The Expat Life: No Hangover Required

I moved to Berlin almost exactly a year ago. I had never visited, I didn’t drink beer and I had a vocabulary of about four German words (to be honest we’re only up to about ten now).  Nevertheless, I was done with New York, the pressure and the prices. So I packed up a suitcase and a ski bag and flew 3,700 miles across the Atlantic to see what the old world had to offer.

Caroline's go-to get-up.

My story is not a new or particularly interesting one – especially in a city with such an extensive expat community. But what is interesting is what got me through those first few months.  It wasn’t the many expat Facebook groups I joined or my new colleagues. It was a couple of college friends and a fitness studio of all things. 

Shortly after I moved, two friends from the States came to visit.  And when it comes to health and wellness, these friends truly put me to shame – one of them is Californian so I never stood a chance anyway. They eat organic, take their vitamins, run every morning and are familiar faces around all their local spin, yoga, and barre studios.

I, on the other hand, was living like a college sophomore at the time: eating nothing but takeout, sleeping 4 hours a night and going out more than a 30-year-old’s body would like. I was new and trying my best to create a social life.  But Berlin’s nightlife reputation is well-earned and no joke.  I was finding it increasingly hard to balance my need to meet new people with my need to sleep…or eat…or generally do anything that doesn’t involve spending 8 hours in a smoke filled basement with a pounding base.

So after two days of eating, drinking and freezing our asses off in front of the East Side Gallery, my visitors and I needed a bit of a detox. Well, they needed a detox. I needed a medically induced coma.  But we settled for hitting a gym class or two to bring us back to life.  A quick Google search told us that Becycle was just the kind of spin studio they relied on back home.

Now in my lifetime in the concrete jungle, I had enjoyed fewer fitness classes than I knew German words.  But I was desperate, and they were adamant…and it turned out they were right. Walking through Becycle's doors that first day changed my life in Berlin: 

  1. I found a community that is in person (thanks anyways, FB groups), welcoming, supportive and encourages the best of habits - from the physical to the emotional. Not to mention the classes are in English, the vibe is conducive to good times, I'm addicted to the skincare products and the juices get me going…and actually drinking juices.
  2. Turns out I love spinning. I wouldn't be such an ardent promoter of the Becycle brand if I didn't believe in what they do. They are instructor-led, sweat-your-ass-off parties on a bike, complete with black lights and techno. What’s not to love?! They’re the sober dance marathons you don't have to feel guilty about or recover from. There are dozens of these studios all over the US, but this was the first I’d been to or even heard of in Berlin, and it did not disappoint. 

Since my first foray into behaving like a healthy, mature human in Berlin, I have been back to Becycle dozens of times. I’ve brought visitors and locals alike and all have been back for more. I don’t know if it’s the concept, the space or the instructors, but Becycle makes people feel welcomed and relaxed while working you so hard you sometimes want to pass out. Not an easy thing to do. And as an expat trying to find her way in this döner-filled city, it has been a welcome respite from the intensity of the nightlife, and a place I’ve found some truly unexpected friends.

Article written by Caroline Berger

PeopleGundula CoellenExpats