Thursday, 3 August 2017

Lifestyle: I’m a Londoner and spent 3 months living in Berlin — here are 13 things that surprised me about day to day life


I moved to Berlin at the end of February and spent three months in the city.

Moving to a new city is an experience I whole-heartedly recommend. It's one of the things everyone should do before they turn 30 — especially anyone living in Britain, as there are so many great European cities nearby that could soon become much harder to access.

The experience of moving to a new place will open your eyes and broaden your mind more than you can imagine.

I moved to Berlin at the end of February and spent three incredible months living in the German capital.

As you might expect, there were plenty of things I — a 28-year-old who has lived in London for the last six years — didn't know about life in Berlin and Germany.

Here are 13 things that surprised me when I moved to the city.

Just how prevalent and popular kebabs and currywurst are.

They're everywhere, especially in neighbourhoods like Kreuzberg and Neukolln, which have well-established Turkish communities. At around €3 (£2.70) for a kebab and €2 (£1.80) for currywurst (sausage with curry ketchup), it's easy to see why these naughty snacks are lapped up by both locals and tourists.

How much quieter Berlin is than London.

Compared to London, Berlin is incredibly chilled. There's significantly fewer people (three million vs. nine million) and it's noticeable almost everywhere you go. You'll rarely find yourself stuck behind someone on the pavement, and traffic jams around Alexanderplatz are very tame compared to what you find around Oxford Street or Bank.

The prolific use of the word "super."

Germans have developed a soft spot for the word "super." They say "that night was super fun" or "that brunch was super awesome," for example.

How much harder supermarkets are to find than they are in London.

Supermarkets are significantly cheaper than corner shops, or "Spätis," as they're called in Berlin. Unfortunately, supermarkets are also in relatively short supply compared to London, which means I often ended up buying things for double the price at a Späti out of convenience.

The amount of bureaucracy you have to go through for basically everything.

Renting an apartment, setting up a business, getting a phone contract, opening a bank account. All of these things can take a long time in Germany. There's a large number of hoops to jump through before you can become an official resident, which is something a lot of companies want proof of before they accept you as a customer.

How people take Class A drugs like they're Smarties.

Cocaine and MDMA (pure ecstasy) are openly taken at many of Berlin's techno clubs, as are many other drugs. You'll also find homeless people smoking crack on the subway. I even saw one person injecting on the street. It could have been insulin, but it didn't look like it.

The fact that you can get paid if you recycle your bottles.

Supermarkets contain bottle recycling machines. You put a bottle in and get around 20 cents in return. Lots of people that struggle to make enough money to live simply wander around the city collecting empty bottles — some locals even help them out by leaving their bottles next to public bins so they don't have to rummage through them.

How clubbing in Berlin really is as good as everyone says it is.

I never made it to Berghain, but I went to plenty of other techno clubs. There's one called Sisyphos in East Berlin that's the talk of the town at the moment. Some of the clubs are open all weekend, so hardcore clubbers can stay out from Saturday night until Monday morning, should they wish.

The extreme weather.

It's freezing in winter, and glorious in summer (mostly). I caught the end of winter, when it was close to 0 degrees celsius, and the beginning of summer, when temperatures soared above 30.

How bad the city’s airports are.

There are two main airports in Berlin: Tegel and Schonefeld. They're both rubbish. In fact, they're so bad that the pair of them were ranked among the 10 worst airports in the world. Politicians have built a new international airport next to Schonefeld, but to the annoyance of Berliners it has yet to open due to embarrassing technical difficulties. Some question whether it will ever open.

The fact that everything shuts down on Sundays.

Sundays are very quiet. All the high street shops are shut and so are many of the restaurants. If you're lucky, you might be able to find a supermarket that's open. Top tip: they'll often be in a train station. Berliners tend to use Sundays as a day to relax and catch up (or party).

How the culinary scene is slowly catching up with London.

The culinary scene in Berlin isn't bad, but it's not great either. As the city becomes more international there are an increasing number of restaurants opening up and catering to a plethora of cuisines, from Thai and Vietnamese to Lebanese and Italian. However, it's still got a way to go before it catches up with London.

How left wing it is.

Berliners tend to lean to the left, and politicians like Donald Trump don't get much love in the city. This sign was created on May Day, which also falls on the same day as International Workers' Day.

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