Humor, Techno and Currywurst
Although often described as raw and gray, in reality, Berlin boasts 27,000 hectares of green spaces and forests, 6,000 hectares of water, creativity and multiculturalism, and at the same time, a traditional, down-to-earth attitude. As the capital of Germany, a start-up city, a political center, and tourist magnet, Berlin has scored third place among the top European destinations. And for good reason!
190 nations shape the landscape and character of Berlin. Berlin is a place where different worlds meet. Irish pubs, Vietnamese restaurants, Polish supermarkets and Turkish butchers – ideally all on the same street. So, what is “typical Berlin”, then? We’ll tell you.
Often described as a “young city”, Berlin is not nearly as young as most people thing. According to the Berlin daily newspaper, the “Berliner Morgenpost”, the average age in the capital is 42.7 years. 53 % of Berliners are not originally from Berlin, less than 5 % are students, and the proportion of foreign residents is 15.5 %. Cities like Munich or Cologne have much higher proportions of residents in the aforementioned categories. Around 2.9 % of Berliners are proud dog owners – in Cologne, this figure is 3.2 %, and in Hamburg it is as high as 4.1 %. A statistical comparison of Germany’s million cities contradicts many of the clichéd assumptions about Berlin and shows the actual balance in the capital.
The Berliners and their famous “Schnauze”
“Before God, all people are Berliners”, wrote author Theodor Fontane in his “Wanderung durch die Mark Brandenburg”, in the chapter “Der Berliner Ton”. However, the people of Berlin’s raw charm is a lot friendlier than many people think. Often described as snobby or moody, the people of Berlin are unpretentious and simply aren’t “grinners”.
The so-called “Berliner Schnauze” [literally: Berlin snout] is a mixture of their dry humor and the typical Berlin dialect. People don’t beat around the bush here; Berliners are direct. The “question – answer” principle is firmly established. So if a taxi driver or bus driver answers your question in a rather cold, brusque manner, simply take the information on board. It will definitely get you where you need to go.
The Berlin weather
Berlin is dominated by a continental climate, which means it can be very hot in summer and very cold in winder. On average, throughout the year, Berlin’s precipitation levels are average. With 1,657 hours of sunlight per year, the sun shines a little more here than is customary for Northern Europe. The months of May to September are the nicest time of year in Berlin. The average temperature is 25 °C. In autumn, you can experience clear blue skies and still enjoy comfortable temperatures.
Winters are cold. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop below freezing, and they can even fall as low as -10 °C. January and February are the coldest months of the year. In March, or April at the latest, spring begins, with cloudless skies and pleasant temperatures. All in all, Berlin experiences the varying weather conditions of all four seasons, just like we learned when we were little.
Currywurst and döner kebabs – who invented them? That’s right; the Berliners. Currywurst was first served in 1949 by Herta Heuwer at her food stall. Today, the most popular currywurst restaurants are “Konnopke’s Imbiss”, “Curry36” and “Witty’s am Wittenbergplatz”. It’s not uncommon to see residents of the German capital waiting in line – queues up to 200 meters long are no rarity.
The first döner kebab was sold at the start of the ‘70s at Kottbusser Damm in Berlin. This moment was the start of a global döner boom. The most famous Berlin kebab shop is “Mustafas Gemüse Kebab” at Mehringdamm – here, you can expect to wait up to 60 minutes. In Berlin, there is a kebab shop for every 1,000 residents. Guten Appetit!
Ampelmännchen, photo booths, and launderettes
Still to this day, nearly all pedestrian traffic lights in the former East Berlin have the iconic green and red men on them, known as “Ampelmännchen”. Typical of Berlin! The Ampelmännchen were designed by Karl Peglau, a traffic psychologist, and were introduced in 1961. Today, they are a symbol of “Ostalgie” – a sense of nostalgia for the old East Germany – and have become the veritable stars of Berlin.
Equally as famous are the retro photo booths found in Berlin’s cult neighborhoods, such as Pankow or Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. You can find them on every corner. With stylish, black-and-white strips of old-school photo booth pictures, they are a throwback to times gone by. They are like magnets and attract customers around the clock. Four photos cost two Euros. A typical souvenir taken home by tourists visiting Berlin.
The people of Berlin deal with their laundry the same way as people in other major cities like New York or London do. Those who don’t have their own washing machine use one of the many launderettes (“Waschsalons”) in Berlin. Launderettes often also serve as a meeting place in big cities. By putting coins in the machines, people can wash, spin, tumble-dry and iron their laundry, and while they wait, they often drink a coffee together. Most launderettes are self-service and the machines are usually coin-operated, and they are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. However, you should still check the opening times online before you go.
Hand on heart: accurate stereotypes
Of course, Berlin does live up to some of its stereotypes. Some of the presumptions about Berliners are in fact true. For example, 53.6 % of Berliners are single – in Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne, this figure ranged from 47.9 to 52.2 %. And the Berliners love techno. Residents of the capital city listen to around 14 techno tracks for every 1,000 tracks played. This is evidenced by statistics from the music streaming service, Spotify. Last, but not least, we openly admit that Berliners like to protest a lot. With 13.9 out of 1,000 residents having participated in protests, Berlin is top among all German cities in terms of protesting. However, this is part of the Berlin way of life, too – it’s a city of liberty, tolerance, and self-fulfillment.