Illustrations by Noam Weiner
Berlin is well known as a city of contrasts, where rusty bikes share the road with expensive German cars, exclusive art exhibitions live hand in hand with street graffiti, Fashion Week gets along with punks from bygone days, and designer bars and shops coexist with concrete barns from the ’70s.
If Berlin had to be summarized in one sentence, it would probably be, for the world, “Ich bin ein Berliner“— thank you, JFK — and Berlin is “arm aber sexy” for Berliners (poor but sexy) — thank you, former Mayor Klaus Wowerei.
Berliners are people who live here, who have moved here, and (the fewest of them) those who were actually born here. There is no pressure as there is in New York, where you need to have been living there for 15 years before you can consider yourself a local. Locals here, in Berlin, are global, they come from everywhere, many of them don’t speak German, all of them are kind of obsessed with the weather, and NONE of them have ever uttered the following sentences:
1. Pankow is the new Kreuzberg.
2. I don’t own a bike.
3. My bike has never been stolen.
4. What’s Club Mate?
5. Oh mein Gott1, this sidewalk is so clean!
6. You’re going to a Flohmarkt2. What’s that?
7. This restaurant doesn’t have vegan options.
8. I understand all the bureaucratic papers from the Bürgeramt.3
9. Tourists on rented bikes ride really well.
10. I don’t own a Jutebeutel.4
11. I wish my flat smelled as good as the U8.5
12. People don’t drive aggressively enough in Neukölln.
13. I always buy a ticket for the U-Bahn.6
14. I understood “Zurückbleiben, bitte,”7 the first time I heard it.
15. I can’t afford a beer from the Späti.8
16. I’m looking forward to winter.
17. Let’s hang out at Brandenburger Tor.
18. I wish clubs were open on Sundays.
19. I usually go to bars outside the Ring.9
20. None of my friends smoke.
21. No one asked me for “kleine Spende”10 today.
22. The construction work in Berlin Mitte is finally over.
- 1 The German version of “OMG.”
- 2 Flea market
- 3 The city government office specializing in overwhelming the Bürger (citizens) with awfully difficult-to-understand documents.
- 4 Tote bag
- 5 A busy public transit line
- 6 One of the city’s public transit systems (the other is the S-Bahn).
- 7 “Please stay back,” played from the speakers of the subway in every station.
- 8 “Späti” is short for “Spätkauf”, which literally means “late shopping.” It’s a small shop that stays open late and can literally be found anywhere in Berlin.
- 9 Short for Ringbahn (circular railway), a line of the S-Bahn that circles through the central boroughs of Berlin.
- 10 Spare change