My social life became significantly richer a few days ago when friends from Croatia moved to Berlin. To Neukölln, to be precise. I learned that you have to be precise with these things; even Neukölln is a broad term. It all mixes and melts there, filters from the uncool and/or dangerous and leaves the residue to 'deep Neukölln'. Apparently that's where the reasonable ones draw the line and don't go to if not necessary.
The whole picture makes the perfect setting for a sitcom. Apart from the Seinfeld/Friends/etc type of scenario that youngsters live by, there are also immigrant communities that stay true to their tradition and slightly exaggerate in it. On a sunny day it looks just like I imagined it would: hipsters in front of arty bars and second-hand shops vs. traditionalists with all of their relatives on improvised front porches of their communal living rooms. Certainly a whole different story from Prenzlauer Berg where I live; cliche but still less predictable than the neat and tidy streets around Schönhauser Allee. My cynical and short-sighted decision not to follow the hype backfired enough to get me into hunting a new WG. Living there would make the sitcom situations much smoother for me, such as dropping by casually to friends flat, or having my own corner in a bar where everybody knows my name (or maybe more accurately: where everybody speaks my language).
I'm sure than none of us came to Berlin with the intention to hang out with 'our people' but that's how it always ends up. When I hear that Berliners are open and sociable ... It sounds a bit off to my ears. It proved to be easier to meet 10 Balkan people than 1 German, and not just because we tend to live like the old Yugoslavian slogan „Brotherhood and Unity“ tells us to.
I was SO happy about this one small talk I had with a German gallerist in front of the Arts Club Berlin. It was so precious for being so rare, if nothing else. Immediately it yielded my decision to attend all of their events, which turns out to be a tip for everybody who wants to draw attention to their work. A little bit of socialization goes a long way.
A completely opposite thing happened at a gallery where I was treated as if I came to sell crack, or ask if they want to give me a paid job which would be by far the worst thing ever. So I won't be going there ever again I suppose, partly also because I can't recall the name of the place. Which leads to another tip – if you run a gallery and your own name doesn't sound immediately familiar, like John Smith, or Javier Peres, please don't name the gallery after yourself. People usually appreciate when they don't have to write things down. The same goes to bar owners. Neukölln's Nathanja & Heinrich might be that bar that I will soon consider a second home, and still not use its name ever again after this sentence.
To sum things up: meet your Balkan neighbors and be nice to random people. Keep your smile wide and your gallery/bar name short. And if you happen to have a spare room in Neukölln, please let me know.