You’d be forgiven for thinking that Competitive Scrabble players wearing Hawaiian print dresses and absent of facial piercings, do not present themselves at the gates of a Berlin squat.At least, not unless they’re looking for glue to sniff or a beat down. Yet, surprisingly I found myself paying to get into one. All in the name of head banging and the use of a remarkably clean portaloo. I wasn’t sure if I’d hit an all time low point of my life or whether I should class the experience as the highlight of my weekend.
I did meet two delightful squat residents. I am still waiting for them to connect with me on LinkedIn. I am not sure this is going to happen anytime soon. They were kind enough to translate the angry German rap lyrics I was awkwardly fist pumping to into English. They also offered me a few sips from their vodka bottle, which I politely declined. There around 50 permanent squat residents, some of which have lived there since the early 90’s. The squat community is an independent and not for profit organisation that aims to provide a safe haven for individuals to be themselves. Although the place first appears to be so liberal it verges on anarchic, it’s a community staunchly against racism, sexism and discrimination. They work, live by the morals of the squat and appear to be relatively happy within their community. It’s still no bed of roses. It is, after all, a crumbling abandoned building long overdue for demolition. Its residents are those who have suffered severe mistreatment from a mainstream society based on their appearance, sexual orientation or culture.
For once, the normal(ish) looking, middle-class whitey stood out like a flamingo at a Sex Pistols concert. An uncomfortable experience – one that I had the rare fortune of walking away from at any time. If my visit to the squat taught me anything, it was not: never judge a book by its cover. Because walking into a squat expecting to befriend all those with safety pins through their septums and tattoos across their face may earn the delusional punter the mugging they deserve. It was not: step outside your comfort zone and venture into seemingly dangerous buildings to conquer your greatest fear of waking up in an ice bath with only one kidney. Instead, I gained a little insight into what it’s like to be stared at for looking entirely out of place. Sure, we’ve all been eyeballed and made to feel uncomfortable. Especially if you’ve ever been caught drying your entire body with paper towels at the gym because you forgot a towel, or gone to the supermarket wearing a face mask. But being in a dirty derelict building, at night in a foreign country, surrounded by drunk, angry punks and anarchists made it a little more intense, for some reason. It’s also comforting to know that wherever you are in Germany, you’re bound to find someone who speaks good English.
All in all, it was a pretty good night. I emerged unscathed with no communicable diseases, as far as I know. For any curious intrepid lawyers considering a squat visit, squatters are legally allowed to reside there permanently. And yes, entering the premises without consent may constitute trespass. I recommend consulting an English speaking squatter first before jumping right in and furiously shaking hands with the 2017 Sid Vicious’ and Jonny Rotten’s of Berlin.
Liked this? You can subscribe at lawyerlauren.com