“For months I thought - I would leave in the next weeks. I was just waiting for the paper work to be ready, but that moment never came.” Barry Baruch
"Expats mingle more with other expats. It’s hard to get in touch with real Berliners. They are not always so outgoing or open to foreigners.”
To start over in a different country with a new culture and in a language you don’t understand, can be quite though. Barry Baruch, a Greek-Israeli who arrived about ten years ago in Berlin, experienced the same difficulties. “Nobody spoke English and I didn’t speak German. I had almost no friends the first two years.”
New in town
But a lot has changed since then. Barry, who now runs a computer service business, is one of the two ambassadors of expat community InterNations, a worldwide network of expats. He organizes countless events for the 11.000 registered Berlin members. “InterNations is a network for people who are new in town and don’t have so many contacts yet. It’s for people who are looking to meet other people, and want to see great locations of the city,” he tells in a café opposite the famous Berlin castle ‘Schloss Charlottenburg’.
When Barry came to Berlin, he was actually waiting to move to New York for a job. “For months I thought – I would leave in the next weeks. I was just waiting for the paper work to be ready, but that moment never came.” Instead, Barry started his own business and learned German. Not the easiest thing to do in Berlin. “Being self-employed is challenging. There is so much competition in the computer-programming world, plus Berlin is a poor city that likes cheap labour. Why hire someone more expensive if you can get a student to do it as part of a so-called internship?”
In his free time Barry loves to go out. “The night is my time, if you work the whole day at home, you need to get out of the house at night.” Being a former DJ, Barry used to go out three to five times a week. He still likes to go out a lot, even now that he is in forties. “But it’s hard to find people to come out with you five nights a week,” he laughs.
The fact that Barry didn’t have like-minded expats in the beginning never stopped him from going out. “The first years in Berlin I would go out by myself. That has all changed now with InterNations.” The expat community brings diplomats and business people from all over the world together. “You don’t have to be foreign actually, about half of our members are Germans from mostly other parts of Germany,” Barry explains.
As one of the two InterNations ambassadors, Barry has a lot of work organizing events for about 200 people. “The location is quite important. We do a lot of our events in the famous nightclubs of Berlin; Adagio, Felix, 40 Seconds. We start at 7pm or so, when the club is still closed to the public, so that our members have some hours to mingle and talk to each other. After that, the party starts and those who want to enjoy the music are free to stay.”
If you are not that keen on the bigger events, there is a lot more to do for the members of the biggest expat community in Berlin. “Apart from these mingling events, there are also many activity groups. Members with the same interest can start a group themselves. There is a lot of choice, from wine-tasting, to running, to hiking, to dancing.”
According to Barry, it is important that expats are in good contact with each other. He sees that many of them have trouble connecting with Berliners. “I also have very little contact with them. Expats mingle more with other expats. It’s hard to get in touch with Berliners. The real Berliners I mean. They are not always so outgoing or open to foreigners.” He thinks a bit and takes a sip from his tea before he continues. “I can understand this attitude. Because of all the foreigners, Berlin has changed. Everything became much more expensive and it is much more difficult to find a reasonably priced flat for example.”
Barry sighs. “I really love Berlin. But it was different ten years ago. If I look back, things weren’t so competitive as they are now. The city has become too commercial, everything is about money nowadays. It makes people less nice. Foreigners are good for the economy of the city I guess. But I don’t know if it’s good for the locals. It is changing the city. You lose the authentic Berlin, it starts to be like any other big Western city.”
Isn’t it bad then, that he is an ambassador for all these foreigners? He smiles. “There is a good and bad in everything. One thing is sure; Berlin is still a city like no other.” And off he goes on his motorbike, on his way to organize another big InterNations events.