Berlin Rants: Shopping, Shhshing and Sticking to the Rules

by Guest Blogger

When it comes to Berlin, we’re enthusiastic to a fault. In fact, we’re often reminded that, if we keep banging on about how amazing the place is, a tidal wave of expats will flood in here – and give us plenty of reasons to complain. Thank God, then, for Rachel Hutchinson, a Brit who’s been in Berlin for four and a half years, and is balancing out our positivity with some stark commentary on the realities of living here. Introducing: Berlin Rants.

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The Supermarket.

Coming from England, I never envisioned not being able to buy everything you want under one roof.

A 24-hour Tesco around the corner can give you the false impression that fully stocked shelves are available 24/7 everywhere.

In Berlin I found out that sadly this is not true.

It was hard to find a chicken. Yes, a chicken! I had to buy three tiny chickens instead. So, we each had our own mini chicken, or Poussin, whatever you call them, on our plate. Novel – as a one off! But, how hard can it be to get a whole chicken?

Sometimes Berlin supermarkets will run out of eggs or milk. You know, just the essentials.

Don’t expect to be able to buy mincemeat on a Saturday evening.

Don’t expect there to buy both baked beans and rocket in the same supermarket.

Certainly don’t expect to buy beef.

Actually forget everything you already know about supermarkets. It no longer applies.

Prepare yourself for having to visit at least two supermarkets to get everything you need. Prepare yourself not to be able to pay on credit card. Prepare yourself not to be able to do your shopping on a Sunday.

Prepare for long queues. Prepare for just one checkout being open. Prepare yourself for unhelpful shop assistants who deliberately don’t move out of your way.

Forget 3-for-2s, 2-for-1s or any other offer. Forget shelf re-stockers. If we run out, we run out.

And forget fresh spinach.



I was cycling to work one summer morning and my bike wheel got caught in the tramlines by Alexanderplatz. I fell off my bike and cut my leg.

Blood started pouring down my leg. Not in a dramatic way, but enough for it to hurt. So I get up and brush the gravel off my leg, wipe the blood, and pick my bike up.

An old man starts walking towards me. I think he’s going to ask me if I’m ok or if I needed some help.

No. He comes over and starts speaking to me in German, and tells me that I should be wearing better shoes to cycle!

I am wearing a pair of Havianas (flip flops), which I wear most of the summer, and always cycle with. And I hadn’t fallen off my bike because my shoes were not suitable enough; I had blatantly fallen off because my bike wheel was caught in the tramline. He saw what happened.

I couldn’t believe it. My leg was bleeding, and this old man had come over just to rub my nose in it and to preach about my wrong behaviour. Typical German.

They seem to love to interfere or nosily point things out to you. Maybe they actually think they are being helpful. But most of the time I wish they just wouldn’t interfere.

Like the woman who stopped me on the bike to tell me my lights were not working. I stopped, pulled my earphones out to hear what she was saying, and then got my earphone cable caught in the bike wheel, so my bike ended up falling over.

Thanks! That was helpful. And I knew the bloody light wasn’t working anyway!

But the worst time was when one woman thought it was OK to tap me on the shoulder while I was cycling, just for joining the bike lane, because she didn’t see me. She tapped my shoulder! To tell me I was in the wrong.

How dare she touch me! I was outraged, but I held my tongue because I didn’t want to really lose my temper.

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The rules are the rules are the rules are the rules.

Yes. If you are German, this is so.

Dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s, everything has to be just so.

You cannot deviate from the rules, or the unthinkable will happen. What the unthinkable is, I still don’t know.

I once went to the Berlin Festival at Tempelhof with a friend from London. She had just had clear braces fitted, and so could only drink clear drinks for a while.

She went to the bar, she wanted a vodka tonic. However, the menu said just gin and tonic, or vodka and lemonade.

She asked for a vodka and tonic. The bar woman said this was not possible. They just sold gin and tonic, vodka and lemonade. Both were 6€.

My friend said this was stupid, how could she not have a vodka and tonic. What was the difference, they were both the same price.

But the woman held strong. No. It was just gin and tonic, or vodka and lemonade. That was what was on the menu, that was what was available. So my friend got a gin and tonic, and came back to where I was sat.

“It’s no joke about the Germans being sticklers for the rules!” she said, and told me what had happened at the bar.

I laughed. “Welcome to Germany!”



I’ve been shhhhhsh’d on the bus.

I’ve been shhhhhhsh’d in a café.

I’ve been shhhhhhhsh’d in the office.

Ok, I admit it, I can be pretty loud, but I’ve even been shhhhhhhsh’d at a gig!

The Germans just love their quiet. Even at a concert they prefer it when everyone stands around silently appreciating the music, rather than dancing and having fun.

We were shhhhhhhhhsh’d at an electronic concert. I couldn’t believe it! It is not a library, it’s a place where people go to dance, party and let their hair down. How could someone really think it was ok to shhhhh us?

So we were deliberately loud after that. Petty, but childishly satisfying.

But for the rest of the gig I kind of wanted to shake people and shout at them, “Why aren’t you dancing?” dance goddamnit, this is Digitalism.

All words and images courtesy of Rachel Hutchinson. Read more of Rachel’s rants at 28rantslater.blogspot.de.

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Sexpat and the City: Love Me Tinder

by Guest Blogger

Our resident sexpert Lucy vs. the Globe is back, just in time for Valentine’s Day! And, fear not, because she’s got the app antidote to that empty blackness that’s corroding the part of your chest that used to house a heart. Happy V Day!

It’s Valentine’s Day, and, if you are anything like me, you are probably single (and loving it – don’t be so smug, relationship people). But this time of the year is always a weird one. If you have an ounce of doubt in your singledom, you might find yourself slightly depressed – don’t. The answer is simple: Get on Tinder.

I’ll admit it, Tinder is a wholly gross experience. However, in times of loneliness and self doubt it is one of the most magical applications that has ever graced my second swipe iPhone screen. Here are a few tips on how to get started on Tinder, and hopefully this Valentine’s day – you won’t be so lonely. :(

A QUICK GAME IS A GOOD GAME - Deliberating over Tinder is a waste of energy. It’s really not tricky, nor should it consume too much of your brain capacity – you right-swipe or you left-swipe. You don’t diagonal, you don’t half-swipe, you don’t save for later. It’s a yes or no thing. It’s pretty shallow – but that’s life on Tinder. Keep it moving.

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TRAVEL AND TINDER – Don’t stick to your own area. BUH – that’s the worst. Soon enough the eligible dudes and femmes dry up and you are left with matches well outside of your predetermined parameters. Are you headed to Pretzel Berg? Picking something up from Charlottenburg off Kleinanzeigen? Fit in a swift swipe. Ideally, you wouldn’t have to travel to Tinder, but I think the “rules” you set for things like distance are all a bit… not-working. Facts are, you get better results when you make it out to new and exciting locations.

LIKE THINGS - The way in which you assess whether you do or don’t like someone is through your interests, mutual friends and distance (more or less). So if you haven’t liked pages on Facebook since 2007 – you should probably get in there and start throwing some thumbs. It’ll give you a better sense of the talent on offer, and maybe Facebook will become a more interesting place. Here, start with my page – it’s awesome.

REMEMBER: IT’S NOT FOREVER - This isn’t marriage, it’s Tinder. So at the very most you’re headed towards a night of loose living, and at the very least? A coffee at 2pm on a Tuesday. This is taking us right back to my first point – don’t overthink this. There is no commitment, there are no guarantees – so don’t get in it too deep. Maybe the really hot guy/ femme you right-swiped is a dope when it comes to the written word, but maybe that “hmm OK maybe I should have left-swiped based on looks” person is witty as fuck and you are all – I COULD DATE YOU. You would have missed something. #YOLO, #FOMO… all those abbreviations work here.

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KEEP AN OPEN MIND - Not everyone is totally photogenic nor understands their angles, so try and stay relatively open-minded. I mean, have you seen a German person’s CV? That serious-vibed photo is bananas. I mean – firstly a photo on a CV is fucked – but secondly, could you at least smile? Look like life isn’t too much to bear. This cultural aspect of the place in which we all live really made me soften my standards when it comes to the ol’ Tinder photos.

SPONTANEITY IS KEY - Be spontaneous. Don’t sit there asking stupid questions via a messaging function. Go out for drinks – immediately. The whole “So – where are you from? Australia cool, me too. How long have you lived here? Oh wow. Four years, that’s ages” YAWN – I am so bored typing that right now, and it’s not even a real conversation. Winter is depressing enough, without having to participate in these dreary back and forth TYPED conversations with someone you really don’t know. TAKE IT IRL.

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Shit and Corruption

by James Glazebrook

By Chloe Zeegen, an excerpt from the London-born author’s debut eBook, I love myself ok? A Berlin Trilogy, available now from mikrotext.

Shit and Corruption

© Chloe Zeegen


Hey, so when I was three my playschool had a nativity play and I was picked to be the angel I was freaking out like crying cos I didn’t want it you had to put this long white dress on I hated the thought of my head going through it all the mums were like wtf why are you freaking out all the other girls wish they could be angels and you’re gonna look so pretty but that shit just made me cry harder and all the other girls were like crying cos they wished they could be angels and it was like wah! little girl mutiny in a church hall in Pinner. When my mum picked me up she was like why don’t you wanna be the angel I can’t remember what I said something about the dress and I can’t remember what she said something about the dress but she wasn’t like wtf.

My mum had a pretty fucked childhood she was born in 1946 in Berlin to a seamstress single mother go figure what that was like. Her father was a Soviet doctor she never knew him cos her mother just hung out with him after the war for protection and politics, you know? I dunno how they met mate it’s not important my mother was always like what’s the point? when people asked if she’d ever track him down.

My mum was a tough little street kid you had to ask her permission to play on her turf she saw some pretty hardcore shit people were like killing themselves left right and centre once my mum and her sister were walking down the street in Neukölln cos that’s where they were from and the adults were like get back! get back! so of course they didn’t cos duh child psychology but I guess the adults were freaking out as it was dragged out of the water and I didn’t know this but Berlin has more bridges than Venice and the face was still there and the face was round and revealed something something close to despair and the sound brought the adults something close to despair and please no-one say it but it’s right fucking there and shit someone say what to do what to do when you’ve taken a thread and woven it through.

I was in Kreuzberg yesterday at the Straßenfest it was cool and it was raw I was with a girl she was cute and would send me texts full of smileys just like I like it. We go into a cafe and it’s full of barrels of nuts and olives and smells good. Some guy has a big bowl of white things and I’m like what are they and he’s like have some and I’m like I dunno they look weird and he’s like eat some and I look closely and they’re like the spent shells of seeds and the seeds have been eaten and the bowl is full of the shit you can’t eat and he looks at me with no expression and is like eat them. We turn round and the girl is like he’s taking the piss and I look down and we’re walking on loads of spent shells and we go out and the music’s loud and there’s lots to see and I look down and we’re walking on loads of spent shells.

When my mum was eight she got TB and had to go to some fucking weird hospital in the mountains and on Fridays they’d serve fish in jelly and she’d throw it up and they’d make her eat the vom and her family could visit but only through glass she was always cool with me when I was growing up she had no problem with trolls and games consoles and brands and babysitter books though she was pretty full-on about my grades. Trolls were fucking awesome they were so ugly and cute like pugs and they had friendly little eyes and their hair was a big bit of colour and they had loads of little outfits I even had a Jewish one that had a Star of David on it.

When I was ten the school I went to had a choice between religion and ethics lol I know and my dad was like a devout atheist so I was in the ethics class. The teacher was like this half-assed dumb-ass and one time she’s chatting about boys and girls and like what you should and shouldn’t do and it’s pissing me off and I think about who she is where she is why she is and I know just what to say and how to say it I can sense an open nerve I can see it spitting sparks I can feel it flicking round like an angry tail so I take it in my mouth put my little teeth round it and bite good and hard. She rises up goes a colour opens her mouth and loses it her eyes are like boiling and every word she says makes it worse and I just sit there in silence a smug little shit my face like ha ha. At the end the kids are like wtf and leave while she gives me one last bollocking then goes and finds my mum cos my mum was a teacher at the school fucking nightmare and was like “Your daughter has been disrupting my class” and my mum was like ha ha that woman’s an idiot.

He’s got a tattoo of Sharon Tate on one arm and a Star of David on the other and I said I once thought about getting a yellow ‘Jude’ star tattooed onto my upper arm and he’s like don’t do it and I’m like yeah no-one likes that idea except me repenting with a tattoo and he’s like repenting is Catholic and I’m like I know and he’s like are you Catholic and I’m like no and I’m like tattoos aren’t kosher and he’s like I know and I’m like are you Jewish and he’s like no and I’m like interpretation is creative and when Charles Manson got a swastika he trusted too much.

My mum was like obsessed by the Holocaust she had shitloads of books and she would always wanna talk about it and she would get a lot of shit for it. When she taught her kids history they had a day where they all dressed up and spoke about who they were. It was hilarious there were loads of little Churchills Hitlers Mussolinis and Luxemburgs running round drinking Capri Suns and eating Haribo some of the other teachers were not into it at all but the kids seriously were.

When she was fifty she got really fucking sick that was before people had the internet so you’d spend your evenings in bewildered isolation it wasn’t skin cancer but you could see it from the outside turning in on itself like something unbridged. It took ages to operate cos things were complicated she was vomming the whole time and getting poisoned and what you know slips away I was sixteen a self-absorbed little fuck I failed her I would tip- toe past her room when I should have gone in and been like mum! fuck! are you scared? I love you! but instead
I gave her the gift of bitter isolation and her life’s love and her life’s work said sorry you’re wrong this is it now you’re alone and she checked her options realised they were shit and kept breaking down in tears.

It’s feeling like summer now I buy an ice cream and go for a walk to the Bierpinsel. There’s a fountain underneath it which doesn’t suit it and when I moved here it was full of ice. A family come up mother child grandmother. The kid is playing around in the fountain, trying to grab a handful of water. When he chucks it there are only a few droplets left but the grandmother acts it up nice and reacts like she’s just been hit by a water cannon. The kid’s delighted I laugh we all smile.

Give a gift of bitter isolation. Be the oligarch, your guy will call. He’s found something, you’re going to like it. You’re a path she’s degraded. See it sweep in. Look, a helicopter.

Still here. Find a child. Drape it. Move it forward. There are other ways. Give it something. Now watch. Let me guess. Tell it to read our minds and then let’s leave here. Yes let’s leave here. Who washed it away? No com- ment, no more questions. No more questions now.

I go to a bar on Oranienstraße. There’s some random there and we chat for a bit but pretty soon he’s like just moved here have you? think you’re an artist? it’s people like you who are destroying Berlin you fucking tourist. I laugh in his face give him the finger but I don’t just give him the finger I pretend to run my tongue over it up and down to show him just how much of a creative little bitch I am and that really pisses him off and his friends are like leave it leave it.

When I get home my spell check is like wtf babe I can tell you’re trying to say something but I can’t figure out what. I consider uploading my entire fucking life to first-world-problems.com but I don’t because that’s bullshit. I reflect an image in Photoshop and it creates a skull. I Google ‘Facebook Star’ and take a screenshot because the returns are irrelevant. I update my status to find everlasting life and I tell you I mean it and I tell you it’s real.

Bilder der Schriftstellerin Chloe Zeegen in ihrer Wohnung. Maja Hoock, Journaistin, war anwesend. Fabian Blaschke für das Fräulein Magazine. 29.11.2013 Ready to print © Fabian Blaschke

© Fabian Blaschke

Chloe Zeegen will be reading with Kevin Junk at OLFE OMG LITERALLY SO LITERARY, 19hrs Sunday 23 Feb, Möbel-Olfe, Reichenberger Straße 177, 10999 Berlin. I love myself ok? A Berlin Trilogy is available from mikrotext.

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The GIF Illustrated Guide to Writing about Berlin

by James Glazebrook

Inspired by Stuart Maconie’s excellent article “How to write about the north”, here are some pointers for journalists with their sights set on Berlin.

First: remember that “the real Berlin” is what you make it. Your New York Times article is only going to be read by expat hipsters and friends back home living vicariously through them, and neither group would know how to pronounce “das echte Berlin”, let alone where to find it. Get in touch with that friend-of-a-friend who moved here last year, ask them to show you around “their Berlin” (the square mile around their apartment), and then start drawing conclusions. Try to include as many of the following ideas as you can:

“Poor but sexy”
This soundbite has been keeping journalists in copy for nearly a decade, and shows no sign of losing popularity. It’s a neat shorthand for everything you’re going to write, about a city full of creative people seeking refuge from the rising rents of East London, Williamsburg, or wherever they should really be living – a place so international that its (gay!) mayor threw an English word into its unofficial slogan. If you want to sound really authentic, use the German “arm, aber Sexy”, or, if you’re penning a particularly visionary piece, flip it on its head: “Berlin is still sexy… but not so poor!” [insert image of George Clooney stepping out of the Hotel Adlon]

Mention the war
Whatever you write will reach five times as many readers if it has either the word “Hitler” or “Nazis” in the title. As far as you and your audience are concerned, German history starts in 1933 and ends in 1945 – and everything that’s happened since can be traced back to then. If you’re writing about Hitler’s toilet, his Nazi brides or some other “new” “important” discovery, then lucky for you: guaranteed hits. If not, you’ll still probably want to mention whether Berliners do or don’t deal with their “dark past”, note your surprise that the city now welcomes people from all over the world, or concentrate on the city’s outer districts, where neo-Nazis still “run rampant”. As a rule of thumb, you can’t use the N-word enough.

Life’s a Cabaret
Amateur historians will want to reach further back into Berlin’s past, to the hedonistic years of the Weimar Republic. It’s fun to draw parallels between the nightlife of the 20s and 30s and today’s weekend-long parties, and, as long as you have a DVD of Cabaret (research), a sockful of class As and a spare 72 hours, it’s easy too. Depending on whether you’re pitching to The Mail or The Guardian, you’ll want to portray the modern-day Isherwoods you meet as either “lost” or “liberated” – or, if you’re on a particularly bad one (busted, Sunday Times), as mindlessly fucking their way into the gaping mouth of Hell.

Forever blowing bubbles
Tech journalists: ignore what we’ve previously written and turn the crank on the Berlin startup hype machine. Before you land at TXL, you should have already decided whether the German capital is Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley, or just a tech bubble full of hipsters (hardly) working on innovative ideas that are doomed to fail. Your headline should be something like “Forget ___ – ___ is Europe’s hottest tech hub”, with one of the blanks reading “Berlin” and the other “London”, “Paris”, “Tel Aviv”, or wherever you would like the expense account to take you next. Oh, and mention SoundCloud.

Kreuzberg and Neukölln are over
Unfold the map from the middle of your Rough Guide, take out a pen, and draw concentric circles of “over” emanating from the TV Tower. Forget all the places where all the people you know live – the very fact that you know someone with an apartment there means that the district is now too bourgeois to bother with. Mitte might as well be Frankfurt, Kreuzberg and Neukölln are long gone (especially that “Kreuzkölln” your editor told you about) and even outlying areas like Wedding are well on their way. Look a little further afield and you might be able to find an expat artist squatting in Lichtenburg to use as evidence of the district’s “renaissance”.

BERLIN is SO over
Feeling bold? Forget Berlin altogether, and visit either Leipzig (the next Berlin) or Dresden (the next Leipzig). Or, if you want to really stir shit up, dismiss both “Hypezig” and “Dregsden” (“Doucheden”? You might have to come up with your own…) and simply pick any city from the former Eastern Bloc to nominate as Europe’s next “capital of cool”. Why not find out if you can get a decent flat white in Zwickau?

Have we forgotten anything? Leave your tips for journalists thinking of covering Berlin in the comments below!

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What I Know About Berliners: 25 Observations

by James and Zoe

Last weekend a *certain* Berlin newspaper interviewed us about our first book, What I Know About Germans, and asked us to come up with a similar list specific to Berliners. It should come out soon, in German, but for those of you who don’t speak Deutsch – or Berlinerisch – here’s our new 25-point list, illustrated by the super-talented Maria João ArnaudWhat I Know About Berliners

1. Berliners are not Germans.
They’re a special breed all of their own. Berliners have about as much in common with, say, Bavarians as Londoners do with people from the north of England, or New Yorkers do with the southerners in their own country.

2. For example: Berliners just aren’t as obsessed with punctuality as other Germans. 
Sometimes, they’re even late :O

3. Berliners don’t even speak German.
Berlinerisch goes so much further than saying “Icke” and replacing “g” with “j” – it’s pretty much a whole language of its own. We vividly remember the final class in a German course after we’d not mastered, but *dealt with*, everything (we thought) the language could throw at us, and our teacher played a CD of Berlinerisch. Minds were blown; tears were shed; hopes were dashed.
4. One concept that Berliners don’t have their own word for is manners.
It’s not that they’re particularly rude, it’s just that holding the door open for others, and thanking people that do so, just aren’t things here. Back in London we would step over our fallen grandmother to make sure we got on the Tube, but we’d at least say a polite “sorry” as we did so.

5. Berliners are punk as fuck.
And not just the die-hard crusties stomping through Friedrichshain, or their offspring loitering on Görli Park. That middle-aged checkout lady with bright red hair and a few too many earrings? Your postman, who pairs his Deutsche Post uniform with cut-off shorts and beat-up Dr Martens? Punk. As. Fuck.

6. Berliners don’t care what you look like.
You could be an überhipster with a sky-high beanie and painted-on meggings, or wandering the streets in your pyjamas, and Berliners will treat you with the same indifference that they do everyone else.

7. Berliners don’t wear suits, and don’t trust anyone that does.
In this city, there are only two types of workers that wear business dress: landlords and politicians. And no one wants to be mistaken for either group.

8. Berliners may not always act like it, but they care.
If they have a problem with the Government, its policies, or its treatment of certain sections of society, they’ll take to the streets and shout about it. No matter the state of parliamentary democracy, in Berlin grassroots activism is alive and kicking.

9. Berliners – the vegan Germans.
10. Berliners won’t be told what to do…

11. …or what to smoke…
The real problem with the new mayor of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg’s plan to decriminalise marijuana in her district? The only people to benefit will be tourists too scared to approach the dealers in Görli Park; Berliners are going to keep smoking whatever they like, regardless of what the law says.

12. …or where to smoke it.
The fact that smaller bars successfully kicked back against the 2007 smoking ban is a slight but significant signal that Berliners will NOT be told what to do. Each cigarette smoked indoors is a tiny torch of freedom, and every handmade “Raucherbar” sign might as well say “don’t fuck with me”.

13. In Berlin, there’s a fine line between independence and insanity.
In a city that has always attracted the fringe figures of western society and tested German norms to their limits, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the “life artists” and the crazies. Every time you see a shellshocked-looking person trudging through the streets mumbling to themselves, check their supermarket trolley for “found art” or look for someone with a video camera capturing the whole “happening”.

14. Berliners know how to party…
Berlin’s awesome clubs are full of friendly people who have their drug intake well under control, and plan to keep going well into Monday morning. The only troublemakers who managed to get past the ruthless door staff are invariably Ausländern. As a waiter told us on our first visit to the city, Berliners “make good party”…

15. …but they make for the worst concert crowds we’ve ever encountered.
Berliners reserve their enthusiasm for the last few hours of weekend-long techno parties and hardcore punk gigs in squats. Their reaction to every other performance of every other genre of music is to stand stock still and, if they really like what they hear, occasionally unfold their arms to slowly clap.

16. Berliners can’t see street art.
Years of over-exposure to grafitti have led them to develop a kind of snow blindness to tags, stickers, murals etc. And with good reason: if Berliners took the time to really look at all of the street art daubed across their city, they would never make it where they were going, and in the most severe cases, their eyes would pop out of their heads.

17. Berliners talk about the weather a lot.
This is great news for us Brits, who treat complaining about the weather as a national sport, and can insert ourselves into any conversation with a few well-chosen references to “Scheißwetter” and “Schnee”.

18. Complaining aside, Berliners make surviving harsh winters look easy.
They pull on some sturdy boots, wrap themselves in layers of Jack Wolfskin, and head out to the U-Bahn, which invariably runs (pretty much) on time. Coming from a country where a few snowflakes on the train tracks brings the nation’s infrastructure to a halt, winter in Berlin is refreshingly “business as usual”.

19. For Berliners, it’s never too early for ice cream…
As soon as temperatures rise above O°C again, winter-weary Berliners are like “fuck it, let’s get Eis”.
berliners-1820. …or for Glühwein.

Even when the Weichnachtmarkts won’t open for months, you can pick up a cup of the hot stuff from early October onwards in your local Späti. Time to swap out your morning beer for something more festive!

21. Berliners don’t eat Currywurst.
It’s just a culinary joke they play on gullible tourists.

22. Berliners never set foot in the “centre” of Berlin.
The closest they get to Alexanderplatz is changing U-Bahns underneath it, they know better than to venture within a square mile of the tourist trap/construction zone around Unter den Linden, and wear the fact that they’ve never seen Brandenburg Gate like a badge of honour. For Berliners, their Kiez is the real heart of Berlin.

23. Berliners don’t want a new airport.
They’re secretly hoping that if construction drags on any longer, the city’s just going to give up and stick with TXL.

24. Berliners don’t hate tourists, they hate douchebags.
If you come here and treat Berlin like your personal playground, blaring your way through Sunday morning leaving a trail of broken beer bottles in your wake, then locals will (justifiably) hate you. Even if you’re just staying in a holiday apartment that is intended for residential use, they’ll probably still hate you – but that’s your douchebag landlord’s fault. In Berlin, you get what you give – and if you disrespect the city, it will disrespect you right back.
25. Deep down, Berliners are teddy bears.

They might seem cold to outsiders, but take the time to talk to Berliners, in their own language – if not Berlinerisch, German will do – and you’ll find them to be funny, warm and welcoming people. Underneath that chilly exterior, there’s a teddy Bärliner just waiting to embrace you!

Tell us, Berliners, do you agree? If we’ve got anything wrong, or forgotten anything, tell us in the comments below!

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What Do You Know About Berliners? Tell us and win a free book!

by James Glazebrook

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we're running any open competitions] 

If you’re a fan of this blog, you’ll know that we recently launched our first book, What I Know About Germans: 101 Observations. Well, if you haven’t bought a copy yet, here’s your chance to win one – by telling us what you know about Berliners.

We’ve already written about how Germans stare, love their dogs and are refreshingly comfortable about nudity, but what makes Berliners special? According to our article You know you’re a Berliner when…, daily acts of crazy, lost weekends and regular Berlinergasms are signs that you belong here, but what about the people who were born and raised in the Hauptstadt? How are Berliners different to people from the rest of Germany?

We’d love to hear from you, and in return we’re giving away a copy of the beautiful print version of What I Know About Germans – plus one of these awesome überlin tote bags! Scroll down to find out how to win.

What I Know About Berliners


Just answer this question in the comments below:

What Do YOU Know About Berliners?

You have until 6pm on Sunday 8th December. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
3. Our favourite comment wins. It’s that simple.
4. We will announced the winners via our Facebook page on Monday 9th December.

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A note on the Berlin startup scene

by James Glazebrook

If you have even a passing familiarity with the Berlin startup scene, you’ll have seen this blog post on The Guardian website, written by someone who recently returned to the UK after a brief immersion in the city’s tech “bubble”. Well, The Local asked for my reaction – as someone who has a lot of contact with expats in the startup world and part of the team about to open Berlin’s first tech campus - and I thought I’d share it here. Read their response “Ten points in defence of Berlin’s startup scene” here, and my comments below.

The Guardian article contains nothing we haven’t heard before. As one of Berlin’s biggest English language blogs, we attract a lot of questions and enquiries from the group to which the writer (who we know) belongs: young non-German speakers who are early in their careers, and attracted to the city’s competitive creative scene. Their observations are valid, but represent a very narrow experience of the Berlin tech ecosystem, one with fairly predictable outcomes.

If you land an internship at an English-speaking company, you are likely to remain in that bubble, speak (and hear) very little German – and you’re most at risk of losing your “job”. We know lots of people who have discovered that “the streets are not paved with gold”, and have had to move back home or onto somewhere where they can more easily lay the foundations for their career. But we also know plenty of people who’ve landed (very) real jobs at successful companies, who have stable work and are appropriately rewarded for their experience and qualifications.

We’re sick of the mainstream media cycle of hype and backlash when it comes to Berlin in general, and the startup scene in particular. No one in their right mind would believe that Berlin is the next Silicon Valley, or the only European startup hub that matters – but, equally, no one should dismiss it as just a hipster party town. We turn out innovative, productive businesses with global impact (SoundCloud, 6Wunderkinder, ResearchGate), and we’re only going to see more success like this. But we still have a long way to go…

To the Berlin startup community we say: ignore all of this. Keep your heads down and keep up the good work. To anyone thinking of moving to the city to follow their startup dreams, we say: don’t believe the hype! Follow the advice of this article and do your homework, find a company that you fit with and feel passionate about, and enter the Berlin startup scene with open eyes and realistic expectations. Good luck :)


Illustration by Josh Bauman.

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What I Know About Germans – The Book!

by James Glazebrook

It’s finally here! We’re very proud and über-excited to announce that our first book, What I Know About Germans: 101 Observations, is out to buy today.

What I Know About Germans is based on our insanely popular blog post of the same name, which generated over 40,000 Facebook Likes, 600 blog comments, coverage by the likes of Bild and Financial Times Deutschland – and enough traffic to crash our servers on more than one occasion! A lovingly compiled collection of an Australian writer’s hilarious observations about her adopted beloved countrymen, What I Know About Germans has been brought to life as a beautiful book, available in both print and eBook versions.

Want to see what we’re so excited about? Take a peek inside…

What I Know About Germans: 101 Observations has been a year in the making, and is the result of a lot of hard work from a small but dedicated team. We’re indebted to author Liv Hambrett in particular for allowing us to publish her post in the first place, for writing new and improved observations for the book, and for being the unofficial WIKAG cheerleader while we pull it all together. I’d also like to thank Josh Bauman, whose awesome illustrations really bring Liv’s words to life, Eric for producing our impressive What I Know About Germans web page, Sharmaine, Evi and the epubli team for their help and support – and of course Zoë for beautifying everything with her boundless design talent! Group hug :D

Anyway, enough of my gabbing. To find out more about the book, and to pick up a copy, visit the What I Know About Germans: 101 Observations page now!

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Hilarious alternative Berlin Subway Map

by Guest Blogger

“Nächste Station… Filthy-Syringe-Platz.”

Redfern Jon Barrett reimagines the Berlin subway map, with hilarious consequences. Click to see the full thing!


A manic giant with a PhD in queer literature, Redfern writes about polyamory, witchcraft, and science fiction. His weird novel Forget Yourself is available on Amazon. Read more at redjon.com.

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Berlin: Love it or leave it

by Guest Blogger

Sick of all those expats complaining about how Berlin is “so over”? So is Hannah Graves, the writer of this heartfelt article, and snapper of the accompanying – hipster friendly ;) – photos. Quit whining and read on…

399751_10151011221161736_987169636_nLast week I stood outside a tiny bar in Milan. It has a basement, which has become one of the last places in the city to put on small gigs. Talk turned to Berlin and, something I hear a lot these days, how it “used to be amazing.” Hang on just one moment my Milanese friends…

You’re standing there telling me how Berlin is “so ten years ago”, while drinking a plastic cup of beer that cost you five Euros? FIVE EUROS?! I’m not going to try and brew the very brilliance of Berlin down to the cost of a beer, but this makes me laugh. I’m tired of being told that I missed the party, or worse, that I’m one of the reasons why the party’s finally over.

Every day my Facebook feed is filled with embittered articles posted by expat friends that attempt to evaluate exactly why Berlin is no longer the creative, cost-effective centre of liberal attitudes and quality living that it used to be. I read, I yawn, and I wonder what it must be like to fall so out of love with a place that clearly used to inspire so much in these people.

523641_10151083310836736_1947451326_nThese articles read like letters to a lost lover, one that moved on and left the writer feeling, well, left behind. “Berlin, how could you, what happened to you? Why are you spending time with these hipsters, with their money and haircuts? You’ve changed Berlin, you’ve changed. Well I’ve moved on too”. Only they haven’t. Clearly they haven’t. They watch the city grow and evolve and they obviously resent it. The advice I’d give any of these disenfranchised expats? Move with the times or move on.

If you arrived in Berlin at a time when rents were much cheaper, and you felt like you had a monopoly on the place because you were part of a tiny minority brave enough to move here, then Bravo and Hooray for you. If in your mind you partied here as a pioneer ten years ago but don’t want to now, don’t go blaming Berlin for changing – when, over a decade, it’s pretty certain that you changed too.

I KNOW I’ve only been in Berlin for a year, but I’ve been through the intoxicating effect this city can have and already come out the other side. Admittedly it’s not all amazing all of the time. Berlin isn’t without its problems, and I can understand the importance of being aware of the wider socio-economic impact certain changes are having on the city and the people that live in it. I just don’t feel the need to let it influence my individual experience of the place to the extent that I’d encourage others not to follow me here. That’s not my hipster expat ignorance – it’s my commitment to making the best life I can for myself in an environment unlike any other I’ve personally experienced.


Many seem to argue that therein lies the problem – that people like me move here and expect certain things from a city they don’t contribute to, that it’s all about personal experience rather than shared consciousness. My own experience of Berlin is quite the opposite. I moved here to work a job I love but that I cannot afford to do in my home country. I have been fortunate enough to meet a huge variety of interesting and creative people, all contributing to the diverse culture offered by Berlin.

I’ve come to realise that If you don’t immerse yourself in the spirit of Berlin then it isn’t any fun to live here, and if all you do is have fun then you don’t REALLY live here. That’s the real appeal of Berlin, that you have to take the rough with smooth just the same as you would anywhere else. Only here, for me, riding out the rough times is ten times more tolerable.

I have friends who have come and gone, their love affair ended. They had their reasons; it was time to move on. Personally, I no longer feel the need to continually bang on to anyone who will listen about just how AMAZING Berlin is, but I also can’t imagine living anywhere else. If in the future we fall out of love, I hope I’ll have the maturity not to bitch to any other (un)interested party about how Berlin just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’ll accept that it’s time to move on, and do so graciously. But not to a place where four beers cost me twenty Euros.


If you enjoyed this, then you should definitely check out “London: The Break Up” by Marie J. Burrows.

If you didn’t, let us know why in the comments below!

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