Making it in Berlin is not always an easy feat. The allure of low rent, inexpensive food, cheap beer, a continuously flourishing creative scene, can only extend so far; when you see whatever funds you had saved dwindling in your bank account and start to receive one Craig’s List ad rejection after another, the idea of “making it” in Berlin becomes as elusive as ever. Kirsten Hall, the founder of the entertainment and advice blog, Lushmug, tackles this and many other survival issues in her very personal, confessional and cathartic blog. From culture shock, to issues that arise trying to date German men, or boys, and overcoming the winter blues, Kirsten is very forthcoming in offering honest advice based on personal reflection and experience.
But don’t expect nagging or self-pity, the beauty of Lushmug is that it handles topics that can be rather depressing (and very ordinary) with a humorous and self-ironic twist. The reader becomes easily hooked. a.muse berlin interviewed Kirsten to learn more about her blog, the most important tactics for “surviving” Berlin, and her thoughts on her first art exhibition – though she doesn’t consider herself a serious artist.
a.muse: You’re originally from Indiana, what brought you to Berlin?
Kirsten Hall: I went on a Euro-trip last year and really loved the city – I was born in Germany and have always wanted to live here so I moved to Berlin after I finished my Bachelor’s degree.
a.m: What inspired you to create your new blog “Lushmug” and what’s behind the name?
KH: I’ve had other personal blogs in the past, but oftentimes gave up on the projects and didn’t put the time and effort into them that I should have – this time I wanted to commit. While the blog has my own personal opinions and stories, it also has a bit of a “self help” aspect to it. The idea is that no one is perfect, but society gives us these perfect images that we have to try to live up to, although we need to accept our own faults, with a little help, we can lead a better life and be happier with ourselves.
The name “Lushmug” is a noun that I made up to describe a person that is a bit of a mess – I’m not talking about heroin addicts on the street, not exactly people with serious life problems, but people who just don’t have their shit together sometimes. They are people, like me, who have insecurities and “weirdness” and sometimes make complete idiots out of themselves – but they are real.
a.m: Was Lushmug, also known as the “the dysfunctional guidebook to life,” something that became more urgent for you to pursue in Berlin, or was it already something that you intended to pursue regardless of location?
KH: Although the blog is predominately about my life in Berlin, that aspect is merely a result of my current location, if I lived in New York City it would be about my experiences there, but I also try to produce content that can be universally applied. I’ve been developing the concept for a while, but was only just able to solidify my idea – I have so many different things I want to write about and it gets difficult trying to funnel them all down… But I’ve always wanted to do something with advice and dealing with real life.
I love people that are wild; people with quirks and bad habits and other shortcomings, but that make up for it because they are confident and secure in themselves… their flaws are what make them interesting. I love shows like HBO’s Girls that show people in more realistic ways – I think our society really needs that realness. It is a bit of a tricky road though, on the one hand I admire Lena Dunhamso much for putting herself out there and I wish I could do the same, but sometimes it is difficult to let go and show so many of your own insecurities to the world. I hope that one day people can read my blog and feel better about themselves – that they will feel like they aren’t the only people who get embarrassed, or do/say the wrong thing; that it’s ok not to be perfect all of the time.
a.m: Your first art exhibition is this week – can you tell us a bit about the work that you will be showing?
KH: I’ve never really considered myself an artist – art was a hobby I always did on the side and I never dreamed of ever showing my work to anyone as “serious art.” The pieces that I will be showing are simply a collection of large-scale drawings that I created using found, recycled material. They have no message, no hidden meaning and they don’t conform to any artistic movements, although, I guess even art without a purpose is its own movement. As with Lushmug, these drawings were a creative release. Personally, I am a huge fan of minimal canvas – large, strong blocks of color like Rothko’s that illicit a deep emotional response from the viewer. I love these kind of paintings, but I can’t make artwork like that. As with everything in my life, I am prone to excess; too many colors, too many lines, and the only emotional response my artwork produces is agitation and confusion. I don’t know what the response to my work will be. It is embarrassing putting my work up publicly when I know I am not a serious artist, but I am a little bit interested to see the reaction.
Kirsten Hall’s Artwork.
a.m: What advice would you give to international creatives who want to come to Berlin to work and live?
KH: Be open to change – I have seen so many people come here that don’t make it because they aren’t willing to work outside of their respective career fields or they take an unpaid job that they love over a paying one, meanwhile burning through their savings accounts until there’s nothing left. Get a job that makes a living then pursue the awesome unpaid creative projects you want to in your free time.
a.m: What’s something that you’ve discovered while trying to survive life in Berlin?
KH: This place is a bit of an illusion; it seems like the perfect place to be young and carefree – the rent is cheap, the beer is cheap and there is plenty to do, but that lifestyle can only last for so long. The reality is that it is actually really hard to live and support yourself here – I have to remind myself occasionally to lighten up and enjoy Berlin the way I used to.
a.m: Can you share a DIY tip with the readers of a.muse?
KH: If you are going to check your makeup in the reflection of a car window, make sure there’s no one actually sitting in the car first.