Leaving London for Berlin I thought I would be incredibly adept at relocating as I was moving to my third European location in four months. I quickly realized that I had grown incredibly comfortable in London speaking and hearing English spoken every day and being able to navigate without difficulty. When I arrived in Berlin a few weeks ago I experienced a culture shock both based on the German language but also because I had just arrived in one of the World’s most LGBT friendly cities.
As someone from a larger east coast city, I thought I would be incredibly comfortable seeing people from all walks of life on a daily basis. What struck me the most was that in America even in the most progressive of places, people who are not heterosexual have always been the minority. In some cases, these people are met with stares, hate, verbal abuse, and sometimes greater actions. In Berlin, quite the opposite seems to be true. Berlin has been a refuge within Europe for decades of those who were not able to express themselves fully in other places.
For students at Pitt considering an LGBTQ friendly travel destination, I would recommend Berlin at the top of my list. I also studied abroad in Madrid and London which are also some of the most accepting LGBT destinations in Europe, however, Berlin was the most accepting. While the city has a historically known area called Schöneberg which has been the hotspot for acceptance since the 1920s all areas of Berlin are incredibly accommodating. For me, this was a welcome change to see a city so completely respect and value all of the difference their residents brought to the city. For other students in the program, it was a wakeup call when they got hit on or flirted with members of the same sex for the first time in their lives.
To experience Berlin at its fullest and overcome any culture shock I encourage Pitt students to dive all in to see what makes this city legendary for its progressiveness. There is no shortage of gay/lesbian bars, bookstores, and clubs. Opposite to what is typically seen in the states these people are proud to showcase their identity, as was the case this morning at breakfast when I saw a couple wearing male presenting clothes and lipstick. After living in Berlin for six weeks I feel as though I am incredibly likely to tell students seeking an LGBTQ accepting city to consider this city for their study abroad experience. No matter the preference, gender, or outward expression of the student they will be able to find a welcoming, accepting environment in Berlin.