5 Rules for Enjoying Life in Berlin
By Merren, tour guide and student of life.
Whether you’re in Berlin for five hours, three days or two decades, here are a few rules to live by in the German capital to ensure you get the full experience and enjoy life like a local.
Eat the Imbiss
The less fancy an eating place looks in Berlin, the better. This is not a city of pomp, ceremony and status but rather one of grunge, functionality and diversity. Some of the best meals I’ve had here have been at little food stands or snack shacks, also known as the “Imbiss”. Three good ones to highlight my point would be: Mmaah (Korean at Templehof), Nils (Sudanese in Kreuzberg and F’hain) and Zweistrom (Arabic in P’berg). Trust me, these places might not look like much, but the food is delicious, the prices low, and the people delightful.
When I moved to Berlin a couple of years ago, I packed a single pair of heeled shoes, a nice formal dress and one corporate outfit to get me started in this infamous metropolis. Turns out all of these items still lay untouched at the bottom of the old cardboard box I shipped them over in. Why so? Well it’s because Berlin is the most stupidly casual place you could ever imagine (yes, even for things like job interviews). I’m no fashionista by any means but it has really struck me that the way people dress here is incredibly laidback, carefree, and understated.
It’s almost like the more effort you look like you’re making, the more out of place you are. Be sure to bring a good rotation of jeans, t-shirts and sneakers.
Drink from the Späti
Introducing a vital organ in the make up of the Berlin body, the Spätkauf. Literally meaning “late-buy”, these little kiosks are on every corner and sell an extraordinary selection of good beers (the most important ingredient obviously, but of course they have tonnes of other drinks and snacks. Oh and milk for when everything is closed on a Sunday!). Considering you’d probably spend 2 – 4€ on a beer in a bar, it makes much more economic sense to grab a 60-70c Sternburg wegbier or “roadie” to drink in a park, on the train or at the social hub that is the kiosk itself. With no open container laws in this lovely land, why wouldn’t you?
Make Friends, over and over and over yet again
It may sound silly but be prepared to tell your life story on a daily basis. While it’s exhausting, know that Berlin is a very transient city full of people coming and going and coming back again. You have just have to get used to the fact that you will meet people you think could be solid mates, invest time and energy into building that friendship, only to have them not stick around all that long (often thanks to visa issues, the job situ or travel plans). It’s not all bad though; there are amazing people here from all corners of the globe and fleeting encounters can also be legendary.
In all seriousness, no matter the length of your stay in the capital, acquire a bike. Berlin is unbelievably flat, spread out and bicycle-friendly in terms of traffic. The city is also littered with gorgeous parklands to be explored, with over 30 per cent of the city surrounds being green areas. If you need further convincing, just consider the abandoned Templehof airfield – famous as the lifeline for West Berlin during the Cold War airlifts of 1948-49 – now a public park with miles of old tarmacs just begging to have you fang* those wheels across it!
*to fang: verb, slang, to go very fast (according to Merren)