10 things I now know about Berlin

Arriving on the dot, as always

1: Not sure if you’re in East Berlin or West Berlin? Can you see tram tracks? If yes, you’re in East Berlin: trams were abolished in West Berlin after reunification, and they invested heavily in underground transport instead.

2: If you don’t speak German, don’t sweat it: most everyday words sound close to English, or are English, or are familiar because both countries have nicked them from a third language.

So if you enjoy drinking Kaffee or Tee and eating Kebab Im Brot with Salat while using the Internet…yeah, you won’t exactly need to buy Rosetta Stone.

3: Berliners are so ridiculously helpful and friendly it’s unbelievable. We’d only need to stand and look vaguely lost for a fraction of a second before someone would approach us and offer to help. Beat that, any-other-capital-city-in-the-world.

(Counterpoint: it’s a total myth that Germans have no sense of humour, and they seem to like exercising it by good-naturedly taking the piss out of us at any opportunity.)

4: Living in Berlin really is cheap as hell. Rents are low, coffee is cheaper than Chiang Mai, public transport is a steal, eating out is worlds away from Paris and London, and alcohol is apparently comparatively cheap too.

5: But you know what’s not cheap? Schönefeld Airport. Holy crap Berlin, 2.65 Euros for a bottle of water? 7.90 Euros for a sandwich? Buying a quick snack cost us more than our frickin’ flight did.

(Thankfully it’ll be closed down soon, if the three-years-late-and-counting construction of Brandenburg Airport is ever finished.)

6: East Berlin takes the laid-back hipster vibe and injects enough Teutonic efficiency to make sure shit actually gets done. While in Shoreditch it feels like bar staff are too busy comparing haircuts to lower themselves to actually serving you, Kreuzberg has just as much cool without us wanting to throttle everyone.

(And yes, the trains run precisely on time too.)

7: The Jewish Museum (incorporating permanent exhibitions about the Holocaust) is, in a word, “comprehensive”. Seriously, the Germans are really sorry about all that stuff.

It’s all brilliantly presented, and we’re half-Jewish (in that one of us is Jewish), but we were still bailing to get lunch after a few hours having barely seen half of it.

8: You really can party all night in Berlin. We didn’t, obviously, but Mish says she’s never seen more “revellers” on her 6am walks – including when we lived next door to a nightclub in London.

There’s really nothing to make you feel quite as old as your friends tweeting each other about “meeting at the club when it opens around midnight” when you’ve already been tucked up in bed for an hour.

9: Berlin is the Captain Planet of European capitals. Everyone cycles, there are solar panels everywhere (Germany generates over half of the entire world’s solar energy), and wangling a plastic bag out of the supermarket will cost you as much as your rent.

10: Germany loves rules and order. Yet many Berliners pride themselves on being counter-cultural. The result is…they occasionally cross the road when the signal is red! But mostly, they don’t. After the chaos of Thailand, watching cyclists, motorists and pedestrians patiently take turns and give way to each other was a bit of a shock.

  • Berlin is one of my favorite European cities and I know I’m not alone in this. It’s so alive. Compared to Amsterdam (where I’m from), there is so much more going on.
    How much did you guys love it?

    • Exactly – there’s a crazy amount going on, but at the same time there’s a laid-back atmosphere that we loved.

      Actually, we loved it so much we’re planning to go back for a longer stay very soon! We’re always trying to push ourselves to go to new places instead of revisiting old favourites, but the lure of Berlin is too strong.

      Do you not rate Amsterdam as a good place for digital nomads, then? I’ve only been for a day at a time when I used to travel as part of my old job, so I didn’t get a proper feel for the place.