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As I type this, I'm not where I usually sit to write my column, a maisonette flat overlooking the fashionable part of former East Berlin, the place that I have come to call home for almost two years now. Today, I'm where I first had a sense of what it meant to be at ease with oneself. I'm in Hampstead, London.

I came here 11 years ago almost to the day, on a student exchange that I had applied for on a whim, mainly because I thought I liked the English in general —whom I (rather foolishly) expected to find in London — and Morrissey's moodiness in particular.

 Looking out of the window of the one café that so far hasn't been turned into a chain, I can still see the bus that dropped me here one afternoon as a shy but curious 21-year-old Berliner with an inexplicable crush on all things English. (For years I would irritate potential boyfriends by telling them of my stern resolution only seriously to date Englishmen.)

"So, what has changed?" An old English friend of mine posed the question as we walked on an autumnal Hampstead Heath. Well, I began, there are the obvious changes: more chains on the high street, the excessive consumption of coffee, an influx of Eastern Europeans who make the city feel more continental, and of course more Americanisms. Somehow expressions like "you guys" or "oh my God" sound endearingly wrong to me when said with an English accent.

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