For the past month, I’ve been living in Berlin, Germany. I’ve never had prior experience traveling overseas and don’t speak much of any German, so I expected the transition to throw me off entirely. Typically from Portland, Oregon, I feel liberated to live in a city where: most people are laid back; artistic expression is recognized and respected; and nature is at my fingertips. Each day that passes and the further that I explore Berlin, the more comfort I find in both the subtle and obvious similarities between this exotic, experimental city and my hometown.
Here are 8 striking similarities between the two iconic cities with remarkably different histories and separated by nearly 5,200 miles.
1. Nightlife Hysteria
It’s difficult to find a free night in the city because there’s so much going on. You pick and choose what events seem important, which details are entertaining. This is a great thing. In Berlin, there are countless art openings, parties, shows, performances, workshops, meetups and themed events in nightlife arenas to experience. It’s overwhelming and beautiful to live in cities that barely sleep.
2. Garage/Psych Fuels the Live Music Scene
Though Berlin is known for its club scene, I’ve already found a comparable music scene much like Portland’s thriving garage/psych oasis. Berlin-based two-piece Snøffeltøffs could easily play a house show with Portland-based Ladywolf. The difference in the cities lies within the venues who host the scene. Berlin favors abandoned warehouses and tucked away cave-like bars. Portland could brag about their house shows but the feeling is all the same: pure bliss. There’s a shared grittiness and authenticity that’s both sexy and motivating.
The first week I arrived in
Berlin, I was specifically told to shed any superficial facade and embrace whatever I was wanting to wear and be whoever I wanted to be. Luckily, living in Portland for the past five years has already broken down the barriers. Both cities embrace alternative fashions, even hosting fashion weeks specific to this. There’s a liberal attitude towards style, how much is revealed and how much is kept a secret.
4. Artisan Everything
I’ve already attended a coffee week, craft gin festival and a street food Thursday. Portland shares in an obsession over foodie tendencies, mixologist culture and coffee culture to mention just a few outlets. These cities host citizens who love what they create and obsess over the specifics.
5. Bicycle Culture
6. Scenic Parks Situated Inside of the City
Getaways inside of a city and parks situated next to home and work spaces make Berlin and Portland ideal places to live in due to the diversity of atmospheres and closeness to nature. Portland, Oregon’s Forest Park is matched by Berlin’s Victoria Park, which features so much green, a waterfall and a breathtaking view of the view with the TV tower.
7. Public Participation
With the recent population increase, cultural shift and condo boom in Portland, it’s difficult to avoid any conversation regarding the process of gentrification and its consequences. It’s happening everywhere and Berliners are throwing paint and breaking windows over it. Street art reflects and communicates opinions from the community. Living in a city that doesn’t seem to take any shit from the bourgeois gives me hope for the sister Pacific Northwest city. Loud is better. Fortunately, there are some initiatives and events in Portland addressing the current issues.
8. Cities that Investigate Alternatives
The most important aspect and shared similarity between Portland, Oregon and Berlin, Germany is they are both known internationally for experiments and projects. Both possess building technologies and systems (the connection between Potsdamer Platz and Tanner Springs Park), social experiments and innovative collaborations. There’s an ongoing conversation for what the future looks like physically and socially in regards to the urban environment. In Berlin, the city is undergoing an infinite makeover due to its tumultuous history. The city has undergone severe reinvention recently through WWII, the Cold War, the destruction of the wall and now because of population increase and gentrification. Cranes create part of the skyline, which is true for Portland as well. Both are interested in finding solutions to climate change and preserving the natural environment. Public space has been reinvented and questioned through projects and activism such as Portland’s City Repair Project through their painted neighborhood intersections and Berlin’s DIY urban garden, Prinzessinnengarten.