Site Visit


Urban Yale

February 2, 2017


If you bike thirty minutes east of Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, past swathes of anonymous housing blocks, you’ll find the Dong Xuan outpost. Four nondescript warehouses sitting in a landscape of asphalt form this unassuming hub of international traders. Virtually indistinguishable from one another on the outside, each building’s dense interior flaunts a unique variation of unmitigated chaos. Posters offering a menu of neat hairstyles hang on the doors of closet-sized rooms. Inside, barbers gossip with a gaggle of friends while mindlessly coiffing a customer’s hair. On the other side of the thin partition, headless mannequins sporting cheap sequined halter tops swing from the ceiling jostling against each other in an awkward disco. A glance in the next room reveals cuts of beef, tanks of fish, and piles of cabbage on display. Entire stores are wallpapered in technicolor iPhone cases. Ms. Nguyen uses broken English to tell me she only speaks Vietnamese and German. And Mr. Demir tells me he’s from Turkey and brags that he knows some Chinese. Next door, a young travel agent peers from behind a window plastered with flight deals “€332 ROUNDTRIP DUBAI.” He says he can fulfill all of my transportation needs. But really, why travel when the world converges here.