Five months ago, I moved from London to Berlin. I have been a bit quiet on my blog and Twitter due to adapting to the new life, learning the language and searching for a job. However whilst being silent online, I have constantly been observing the society and culture here and I’ve been enlightened by all the differences. Here is a list of some of my observations of Berlin so far, divided into six categories: Social, Environmental, Transport, Lifestyle, Food & Shopping and Work.
I must stress before you read this, that although it may seem very biased towards Berlin, I still love London. Many people here have asked me ‘why on earth’ would I want to move away from London? When I am questioned as to which city I prefer, I honestly cannot answer. Both cities have their appeals as well as their disadvantages. It’s true, I miss London very much and think it is a really fantastic city, but many of the facts listed below explain the reasons I’m persuaded to stay in Berlin for a little while longer.
This is BERLIN (from a young British woman’s perspective) :
- People don’t do Facebook/social media like they do in the UK. They do not use Facebook as a public diary, they do not document every meal eaten and every cocktail drunk. They do not post a billion pictures of their every night out. They also like their privacy, which means they rarely use their actual name or have a profile picture of themselves.
- Having a stranger start a conversation with you is not a horrifyingly awkward experience that puts you on the spot and makes you feel uncomfortable and bewildered. People are able to talk to strangers without it being weird and just wrong.
- People confidently make eye-contact with each other without needing to quickly look/run away.
- People also openly stare at other people. And apparently it’s not rude!
- You can smoke in public places and inside clubs and bars, and therefore all your clothes will smell like smoke. Permanently.
- The river is very clean and has fish and other living animals
- People swim in the river/lakes in summer
- The air is clean and there are tons of green spaces and forests
- Germans boss recycling, it is second nature to them and everyone, I mean EVERYONE does it without thinking about it.
- Homeless people collect empty bottles because you get money back for every bottle recycled (This is probably one of things that has impressed me the most here. You can take your bottles to the supermarket where there is an exciting machine that weighs and digests your bottles and in return, presents you with tokens to use in the store. After our houseparties we’ve managed to get 10-15€ back from the bottles left behind!)
- The weather is not a commonly talked about topic. It does not phase, hinder or fascinate them in any way. Following this, snow is not obsessively or falsely predicted and when it does come, it does not scare or excite them. City life, public transport and all, continues as normal.
- The trains work more often than not. And public transport is a reasonable and affordable price so there is no reason to complain.
- The trains run 24/7 at the weekends so you can go out and will not be left having to either: (1) travel for 3 hours by night bus to get home, (2) spend a fortune on a taxi home or (3) curl up under your desk at work.
- People casually play the fiddle/guitar/harmonica on the trains, but most of them are beggars.
- Dogs are allowed to travel on public transport but need their own tickets (or that might just be bicycles that need their own tickets… either way, it’s funny!)
- You can drink on the trains and on the streets.
- People walk around high in the middle of the day, and it’s not weird
- People walk around drunk in the middle of the day, and it’s not weird
- Rent is not extortionate so people can actually pay their rent without having to live of off bread and biscuits from their workplace.
- Life in general is more affordable, so people are able to go to a range of wonderful events.
- No one ever sleeps, and somehow they carry on living.
- If you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner or a party, you always bring a gift
- Everyone has a dog and they treat them like their children.
- It’s rare to find people walking with their dogs on a leash – they are extremely well trained and remain by their owner of their own accord.
- Rushing won’t get you anywhere any quicker.
- People have no inhibitions! I doubt there is even a translation for the word. Everyone seems comfortable in their own skin and will do, say and wear whatever they feel like without fear of embarrassment.
Food & Shopping
- Shops close on Sundays, which means you have to do your weekly shop on Saturday, even if you’re deathly hungover and wouldn’t usually dream of leaving your bed.
- Or if you’re especially bohemian, you can do your shopping at one of the many Sunday markets.
- They drink herbal tea (devastatingly no English Breakfast tea) which they often drink from leaves with a strainer
- They have an excess of kebab shops.
- Second hand and vintage clothes shopping is a common activity, but still remains retro, individual and alternative.
- It’s not uncommon to go straight from the clubs to work on Monday morning.
- People don’t wear suits to work, no matter what their job is.
- Most people are freelancers or self-employed. Very few people have actual 9-5 jobs.
- Work life and private life is kept quite separate which means that office scandal and gossip is scarce.