Would you change your name for a chance at a new, all-expenses-paid life in Berlin?
A marketing campaign by the German airline Lufthansa made that very proposition to the people of Sweden. There was just one catch – you have to change your name.
The airline offered a free one-way ticket to Berlin and one year in a rent-free, fully furnished apartment in the city’s trendy borough of Neukoelln -- along with free weekly food vouchers, free access to museums, a free single-speed bike, free German language lessons and free domestic flights to Frankfurt and Munich – to any Swede who would change their name to Klaus-Heidi, a mashup of common German male and female names that’s roughly equivalent to Jack-Barbara in English.
“Are you: Klaus-Heidi?” read the campaign’s website. “If you are, you might be moving to Berlin for good…But to win, you have to prove you really want to be a Berliner. By changing your name to Klaus-Heidi.”
Much to the airline’s surprise, 42 people changed their names to be eligible for the contest, which began in October. In fact, the competition was so popular that Lufthansa decided to end the campaign a month early.
The lucky winner was Michael Eric Andersson, a 24-year-old former rock blaster and travel journalist from rural Sweden. Now, of course, his name is Michael Eric Klaus-Heidi Andersson and with the new year, he begins his new life.
“I've heard that Berlin is a beautiful place to go and there’s a lot happening there,” Andersson told The Local. “I think what I love about travelling is that you get to meet new groups of people with different habits from Swedes. They might be nicer, they might be crazier, grumpier, anything. I think I’m ready for something new.”
Sweden is actually one of the easiest places in the world to change your name. All that’s required is sending a simple form to the local tax office with the requested change. To assure that all contestants had legally changed their name, Lufthansa demanded participants upload their new name certificates to special website designed for the competition.
In addition to official proof of their new identity, participants had to send a motivation letter explaining why they wanted to move to Berlin. Andersson’s motivational letter was a poem dedicated to Germany.
While the other 41 contestants did not win a year in Berlin, the airline gave each new Klaus-Heidi 60,000 frequent-flier miles, enough for a trans-Atlantic round-trip.
"What [the Klaus-Heidis] have in common is that they have an urge, or a dream, to make a change in their life," Magnus Engvall, the Lufthansa marketing specialist running the competition, explained to the Atlantic. "That is what Berlin is about. It's a very free city in many ways.... It's a little like what America was ... people go to Berlin to live out their largest dreams, or to start off again."