My recent post was about finally getting a permanent flat in Berlin, especially one within walking distance of my workplace, which must’ve been a dream of many. It certainly was one of mine. Coming from Mumbai, where a commute of an hour or two is no biggie, Berlin has been a pleasant surprise.
None of my commute here has been more than 30 minutes one side, and the current one is 12 minutes walk, 7 on bike. My one day’s commute distance in Mumbai would now be equal to 3.75 working months, or roughly 75 days of commute here in Berlin (of course, I took a train, but you get the idea). But that’s also partly because I travelled an insane distance from home to work back in Mumbai.
So while everything sounds all sunshine, I could see some disadvantages of this setting after living here for three weeks. A thing to note here, before we get into the fun stuff, is that when I say disadvantages and problems, I say that in a purely first world problems sense. It really is a privilege to even have such problems, and no, this is in no way comparable to the struggle of trying to push your body inside an overcrowded Mumbai local train on Ghatkoper station at 8 in the evening after a tiring workday.
So, having taken care of the internal guilt, let’s get started.
No time to read
My college commute was a good 90 minutes in a single direction. And I was lucky because I’d just get in the train, grab a good seat and start reading. It would either be a physical book or a PDF in my phone. That’s the best part of having long commutes. It is so boring that you don’t need to tell yourself to read, it just happens.
Now, my days are exactly of the same length and I am working for roughly the same number of hours. But I have no idea where those extra hours that I’d spend in trains went. They say gas molecules take up all the space available to them. Guess that’s true of work and time as well. I’m barely left with time to read, and when I do, I don’t (unless I force myself, which isn’t the best long term strategy).
Fewer food options
When you live at one place, and work at the other, you essentially have two different worlds. So during the week, you go to one set of restaurants, and over the weekend, you’re free to try the other set. But when you live so close, you end up going to the same places even during the weekends. It is just a weird feeling to be walking the same paths and going to the same places to eat that you would during the weekdays with your colleagues.
No alternate mode of transport
Living at all the other places, I would have the default option of taking the subway. Sometimes, I’d take one of those rented bikes. Occasionally, when the day is good, I’d just walk. Now, it is just walk or bike, which, while not a terrible thing, doesn’t leave much room for variation. There’s no place in between work and home where you’d just stop by to grab a bite, or a river where you’d spend ten minutes just looking at the boats passing. It’s just Home > Work > Home.
Less motivation to WFH
There used to be good reasons to work from home. I could save commute time, have different food options and probably go to a park in the evening. Now, not much time saved and I end up eating at the same place.
More frequently late to work
I always knew this would be the case, even back in college. The people who were super late to classes were the ones who lived the closest. I can feel the same happening to me now. I find it more difficult to reach the office at a particular time than when I used to commute by subway. During college, since I took the same train everyday, I’d reach perfectly at the time I had planned (unless the trains messed it up, which wasn’t unusual). I guess even this is more of a discipline issue which I need to fix.
If I sounded like a spoilt teenager in this post, that’s probably fair. If you find a place to live close to your workplace, take it by all means. It is worth it, and will be a good test of discipline and time management for you. Plus, not having to take public transport or having a place to grab a bite on my way from work, I manage to save good money.
Finally, working full time and reaching home at 5 in the evening is a dream for a tech worker. It is like you have another day after you get back. I use mine to learn a new language, which is only feasible in a setting like mine. I hope you found this article fun to read, that’s what I meant it to be.
Thank you for reading.