The lonely Berlin taxi driver


I get a lot of taxis in Berlin, mostly at around 4 in the morning, which is when I get off work. I like talking to the drivers. We have nearly the same conversation every night.

“Frau Ferguson?” they say as I open the door.

“Jawohl!”

We cover familiar topics like traffic diversions, whether it’s been a busy night and what the news items of the day have been.

Often we talk about where we’re from too. Most of the taxi drivers have Turkish or Middle Eastern roots. That’s led to some interesting exchanges, like recently, when a driver compared the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland to Shia-Sunni sectarianism.

The other night was different though. My taxi driver had a flat Berlin accent. Instead of asking where I was from, he guessed.

“Switzerland?”

“Nope. Ireland!”

“Ah! Kerrygold!”

“Yes,” I said, only mildly surprised. “They have an excellent marketing team.”

“What do you mean?” he said. “Irish butter really is better.”

“I rest my case!” I said, laughing. “Anyway, what about you? Are you a real Berliner?”

“Yes,” he said, a little tensely. “One of the few left!”

Attribution:  Matti Blume via Creative Commons

Attribution: Matti Blume via Creative Commons

He’s right, you know. Berlin is not the place to meet Berliners. I can count the number I know on one hand.

“But where have they all gone?” I asked.

“To the outskirts of Brandenburg. I’m dying to go too. Only I’m stuck here working.”

“Why are they all leaving?”

“Because it’s no longer their city. Everything’s changed.”

“I know what you mean,” I said. “I mean, I’ve only been here three years and I can see the city change before my eyes. Often, when I go to bars or cafes, people automatically speak English to me. I mean, I can imagine that can get pretty annoying if you’re German.”

“Sure. Sometimes you forget where you are.”

“I guess that’s down to people like me, isn’t it?”

“Ach, no.”

But I could tell that he agreed.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “The lonely Berlin taxi driver

    • It is, isn’t it? Berlin really is a city defined by its imports; it’s that feeling of flux which attracts so many people here. But for those who made the city (many built it up again from scratch after the war), the rapid changes can be isolating. Thanks for stoppping by! Huge hugs to you too xx

  1. It’s a trade-off. That “people from everywhere” vibe can give a creative dynamism to a city (e.g., New York), but a city rich in its own native quirkiness has great appeal too. My own city (New Orleans) has lots of native quirkiness but lots of other people flowing in and out too (especially since Hurricane Katrina). I’m grateful for both layers. And I think your cab driver is probably sincere on both counts. He laments the rapid transformation of his city but finds foreigners like you perfectly nice and not to be blamed. It is a conundrum, though.

    • Interesting that New Orleans has both! What kind of people have been coming since Hurricaine Katrina? Yeah, I think you’re right about the driver. There was no hostility there, just a hint of sadness.

      • The newcomers are a great mix: young, highly educated professionals looking to make a difference in education or entrepreneurship; artsy, bohemian drifters who created an offbeat cultural Renaissance in Marigny/Bywater neighborhoods; Latino immigrants who came for rebuilding work, largely from Honduras but some from Mexico it seems, bringing with them some additional cultural flavors (literally, with new Latino restaurants popping up in my neighborhood).

  2. Kate, I enojoy reading your notes every time!!
    I have been to Berlin nearly every month during the last year. And I saw the changes that you are talkin about every time. I guess the real Berliners are those who live in there Kiez like in a village, not going out anywhere else but there neighbourhood.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s