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Berlin Tourist Hate: Gentifrication Fuels Battle Between Locals And Travellers


The locals in Berlin call it 'touristenhass,' but travellers know it better in English as 'tourist hate'.

It's a rising trend in Germany's capital, a popular vacation spot for visitors from neighbouring European countries who enjoy the city's thriving night life. They're the kind of guests known as "party tourists" and they're loathed by locals for allegedly ruining some of Berlin's neighbourhoods. The hate usually takes the form of graffiti scrawled on the walls of districts popular with tourists, with messages like "Berlin doesn't love you" and "Sorry, no entry for hipsters from the U.S."

The Guardian is also reporting instances of physical violence against visiting partiers, noting that escalating tensions have pushed some locals to stand up against the anti-tourist movement. Hipster Antifa Neukölln is an unground political group with a goal of tackling the rising hatred against tourists.

The group, which was started by five locals from Berlin's neighbourhood of Neukölln, has gone on to hold lectures explaining how the hate locals feel towards tourists is misguided and that the true source of the problem is something more complex than twentysomethings dancing till the wee hours of the morning.

"The anti-foreigner thing started as a bit of a joke but now it is much more serious," explains one of the group members who only goes by name of Jannek. "This is critical, it is sneaking into mainstream thinking – it's almost being perceived as normal to dislike tourists," said Jannek in an interview with the Guardian.

As the Atlantic puts it, the ire of Berliners is justified but directed at the wrong group. The city's under the process of social change known as gentrification, and long story short, boroughs like Neukölln and Kreuzberg are now popular with affluent travellers who rent out apartments in the area. The increase in visiting renters leaves fewer spots for residents who actually reside in Berlin, making it difficult for locals to find a place to live. Also, the influx of travellers has in turn spurned a thriving club and bar scene, the noise pollution of which has irritated those who live in the area.

But that isn't stopping Hipster Antifa Neukölln from trying to reach some sort of mutual understanding. The group has rallied experts on gentrification to speak at their lectures and they've had their ideas published in Der Spiegel, a German weekly news magazine.

The demonizing of “international party tourists” (which includes longer-term foreigners who remain for months or years) is a treacherous manoeuvre that creates an enemy who can be blamed for all problems. This “othering” of internationals is a form of racism and xenophobia. It misdirects citizen anger to a group that may be the beneficiary of, but is not the cause of, certain social or economic shifts. In Germany, one hardly needs to speak the name of the perpetrators of the most horrific example of othering.

For the time being, officials in charge of Berlin's tourist industry aren't too concerned with the anti-tourist movement, as they say it's an ideal followed by a minority.

"Berlin is regaining the status of a world city. We are becoming a mass tour destination. The average Berliner is honored by the tourists," said Burkhardt Kieker, director of VisitBerlin. Kieker also adds that more time may be needed for the city to get used to tourism.

"Paris and London have had hundreds of years to get used to their many visitors. We've only had 20 so far," he said in an interview with Reuters, referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991.

Have you ever encountered hostilities from locals when visiting Berlin? You can share your experience in the comment section below.

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