In a recent comment I mentioned how little economic pressure there was in Berlin in the 2000s if you wanted to get out of the rat rate or not even enter it. Looking back, it was really a quite remarkable windows of opportunity. For context, after the German reunification, politics and investors had high hopes into turning Berlin into a metropolis of global importance. The construction industry was booming. Yet, there were hardly any well-paying jobs. It seems that everybody adult you met was either a university students or at least partly living off welfare. Not surprisingly, the city turned into a modern Gomorrah.
One consequence of the absence of well-paying jobs and a high unemployment rate, in combination with the investments into housing, was that it was incredibly easy to find an affordable place anywhere you wanted. The situation was so bad for landlords that some threw in a free TV or offered to put in a new kitchen for you if you, but the latter only if you were willing to enter a long-term commitment. You could also find landlords offering one to three months of free rent. There were so many available apartments that you could pick a street you liked and line up more viewings than you could fit into your schedule. I recall gong to three viewings in one particular street in one day. You could tell landlords when you were available and they tried to accommodate you. If you were fine with just renting a room, the situation was the same. This was the option I chose as I wanted to limit my expenses and also because I thought that there were other benefits of sharing a place, such as meeting more people.
My move to Berlin was quite odd in hindsight. I had just been admitted to one of the universities in Berlin and was tying up some loose ends. My plan had been to stay in a cheap hotel for a while and then rent a place. As it so happened, I bumped into a woman I knew in a local nightclub. She had moved to Berlin a while ago but was visiting family. Upon hearing that I was about to move to Berlin, she excitedly scribbled her phone number on my arm, basically covering my entire forearm. She joked, or perhaps she was no joking, that this was more reliable than her typing her number into my phone. Well, she offered I could stay at her place until I had found my own and she was adamant that I would not be a burden as it would only take me at most about a week to find something. Yes, she was into me, but she was also right that it would be easy to find a place. The outcome was that I had my pick among a few rooms in shared apartments within a couple of days.
In the mid-2000s, you could rent an apartment for a few hundred euros a month. These were not some run-down places somewhere far out but apartments in the most in-demand areas. Fifty square meters for 300 euros plus utilities was towards the upper end, and a room in a shared apartment could be had for 150 euros all-inclusive. Groceries were very cheap. I don’t think I needed more than twenty euros a week, and I was not even particularly stingy. Public transport was free for students as well as for welfare leeches, and this still is the case, if I am not mistaken. The biggest recurring expense was going out and even that was quite modest. Clubs only really got busy well past midnight. Often you could get in for free if you showed up early. If you came with friends, this was not so bad. There was also the added benefit that you could avoid queuing for an hour or so. Yet, if you did not get in for free, it normally only cost about five euros to get in. The more expensive places charged twice as much. I think Berghain asked for 12 euros, which seemed outlandish to me but it was still worth it.
Getting a job was really quite difficult. You had a lot of NGOs who wanted free labor. Some offered part-time gigs for a few hundred euros, but thankfully I did not have to stoop that low. A really good gig was working in parliament for one of the political parties. For these jobs, women and immigrants were heavily favored. Those jobs paid 2,500 euros, which is before taxes, and they were limited to just a few years. A small number of women I knew had such jobs and they were boasting about this. Today, I think those jobs start at 3,500 euros/mo., but it is a lot more difficult to get by on such a salary.
Back in the days, there existed a particular group of people that seems to have disappeared almost completely. In German, we have the term “Lebenskünstler”, which is difficult to translate. It refers to someone who gets by and lives a pleasant life despite a lack of material comforts. Bohemians, in contrast, are normally the children of wealthy parents who pretend to be poor. Also, a “Lebenskünstler” does not need to be involved in the arts whereas the international bohemian scene you find in the larger Western cities fully centers around music and the visual arts. Still, “bohemian” is probably the closest term in the English language.
In the mid-2000s, Berlin was home to a surprising number of young men and women who were well-educated and clearly pretty smart, yet who made not attempt to establish themselves financially. They had one or two part-time gigs, but their goal was to maximize the enjoyment of their spare time. I knew some guys who pretended to be artists or writers but in reality spent most of their evenings going out, socializing with friends. They may have had a part-time teaching gig somewhere that did not cover their bills, but this made it possible to apply for supplementary welfare benefits, and the effect was that they did not need to concern themselves with mundane questions such as making ends meet. Had I not rubbed elbows with such people, there is a good chance I would not have spent a few years on partying and banging women.
There were also a lot of women around who did not really care about not having a job, but this is probably not such an uncommon attitude among women. They may have had a job as a waitress, doing a few shifts a week, and otherwise spend their time getting dicked down while waiting for Mr Right. Some of them really got screwed over because this kind of lifestyle does not work well in the long run. One day, they wake up, realize that they are in their 30s and not only are there no suitors in sight, guys do not even show any interest in pumping and dumping her. Then they end up in cat-lady flat-shares, which must be a particular kind of hell.
Today, there are fewer and fewer people around who just want to get by somehow. University students are under immense pressure to get a job that pays the bills. There are still part-time gigs available, of course, but this is not of much help. If you are single and able to rent a spacious two-bedroom apartment for a few hundred euros, then covering your living expenses with a part-time job is viable. However, if your rent is well above 1,000 euros, you better get a real job. Thus, the lazy bums of the past either got back up on their feet or got washed out. It is possible that they nowadays live somewhere in the outskirts, idling their time away and getting wasted on cheap booze. In the in-demand central areas, though, you will not find many such people. If you did not get in early, this option is now gone. However, even those who managed to secure a cheap rental apartment twenty years ago can easily get screwed. All it takes is their landlord cancelling the lease, which is difficult in Germany but not impossible. This leads to those people leaving flyers all around the area, describing how much they love the district they live in but have to leave if they do not find another cheap apartment soon. Well, those places are all gone.
The alternative reality of Berlin could likely have gone on for much longer. The first cracks in the facade only appeared at around 2010, which was when startups started paying higher and higher salaries. I recall that in the late 2000s software engineers sometimes just got offered 2,000 euros a month, which led to people moving to Munich, Zurich, or even further abroad. Yet, Berlin eventually got flooded with investor money again, but this time it mostly went into funding companies. Within a few years, salaries doubled, and doubled again within a few more years. Rents increased concomitantly. Then, the German government decided that it did not want to protect its borders. All rocket scientists were welcome. The government also gave them freedom of movement and because it is a human right to live in Berlin and as all the incoming rocket scientists officially had no money, the government started to rent apartments for them on a massive scale.
The outcome was that supply of housing completely tanked. Today, you have hundreds of applicants within minutes of a listing appearing online. Back then, you essentially had your pick. The government also directly competes with regular renters as it outspends them in order to get landlords to rent to rocket scientists. It is a cruel joke that the government uses taxpayer money to prevent taxpayers from finding accommodation. There has been very recent regulation according to which household sizes have to be considered by landlords. Thus, rocket scientists with big families get the big apartments whereas the hard-working single male may only get a studio apartment, if he gets lucky.
The tragedy is that the people of Berlin have been voting for their own replacement. This city has had a radical leftist government for many, many years. Yet, those people apparently believed in diversity and cultural enrichment. You can bet that a fair number of people have gotten screwed royally as a consequence, believing that the gravy train would never end, until it came to an abrupt halt. The most recent influx of Ukrainians made this even worse. Of course, I am not a hater. May they all come, and the more there are, the sooner Germany will implode and with it the European Union. With some luck, this will lead to a few decades of reconstruction and prosperity, before leftists shitheads once again begin infiltrating all institutions and work towards the destruction of society.