One of the things I noticed and liked form the very beginning in Berlin was the fact that almost everywhere you go you feel like you have enough space for yourself. I have seldom felt like it was too crowded and, in a big city, this is usually the case. Maybe I am mistaken, but after living in Bucharest and London, Berlin felt like a breath of fresh mountain air. Of course, I am not referring to those places where it should be crowded, such as pubs, concert halls, the public transport during rush hour, but all the other important urban spaces: homes, offices, stores, the streets, parks.
There are many factors that contribute to the feeling of more space; such factors also render the comparison with Bucharest a bit far-fetched.
First of all, Berlin is a pretty large place: it occupies a surface of almost 900 km2, which makes it three times bigger than Bucharest. Naturally, the population is also more numerous, but the density is also considerably smaller.
Secondly, the allocated living spaces are very generous in Berlin. For example, my room located in a student room had almost 20 m2. Given my previous experiences, this was huuuuge. I have friends whose studios are smaller than this room. I would always joke that this gave me opportunity to practice waltz dancing. If you are curious about the size of rooms in Berlin, just take a look at a few ads on wg-gesucht.
People in Germany greatly value having their personal space from childhood onwards. As concerns students, this space is absolutely necessary in order to better concentrate. Everywhere you go, being a student is synonym with having a lot of fun. However, fun is not also synonym with living in a student dorm.
In Romania, living in a student dorm means that you are at the centre of fun, that you will go to many parties organized in your building or some other similar building close by, if you live in a campus. Except the exam periods when people study 24/7, the dorms are very lively places. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing; it depends on your level of tolerance and on your priorities. Additionally, in Romania, you will never have your own room, so you need to learn how to concentrate in spite of so many distractions coming from your room mates. It’s a tricky business sometimes, but it has its perks, if you ask me.
On the other hand, in Germany, living in a student dorm is like living anywhere else. Yes, there will be more young people who are students, just like you, in the building, but they will not study in the same university or faculty as you, so there are high chances you will never exchange more than simple ‘Hellos’ on the hallway. This depends on your neighbours, but parties are usually forbidden, or if you throw a party there, the noise level has to kept low, and I mean very low, otherwise you might wake up with the police at your doorway. Of course, this is a good thing, because you can truly focus on your studies and have no excuses for not doing so. Despite this, students generally spend their time in libraries when they have to finish an assignment or study for an exam. In short, if you plan to move to a student dorm in Germany for the lively atmosphere, you will be disappointed.
This desire for personal space can be observed on several other occasions; for instance, on the public transport. I have said this before, travelling in this manner in Berlin is very comfortable and reliable. There are many trains or buses or trams available and, given their high level of organisation, crowding up rarely occurs and even then, it’s only for short lengths. Maybe because of this, people are also used to be able to choose their seat, so as to not have anyone else next to you. And when there are few other passengers, the spaces between people become wider, even if there is enough room between you and the one next to you. If a chair becomes available that will ensure that there will be more space for you, then you will go for it immediately. This practice amused me so much that, for laughs, I would sit right next to people on purpose, even though there were better seats available.
Thirdly, because of the large scale destruction the city suffered during the Second World War, the city was almost completely rebuilt: the boulevards were larger, the streets and houses more organised. Compared to London, it’s hard to get lost in Berlin. Most streets are perpendicular and there are maps of the city at every bus, tram, U-bahn or S-bahn stop, and there are a lot of these. Besides this, there are many people who travel by bike or use the public transport, so that you will rarely see any jams in the city. Honking is also a sound you will forget in time and when you will hear it once in a long while, it will startle you. Actually the ‘honking’ you will get used to is that coming from bicyclists.
For those of you who want to live in a major city, but want to avoid the jostle and live in a spacious place even on a low budget, Berlin is one of the best places.