How To Survive Berlin

By Katrin Ziegler

I always thought I didn’t really care about places as long as they met certain basic requirements – not too small, reasonable transportation, considerable amount of bars and cultural events – until I moved to Berlin. The city and I have a difficult relationship. Maybe that is because returning to my home country after living in San Francisco for a while was quite a change. Thus, I probably had to deal with a reverse culture shock coming back to my home country in general. Nevertheless I first told myself that Berlin wasn’t so bad. This thought still pops into my mind every time I come back to Berlin from a vacation or weekend trip. For like – one night. And then things happen. Berlin things.

Like this one time when I went to a Döner store and decided that I wanted a wrap instead of bread. So I asked the guy who just put the bread in the toaster – literally one second prior – to give me a wrap instead. Out of the options below, pick the one that sounds most likely for Berlin:

a) Yeah, sure miss, no problem.
b) Sorry, I just put the bread in the toaster, so I won’t be able to reuse it. However, I can give you a wrap for a small charge?
c) (yelling) It’s too late now!!! Every available combination we sell is on the menu up there! Are you too stupid to read???

You probably guessed right – it can only be c).

And it’s not just people being unfriendly. They also stare. And what about all this smoking in bars? Seriously.  Berlin is all about underground bars, cool clubs, alternative vibes, hip start ups and smoking. I did a case study.

So how to survive this city?

First of all, start smoking. 

Yes, start smoking and start blowing the smoke in other people’s faces. GIVE THEM THEIR SHIT BACK! Start mastering resistance to smoke in every concentration and at all times. Consider smoking in your closed bedroom to get your body get used to it. Next time you go out to a bar with your friends you’re gonna be the killer smoker! Also, don’t care about the smoke haters (see point 3 – “Don’t care”).

Stare back. 

Stare and stare back. Stare them down. It might be hard in the beginning but you can do it. If you feel uncomfortable staring at other human beings, start with staring at dogs first, then proceed to staring at children. Practice staring until you master defeating the final enemy – old German people.

Learn German.

Or another scary sounding language. Sure you can go far with English, but nothing says respect like yelling an aggressive sounding German sentence on point.

Stay warm.

Winters in Berlin are hard. Seriously. By the end of October it’s not just about surviving insults, stares or smoke but fighting against mother nature. In order to not freeze to death, buy warm clothes, master the layer technique, grow a beard or don’t leave your apartment in the first place.

Don’t care.

Or at least act like you don’t. You shouldn’t care if you’re cool enough or alternative enough or hipster enough. In reality, of course you do because – duh – you moved to Berlin but you should not let that show. After all, you’re way cooler than this city anyways. However, do certainly not care about specific things like litter, smoke, the needs of non-smokers or basic politeness.

Okay honestly, I have no idea about how to survive Berlin. Maybe just come here and figure out for yourself. And don’t take this too seriously. Seriously.


Published by berlinerinblog

Many move to Berlin with an idea of what it will be like to live, work, and build relationships in the city but shortly after arriving they realize things are vastly different. Berlinerin aims to change that. By covering well-known and not-so-common information, highlighting the wonderful women making their mark on the city, and providing a platform for women to connect this blog is dedicated to discussing the reality of life in Berlin. Started by two women drawn to the city for its creative spirit and the uniqueness of its inhabitants, they hope that the topics covered on this site will enrich your Berlin experience.

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