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Why relationships are off the menu in Berlin

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Why relationships are off the menu in Berlin
Dating in the dark in Berlin. Are long-term relationships in the city unnecessary? Photo: DPA
12:40 CET+01:00
Berlin’s reputation as a city of openness makes it attractive to those looking for love. But does the availability of casual hook-ups make having long-term relationships in the city unachievable, or even unnecessary?

For many in the city’s singles scene, romantic encounters turn out to be short-lived.

When it comes to relationships, Berliners are simply unwilling to commit. Almost a third of the city’s residents are single while more than half are living alone. Berlin, it seems, is Germany’s singles capital.

So why is a city celebrated for its openness so loath to relationships? Berlin’s free-and-easy way of life seems to be part of it.

“Boys here seem to suffer from a compulsive wish for their personal freedom and relationships inhibit that,” 25-year-old Anna, who is from Berlin, told The Local.

Like most cities, Berlin has no shortage of opportunities for casual hook-ups. There appears, though, to be something about people living in the capital that makes them unwilling to be tied down.

Analyst Lena, 23, moved to Berlin from Latvia three months ago and sees transient encounters as part of the lifestyle. “Only since coming here have I been interested in having flings,” she said.

And the growth of online dating services has made these encounters both instantaneous and more plentiful.

For people new to the city, dating sites are often the first places they look to find a date. English, French and Italian profiles are as easy to find as those in German.

Crucially, the stigma once attached to online dating has gone, says 32-year-old Christian, who moved from Spain to Berlin last year to start a tech company.

He uses smartphone dating app Tinder to find women, or “matches” and he is not alone. “Every one of my friends is on it now…there’s no shame in admitting it,” he says.

Tinder, which links to users’ Facebook profiles and features a game-like interface, has become the acceptable face of online dating. And Lena, who thinks using dating sites amounts to “admitting you can’t make it happen offline”, says even she would consider using Tinder.

A fling beats commitment 

So do singletons in Berlin want to be on their own?

“Not really,” says Christian. “People do want intimacy, but serious relationships are a distraction for many.” And when it comes to making this trade-off, people are choosing the fling over the big commitment.

The tale of Berlin’s singles is not one of isolation and lack of fulfilment - social interaction and sex are there for the taking.

Rather, it is about choosing not to compromise – not to miss out on what the city offers. Today’s Berliners are a restless bunch, and if they can get what they need by flitting from one brief encounter to the next, they will.

What, then, would make them settle? “We don’t get serious until we’ve found the person we can have an effortless relationship with,” says Anna. “Only later,” she confesses, “do we realize that this person doesn't exist.”

All names have been changed.

By Ben Haughton

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