Berlin, Germany Nord-Neukölln is sometimes also called Kreuzkölln. Here, there are machos with water pipes, Turkish families with children, hip students, Germans who are always drunk, invisible gallery owners – and me.
I use two streets. One is quiet and grey, the other one is colourful and full of life. On which street I want to start my day on usually depends on my mood. My apartment is in a passage between Fulda Street and Weichsel Street. “All streets in the area were named after the sources of the river Donau” is what a taxi driver once told me. But that was incorrect. The river Weichsel is in Poland and Fulda is a main source of the river Weser.
The area I live in could just be called Nord-Neukölln but Reuter-Kiez sounds so much cooler – at least that’s what most people think. The usage of the word “Kiez” creates kind of an affiliation. A kind of affiliation I do not need. It is enough for me to know that there is a lot of stuff going on around me, while I enjoy the quietude of my passage.
Kingdom of Arabs and Turks
Both of my streets are centred between the two streets Sonnenallee and Karl-Marx Street. The first one is the Kingdom of the Arabs, the second one of the Turks. It is surprising to see that such a short distance can separate both worlds so strongly. On my street they commingle more.
Along with the summer, machismo has also returned to the streets. Groups of men are sitting in front of water pipe shops or cafés, which sometimes, strangely, are being called “Kulturvereine” – “cultural associations” and are staring at the young women passing by. Other than the machos, there are three types of people that I meet here every morning and every evening: traditional Turkish families, who are busy with small children, old, poor and mostly German people reeking of alcohol and young, hip students in too-tight or too-wide pants in strange colours.
Life in Neukölln is not cool but cheap
For many Turkish families, Berlin is not their chosen home. They are in Neukölln because generations of families have been living here before them and life is cheap. For young people, it is different. They emphasize the word “Kreuzkölln” with such enthusiasm, that one realizes how much value they put in trends. They want to take in as much of the Kreuzberg Spirit as possible.
There is a fourth type. That is what I am. Alone. I am Turkish without any roots here. I have been in Berlin for one and a half years, which is why I am scared of being called an “A-Levels Turk”. That is what they call Turkish people who come to Germany for their career and want to have as little contact with the domestic Turks as possible. They hardly hide their compassion when I say that I live in Neukölln. For them it is a sign that I belong to the lower class.
Supermarkets full of zombies
Even the Turkish people in my neighbourhood don’t believe that I am one of them. I am always stressed when I have to buy something in a Turkish store. They always want to reply in German and then it is mostly too hard for me to continue talking in Turkish, to cut the routine. That’s why I go to the German supermarkets full of zombies on Karl-Marx Street.
I am often asked by people which language I actually speak. That surprises me every time. The Germans just recognize the Turkish spoken in Kreuzberg and Neukölln; that is to say the strong Kiez-accent. Sometimes I really wish I could also speak in that accent, to have a part of this homey identity. That is not possible, though. I am the silent stranger between the Germans and Turkish people here.
“DASLABOR” is closed on six days a week
In my streets the shops are almost all run by Turkish people, except for a few bars and a gallery. In the corner bars, the German society, who are not seen on the streets outside business hours, come together to booze. I am particularly curious about one bar, as only senior citizens are allowed in. But an even bigger secret for me is the gallery “DASLABOR” – “THELAB,” which is directly near my passage. In a really small room experimental art is exhibited. Like everywhere in Neukölln’s art scene, everything looks cheap. The big butcher’s shop nearby is much flashier with its big range of meat, but not as secretive as “DASLABOR,” which is closed on six days a week. Only once a week, on the weekends, the gallery opens its doors for opening parties. I don’t know who those people are, who are certainly having a lot of fun, or if it has something to do with art. But every time I see a party there, I walk by slowly and hope for someone to invite me in.
On the other hand, it is better for it to be mysterious. That way everything in Neukölln will always stay new for me, no matter how much time passes.Edited by Alisa Engberg