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 about the Berliner Schnauze. Most visitors will have encountered it, too. Most of us choose not to let it bother us... until it catches us off-guard, in the shape of some car driver spraying us with a stream of water on a drizzly day.

In Berlin, you tend to run into people who've got their schnauze on at the worst of all possible times.  Like when some old fogey sticks their foot out to trip you up as you're hurrying to catch the train 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 (and then shouts at you a bit). 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 a week spent filling them out. 

High-tech 'Fuck You' from an exhibit of robotic art.
Of course, there are plenty of sympathetic people in the city who help us expats mitigate the rage that these encounters foster in us.  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
The "Berlin mean" (which seems to be an evil twin of the "Minnesota nice") can actually be kind of entertaining when it decides to cannily send itself up and turns its nastiness into a special sort of art form that only other Berlin's non-Berlinsich residents can truly appreciate. 

You may have already witnessed the playful sniping that sometimes happens between dyed-in-the wool Berliners.  Exchanging 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 turns into a bloodbath.  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 made by a bit of shit-slinging.

A friendly welcome from Bar 25/Holzmarkt

Which brings me to the photos in this post. I've never seen such a wide range of works of art that say 'Fuck You' in so many creative ways, as I have in this city (and I've spent a great deal of time in New York).  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 from afar instead of feeling its sting, up close and personal.  If Berlinersprefer putting their schnauze into an art gallery and charging people to see it then hey, at least that means they won't be giving it away for free.  That's one price hike that I'm sure many people here would be glad for.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All writing & images © A. E. Elliott (unless otherwise specified)

Search This Blog

My photo
Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.