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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine