The accidental Wahlberlinerin

Carmen Chraim: From career to comedy in the Hauptstadt.

Chraim in Kleinod in Neukölln.
Chraim in Kleinod in Neukölln.Photo: private

Berlin-Carmen Chraim moved to Berlin just over 10 years ago from Beirut, Lebanon. She has built a successful career as a consultant as well as as an English- (and French- and Arabic-language) comedian throughout Germany. In 2018 Chraim became a German citizen.

Why did you move here?

I got a job in Berlin after my bachelor's degree. I didn't really care much. I was in Berlin a year before for an internship at the same company where I got hired and I didn't really like it. I'm like, it's such a big city. But my goal was to be in Europe and I didn't have much choice. It was either paying €100,000 to do a masters in the UK and probably then unemployment or go to one of the Gulf countries.

What's the one thing in Germany that you just don't understand?

The bureaucratic ways of working. Why does it need to be super complex? Why does it need to be like all with papers and nothing digitalised? Work could be much more optimised. If you work with a German company, you wouldn't believe that it's the most powerful country in Europe because of the way they work.

There was a little German inside of me before I came here. That got reinforced.

Carmen Chraim

You have a certain level of professional success outside of comedy. Would you rather be a comedian or keep working?

My original intention was always to be a comedian. When I started to do comedy seven years ago, I wasn't 100 per cent confident that I would be able to. But I guess three years ago, in 2019, 2018, I started watching comedy and doing it more regularly. I just focused on it and left producing. I focused on me performing and doing solo shows and traveling with comedy. That's when I became more aware how much I would love to pursue it. When it was taken away from me because of the pandemic, I was like, fuck, I was just diverging into becoming 100 per cent. But then everything stopped.

Will you stay in Germany?

I've been here for 10 or 11 years and don’t necessarily enjoy working in German companies. Maybe there are more exciting projects in other countries like the U.S. — product management or project management or innovation. But I think this would be a huge long shot. Maybe Portugal or Italy until I decide what's next. If I stay in Europe, maybe somewhere sunnier. I can’t take the weather anymore. I can’t.

How did Germany change you, how did Berlin change you?

In Germany, I think I became more cautious in my ways of thinking. I'm so close to the corporate world and to working with Germans, so this whole planning and preplanning. But I also love planning. It's like there was a little German inside of me before I came here. That got reinforced. Berlin changed me a lot. In Lebanon I wasn't connected to anything standup. When I came to Berlin, all of this happened. Starting to act in plays as a hobby and then doing standup and then just discovering a lot. I also discovered Zumba. I come from a family where a career is super important. If I would have gone to Dubai or something, I would have been more like that. But because I came to Berlin, it's re-prioritised how I view my career. The money is fine but I had no ambitions of becoming a manager or something. I have become much more interested in the parts of my life outside of my original career path, including comedy.

If you could bring one thing from Lebanon here, what would that be, besides the weather?

The spontaneity. In Lebanon, it would be like, hey, you want to go grab a drink or something? And if I happened to be passing by, I would talk to you. But over here, you barely speak to people. If I went to a Späti in Lebanon, the woman behind the counter would know me, know my family, ask about me. It gives you the impression that people care about you as a person. 

Anything you want to tell Berlin?

I owe Berlin a lot for the person I developed into. I'm really happy that I came, even though I wasn't so excited coming here alone. I was scared of running into depression, isolation, whatever. That probably happened at the beginning. I'm really glad things turned around and I was able to develop myself, my personality, without any constraints and expectations from society.

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