Christian, 35 – Brooklyn
My name is Christian Jaquet, I am 36 years old and I am German. I am Graphic Designer. I live in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. I started working in New York in 2000 and fully moved here in 2002.
I grew up in a small town in Northern Germany right between Hamburg and the Danish border. Northern Germany is very unlike anything people might expect from Germany. There are no Lederhosen or big beer mugs, just a lot of rain and wet cold. I actually liked growing up there, and I never really thought of moving away. I never made a decision to just pack up and go.
Looking back now, there were a couple of things that I miss here. One of them was to be a little more secluded. I lived close enough to Hamburg to experience a big city vibe, but it was nice to go back to a small town and have time to digest the information and impressions of the city. This was all before the internet, and a good magazine or design book could stimulate my creativity for days. Now I feel overwhelmed with information overflow. I spend so much more time trying figure out which ideas are worth pursuing and which to dump, instead of actually working on them.
I also miss the German thoroughness. There is so much fluff and show here in the USA, with so little substance. Whoever screams the loudest, gets the most attention. Humbleness almost seems to be a weakness here.
After graduating from Design School I started working as an intern for Zoo York, at that time a very influential skate and streetwear label. I was 24 and it really was my dream job. The internship turned quickly into a full contract and I ended up working there as an Art Director. After that I moved on to other jobs in the apparel industry. I never really moved here, I just ended up living here.
For the first years I lived out of the bag. I remember being able to move apartments with one subway trip and maybe a friend, helping to carry a bag. All my belongings fitted in three bags and a couple of milk crates. It was only after I met my wife and us moving in together that I started to settle in.
I have only a few things that I brought over. Some pictures, but mostly books. But I notice that I am picking up certain routines and rituals that I grew up with in Germany. When I get homesick I end up at the “Loreley”, a German Biergarten on the Lower Eastside. The “Loreley” offers a lot of good German comfort food and unlike most other German restaurants its not a Bavarian themed tourist trap.
My home is here in Brooklyn. I can imagine moving back to Germany at some point, but right now my place is here.
I ended up in New York only because of my job. I can’t even see myself anywhere else in the US. New York has such special vibe. I never felt as a stranger here, it was almost like the city had been waiting for me to show up.
New York is always what you make of it. Depending on where you go you can get anything from a small village style communities in Brooklyn to the tourist wonderland of Times Square. Where else in can you go to the beach on the subway?
The best thing about New York is the endless range of options. Starting with basic stuff like food. You can find any food at any price range. Or entertainment, there are so many things to do. It’s actually easy to forget how much you can do here. And a lot of it is for free.
New Yorkers are very pragmatic. I don’t think they are rude, they are just efficient. Most of them are actually very respectful. Even during rush hour, when everybody is cramped into a subway car, people are trying stay clear of each other. Of course, there are always some exceptions.
The competition in New York is unforgiving. There will always be someone who will work harder for less money. It’s a constant rat race. Employers and clients know that and many of them take advantage of the situation. Things that Europeans take for granted, like education, affordable health insurance or child care are only available at a very high price here. There is no real worker protection and the unions seem to be a far cry from what they were meant to be.
I love the Brooklyn waterfront. There is such an exciting mix between residential and old industrial structures. The waterfront from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge had a long history of warehousing, shipbuilding and all sorts of manufacturing. The workers and their families lived close by. But container shipping killed most of these jobs in the early 70’s and these neighborhoods turned into abandoned and crime ridden wastelands.
I think that, because I am a foreigner I see things that the somebody who grew up here doesn’t even notice anymore. Sometimes I research certain buildings. A lot of them are not even pretty or have no chance of getting landmark protection. Often you come across economically tragic stories. Like businesses that have been innovative and done well for decades all of a sudden going bankrupt, because somebody discovers that something in their products is toxic. You can still see that these were vibrant neighborhoods with their own little, village like microcosmos. Almost every block had a corner store and a local bar, but these storefronts have been converted to make-shift apartments or they just sit vacant.
You can see the changes everywhere. A building that has been there for over a hundred years is all of a sudden gone. Williamsburg and Greenpoint went thru the typical cycles of gentrification. I am not against development, but I think that it is important to maintain the cultural heritage of a neighborhood. Neighborhoods need a healthy balance between room for people and room for business. And that is something that seems to be easily forgotten, when you see fancy glass towers with unaffordable apartments go up everywhere.
But then there will always be the forgotten block where you can discover an old building or a hidden garden that has been untouched by the development. Those are my favorite places.