überlin

How to work at a startup: 2. Your resume

by Guest Blogger

By Federico Prandi.

If you’ve read the previous chapter of this guide, you should have identified the startup job of your dreams and be ready to apply.

If you haven’t found your dream job, that probably means you’re being too picky and are doomed to homelessness while you wait around for that perfect job to pop up (“Hairstylist at a horse beauty contest”).

hairstyle

But let’s assume you are ready to go.

Applying for a job at an internet startup is a delicate process that you can’t afford to fuck up. Your whole career depends on this preliminary phase, so in this second chapter I’ll focus on how to put together a spotless Curriculum Vitae.

STEP 1 – LAYOUT

Once upon a time the world of CVs was ruled by an evil king called European Model. The European Model states that all the information inside a CV shall be divided into two columns and presented in the most readable (i.e. boring) way possible, as if to proudly proclaim to the world that we all have OCD.

Then the game changed. Recruiters were getting tired of their job life after hours of going through piles of excruciatingly boring and anonymous documents, while at the same time Internet startups started understanding the value of differentiation and personality.

I remember the day that Davide, a former boss of mine, decided that pink was the right colour with which to rebrand his career and had a professional graphic designer redesign his resume. Not only did the document suddenly look shiny and fresh, but a couple of weeks later Davide was offered a new, better job.

Clearly, I needed to follow his footsteps.

I went home and dusted off my self-taught Paint skills to give my CV that subtle touch of personality which makes it look like the Myspace page of a 13-year-old Luke Perry fan.

blur_CV

I only wish the PDF format allowed me to include a “My Heart Will Go On” midi file and an animated glitter effect on each page, but I guess you can’t have everything.

STEP 2 – THE PHOTO

Stop everything you’re doing now. You need to take care of your CV photo ASAP. There are three possible strategies to follow:

1) The Conference Photo

My personal favourite resume picture is the one in which the subject is giving a talk at a conference, looking irresistibly smart.

Of course, you can always fake this. You just need a shot taken from below (or by a very short person) while you’re holding a microphone. Karaoke will do, but be sure to take care to Photoshop out the lyrics of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” from that giant screen in the background.

2) The German Photo

Months ago I tricked my boyfriend into watching five hours of Vier Hochzeiten und eine Traumreise (the German version of the American reality show Four Weddings). It really seemed as if the future brides on the show hadn’t grown up idealising their wedding and I ended up applauding German society for that.

The truth is that in Germany your wedding day is not even as important as the day on which you have your LinkedIn picture taken. Little girls grow up dreaming of which pantsuit they’re going to wear and their prudent mothers make sure to have enough money saved up to pay for makeup artists.

A German CV photo basically portrays you at your fanciest. If the Financial Times and Men’s Health were ever to merge and I was asked to appear on the cover, that’s the kind of picture I would go for.

3) The Boy Next Door Photo

I hate to highlight this, but a lot of internet startups are owned by nerds who still giggle when they see a boob and have been wearing the same three hoodies for the past 13 years.

If you suspect option 1 and 2 may be too threatening for the company you’re approaching, just go for the boy-next-door photo. Smile at the camera, look natural, don’t overdo it. And if you can’t help thinking the picture could be better, send it to your friend who claims to know Photoshop and ask him or her to Vogue it up. That expensive nose job you’ve always desired is only a couple of clicks away.

noses

(Shout out to my co-worker Maria for noticing, after months of working together, that “there’s something different in your LinkedIn picture, but I couldn’t say what”).

STEP 3  CONTENT

Wait a second now. Nobody knows better than I that the sentence “I can easily operate an excavator” comes with a price, so I don’t mean to suggest you write things that aren’t true on your CV. You should definitely consider, though, writing things that are *almost* true.

Every single task you do at work can be blown up to unprecedented levels of greatness and graciously land on your resume. Last week, for example, I put together a scrapbook for a co-worker who’s leaving the company and even though the result looked pretty amateurish, I can’t wait for my next employer to read about my skills in “coordinating and executing internal design projects involving more than 20 team members”.

You know what I mean? In order to write a good CV you need to walk the fine line between truth and outright lie, and pray that nobody checks your criminal record.

Some more random tips include:

  • Never specify you can work with Microsoft Word and are an accustomed Internet user unless you’re planning on sending your CV back in time to 1997.
  • If you’ve ever played team sports be sure to mention it, even if you were forced by your parents who eventually changed their minds after you went on a two-week long hunger strike.
  • Mention somewhere that you’re very good with pivot tables, then head to the nearest church to ask the Lord for forgiveness.
  • Ask a trusted friend to check for grammar mistakes, typos and the inadvertent inclusion of terms like “semi-reformed arsonist”, which could lower your chances of getting the job.

In the next episode I’ll teach you how to write a proper cover letter and manage your online persona before submitting the application.

Federico is an Italian in Berlin. He blogs, tweets, infiltrates the German language, and is currently employed at a cool internet company based in Berlin with a million open positions.

If you liked this, check out our observations on the Berlin startup scene, and get more practical advice about landing a startup job (with more GIFs!).

Is Berlin over?

by Guest Blogger

Media Spree, Berlin Friedrichshain

by Paola Moretti.

My father is one of those men who are terrible at choosing presents for women. I’m not sure whether his insistence on giving me perfume, dresses and cute necklaces is a hint that I should be a little more feminine, or if he simply has no clue about what I actually like. This year, he gave me a glittery nail polish which I liked only because I have a taste for tacky stuff. Two years ago, he bought me a style guide written by Angelika Taschen, The Berliner, where one can find such observations as, “ For the Berliner the quest for the perfect purse is more important than the quest for the right man. The metropolitan animal needs to bring its stuff always with it, so the bag needs to be a proper one.” Let’s just say that my father has a peculiar sense of humour as well.

When I read the book’s subtitle, “The guide to the alternative chic”, I thought: this is the end. If Berlin was about to become a Mecca for style, when just a while ago I could walk around completely unnoticed in neon-yellow leggings, matching rubber kitchen gloves and a bright blue dress, it meant that something was changing. Indeed, the running joke about Prenzlauer Berg’s Latte Macchiato mums was over. At that moment, the press focused on the hatred of tourists which, expressed through stickers and graffiti, telling them that they were no longer welcome. It had become a local pastime to pick on the new representatives of categories such as the “Club Mate generation”, “New York artist”, “South European student”, or anyone else suspected of feeding the ravenous beast of gentrification by paying above-average rents, occupying hitherto-neglected neighbourhoods, or opening upmarket bars.

Berlin became the place to be. Old-school Berliners were bewildered and, I must admit, I didn’t join in the raging aggressiveness towards every single change, I was a bit worried. The city, at least to me, had been a stargate to a utopian dimension. You could feel that history had had taken another course here. Its environment and inhabitants hadn’t been infected by the fever of globalisation and consumeristic craving. The German capital was a small loophole in the West’s capitalist system. Things I had only heard about from my older friends, such as underground movements – which in Italy were long-time dead, or had been absorbed by a fashion industry which repackaged them and tossed them to the masses – here were still thiriving in their original forms. Berlin was cool because “she” was the anti-cool. Then, she became glamorous and lost some of her charm. Gradually, she became less unique, less radical. She was slowly letting herself be undermined by imported trends, swayed by a progress which didn’t always mean improvement.

Just like when in junior high you fall in love with your desk mate: a bony girl with no breasts and protruding shoulder blades, but nice and sweet. Everybody laughs at you because you like her, but you don’t care. In high school, she becomes a hottie, a real heartbreaker who forgets what kindness means. And then you feel that mix of bitterness and pride: you’re proud because you foresaw her potential back when no one else could, but you feel sad because she is no longer who she used to be. She stops using her cousin’s hand-me-down sweaters, in which she looked like a potato sack, and starts wearing tight tops. She learned how to use tweezers on her eyebrows, and now she has highlights in her hair, the original copper-like colour of which was naturally beautiful.

So it is with Berlin: she is young, a 25 year-old girl who not so long ago was disfigured by a wall. She has just found herself sexy and wants to party, to take advantage of any situation. Thus, Kneipes close and cocktail bars open; currywurst booths disappear while burger joints pop up everywhere. Sandals with socks remain, but just because they seem to be fashionable now.

But it’s just when you get used to the tables full of Macbooks in cafes; when you are no longer surprised by salespeople not understanding German in your local vintage shop; when you basically take for granted the availability of various pieces of the world patch-worked together in one city; when you finally understand that you can find whatever you like, even those things which are not cool anymore and never again will be – well, then, the media announces: “Berlin is over”. In 2014, the Tagespiegel said that “Berlin isn’t the coolest city in the world anymore”, just after Rolling Stone called Berghain “a club full of tourists” . Each time I hear these utterances, I imagine Manzoni’s characters with their bells, ruefully wandering through the village picking up the dead bodies left by the plague. What I never understand is whether the pandemic is Berlin being cool or not cool anymore.

Many local newspapers greeted the news happily; club owners worried right away about their future incomes; some sighed with relief, others felt mocked: they had just found a WG! Most readers probably simply shrugged. I insist, like the devoted classmate who tenderly looks at the sharp bones coming out of his childhood love’s back, or like my father, who next year will give me a bracelet with pendants for my birthday, that I will keep looking for those things which make Berlin my city. Because love is resistance and the first love is never outmoded.

Originally published in Italian on Il Mitte

Wedding: Workers, Foreigners and Beer

by Guest Blogger

Photo by Linka A Odom

Photo by Linka A Odom

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

Letters from Berlin is a collection of 12 weekly essays, each focussed on a different district of the city. Bringing together photographers, filmmakers, writers, translators and theatre directors, Letters from Berlin (published by The Pigeonhole) reflects the many creative facets of this uncanny city, creating an album of vivid snapshots. 

Enjoy an excerpt from one of our favourite essays, Marcel Krüger’s walk through Wedding, and enter our competition to win a free subscription to the series.

Links, links, links, links,
Ein Lump wer kapituliert.
Links, links, links, link!
Der rote Wedding marschiert!

– Erich Weinert, 1929

Wedding was a raw expanse of towerblocks, tattoo pits, kebab shops. Nogoodniks in mauve-coloured tracksuits decorated every corner. We had a properly respectful air as we passed through. This was how Berlin was supposed to be. […] The rearsides of the towerblocks loomed either side of a dirt pathway itchy with catkins beneath our sandals, and the word ‘proletariat’ rolled its glamorous syllables over my tongue.

– Kevin Barry, from ‘Berlin Arkonaplatz – My Lesbian Summer’, 2012

…Sometimes I think that while Berlin is the ever-changing Moloch on the plains of Brandenburg and the wetlands of the Spree, its outgrowth Wedding has remained endearingly static over the last fifty years. Maybe it always had a certain roguishness that prevented beautification and change. Wedding is allegedly always up-and-coming. ‘Der Wedding kommt’, Wedding is coming, some of my friends used to say when I visited Berlin for the first time in 2001, staying near the fleshpots of then ungentrified Prenzlauer Berg. Some keep repeating it to this day. Der Wedding kommt.

It’s Sunday, by now after lunchtime and I’ve walked a bit: it’s definitely time for refreshments. I take a detour from Seestraße and step into a neighbourhood brewery, Vagabund Brauerei on Antwerpener Straße. Three American home brewers opened a small taproom here in 2013, and they serve their own craft brews together with classic German and Belgian beers.

Like many other working-class areas, Wedding has a long tradition of brewing, which is slowly being rejuvenated. On nearby Müllerstraße is Eschenbräu, one of Berlin’s first craft breweries, open since 2001, and also close by is the best small beer speciality store in Berlin, Hopfen & Malz. There’s also the VLB Berlin (Versuch- u. Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin), which provides research, training, education and service for the brewing industry. Founded in 1883, it moved to its current location on Seestraße in 1898, and until 1981 it even operated the Hochschul Brauerei, or brewery university, where students could try brewing different types of beer, which were then sold to the public.

Vagabund Brewery has become a poster child for the local craft beer scene. It has been featured in articles in The New Yorker, Forbes travel, Der Spiegel and a plethora of German newspapers feting the craft-beer trend. One could easily say that Vagabund is a pub catering only to moustachioed expat drinkers and not to locals and is therefore a prime example of gentrification pushing out existing social structures, a topic hotly discussed in Berlin. As I enter the bright interior of the taproom, almost deserted so early on a Sunday afternoon, I’m glad to see both Matt Walthall and David Spengler, two of the three owners, manning the bar. We soon start chatting about beer and gentrification.

‘So often people ask us about this “trend” of locally brewed craft beer,’ Matt says. ‘David and I studied history, and that is part of what draws us to brewing: there’s so much history involved. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, every Berlin neighbourhood had its own brewery – so, for us, the whole appeal is not about being trendsetters. We clearly see ourselves as part of a tradition.

‘We didn’t plan to come to Wedding specifically. We looked all over Berlin for a year and a half, but we couldn’t find the right combination of brew room, taproom and a big enough basement. I was actually the one who was the most sceptical of Wedding – I thought of Bernauer Straße, Plattenbauten and so on. And then I moved here and now I’m the biggest promoter. Wedding still has a strong community feel to it, and there are no areas here where whole blocks have been bought by developers, like in Neukölln. And it’s one of the few places in Berlin where the classic population structures have not been pushed out – the majority of our neighbours have been here for twenty or thirty years.’

Indeed, the neighbouring commercial establishments are a strange mix of shisha bars, corner pubs with Sternenburger posters (‘Sterni’ is the cheap and mass-produced Berlin beer preferred by many inhabitants of Wedding) and bookmakers with bright neon signs reflecting off the street’s wet cobblestones. Three years ago, a man ran amok on the street here, armed with two knives and an axe, and was shot by the police. But in general nowadays, things are fairly quiet.

‘We love how laid back the street is,’ David chips in. ‘Sometimes when I’m in some of those “happening” districts down in the southeast of the city, I’m amazed because there’s just so many people. In our little promenade street, it’s much more laid-back and chill. I also like knowing the people from the neighbourhood and even having a drink with them sometimes. I think that might be harder to do somewhere else.’

‘In the beginning I was quite nervous about whether the neighbours would accept us,’ Matt admits. ‘There was this elderly woman walking past the shop every day when we were renovating, and she was always giving us this look, and I thought, “She probably hates us.” Then one day when I was outside cleaning the windows she came up to me and said, “Oh I’m so glad that you kids are here now!” Afterwards we learned that the previous tenants were Hell’s Angels.’

I ask David how he feels about gentrification, especially in Wedding.

‘I guess some people would consider us gentrifiers,’ he says, ‘but really, that word just plain sucks, along with its negative connotations. We didn’t take over the entire block with the intention of knocking down all the old buildings, building new high-rise apartment complexes and charging three times the rent. That, to me, is “gentrification”. We just built a small brewery and bar in a place that once sold heroin out the back door. If a small, independently owned coffee shop or bookstore or chess store opens up, is that also gentrification? Where is the line, the gentrifi-demarcation? I made that last word up, by the way.”

We both laugh, and I drain my glass. Time to walk more of Wedding. I finally hop on one of the trams and travel along Osloer Straße to the former border, clanking past the Currywurst booth on the corner of Prinzenallee, where sausages are served with the hottest sauces in Berlin; they have names like ‘Pain Is Good’, ‘Ground Zero’ and ‘Holy Shit’. We cross the Panke, the small, ancient river that runs all the way from Bernau in Brandenburg through Pankow and Wedding until it ends in the Berlin-Spandau shipping canal, another former border between East and West. I switch from tram to U-Bahn and emerge onto the corner of Brunnenstraße and Bernauer Straße soon after.

After the Second World War, Wedding became part of the French sector of Berlin. French troops occupied a large military complex near Tegel airport and erected a cultural centre complete with a 15-metre-high faux Eiffel Tower on Müllerstraße. They protected the Western Sector, but the development of prospering Wedding still lay in the hands of the West Berlin city council.

The buildings on the north side of Wedding’s Bernauer Straße and the street itself, including sidewalks, were in the Allied sector, while the buildings along the southern side were in Soviet territory. When the Berlin Wall was erected in August 1961, many of those who lived in these buildings frantically jumped from their windows before the buildings were evacuated and the windows bricked up. Wedding was also the western terminus of one of the first refugee tunnels dug underneath the Berlin Wall. The tunnel ran from the basement of an abandoned factory on Schönholzer Straße in the Soviet sector to another building in the West, passing underneath Bernauer Straße. Though well constructed and successfully kept a secret, the tunnel was plagued by water from leaking pipes and had to be shut down after only a few days of operation. Near the spot on Bernauer Straße where the tunnel ended, a section of the Wall has been reconstructed as one of the official memorials to the division of Germany.

 

A few weeks before my walk, I was talking to Sven Goldmann, a journalist for the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, who remembers growing up in Wedding during the Cold War: ‘My grandmother often reminded us how good we had it,’ he told me. ‘In the Thirties, Wedding had been a communist area and dangerous. People were shot here. Every third man was out of work and the women were sitting at home. Well, my grandmother was old. The younger generations had a better time: all the communists were living behind the Berlin wall, and there were no people out of work here. As kids we were happy: our parents worked at the Wittler bread factory in Maxstraße or at the Rotaprint printing press, and we played football on the many empty spaces among the buildings. Well, at least until the builders came and we had to find another pitch.’

As Annett Gröschner writes in City Spaces: Filling in Berlin’s Gaps (Readux, 2015; trans. Katy Derbyshire), when the Wall was built, the neighbourhood around Brunnenstraße ‘lent itself to urban planning experiments. For the reconstruction of Wedding, soon revealed as its eradication, a gigantic money-wasting machine was set in motion, private land was bought up by non-commercial housing associations, old houses demolished and new ones built that looked thin-skinned and made only for sleeping in.’ Today, this is known as Brunnenviertel, a striking conglomeration of 1970s concrete and plastic.

‘One day our teacher took us to one of the watchtowers for tourists, from where we could observe East Berlin,’ Sven Goldman said, ‘and she told us how lucky we were to have all the new buildings here while the people in the East had to live in the shabby old houses.’

After the Wall fell and capitalism had defeated communism, Wedding suffered. In a united Germany, Berlin companies no longer received state subventions, and many of the factories in Wedding closed as business was outsourced. In the last twenty-five years, unemployment in Wedding has been at a steady fifteen per cent, and even though there are initiatives by both state and city to tackle this, it seems many people here will remain without jobs for the foreseeable future. Petty crime is also widespread. Soldiner Straße near Gesundbrunnen, for example, had such a bad name that footballers at the 2006 World Cup described it as ‘Berlin’s Soweto’. Around the turn of the millennium, various groups were formed in an attempt to bring some positive energy to the area. The arts initiative Kolonie Wedding, founded in 2001, set up studios and galleries in what would be otherwise empty shop fronts and once a month hosts coordinated vernissage weekends with walking tours between the different venues.

 

I take the U-Bahn and re-emerge from its depths on Nauener Platz, where the owner of the local kebab shop calls me ‘neighbour’ every time I stop by, and where a punk with beer on his breath once helped me out with washing powder at the laundrette. I reach my little apartment building again, the grey, two-storeyed one, nestled between the five-storey Wilheminian buildings to its left and right. The sun is finally out and the drunkard/madman gone, and on the other side of the street Turkish teenagers sit on benches in the park tilting their sunglassed faces skywards. As I enter the building, I find a poster hung there by Berlin police, informing me that someone has broken into our building while I have been out.

 

This is Wedding: fifty-year-old corner pubs that once catered to off-shift workers and now serve those in need of a drink at ten in the morning; communists, resistance fighters and morphine addicts; a mini Eiffel Tower and young Americans reanimating the age-old brewing tradition of Prussian Berlin. It’s not a particularly nice place, but it is a prime example of the fascinating ruggedness often associated with Berlin that is fast disappearing from many other places throughout the city.

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How to work at a startup: 1. Finding a job

by Guest Blogger

By Federico Prandi.

My mother used to put stuff in boxes. Professionally. She did it for 30 years at the same small-sized suburban Italian company and while the boxes were sent everywhere in the world, my mom and her career weren’t exactly going places.

My dad, the only male among four siblings, had to drop out of middle school to help his father in the fields. Like many of his peers, he learned to think of work as something that is closely related to suffering, sacrifice and blind obedience.

Whenever I tell my parents about company breakfasts, team building events and gamification, they share a very specific look that I’ve come to interpret as “Our son is lying to us. He doesn’t have a job in Berlin. He’s squatting an abandoned building and carries stolen drugs across countries in order to pay for his groceries.”

I get that look. I do. Growing up with a blue-collar mindset made me both conscious of my current luck and weirdly aware of the seemingly absurd sides of the startup life.

This series of posts is the natural consequence of that.

CHAPTER 1: FINDING A JOB

This is going to sound obvious, but in order to work at a startup – in Berlin or anywhere else – you need to either found one or be hired by one. I’m going to focus on the latter ’cause I’m a slacker and I’ve made it my life goal to achieve less and less every day.

If you’re smart you’ve probably created alerts that fire off an email every time a desirable position is available, either through Google Alerts or more specific job hunting platforms like Indeed.de or BerlinStartupJobs.com. What you might not know, though, is that when it comes to job titles startups can be as quirky as the side character of an indie TV series.

The chances that your alert will be triggered by the keyword “customer relationship manager” are thinner, for example, than the ones for the keyword “Customer Happiness Ninja”. Stop looking for “Sales Manager” and keep your eyes open for stuff like “Customer retention power ranger”, “Office management karate kid”, “Java Sorcerer” and any title that could have easily been invented by a Dungeon Master after his sixth pint of mead. ‘Cause nerdz.

Startups want their jobs to sound so cool that it’s impossible not to want them. I’m perfectly happy with my own job, but if I ever read an ad for a “fluffer of moral erections”, I’ll drop everything and go, even if it means I end up teaching old ladies how to dance salsa in a holiday resort a la Swayze in Dirty Dancing.

The exceptions to this rule are the internships. Companies don’t even try to make these “jobs” sound cool, given that the word “intern” is at times already an euphemism for “slave”.

Centuries ago, before the invention of coconut M&Ms or, like, minimum wage, I was doing an internship. Money was so tight that I felt compelled to rewrite the Wikipedia page for the term to reflect my true real feelings about the matter.

internship_wiki

Unfortunately a Wikipedia editor told me I wasn’t being – air quote – objective about the facts. Fine, Mr. Logic. Whatever.

Anyway, you need to really read those job postings and check off the required skills one by one, even if that’s boring. And when you’re doing so, try to be honest with yourself about your real capabilities. I once thought my brain had no boundaries, but then it turns out that things like the Norwegian language or “Ruby on Rails” (I still think that’s the name of a synthetic drug) cannot be learned overnight.

Bummer.

Once you’ve found a position that seems perfect for you, don’t just start shooting off applications like crazy. You need to pick the right startup before even letting them pick you. Of course you wanna be employed by a winner and there’s one basic criteria to discern whether an internet company is gonna take over the world. Mark my words: It’s all in the name.

Look around: the “General Motors” days are over. Don’t look for class, meaning or authority in a name. The startup world is now calling for “Goojdi”, “Faamp”, “Leerk” and “Huora” (which was gonna be the name of my own startup until someone told me it literally means “whore” in Finnish). In other words, you need to look for a name that sounds like something between the first words of a baby and what your cat may have written while walking on the keyboard.

The only acceptable alternative to this are Latin words. A lot of startup founders pick these, probably by listening to Harry Potter spells and noting down stuff that sounds nice. Sometimes it works, but other times your web agency ends up being called “ferocity” in Italian.

Roar.

In the next episode I’ll teach you how to actually apply for the startup job of your dreams.

Federico is an Italian in Berlin. He blogs, tweets, infiltrates the German language, and is currently employed at a cool internet company based in Berlin with a million open positions.

If you liked this, check out our observations on the Berlin startup scene, and get more practical advice about landing a startup job (with more GIFs!).

Berlintercourse: An orgy to remember

by Guest Blogger

A theme that always comes up when I discuss my latest sexcapades with my flatmate is the fact that, no matter what kind of crazy situation I have just experienced, a crazier one will follow. I often find myself thinking, ”This is it. It can. Not. Possibly. Get any more extreme.”

And then it does.

Having had threesomes, tried out suspension bondage and attended a sex party, I was wondering how I could possibly add more notches to my bedpost. That is, until I received a Facebook message from one of the organisers of the sex party, asking if I wanted to attend a “crazy bisexual orgy” taking place in a hotel suite a few days later.

No need to guess what my answer was. As always, my first concern was the dress code, especially after I found out that we would all be attending dinner at this fancy restaurant before heading back to the hotel.

On the big day, I hurried down the stairs at work as soon as the clock struck 6pm. Chugging a much-needed beer on my way home, I jumped in the shower to get ready for the evening. After a quick wardrobe check, I ended up settling on a long 90s black dress I had found at Humana, paired with faux pony-fur platform sandals and a baseball bomber jacket. Casual chic, I thought, not entirely sure of my outfit choice.

Thankfully I ran into a foreign tourist in the U-Bahn, who, upon seeing me looking at my reflection, told me I looked really pretty and didn’t need to check any mirrors. He asked me for bar recommendations and I couldn’t repress a smile when he asked about my plans for the evening. “Oh nothing much, just meeting some friends.”

I was the last guest to join the table in the backyard of a Mitte restaurant. (Not the cool part of Mitte; the boring fancy part.) All eyes were on me as I greeted the couple I knew and was introduced to the other participants.

I soon realised that we were basically three couples and me. Fine. The men were considerably older, which kind of worried me, but at least the women were cute. Almost all of them were Russian. Journalists, writers and entrepreneurs – no doubt part of some sort of free-thinking, free-loving, travelling elite.

They were certainly very interesting human beings, and I enjoyed listening to their stories of going to the opera on LSD and driving across Europe on motorcycles. Most of them were divorced and had children, making me feel like a little like a child at the grown-up’s table.

As dinner was served, our conversation switched to opinions on Berlin’s various sex clubs. I listened, occasionally answering questions, unable to shake the thought that I was about to experience something my mind couldn’t have fathomed just a few months ago.

Once everyone had finished eating, one of the guests paid for our meal and announced that we would be making our way to the hotel.

We walked for a few minutes while I talked to this Russian journalist. He was older than my parents and very sweet. His arms were covered with several large tattoos, which I asked about after we’d talked about mine.

“Let me tell you the one thing I’ve learned about tattoos,” he said.

“Growing up, my mother always told me there were three rules she wanted me to follow. One of them was: do not get tattoos, for they will stick with you for all of your life. As you can already tell, I didn’t really respect this one. She passed away several years ago but I still think about her very often. Actually, I was lying on the beach last month and looked at my own tattoos, which reminded me of her rules. And I thought, ‘You know what, Mom? All of your life is really not that long.’”

I was deeply moved by these words of wisdom coming from a 60-year-old man, and decided that whatever was about to happen, the evening had already been worth experiencing.

Arriving at our suite, the host started putting together an incredible cheese platter and serving glasses of insanely delicious Italian red wine. The guy who’d invited me had already asked whether I was into drugs, so I was expecting more of a “pick me up” before getting naked but, to my surprise, everyone started making out before I could take my first sip of wine.

Since I was absolutely not attracted to any of the participating men, I was working on ways to refuse their advances. Thankfully, this really hot Russian girl started kissing me, keeping me busy while the others were at it themselves. We had sex while her boyfriend watched, leaving me to spend the rest of the evening sipping wine and smoking cigarettes half naked on the suite’s balcony, occasionally going back inside to see what was happening.

I never considered myself much of a voyeur, but I found it easy to witness what was going on. Girl-on-girl-on-boy-on-girl-on-boy-on-boy, basically. A string of naked bodies spread over the suite’s living room and bedroom. Heavy breathing, the occasional burst of laughter. Random enquiries along the lines of private parts smelling like cheese – there was a cheese platter, remember.

I decided to take care of the soundtrack, occasionally interrupting our host mid-sex to ask him to unlock his iPad, which for some reason was absolutely no big deal.

I stepped out to get more cigarettes and ended up entering a tacky nightclub to use their vending machine. I was buying three packs, which confused the people standing in line behind me. “It worked, no need to put more money in! Look, your cigarettes are right here.” I briefly considered telling them it wasn’t my fault – I was buying smokes for a whole orgy – before leaving the club and getting back to the hotel.

By then things were coming to an end, and we all chatted some more before the organiser’s girlfriend announced that she wanted to go to sleep. I quickly got dressed and suddenly was standing on the street, feeling slightly dizzy from this oh-so-weird evening.

I bought myself a beer and entered the U-Bahn, which I left again to change directions after deciding some dancing was in order. I had a sip, sighed with satisfaction and smiled about the fact that none of the other passengers had any idea what I had just been up to.

Brewberlin: The Big Berlin Beer Week Roundup

by Guest Blogger

By Hannah Graves.

Craft beer is officially A Thing. It’s not going anywhere, so it might be time to embrace it. The people behind Berlin Beer Week insist that they aren’t hipsters intent on ruining booze for everyone, but instead want people to try something other than watery yellow piss beer – maybe something with actual flavour.

They want us to appreciate beer in Berlin, the same way we’ve come to appreciate burgers. Who eats at McDonald’s when they know they can go to The Bird? There are some seriously strong Berlin breweries and bars that do what they do exceptionally well. So, whether you’re a seasoned beer geek or someone just venturing into the world of craft beers, this week should be a good one.

The Berlin Beer Week website has a full run down of this “celebration of beer culture”, starting tomorrow! And here’s my pick of the eventsI’ll be attending over the week. Prost!

The Opening Party

I’ve been behind the scenes at a brewery before, so will be taking the chance to snoop around Brauerei Lemke, where 10 Berlin brewers will be pouring their beers. This isn’t one of the free events but the very reasonable ticket price does get you the Berlin Beer Week glass and two small beers. Beer bonus!

Das Gift

It’s possible that you MIGHT be a wee bit tipsy after that opening party, and while there will be food trucks at the Brauerei, I’d recommend getting to Das Gift. This Neukölln favourite is going to be serving up its famously good Scottish food next to Scottish ales. Some dishes have been paired with matching beers, and I’ll be having the haggis!

Das Gift Scottish Food

John Muir

Sunday has long been my favourite day of the Berlin week, and I am more than happy to spend it eating barbeque. The bar with the speakeasy vibes is teaming up with Spice Spice Baby and the Berlin beer team on a bike, Flying Turtle, for some seriously summery vibes.

Monterey Bar

I’m going to be drunkenly throwing the horns after trying the Slayer beer at Monterey, where they will be celebrating creative design and rock music in beer culture. Three local artists from Berlin’s street art scene will be creating original mockup labels live, accompanied by a rock and metal DJ set.

Monterey Bar Berlin

Das Gift (AGAIN!)

This one was an easy decision to make. Cake. Beer. Beer cake. “A sculpture of cupcakes all made with craft ales as ingredients”. SOLD.

The Closing Party

Apparently, Stone Brewing are a big deal, the people behind beers with names like “Arrogant Bastard”. Being cool, they want to have their bit of Berlin too, so this event will be held at the site of their future new brewery and restaurant. There is a mind-blowing list of beers on offer, as well as non-alcoholic drinks, food and music. Also, 100% of proceeds from the event will go to a local charity organisation, so you’ll be drinking beer for a good cause.

Good luck making it through seven days dedicated to beer. I’m going to give it my best shot 😉 There’s SO MUCH going on, and for those who aren’t allergic to physical activity, there is even climbing with craft beer (?), and walking tours and bike rides. Even if you just try a craft beer at some point this week, Berlin Beer Week will have been a big success.

Berlintercourse: My first sex party

by Guest Blogger

You all know by now that my quest for new experiences knows no bounds, so you’ll probably only be half surprised to learn that I recently attended my very first sex party.

It all started during one of my Sundays spent dancing the day away at Berghain. I met a fairly good-looking guy, and our conversation turned quickly and naturally towards sex. Before I knew it we were comparing our number of Tinder matches and sexual partners. I mentioned this upscale sex party I’d heard of, and my new companion told me about a secret one happening regularly in Berlin. He suggested we go together and, without hesitation, I said I’d love to.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and this guy is telling me that he’s arranged for us to attend the next edition of this secret sex party. But as this is Germany, I still had to submit an official application full of disappointingly pedestrian getting-to-know-you type questions, and include a photo of myself. I nervously waited for a reply, and felt like I had won the lottery when I finally received an email welcoming me to this very special club.

It was a fancy dress party, so I spent a few days carefully planning my perfect outfit. I tried to look my ultimate sexy self, in my most slimming high-waisted thong and a transparent mesh crop top. But when I entered the venue, I found that most people seemed more interested in looking fun and artsy than hot. Just as I was wondering, “how come everyone is wearing more clothes than I am?” a girl walked past wearing nothing but a pearl thong, immediately making me feel better about my revealing outfit.

We grabbed our first drinks and scanned the main room, a vast space that nonetheless fostered an intimate atmosphere. I remember anticipating the moment that it would start being all about sex. Was there going to be some kind of signal? Right now, it looked like a large group of old friends catching up and having a regular night out.

Well, except for the guy proudly displaying a drill with a dildo attached to it. He was a non-threatening old bear, but I couldn’t help feeling a little violated when we pointed that thing at me. I sought refuge in the smoking area, always a good place to meet new people. Little did I know I was about to make my first almost faux pas.

I had brought fortune cookies to share and decided to hand them out to the smokers sat next to me on a worn-out couch. After everyone had read out loud what was written on their strip of paper, someone asked, “So, what did you get?”

“Mine says ‘You will have good health’, which I’m happy to hear considering my flatmate just told me that he has chlamydia!” Everyone went silent for a minute, and that’s when I recognised that this might not be the best place to joke about STDs. Then everyone started laughing, and I realised that I might have stumbled on the perfect ice-breaker. Phew!

After a few more drinks, I was approached by a young man who told me: “The first thing I noticed upon entering the room is your butt.” Given what I was wearing, this came as no surprise. He offered me wine and told me he wanted me to meet somebody, before walking off towards a girl who was chatting with somebody else.

He interrupted her to point at me and whisper something into her ear. Then they both walked my way and stood around me. She was his girlfriend and they attended this party with the sole purpose of finding girls to have threesomes with. I actually even got to meet the girl they had hooked up with at a previous party, which I guess was weird – but it takes a lot more than that to make me feel uncomfortable these days.

We flirted for a little while before they made it clear it was time to go to the other room – the darker one filled with mattresses placed on top of piles of euro-pallets. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to have my first threesome, after several missed opportunities, and I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be awkward? Were they going to get busy with each other while leaving me out? How was my second time with a girl going to be? I had no idea, but we got undressed after making out for a little while. What happened next ended up being one of my best sexual experiences so far.

There I was, lying on my back, while a hot guy and a hot girl were making sure I had the time of my life. I never felt left out and I’m pretty sure neither of them did either. And the other people getting busy on the nearby beds hardly even registered with us. A very natural synergy arose and I kept on thinking, “I can’t believe this is finally was happening.”

Once we were done, we got dressed and I retrieved my shoes from a tangle of arms and legs on the opposite side of the room. I had one more drink with the couple and decided to finally hit the dance floor. The DJ had started playing ridiculous pop songs and the party was approaching its end. Unlike the “regular” music-oriented parties that Berlin is known for, this one was indeed set to finish promptly at 4 am.

I spent the rest of the night talking to other guests, save for a single detour back into the second room on the invitation of a friend. I was seriously impressed with how uncomplicated and easy-going the vibe was. It felt like a hippie, free love-inspired gathering – think more Burning Man than the Shortbus sex club scene.

I never would have predicted that this night would meet – let alone exceed – my expectations. After reading about Slutever and Chelsea Summer’s experiences, I wasn’t sure I’d do anything sexual even if I found myself in a similar situation. But I guess that after all this time I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that, out of all the cities in the world, Berlin is the perfect place for these kind of liberal, experimental, mutually rewarding parties.