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Moving to Berlin? Here’s what you’re going to learn, whether you like it or not.

When you first move to Berlin, everything is new and interesting... but there are some thing you should learn about the Hauptstadt - and the sooner the better.

Black always works in Berlin, and sometimes it’s the only option. Photo: Imago/Addictive Stock

Berlin changes you. A few days are enough to make you incapable of committing, a constant complainer, or even Kiez-proud. Berlin-ification begins with clothing and ends with failed life plans. Sounds tragic? Whether you are from Madrid or Magdeburg, the Hauptstadt will suck you in and change your personality. Here is our list of how Berlin rubs off on anyone who moves here. 

Kiez-pride is real 

My neighborhood, my block – anyone who has settled for the foreseeable future begins to see their neighbourhood as part of their identity. Photo: Imago/F. Anthea Schaap

Sometimes it takes a while (years even) to find a long term apartment. But once you’ve settled in, Berlin newcomers often develop something of a religious devotion for their neighbourhood. Whether it’s the picturesque order of Charlottenburg or the grit and chaos of Neukölln, overweening Kiez-pride often ensues, as newcomers absorb what is around them in their Kiez, and assume that they have found utopia. The longer people live in a neighbourhood, the harder it is for them to make new friends outside their buble. Even the thought of leaving Neukölln for Kreuzberg eventually becomes unfathomable. 

Dating here sucks

Grow old together? Plenty of possibilities, but finding a partner in Berlin is no easier than anywhere else, in fact it might even be harder. Photo: Imago/Seeliger

Including tourists, there are often more than four million people in the city. That’s a lot of potential love matches, right? Slim pickings back in your village, but now there’s a world of opportunity before you right? Wrong. 

Everyone is damaged, polyamorous, commitment shy, self-absorbed and mentally unstable. Not literally, but the dating scene is a nightmare. According to a study by the market research company GfK, almost 49 percent of the people in Berlin are single. We are certain that you will delete and reinstall Tinder almost weekly once you move here. 

Zen-like patience for queues

Queuing for travel information? Cultivated. Queuing for kebap? Tourist stupidity. Photo: Imago/Friedel

Whether in front of Berghain or for Berlinale: Berlin has a long, proud tradition of standing in lines. Everyone has just kind of accepted that we live in a cool city, where cool things happen, so lines are just a  part of life. That, and Berlin’s bureaucracy is a nightmare that still does everything on paper/face-to-face. But it’s not everything that Berliner’s are ready to line up for. The queue on Mehringdamm for Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap is full of tourists and no self respecting Berliner would subject themselves to that wait time for such an underwhelming meal. 

FOMO burnout is real 

Go outside? Deliberately? You must be joking. Photo: Imago/Westend61

It’s overwhelming and over stimulating in Berlin. The busy hubbub of the streets is never far away, and as such, lots of people who move here develop FOMO, which quickly spins out of control. After leaning too far in one direction, a lot of Berliners end up over correcting, and refusing to leave their homes unless it’s a very special occasion. It makes sense; on any given night there are 60 galleries having an exclusive opening event, 20 concerts with hot international acts, and several of your acquaintances are having a birthday thing. After trying to have it all, eventually Berliners decide it’s got to be incredibly unique, or they’re not going. 

No one cares about your insider tip

The best pizza in the world is in Kreuzberg. No wait, Spandau. Or was it F-hain? Photo: Imago/Westend61

We’ve all been there. You are out and about with friends, but at some point you all get hungry. Where should we go? Suddenly everyone has a tip about the best pizza in Berlin or the best sushi in Berlin or the best deep fried kimchi ice cream in Berlin. Everyone plays nice and is open to trying out the other’s idea, but secretly you know yours is the best. Whatever the reason, the best Pad Thai happens to be in your own neighbourhood. It’s like your mum’s cooking, just inexplicably better than the rest, but no one will care. 

You can totally get that on the side

And if I want to drink my lactose-free almond milk matcha coffee while lying down, then I will do that too. Photo: Imago/Westend61

Yes, it’s true. In big cities, an above-average number of people order some abstract milk variation,  want their donuts vegan and sugar-free and kindly point out their caviar intolerance to the waiter. Twice. Why do they do it? Because they can. The only reason for ordering your matcha latte with low-fat almond milk plus a decaffeinated espresso shot, is because that’s how you like it. You do you baby, live your dream. 

In much the same way that no one cares what you wear in Berlin, no one cares about what you order. 

Real Berliners make vague plans 

“See you soon dude!” “Totally.”. Photo: Imago/Zoonar

There’s always someone somewhere wanting to hang out. When you first get here, there are a million things to do and people to get to know, so you rush from the trendy café to the underground rave in an old slaughterhouse to the upcycled vintage shop. Always on the go, trying to make friends with everyone. Eventually you burn out and the precise, formalised, definite “next Friday” becomes the amorphous, ambiguous “soon”. Related to Berliner’s inability to romantically commit is the inability to commit to specific dates to catch up with friends. So you say “soon” part ways, run into them again two weeks later and what do you say? Soon. 

Sometimes the trip isn’t worthwhile

“Fancy a drink tonight? Would have to go to Spandau though?” Hmmmmmm Photo: Imago/STPP

In the beginning, newcomers are really motivated to get out there and see everything. After a month or two on public transport, or in traffic jams, or risking their lives on bikes, you eventually begin to ask, “This restaurant, how far is it exactly? This film, is it really ‘only in theatres’? Yeah it’s a baby shower, but isn’t it their second kid? 

We ask this because we no longer feel like having to travel long distances for everything that is not absolutely essential for survival. As soon as the BVG app shows us that we have to change trains, we hesitate. Two changes and we’re out. Forty minutes by car? No f*cking way, I could get to the seaside in that amount of time. The reluctance to travel goes hand in hand with the Kiez-Pride, each reinforcing the other.  Realising that everything is on your doorstep results in a reluctance to travel. 

There’s a reason everyone wears black

Black always works in Berlin, and sometimes it’s the only option. Photo: Imago/Addictive Stock

Whilst it won’t affect those getting a taxi from Wilmersdorf to Charlottenburg, anyone else who wants to go out in Berlin, take the train, enjoy the nightlife a bit, there’s really only one option: dark clothes. Berlin is dirty and lighter coloured clothes get ruined very quickly. The general griminess and grunge that Berlin is famous for also explains why black is so popular in Berghain. 

That’s not the only fashion related lesson you will learn though. Much like no one cares who you love here, no one cares what you wear, which is why you will see people grocery shopping in their pyjamas. 

Even parties are political 

Everything in Berlin is political, even raving. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

It’s true that Berlin’s club culture is more than just partying. No where else are there so many celebrations that are designed for special groups and interests – and thus offer safe spaces for those people who are otherwise often exposed to discrimination. So far so good, right?

Unfortunately there are many people in Berlin who, after living here a short time, actually think partying is a fundamental civic duty. That taking drugs with your niche benefits society, that because you went out and ‘showed support’ that the world is becoming a better place. 

It’s just hedonism guys. Sure, some of the ‘Solidarity Parties’ raise money for good causes, but you aren’t driving social reform with this performative bullshit.

Leaving Berlin is actually one of the best parts of Berlin

“Is that a tree? A real tree?” Photo: Imago/Panthermedia

In the beginning, the city intoxicates newcomers. But you can tell that you are slowly becoming a real Berliner when you start dreaming of getting out of the city. You google holiday houses in Brandenburg or the fastest route to the Blatic Sea. Eventually you go, but once you get back you don’t shut up for a week about how nice it was to get out of the city. Absence makes the heart grow fonder though, and eventually you are happy to be back home.