Berlin, My City of Lost Souls

Loneliness in dating and remote working

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

I have just left the City of Lost Souls. I gave Berlin this name the first week I arrived, after going to an international networking event. There, I noticed most people seemed more interested in dating than in networking, although, at the same time, many seemed to be jobless.

During my four-year stay in Berlin, my first impression was confirmed. The Berlin dating culture is vibrant and experimental and many people are living on either government funds or their own or their parents’ savings.

I would like to share with you how I ended up in Berlin. A gut feeling brought me there. After travelling for months in Nepal and India, I found myself in a small beach town. I spoiled myself residing in a little cottage at the beach that had the name “Berlin.” Since then I couldn’t get the idea to move to Berlin out of my head.

When I arrived in Berlin, upon my first networking event, I realized that I probably moved to the city because I belonged there at that point in time. At the same time, I knew I wouldn’t stay forever.

Dating and Loneliness

Dating just to gain experiences doesn’t have to be bad. However, while listening to many dating-in-Berlin stories, which seemed to bring very little joy to my friends, I often wondered about the underlying psychological factors that make people experiment in their love life.

The psychological symptom that I related to it is an attachment issue. An issue I had been familiar with, but it seemed like most people I talked about it were not. Some of them were claiming they were living an adventurous life. To me, this view oftentimes seemed to cover up their internal disbalance.

Just to be clear, I base my words on conversations I had with various people and countless observations. In my four years of living in Berlin, I heard so many stories about loneliness. The struggles I’ve witnessed include

  • Having frequent sexual encounters while eagerly wanting to settle down
  • Being disappointed about a relationship and therefore opening it up
  • Understanding and adapting to dating-styles of different cultures
  • Searching in vain a gay partner willing to have a monogamous relationship
  • Trusting a Tinder date, but being violently robbed

Those experiences were shared with me by people of different genders, generations, cultures and sexualities. After a while, I started to ask myself, is this a part of living in a big city? Is it because of the large group of expats living together, often far away from their families? Is it the numerous dating apps that make connecting randomly so easy? Is it the search for adventures?

One conclusion that I had is that in Berlin the infrastructure for having “experimental relationships” is established as much as it fosters another well-known “opportunity”: living a start-up life that offers innovative ways of working.

Remote Working and Loneliness

The second topic in the centre of my reflections is Berlin’s working culture. I am lucky to be a networker by nature. Wherever I go I find people with whom I’d like to connect and spend time. The reassurance that I will always find people to connect with and my longing for being able to work anywhere and anytime made me decide to become a co-founder of a purely remotely operating start-up.

Even though my vision had always been that 80% of an organization’s teamwork can be done online, while the rest of the time should be spent together, I went all in. At a certain point, we also decided that networking for our startup should be done solely online since visiting events and having in-person meetings was too time-consuming.

For two years, I tried hard to make this work for me. For two years it was me, my laptop and my virtual colleagues. I conclude that it didn’t make me happy.

Yes, I like efficiency (I am Dutch, it’s in my DNA ;-)) but I also like true human connection. I need a simple “How are you this morning?” while having a coffee with a colleague now and again. This seems so small but I now realize how big it is. As always the “big” things in life are actually what seems “small.”

Apart from my connection struggles, I also question the efficiency now, because I believe that something gets lost in online communicating and one still gets clients mostly through personal meetings.

I do realize that I’m writing this as an ENFP (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator profile) millennial in 2019. This is based merely on my recent personal experience. My conclusions are and never will be set in stone.

Lost and Found

I believe that without honesty and transparency about our experiences and feelings that come with them, our age’s technological revolution might end up badly.

I believe we need to stop blocking ourselves from the process we need to go through to heal. The process that leads to becoming capable of making decisions that are truly beneficial to ourselves and the people around us.

I think that the loneliness that many people are facing today can only be overcome by real, in-person, encounters that lead to feeling a connection. Maybe then even the City of Lost Souls can turn into a City of Found Souls.

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