Being Young While the Night is Young

Avery Trinidad
October 31, 2021

If New York is the city that never sleeps, then Berlin is the city that gives you the option to sleep.
I’m being very literal there, as on a federal level, Germany operates on the Nachtruhe law. It’s a word that translates directly to “night quiet,” and, besides letting the neighbors get some shut-eye, is something meant to reduce noise pollution on a national scale. From 10 PM to 6 AM, you’re legally obligated to manage noise in such a way that it doesn’t bother other people.
That’s not saying Berlin loses all momentum as soon as the clock rolls over— far from it. Night owls migrate from the roofs, courtyards, and balconies of their homes and either head in—continuing their house parties—or journey out into the streets to find the bars, clubs, and venues where like-minded people are roosting. Just as much as (occasionally) pronouncing “ich” as “ick” is an essential part of the Berlin accent, and the Brandenburger Tor is held as one of the most iconic sights of the city, the active nightlife is woven into the area’s urban culture.
There’s a couple surprises to be found in that nighttime Berlin air.
No, I’m not considering the legal age of purchasing alcohol one of them—one of the cliches of the American traveler, after all, is to gawk and marvel at the 18 year old without parental supervision drinking a responsible amount of wine with their dinner meal. (Notably, though, Germany does have a separate regulatory age for spirits than it does for beer, wine, and cider.)
Rather, I’m talking about things like dogs entering bars with little resistance. One Thursday night, as we played a game of pool at a local pub, some other students and I were elated to see someone let their canine pal wander inside. Several instances of “Hey, look, it’s a dog!” and “Can I pet it?” later, we were soon playing tug of war with it outside with a burst soccer ball. Unlike a good deal of the United States—or, at least New York—there don’t seem to be ordinances preventing the allowance of a well-behaved furry friend into most German businesses. While this might be a point of concern for those allergic, it’s something I’ve enjoyed as an avid dog lover.
I’ve also encountered phenomena like people going from bar to bar distributing roses, something I’m sure there’s a lengthy, hyper-specific German compound word for. (Rosengeber?) The New Yorker in me often rejects their offers, purely based on habit and a fear of wasting money on impulse purchases. Despite that, I still fondly recall a moment in which a bouquet-touting man insisted I take one for free, if only because I had been dancing with someone.
Last weekend, students from our Berlin program (myself included) wanted to explore the city’s own local, kitschy rendition of Halloween—and our survival well past the halfway mark of the program. (And hey, some people from IES Abroad's programs in Vienna, Austria and Salamanca, Spain were here too!) While Halloween is widely recognized as an American import by most Germans, that hasn’t stopped the youth from partaking in it. And it certainly makes a lot of club owners happy as a period when the city’s nightlife sees a wild spike in income.
As for me, though, I found myself walking the streets of Berlin in a campy, over-the-top cowboy costume. (That, don’t tell the buddies back home, I’m going to reuse back in Massachusetts next year.) I got plenty of friendly howdies from passerby’s on the street and a steady stream of compliments at venues, shooting back with a hearty “Sue-ee! Sue-ee!” when appropriate. At one point, I even got approached by a group of euphoric teenagers while waiting for the train with my friends.


Bist du Woody von Toy Story?”  asked an ecstatic German girl. Are you Woody from Toy Story?
Ne, nur ein Cowboy,”  I explained. Nah, just a cowboy.
Aber Woody ist doch cooler!” added her equally ecstatic friend beside her, popping up on his heels. But Woody’s cooler!
Können wir ein Selfie machen?” the girl then asked. Can we take a selfie with you?
Natürlich,” I chirped, opening the door to seven or so high schoolers attempting to pile into a photo with me. Naturally. Craning over to my fellow Americans, I chortled, “Well, that’s good to hear.”
Hearing this, the girl made a polite slip to English with a warm, “Thank you!”
Oh, ne, natürlich, mädchen. Kein problem!” I sent back, bidding her a cowboy's farewell. Oh, nah, of course, girlie. No problem!
With an embarrassed laugh, she waved her hands at me apologetically. “Oh, ja, ‘schuldigung. Du kennst Deutsch!”  Oh, right, sorry. You know German!


It ended up being an incredibly exciting 48 hours—I spent the bulk of Friday night at a karaoke bar in Friedrichshain, listening to local renditions of international pop songs. In turn, of course, I delivered Katy Perry’s "Teenage Dream" as a queer cowboy ballad to an enraptured, stomping crowd. Saturday night saw students from my program dancing our cares away at a place that branded itself as “Berlin’s largest Halloween party”—and, sure, we might’ve gotten lost twice or thrice or four times over in the swathes of club kids and Super Mario-themed group costumes, but we definitely had a good time.
Something that probably should underline all of this, by the way, is that an essential part of Berlin fun is safety. The New Yorker in me knows well that parties in a city as big as Berlin can either be someone’s best night of the month, or their worst night of the year. We never did more than what we knew we could do—and we made sure that, at the end of the night, we all knew where everyone was going and how they were getting back home. And hey, never forget a "phone wallet keys mask and coin pouch, since it's Germany" when you enter and leave any place you think you might lose something.
(As for our Saturday dancing-the-night-away, it ended with us collectively getting döner a block away from our student housing.)
Heck, never feel the need to have as much as a Wild West weekend as the one I just described—if you’re back in your room by 9 PM, binging Netflix, having a hot cocoa, and that’s your definition of a good night? Then that’s your way of experiencing Berlin, and a totally valid way, too.
As for me though, after two successive days of passionately jumping, singing, and “yee-HAW”-ing my way through Berlin, I decided to spend my Sunday inside. Even cowboys need to rest sometimes, especially the ones that aren’t Woody from Toy Story.

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Avery Trinidad

Hey there! I'm Avery Trinidad, a junior majoring in Sociology and concentrating in Global Studies over at Williams College! I think long walks by the beach are an unironic fun time, have made a hobby of writing songs with ukulele accompaniment, and have an apparent talent for making eggs. I'm a big ol' New York native, with a booming voice and headstrong attitude to boot. Though born and raised in Manhattan, I've had the opportunity to take German as a third language since my freshman year of high school. I'm looking forward to documenting my experiences in Berlin, especially after it emerges from such a tumultuous time in not only its own history, but the world's! Bis bald!

Destination:
Term:
2021 Fall
Home university:
Williams College
Hometown:
New York, NY
Major:
Sociology
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