The longer I stay here the easier it is to understand why North Americans of my generation, raised on positive reinforcement and dreams of creative fulfillment, are especially drawn to Berlin. This place allows you to escape the harsh realities of adulthood, to avoid confronting the limits of your specialness. In New York, most people I knew were working 12-hour days at bad jobs not only because they needed to make rent, but because they wanted to fit in. Here, you’re free to describe yourself as a “performance artist” or a “graphic designer,” even if you spend your entire day surfing the Internet, because, for the most part, you’re not expected to do anything at all. This aspect of the Berlin lifestyle is sometimes referred to in magazines trend pieces as “downshifting.” A less charitable German would call it “sozialverträgliche Faulheit.”
Not long ago, the graffiti next to my front door began to change. The “fuck off” in “Tourists fuck off” was crossed out, and replaced with “Tourists welcome and bring your parents.” Then the whole thing was covered with a scribble of blue paint, except the word “Tourist.”
Thank goodness, I think, every time I walk past it. My neighbors, it turns out, are just as conflicted as I am.