Christoph Neumann -
Christoph Neumann -

I like to think I come from a cosmopolitan city. Melbourne, Victoria (where I’m not actually from, but which I do call home) is Australia’s cultural capital. Art galleries, museums, theatre, dance, food and fashion – we have it all in spades. We like to think we’re a truly multi-cultural city with a global perspective, and in many ways, we are. And according to this report, over half of Victorians aren’t actually Australian – far more than any other state in Australia.

But as a travelling freelance copywriter currently carrying her home on her back – please call me snail woman – I’ve come to learn one thing: Melbourne might not be so nurturing of the creatively diverse. But we’re learning, and I think Melbourne could get a lot from studying the way Berlin facilitates creativity and the multi-passionate, particularly co-working in Berlin. Because I’ve watched you, Berlin, and for all your rules and contrariness, I think you have a big, fluffy marshmallow heart that truly cares about its citizens and their right to create and thrive.

So let’s pit my forever home against my temporary home, and see how they each measure up.

What is Melbourne doing right? 

Co-working in Melbourne
Melbourne is home to many co-working spaces where you’ll find a cornucopia of diversity. Not just in terms of ethnicity, but in terms of skill sets, occupations, career paths, business set-ups and team sizes. For example, I’m a copywriter who also has a podcast about love and sex, and my friend is a PR professional with a jewellery business. We also share the space with a business with a team of 25 that’s about to go gangbusters. They operate with a start-up mentality: they arrive to the office basically whenever and drink beers at their desks. I love them quite a lot.
Eccentricity, creativity, and having your fingers in multiple pies are celebrated within the walls of a co-working space. You wonderful, special snowflake, you!

What is Melbourne doing wrong?

General public attitude
Outside of co-working spaces, being multi-passionate is regarded with suspicion.
”But what do you actually do?” These are all questions I’m regularly in the firing line of.
For all our sunshine and perceived state of permanent relaxation, we sure can be a conservative bunch. Our careers are supposed to be singular, smooth trajectories, so what on earth am I doing producing a podcast about sex and love and writing words for fashion businesses? Will I ever – gulp – get a real job?!
It’s an unfortunate attitude that views being a slashie – that’s Aussie slang for someone with multiple ‘jobs’ – as some sort of financial necessity. As in: you can’t hold down or acquire a ‘real job’, so you have to make do with freelancing. Of course, this isn’t a frame of mind that the entire city shares, but still, it prevails. I literally hate telling people my job at parties.

Expensive to co-work
I’ve also yet to find a co-working space dedicated to content creators, and co-working can be costly for those looking to avoid extra business costs. I love my current co-working space, but I currently pay 375 euros a month for a dedicated desk, without 24-hour access. And that is one of the cheaper options.

What Berlin is doing right (Melbourne take note!)

General attitude to co-working in Berlin
Perhaps it’s because I spend the majority of my time in Berlin surrounded by freelancers and entrepreneurs, but Berlin feels far more accommodating to those who choose to walk multiple paths. When met with the question ‘What do you do?’, my answer is yet to be received with a raised eyebrow. People express interest and excitement, not suspicion.

Co-working spaces in Berlin
On top of that, co-working in Berlin is relatively less expensive than in Melbourne. If I’m co-working in Berlin, I’m able to exchange services in trade for a desk – a practice that’s illegal in Australia. Or, I can find a co-working café in Berlin and order one cup of coffee without being harassed by waiters to order more food. And if I choose to pay for a desk at a co-working space in Berlin, I’m looking at significantly less. The options for co-working in Berlin – no matter your budget – are endless! And there’s an option to suit all budgets, whereas in Australia, most co-working spaces have a similar pricing structure. Ka-ching!

The final verdict

I think you can see where I am with this one – Berlin, your entrepreneurial game is strong. Keep up the amazing work, and I might just keep coming back here.

Headerbild: Christoph Neumann