uberlin

Berlin Supermarkets: A User’s Guide

by Guest Blogger

Words and infographic by Federico Prandi.

Four years after claiming independence and moving to Berlin, the supermarket still feels like the most iconic place of my adulthood and one of the most fascinating Berlin places to write about. While other bloggers document colourful night scenes and vivid cultural environments, I find myself in a complicated love triangle with Lidl and Rewe, and am now ready to disclose the dynamics of these relationships. My user guide to Berlin supermarkets will lead you through a correct, satisfying and 100% German grocery shopping experience.

CHAPTER 1: “I’M A PFAND MACHINE READY TO RELOAD”

First: Enter your supermarket of choice.

Second: Head towards the Pfand machine.

Any respectable trip to a German supermarket includes a mandatory stop at the Pfand machine, which is usually located before the actual shopping area. Not stopping there would be like going to IKEA without eating meatballs.

Glance at the 75-year-old lady who just beat you to the line by one fraction of a second. Using her last remaining life force, she’s carrying seven plastic bags full of bottles and is now feeding them into the machine.

Very. Slowly.

Consider leaving the line but then change your mind: it would be a drag to go through the whole shopping process with a bag dripping a mix of Club Mate and beer (probably a real cocktail recipe somewhere in Berlin). Also, you could do with freeing up an extra three square metres in your room before your flatmate calls the crew of Hoarding: Buried Alive.

Years pass. The lady lets you know she’s done by smiling at you and saying something incomprehensible, which is probably German for “I’m a rich bitch now. So long, suckers!” Watch her pink-haired body floating away with what was probably hundreds of Euros and a smile of victory on her face.

It’s your turn now.

You only have five bottles, so this shouldn’t take long. Unfortunately for you, after the first bottle has been sucked in, the machine notifies you that the containers placed on the other side of the wall are full. “You need to press the red button”, says the Pfand-bot.

The red button is the last trace of a Germany that wants you to feel in control. Clearly, its only purpose is to give you a false sense of safety, just like the numbers on Lost. Don’t even mind the button and do the only rational thing: cry out for help.

Don’t lose hope: someone will come.

CHAPTER 2: “WE FOUND CAKE IN A HOPELESS PLACE”

You’re now inside the shopping area and you’re looking for the items you need, maybe even following a list.

There is only one rule concerning where to find them: forget logic.

In a perfect world, those small Bahlsen cakes you like to dip in your morning coffee would be placed next to cookies, because that would make sense.

Not here. Not in Germany. You’ll only find them if God wants you to – and only after wandering for hours among shelves overloaded with sausages and far too many kinds of Quark, taking care not to make eye contact with your fellow grocery shoppers. Remember to treat them like ghosts from a parallel dimension, and even if you bump into them try to convince yourself it was an ESP experience.

Once the desired item has been retrieved, shove it into your tote bag and try to avoid feeling like the Winona Ryder of Marzahn. It’s fine: the evergreen excuse “I meant to pay for it” is – unsurprisingly – taken literally in this country; no special police unit will barge in and attack you with trained dogs while you whisper through tears the words, “Ich bin nicht shuldig”.

Just remember to pay for everything you grabbed when the moment comes. That’s it.

Infographic: German supermarket checkouts

CHAPTER 3: “QUIT PLAYING GAMES WITH MY DIET”

You’re at the Kasse now. It’s almost over, but you can’t let your guard down.

Among all the spots inside the supermarket, the Kasse is where your morals are ambushed and your diet is tested. Just as Orpheus had to refrain from turning back on his way out of the underworld, you should resist the temptation to buy small bottles of Jägermeister, because everyone knows you’re gonna keep them in your pockets and sneak a sip whenever your boss isn’t looking.

Also, chocolate bars made of 20% caramel and 80% peanut butter are not a good idea unless you’re OK with never being able to find your teeth again.

Also, 3 Euro reading glasses can’t possibly be good for your sight.

Also, Hello Kitty partnering with Kinder Surprise is indeed exciting news, but the answer is no.

Also, there be cigarettes.

If you were strong enough (and I want you to be) you are now out of the temptation zone, placing your groceries onto the conveyor belt. Here comes a crucial part, which you should carefully execute if you wish to live your Berlin supermarket experience to its fullest.

Start eyeing the Kassentoblerone (yes! that’s its real name!) from afar, when it’s still out of reach. Focus on it impatiently as if it’s been the object of your desire for years and start tapping with your fingers in excitement. Picture in your mind all the terrible things that would happen if your groceries actually brushed against those of the person standing in front of  you.

Grocery confusion, food STDs, maybe some kind of explosion.

When you’re close enough, grab that divider and place it on the belt in a triumphant manner, as if it was the coronation of a life lived in struggle.

Can you feel the joy?

The clerk has been scanning each and every item you purchased and now presents you with the bill. While you look for money in your wallet, he will take advantage of your distraction to slide in an unsettling question that will make you freeze in fear.  “Haben Sie noch ein Wunsch?” – “Möchten sie Geld abheben?” – “Brauchen Sie ‘ne Tüte?”.

And my favourite: “Sammeln Sie Herzen?”

Which literally translates into: “Do you collect hearts?”

That has to be the most horrifying and inappropriate question I’ve since the time I ordered sushi for myself and the delivery guy asked if I needed three sets of chopsticks.

But relax: Kaiser’s is not investigating your emotional life nor conducting a survey to determine the percentage of serial killers among their customer base. They simply have a loyalty system where the points are called  “hearts”.

Just answer “Nein, danke” to whatever they ask and hand over the money.

Now it gets tricky. Once payment is completed, the space at the end of the Kasse where half of your groceries are still lying doesn’t belong to you anymore. In fact, the clerk is already throwing new items down there at supersonic speed. Suddenly overwhelmed with pressure, you now need to pick up your stuff and carry it to the nearby table-for-slow-people, quickly and dramatically as if you were rescuing a baby from a fire.

When you’re ready to go, head to the Ausgang while taking a skeptical look at the receipt and making sure that the very cheap bananas you bought (genetically engineered in Steglitz) haven’t been priced as if they were the BIO ones from Colombia.

If everything looks fine toss the receipt in the trash can just outside the door, where millions of others are nested. In the background the ghostly, naïve voices of future generations are asking their elementary school teachers what a tree is.

Ignore them blissfully.

Follow Federico on @amorequietplace and read more on his blog, A More Quiet Place.

Big Stu’s Big Guide to Berlin’s Supermarkets by the legendary Big Stu.

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Olive at Work

by James Glazebrook

chefstable

The company I work for asked me to share a photo of my desk, as part of a blog post giving “a small glimpse into our team — one built on a wonderful mix of cultures, interests, and personalities.” And, because no personality is more wonderful than Olive’s we thought we’d pop her in the photo. So, for no real reason, here’s an image of our unofficial office manager sitting at the Chef’s table in our coworking space. If you want to check out my colleagues’ workspaces in Basecamp’s Chicago office, their home, their Airstream RV (!), you can check those out here.

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House of Small Wonder

by James Glazebrook

House of Small Wonder brunch

Berlin might be light years ahead of other hipster hot spots in terms of its Thursday – Tuesday “weekend” party scene and “life artists” per capita, but in other areas it’s still playing catch-up: coffee, craft beer, and brunch. Sure, places like California Breakfast Slam serve boozy brunches of American proportions with a side of Berliner indifference, but in any major US city, joints like this are two-to-a-block and run 100% more efficiently.

So we were happy to learn that a unique Williamsburg breakfast concept has been imported from Brooklyn to Berlin. House of Small Wonder is described as “urban greenhouse meets American dishes with a Japanese twist”, and is worth a visit for its ramshackle Tokyo rooftop garden vibe alone. The menu runs from standard brunch fare like the organic egg scramble to Eastern-infused offerings like Okinawan Taco Rice – Tex-Mex with a twist – and Tsukune Don – chicken meatball with nori, scallion, sesame and soft egg over rice. We chased our delicious mains with some insanely good french toast croissants, the thought of which still make us salivate.

If there’s a drawback about House of Small Wonder, it’s the location: in the otherwise unremarkable area around Friedrichstrasse. We’d recommend combining this with a shopping trip to Weekday, or saving it for when the parents are in town and, for no good reason, staying near Unter den Linden. It’s sure to become more of a destination once the owners open up their huge NY-style Japanese restaurant downstairs, but until then, you’ll probably find yourself reserving House of Small Wonder for special, and especially tasty, occasions.

House of Small Wonder staircase

House of Small Wonder Japanese Tex Mex

House of Small Wonder bird wrapping paper

House of Small Wonder French Toast croissants

House of Small Wonder bird cage

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Metalcore Montag: Employed To Serve and Renounced

by James Glazebrook

By Mike T West.

In case you didn’t get the memo, January hates you. You’re getting no money, no gigs and definitely no sunlight. It makes you want to punch Berlin in the face, which is never good. Fortunately we have the cure for your post-Silvester blues: Motherpukin’ Metal.

The lovely people at Demons Galore have decided to give the worst month of the year a big roundhouse kick to the face, with a killer four band line-up at Mitte’s Marie-Antoinette, all for the price of a half Hähnchen mit Pommes at City Chicken.

flyer

Currently on a winter tour of Europe, two of the United Kingdom’s best new bands are gracing Berlin with their mosh-inducing presence.

renounced

Renounced are the best thing to come out of Berkshire since the Cooper Temple Clause (ask your Dad – or James) and have recently released one of the strongest metalcore albums since Artpop.

Meanwhile, Employed to Serve have just finished recording their debut record which they will be previewing tracks from this coming Thursday.

Untitled

Both bands are currently on the rise with Renounced going on to play the legendary Ieperfest in Brussels with the mighty Crowbar next month, and ETS hot off supporting Pennsylvania doomcore titans Code Orange (who just so happened to release the best metal of last year… FYI). Catch them before they sell out, break up and charge 110€ for tickets to the ten year anniversary tour.

Joining them are two new Berlin based bands – post-hardcore punkers Sleep Routine, who are kicking off their first ever German tour this weekend, and the “not-so-bad-hardcore” mobsters Seek Nothing, playing their very first show!

Four bands under one bridge for 6 EFFIN’ German dollars?! Blimey.

The mosh begins 8pm this Thursday January 22nd, at  Marie-Antoinette, Holzmarktstrasse 15-18 – which according to Google Maps is located behind an art installation about the effects of police brutality

police

Only kidding. See you in the pit!

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What is überlin?

by James Glazebrook

I recently read a great article by Travels of Adam, in which he talked about getting back to the basics of blogging. It made me think about a fundamental and (for me) important question: what is überlin?

In short, überlin is a blog, coworking space and photo studio. The online part started when we arrived in Berlin four years ago, and the bricks and mortar followed last summer. For the most part, it’s just two of us – James and Zoë, a married couple who moved from London in search of a better life.

But that’s deceptively simple. For years now we have wrestled with an identity crisis, because, going into this, we never thought about what we were doing or what we stood for. We just wrote about our experiences, first privately, then for our friends and family, then for a growing audience who seemed to like what we were up to.

As the blog grew, we were called to think more and more about what überlin means. As people interviewed us, as brands pitched us and we approached brands, as we weighed up the pros and cons of putting all our money into a real-life business, as we struggled to justify keeping this thing alive on top of very demanding day jobs… As we did all this, we were forced to do the one thing that we’d avoided from the start: to define ourselves.

So we had editorial meetings. A lot of them. We had circular arguments that ended with a single piece of paper and these words: “IT’S A BLOG”. We struggled to decide: can we compete with other Berlin blogs run by bigger teams or people with more time? Do we even want to? Are we bloggers with a side-business, or a coworking space with a blog? So many questions!

And what have we concluded?

Mostly, that we’re going to stop worrying about all of this. We run the blog, and the space, because we want to – and that’s how it should be. The people who like us, just like us – our personality, our sense of humour, the fact that we say what we’re thinking. That’s why they read the blog, chat with us on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up to come work with us. When we overthink what we’re doing we risk losing everything that makes us, us.

We’ve also realised that überlin is bigger than the both of us. The best part of running a coworking space is being surrounded by interesting people, and we think there’s room for other personalities on the blog too. While the core of überlin will still be Zoë and myself, we’re happy to share the “spotlight” with writers, photographers and interview subjects who offer a different point of view on Berlin.

This year, we’ve purposefully avoided thinking up resolutions for ourselves. But if we were to set some loose goals for überlin, they’d be: do more, worry less, be ourselves and ask for help. If you like the idea of helping to shape the direction of one of Berlin’s biggest English language blogs, or one of the city’s smallest coworking spaces, just drop us an email at contact at uberlin dot co. Let’s make it up as we go along, together!

überlin The ü

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In Case You Missed It: Snow in Berlin

by Zoë Noble

Olive and Adrian playing in the snow

The Iceman Cometh! Oh wait, that’s just James… So we may not have had a white Christmas in Berlin, but we had the next best thing – a pleasant drift of the white stuff a few days later, and then streets clear of sludge by New Year’s Eve. Just in case there isn’t more snow to come, we made sure to get out in it, with Olive and our awesome visiting friend Adrian in tow. Both of them seemed to have fun!

Olive in the sun

Tree branches covered in snow

Adrian and James walking

James in black and white

Maybachufer frozen canal

überlin logo in snow

Swan flying over Maybachufer canal

Admiralbrücke canal

Lens flare and branches

Olive in the snow

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Workshop: How to Become a Freelancer in Berlin

by James Glazebrook

How to become a freelance in Berlin

“How to Become a Freelancer in Berlin” is now new and improved! Based on the feedback from our first popular workshop, we’ve added in tons more useful information, and allowed more time for your all-important questions.  Because of this, the workshop will now last an extra hour and cost a few Euro more to attend. Given that you’ll learn pretty much everything you need to launch your freelance career, it’s still a bargain!

Since moving to Berlin, we’ve learned the hard way how to set ourselves up as freelancers in Germany. Every time we tried to decipher another letter written in Deutsch officialese, navigate the corridors of one more Amt, or (shudder!) do our taxes, we wished there was someone to explain what we should be doing, and why. That’s why we’re really excited to announce this all-important überlin workshop, in conjunction with the experts at ExpathHow to Become a Freelancer in Berlin.

This is the workshop for you if you’re thinking of going freelance, or if you already have and don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Maybe you’ve moved to Berlin from outside of Germany, and want to know how the country’s laws affect you. Or perhaps you’re working cash-in-hand and want to “get official”, lest you get locked up or deported or something (just kidding!). Or maybe you’re just wondering: do I really need all this insurance?

Join our workshop to get an expert’s answers to questions like these:

  • What kind of health insurance do I need?
  • What other insurances are a good idea?
  • How do I get a tax number and invoice clients?
  • How do income taxes work?
  • What is VAT and do I need to charge it? Are there other taxes I need to know about?
  • What is the difference between freelancing, self-employed and being a Gewerbe?
  • What are the special German laws regarding marketing, advertising, your website etc?

How to Become a Freelancer in Berlin takes place on Saturday January 31st, from 1 – 5pm in our beautiful coworking space. It will be in held *in English* and costs €35 (plus VAT) to attend. Sign up here.

Happy freelancing!

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Music Montag: HEADS.

by James Glazebrook

Your holiday’s over – deal with it. To help you get your nose back to the grindstone, here’s the grinding debut track from HEADS. “A Mural Is Worth A Thousand Words” is post-hardcore in search of a genre description to better describe its low-slung mélange of “Nick Cave ‘off heroin’, Shellac and My Disco” with shades of The Jesus Lizard and Quicksand. The two-parts German, one-part Australian HEADS. tracked their upcoming LP in a heritage listed building called “bikini test” in the Swiss Alps and mixed with Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna, so we’re expecting monumental things. No pressure, guys!

Also on the (not-so-post) hardcore tip, check out this teaser from local lads Seek Nothing. If this tickles your fancy, you can catch Seek Nothing supporting UKHC acts Employed to Serve and Renounced at Marie-Antoinette later this month!

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Music Montag: Best of Berlin 2014

by James Glazebrook

There’s nothing like a Music Montag end of year playlist to make you realise just how diverse the Berlin music scene is! Bookended by classic Zoë favourites that drive home the dominance of the city’s clubbing industry, elsewhere this year’s Best of Berlin runs the gammut of genres. There’s electro pop, indie, weirdo synth explorations, progressive metal, a healthy chunk of Bowie covers… even a hilarious advertising jingle and a track from a rock opera for kids! Hope you enjoy this pick-and-mix of the most interesting music (mostly) produced in Berlin this year. Boom.

Want to walk your ears down memory lane? Check out the Music Montag: Best of Berlin 2013 and the best of 2012.

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Happy Christmas!

by James Glazebrook

Happy Christmas from überlin and Olive

Olive wanted to pop by to wish you all a Merry Christmas, and to thank everyone who supported us through a year of big changes, and occasionally tough, yet rewarding, times. She rightly pointed out that überlin would be nothing without our community, and thought we should remind our coworkers, readers, followers and friends: we love you all.

A special ”paws up” to Free Your Stuff Berlin for donating a kostenlos Christmas tree (we promise to stop trolling you so hard!) and to Shinola, the Detroit product designers who made the luxurious dog bed that Olive is modelling so beautifully here. To all our überliners, Frohe Weihnachten and Guten Rutsch!

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