don’t speak more German, go learn German. If you don’t want to, then you can’t feel that bad. Either way, there is now a city-wide ban on discussing how you need to take another Deutschkurs.
Penalty: having your mind wiped, and your knowledge of English replaced with Turkish. All Germans refuse to learn Turkish.
2. THOU SHALT NOT MAKE ART WHEN THOU HAST NOTHING INTERESTING TO SAY AND THOU IS ALSO REALLY, REALLY BAD AT ART
Don’t get me wrong, Berlin has some fantastic artists, and I’ve worked with several of them – there’s a lot of talent in this city, but that talent is concentrated in about 10% of the total number of people actually calling themselves artists. The other 90% are either trust-funders working on a project that will never actually materialise (IT’S ABOUT THE PROCESS), or are trust-funders paying for an overpriced vanity residency which once a year will open their doors for an ‘exhibition’ whose attempts at insightful social commentary involve a bad drawing of Jesus with an iPod. MIND BLOWN.
Penalty: having to justify your stay of execution to a death panel, using only your own works of art as warrant for your continued existence.
3. THOU SHALT STAND ON THE FUCKING RIGHT, AND WALK ON THE LEFT, IF THOU WISHES TO USE A FUCKING ESCALATOR IN THE UBAHN/UNDERGROUND/METRO/SUBWAY
Or I will push you down said escalator.
Penalty: receiving a poison dart to the neck at the top of an escalator crowded with tourists talking on mobile phones. The antidote is at the bottom.
4. HONOUR THY LUNGS
“Yeah, I’m currently planning on giving up smoking, and I did give up for five weeks last year, but it’s really hard when everyone’s smoking in a bar, and I just want to smoke socially, like when I’m drinking, but then you find yourself smoking in the day as well, I just wish I could smoke now and then but it doesn’t seem to happen, anyway I’m giving up soon, I just want to enjoy myself a bit more before I do.” – EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN BERLIN, INCLUDING ME
Penalty: city-wide smoking ban
5. THOU SHALT NOT JUDGE OTHERS’ CLOTHING, IT IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS
There’s a game in Berlin, called ‘Let’s Be Fucking Horrible To People Wearing Clothes Different To Ours’ (working title). And everyone is in on it. “Look at that hipster! Haha, fucking hipster, with their hipster clothes! I’m better than you, hipster!” – “Hey, you’re not wearing a stained hoodie with a bad slogan about the evils of capitalism! Are you a tourist? Your clothes look expensive! Fuck off, foreigner!”, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.
Penalty: being forced walk around Kreuzberg in an Armani suit until you’re torn to shreds
6. THOU SHALT WEAR THINE HOLY PROTECTIVE EARMUFFS
Thine divine earmuffs shalt protect thee from the angry street rants of born-n’-bred native Berliners, and shield thine delicate ears from their daily abuse.
What is wrong with them?
7. THOU SHALT DESTROY THE STAG NIGHTS
They must not be allowed to dwell in Berlin. If you see a group of drunken men in identical t-shirts, it is your sworn duty as a Berliner to slay them all.
Penalty: failure to let a stag night pass unslain shall result in you working as bar staff for a hostel in Mitte, where groups of drunken tourists will make fun of you, mistaking you for German and giving you constant Nazi salutes
8. THOU SHALT NOT FORCE EVERYONE TO DO YOGA OR GO CYCLING, THESE ARE FALSE RELIGIONS
Not everyone likes yoga, and to constantly spread the word of yoga BECAUSE OH MY GOD YOGA PUTS YOU SO IN TOUCH WITH YOUR BODY HOW CAN YOU NOT DO YOGA is to promote idolatrous gods. The same goes for OH MY GOD HOW CAN YOU NOT OWN A BIKE I HAVE A SPARE ONE COME ON A BIKE RIDE WITH ME WHERE YOU’LL BE REALLY SLOW AND I’LL GET ANNOYED AND FRUSTRATED DESPITE THE FACT YOU TOLD ME YOU’RE NO GOOD AT BIKE-RIDING COME ON COME ON BIKE BIKE BIKE BIKE BIKE AAAAAAAAHHHHHH
Penalty: removal of all yoga-twisting, bike-pedalling limbs
9. THOU SHALT NOT QUEUE FOR HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS FOR NO PURPOSE
Berlin will give you enough opportunities to enjoy a good queue. Every trip to a government bureau (there will be many), every hospital visit, every time you need to withdraw money from an ATM will involve a long time in a lovely, unending queue. You do not need to add to this experience by queuing for an hour for a kebab, or an ice cream, or for two hours to get into a club, because THERE ARE OTHER KEBABS AND ICE CREAMS AND DARK DANCY DRINKY PLACES, AND YOU ARE WASTING YOUR LIFE.
Penalty: you will be forbidden from entering a queue for a period of one year. As every single action you take in Germany involves a trip to the state bureaucracy, you shall die homeless and penniless, without kebabs or ice cream.
10. THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE THE CITY IN WINTER, WINTER IS YOUR PUNISHMENT
I’M LOOKING AT YOU, EVERY SINGLE SPANISH PERSON. WINTER IS THE PENALTY FOR ENJOYING BERLIN IN SUMMER. FROZEN BEARDS AND RED-RAW SKIN ARE REMINDERS THAT YOU ARE LUCKY TO BE ALIVE.
Penalty: the city walls shall be closed to you forever, and you shall be forced to make a living dancing for pennies in Potsdam
Go forth, my children, and share the wisdom your Berlingod has gifted you! For thine are the canals, the Sternberg and the Görli, forever and ever.
A manic giant with a PhD in queer literature, Redfern writes about polyamory, witchcraft, and science fiction. His weird novel Forget Yourself is available on Amazon. Read more at redjon.com.