30.1.15

Berlingo: "Schnauze"

Why is Berlin being so meeeean?
 Berlin can be so mean. Many of its long-term inhabitants will already know this; most will have already learned not to let it bother them... until it catches them off-guard, that is.  For some reason, you always run into an asshole in this city at the worst of all possible times.  For example, when some old fogey sticks their foot out to trip you up as you're hurrying to get to an appointment on time.  Or when the travel agent starts cackling sourly after you desperately ask her to book a hotel for you in Köln on Rosenmontag.  Or when the guy at the tax office deliberately gives you the wrong forms to fill in, and then yells at you for not using the right forms after you've spent a week filling them out.  Or... I could go on, but why bother?  If you live in Berlin, you probably already know what I mean when I say 'Berlin can be mean'.

High-tech 'Fuck You' from an exhibit of robotic art.
This would be a good place to remind everyone that there are plenty of sympathetic folk around the city that help expats to mitigate the rage that these encounters foster in them.  When the talking therapy fails, some turn to the mic at an English comedy night, and the rest seem to turn to the Internet.  Yes, the collision between Anglo niceties and Berliner cruelties has given rise to plenty of gratuitous whining in the expat blogosphere (some of it even penned by yours truly).  And do you know what Berlin's response has been?  The answer can be found below.

Streetart may be getting more quaint these days, but its themes still come from the ghetto
But the "Berlin mean" (which seems to be an evil twin of the "Minnesota nice") can actually entertain us when it decides to cannily send itself up, turning its own nastiness into a special sort of performance that only other Berlin residents can understand.  "Berliner Schnauze" is the most obvious result of this, a kind of dialect that almost everyone in Germany has heard of.  But in the south, the phrase "Berliner Schnauze" is usually an insult, whereas here in town, it's a kind of in-joke.

You may have already witnessed the playful sniping that sometimes happens between dyed-in-the wool Berliners who've run into each other at the kneipe, the bus stop, Lichtenberg station and other venues that they can afford to haunt.  Exhanging hostilities as freely as the English are known to exchange pleasantries, they vie for mastery in a game of misanthropic one-up manship until people stop and stare, becoming an unwitting audience to their ad-libbed street theatrics.  I can never really be sure if the spectators are watching for the entertainment value or whether they're just waiting to see if the 'game' takes a wrong turn and becomes a bloodbath.  But nine out of ten times, the combatants just end up laughing their 2-packs-a-day laugh and parting ways with a friendly 'Tschuss!', grinning like their day has just been brightened by the verbal blitzkrieg.

A friendly welcome from Bar 25/Holzmarkt

That's why I've decided to focus on the Fuck You art piece this week, which seems to be yet another Berliner specialty.  I think I've never seen such a wide array of works of art that say 'Fuck You' as I have in this city (and I've spent a great deal of time in New York, so that's really saying something).  It's a reflection of the city's true spirit, in a weird way, which seems to be trying to rise above itself without abandoning its roots: hence the need to turn Berliner Schnause into an art form that others can admire.  And I can't say that I disagree with that aim.  If Berlin residents start locking their crusty attitude away in an art gallery and charging for admission, at least that means they won't be giving it away for free.  That's a price hike that I'm sure many people here would gladly embrace.  

Enjoy the weekend... if you can!

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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, streetart, left-wing activism, social media trends and green issues. Other publications that I have written for include: Urban Challenger Blog, Siegesaeule, Shlur, Alternative Berlin, Sensanostra.