Have you ever walked into a restaurant or store and been greeted by a smiling staff member eager to help you? Then you probably weren’t in Berlin. You may have heard the rumors or experienced it yourself that many in Berlin pride themselves in being rude – for no reason at all. Whether you’re in a shop or just trying to cross the street you’re likely to encounter more snarls than smiles. We haven’t been able to figure out why but we want to let you know that you’re not alone. If you haven’t felt it yet, these are the places where you should be prepared for the cold shoulder.
Bars & Cafes
It’s not always clear whether you should go to the counter to order or if someone will come over to take your order. In either case, expect to be left waiting while your stomach growls and your throat feels parched.
If you’d like to go to the counter – you’ll be told to return to your seat because there’s table service. After you sit back down you’ll wait several minutes for someone to finally bark at you: “What do you want?”
If there’s no table service, staff will start to clean up around you. As you try to get their attention, you realize they have perfected the art of looking everywhere else but at you. Eventually you’ll venture up to the service counter, where you’ll continue to wait for the staff to finish their conversation or finish double tapping memes on social media. Finally one person will turn to face you without saying a word. This is your indication to order.
If you’re looking for personal service when you’re shopping in a store you may be in the wrong city. See some shoes you like but want to know if they come in a different size or want to see if a dress is available in a different color?
The answer will always be, “What you see is what we have.” There may be the right size or color for you in the back but you’ll never know.
In some touristy parts of the city you may be surprised that there are people at the door to greet you. But they’re mainly there as a deterrent for theft, not to give you a warm welcome.
Just keep in mind, it’s not personal, everyone receives the same minimalist service.
Out in public you’ll also be hard pressed to find a warm greeting. People usually pretend not to see you especially on the street as they bump into you even though they have plenty of space to get by.
Speaking of, have you heard of personal space? Because no one on the U-Bahn has. Even if there’s plenty of empty standing room around you, someone will manage to repeatedly hit you with their bag or hold on to the hand rail directly in front of your face.
Despite them feeling their arm slamming into you during every twist and turn of the train they will make no effort to move away.
Aside from respecting people’s personal space you also may have been taught that it’s rude to stare. Well, all bets are off in Berlin. Anywhere you go, you’ll feel a pair of eyes glaring at you
Our native German sources have told us people aren’t staring to be rude but because they think you are “interesting to look at”. So, if you catch someone staring at you, think of yourself as a piece of art they just can’t resist.
If it’s making you uncomfortable, here’s a tip: look down at their shoes, apparently this trick will break their stare.
If you come from a country where people are warm and friendly, your first few days and weeks in Berlin may feel like the coldest and unpleasant experience of your life. Even though this city may not be the friendliest, you’ll still find more people than not that are willing to lend a helping hand when you need it. They just won’t do it with a smile.