A tale of two cities. Brisbane vs. Berlin

It’s my third day (… those who are good at maths will see I am having some time zone time issues!) of blogging from Berlin for my series – Rachel @aecom Live! from the #BMWGuggLab – and so timely for a brief comparison between Brisbane (the city I call home) and Berlin (home of the BMW Guggenheim Lab).

I was interviewed for Brisbane’s Map Magazine last week. The first question that Kathryn asked me was what I loved most about Brisbane. It was a very easy question to answer… The weather!  Which is probably why Queensland Tourism adopted the slogan “Beautiful one day, perfect the next”.

I was curious to find out what my friends, colleagues and bicycling buddies thought and so earlier today I posted the question that Kathryn had asked me on Facebook. I wasn’t surprised at the answers I received…. The weather, the friendly people, the relaxed lifestyle, the ‘country town’ vibe in a multicultural city and being able to sit on your balcony all evening all year around!

I’ve called Brisbane home for the last 5 years and I called Berlin home for 10 weeks last year and will do so for the next 8 weeks. From what I can see, the biggest difference between Brisbane and Berlin is the place that people call ‘home’.

I was born and raised in a small market town in rural Devon in the UK. In my hometown families; young and old, my parents included, live in terraced houses with front doors which open straight onto the street, pocket sized back gardens and on-street car parking. My parents home is 400 years old, it wasn’t built with multiple car ownership in mind!

Brisbane by contrast is a low-density ‘suburban sprawl’ car orientated city. The Australian dream is, and always has been, a large single storey detached house on a few acres of land with a swimming pool and parking for several cars. It’s an urban planning and infrastructure nightmare but you can’t resent Australian’s for wanting a “lifestyle home”.

In Berlin, by complete contrast, apartment living appears dominant – and gentrification is the hottest topic in town. Prenzlauer Berg, where I lived last year, is completely occupied, I observed, by ornate apartment blocks with inner courtyards and wrought iron balconies. It’s a neighbourhood where finding a Latte is not a problem and on-street bicycle parking is more of an issue than car parking!

So if Australia is the ‘land of opportunity’ and Berlin is the ‘city where anything is possible’ it’s for me to draw some more conclusions over the next 8 weeks. Stay tuned!

TOMORROW: Speaker announcements

NEXT: Why I’ve got the best job in the world!

Big thanks to my best friend Katherine Falcon-Steward for the photo of Berlin (June 2012)