Yes, yes, we are all special individual snowflakes. We aren’t supposed to generalise, but the fact is cliques and subcultures exist. And when you go to Berghain for the first time, you are going to encounter a whole lot of them that you have never seen before. Here is our guide to the Berghain sub-subcultures to mentally prepare you for the adventure.
The music nerds who’ll only dance in the ‘sweet spot’
Make fun of the music/tech nerds all you want, this blessed place really does exist. The mythical sweet spot in the middle of the dance floor in Berghain, where the sound is just perfect. Getting there isn’t easy; you have to push your way through a heaving sea of sweaty bodies. If you can be bothered elbowing your way through hundreds of strangers, you will inevitably find a group of amateur Berlin DJs – who simply must listen to their idols’ sets in their entirety – that have worked their way through the giant group hugs to reach that Funktion-One holy grail.
The Sports Socks Squad
A lot of you won’t have heard of Snax. It traditionally takes place every year at Easter and extends across the entire Berghain and Laboratory. It is one of the most important events in the Berghain calendar – and only men are permitted. The party is extravagant, technoid and sexually heated. Rumour has it that the super “so hot right now” sport-sock look has its roots in Snax. So that would be the first time that the gays made something cool that later went mainstream then?
The Fan Queens
Clack, clack, clack bitches! Flapping a fan so it makes a noise loud enough to be heard over the sound system is a feat unto itself. Coordinating the move along with your other limbs into a somewhat coherent dance routine is near impossible. But the Fan Queens do it all damn night! Of course, part of the secret is the equipment: you have to get yourself one of those really heavy fans. Fans are especially popular at queer parties for good reason: they’re feminine, campy and practical. Not much is known about the history of large noisy fans in the queer context, but what we know for sure is that they are part of the furniture at Panorama Bar.
The Box Dancers
There are club nights where the heaters in Panorama Bar and the boxes in Berghain are the best places to dance because everywhere else is too crowded. But that’s not their only advantage. It’s much easier for your friends to spot you up there – and you can do some great people-watching. There’s a certain kind of Berghainer that can always be found up there, no matter how secure they are on their feet or how good their sense of rhythm is. Whatever the reason for their perpetual podium presence, we envy their level of self-confidence.
The ‘Vorne Links’ Crew
Ostgut was a club primarily for gay men, and in its early years, Berghain also had a clear gay orientation. What the exact crowd composition is today is difficult to know for sure (it’s not like they have you fill out a questionnaire at the door because you know, DATENSCHUTZ!). But one can say with certainty, on most club nights, you can find big muscular, harness-wearing men tirelessly stomping the bassline towards the front and to the left (Vorne Links). Either there or in the dark rooms, that is.
The Panorama Bar Coffee Drinkers
Legs crossed, cigarette in hand and a relaxed, contented smile on their face, they perch at the Panorama Bar at 12:30pm on Sundays. Often clad in simple, understated designer clothes, sipping an espresso or espresso martini. Generally they stay for two hours rather than twenty-two and would rather drink thin filter coffee than party in a leather harness. They often have a good relationship with the bartenders, know many DJs and generally don’t have to stand in line. Must be nice!
The Fetish Crowd
There are fetishes that simply cannot be explored at home – your apartment is too small, there’s furniture everywhere, and the neighbours are either too curious or too narrow-minded. A club where everything can be hosed down is much more suitable for exploring your sexuality, whether it’s anonymously in the darkroom, with some urine or faeces in the bathroom, or totally exposed on the dance floor. Whilst Berghain is primarily a club for dancing, it’s also possible to live out nearly any sexual fantasy there. You’ll see more than a few fetish oriented Berghainers when you go.
The NAKT pack
Sometimes it’s sexier to wear something that shows a lot of skin without giving the whole game away. Berlin fashion label NAKT sees it this way, selling revealing but not too revealing partywear. NAKT is very popular with Berghain visitors, which is somehow logical. After all, you don’t want to sweat buckets whilst showing what your mama gave you. Not everyone thinks the commercialisation of rave outfits is cool, but whatever your opinion, these get-ups are now everywhere as functionality trumps individuality.
The OG Ravers
Sometimes, the people who witnessed the beginnings of techno in the early 90s get nostalgic and relive the experience at Berghain. You can usually identify them by their age, but there’s also a distinct knowing look, a certain reservedness. They aren’t noisy, they don’t walk single file, hands on shoulders to get across the dance floor. Why should they? They’ve already experienced everything and always know how to help each other, due to their wealth of experience. Do yourself a favour and ask one of the more coherent ones about the old days.
Ah, the noobs. They wander excitedly through the whole premises – on Saturday night(!) – not realising the real pros are only there for a stamp. You can recognise them by a few key traits. Maybe you notice them staring, maybe it’s the constant excited blabbing about everything they’ve just seen, like a child at the zoo, maybe it’s that they’ve brazenly peeled off their camera stickers to take a selfie, to prove they made it into Berghain. But you shouldn’t be too angry with them either: we were all noobs once. And to be fair, most of the beginners (who are easy to mistake for tourists) are already gone before it even gets good.