East and west is Wall in the mind: Nearly two years after reunification, Berliners still lead separate lives on either side of the city, Adrian Bridge reports

WOLF-DIETER JONAS took a bite of his bratwurst and looked towards what used to be the Berlin Wall. 'The concrete blocks might have gone, but the spiritual and psychological barriers have become even greater,' he said. 'I am an east Berliner through and through and I am proud of it. The west doesn't offer me anything. It's simply not my world.'

Nearly two years after Berlin was reunited, such views are, perhaps surprisingly, more common rather than less so. The city's streets and underground lines may long since have been reconnected, but its people remain almost separate tribes, divided by history, culture, social customs and even, ironically, their supposedly common language.

'Of course we all rushed over to see the bright lights when the Wall first opened, but pretty soon the glitter wore off and we simply felt rejected,' said Mr Jonas. 'I never go over there anymore. I stay here, where I feel I belong.'

Huben and Druben (here and there), phrases coined when the city was physically divided, are still in common usage. So, too, are the newer terms Wessi and Ossi - denoting west and east Berliners respectively. According to the stereotypes, the Wessis are the arrogant, know-all new masters; the Ossis stupid and lazy new subjects who need to be taught everything from scratch.

For many Berliners, the stereotypes are the reality, and it is proving to be a recipe for resentment. 'We are the poor old Ossis,' said Heinz Adirkast, one of the lucky ones in the east who still has a full-time job as a plumber. 'They treat us as though we were imbeciles, but they use us because we are cheaper. Of course we feel bitter.'

With wages in the east on average only 50-60 per cent of those in the west, but with prices almost level, the resentment has focused mainly on continuing material differences. Those apart, both sides freely admit that they still find each other, frankly, alien. By and large, the twain rarely meet. They do not live together, work together or even drink together.

'After all this time, I find it quite shocking how few friends I have in the east,' said Tatjana Hohenthal, a west Berliner who works in an eastern hospital.

'Actually, I have none. On a social level we stick to our own worlds. There are people I have got to know at the hospital with whom I am quite friendly, but we can never have really deep conversations. Our range of experiences is just so different. The only thing we really have in common is German unification. But that is boring now.'

In addition to different experiences and tastes, it has also become clear that the two sides also speak a different language. On the basis of a recent survey, Bild, the mass-circulation daily, yesterday revealed that many west Berliners simply did not know the meaning of colloquial terms in common usage in the east.

The cult eastern youth television programme Eleven 99, for instance, was believed by many west Berliners to be an after- shave lotion, or even an Indian love-making position. 'Oh dear, Wessis, you simply have no idea of the east,' Bild lamented.

Some west Berliners, only half in jest, hark back to the days of the Wall and wish it had never come down. Some east Berliners, too, say they were better off then, when at least they knew where they stood, had regular jobs and, despite the material shortages, a sense of community.

Picking up on such sentiments, Peter-Michael Diestel, East Germany's last interior minister, this weekend launched his eastern movement, a pressure group that could become a political party articulating eastern aspirations. 'The current situation is so precarious that German unity threatens to fall apart,' he has warned.

Despite such predictions, however, very few Berliners seriously favour a return to the old days of the Wall.

'I still get quite a thrill to simply drive to the east and freely sit in a cafe there,' said Horst Lohrke, a west Berliner. 'Expectations were raised far too quickly and unrealistically at the beginning. Forty years of division can not be overcome overnight. But, of course, it will do in the end. We are all Berliners.'

(Photograph omitted)

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence