Arm Aber Sexy
Berlin is an open, eclectic and wild city — with a dating culture to match. The unofficial motto of the city is “arm aber sexy” (poor but sexy) and this mood definitely spills over into the dating scene. Compared to other European cities like Paris where a traditional view of love and romance is still thriving, Berlin is distinctly modern and non-committal. It’s relatively easy to find quick, intimate rendezvous, but many residents groan about the difficulties of finding longer-lasting romance. Some aspects might feel very familiar to individuals from English-speaking countries, like the popularity of app-based dating. Other aspects, like the “anything goes” mentality, can be jarring or even stressful for newcomers. Overall, nearly any type of lifestyle or preference can seem normal in Berlin if you’re in the right place and the right community — just make sure you’re not looking for long-term commitment.
Finding A Flamme
So what is an outsider to do when confronted with all of this diversity? There are some easy things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to be laid-back. Berlin is a very casual city, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone dressed up for a first date or a night out. The best thing you could do is to simply go out as you really are — in both personality and appearance. After that, prepare for a more open and diverse take on romance. If you’re a woman looking for a man to approach you and to do all the dating “legwork,” you might find yourself sorely disappointed. Sure, men do approach women, but it’s just as common, if not more common, for women to make the first move.
When it comes to establishments to find love, Berlin has many options. Of course, the local bar (or die Eckkneipe) and any club are always safe bets. Next, Berlin is an incredibly art-centric city, so poetry readings and gallery openings are popular places to find ein Schatz. If these options make you nervous, the city is well-known for its social and political engagement, so you can also try throwing yourself into political activism, social causes and grassroots movements to find someone of like-mind. For those with a more “specialized interest,” Berlin has quite a few well-known fetish clubs and organizations. When all else fails, Tinder and other dating apps are quite popular. Now you’ll just have to master your approach.
Flirting With A Berliner
It’s vital to prepare yourself for the German way of flirting. In German cities, and especially Berlin, there’s a delicate balancing act happening between being subtle and being direct — and it’s easily lost on outsiders. For instance, it’s not advisable to simply go up to someone who’s caught your eye at a bar and ask if you can buy them a drink. You also shouldn’t use a cheesy pickup line (or ein Anmachspruch), as these kind of cliches won’t show off any prized originality that Berliners are looking for. And if you thought about being overly familiar and touchy with a stranger at a bar or a club, here’s your warning that you might get an angry smack in return (as you should!). You’ll have much better luck relying on nonverbal cues and some flirty glances before starting a friendly conversation. Germans aren’t ones for small talk, so you’ll want to skip most of the pleasantries and ask more about their interests, tastes, profession, and dreams for the future.
Once you’ve started talking to a Berliner, though, you’ll likely find them extremely direct, perhaps to point of being brutally honest or rough. There aren’t many, if any, conversation topics off the table and people love to push the envelope — even on dates. On the upside, this means that individuals are very honest about what they’re looking for in terms of time, commitment and intimacy. You’ll win extra points for having a great sense of humor and wit, and for expressing exactly what you’re looking for.
The Date Itself
If you’ve made it far enough to actually score a date with a Berliner, you can rest easy knowing the hardest part is already behind you. Dating in Berlin, like the vibe of the city itself, is very easy-going and relaxed (so you shouldn’t expect a candlelit dinner). Many dates when the weather is warm involve simply going to the park or by the Spree with a cheap bottle of wine and having a conversation. Similarly, grabbing some beers at a Späti (a convenience store that is open late and even on Sundays) and going for a Döner kebab afterward is also quite popular. When the weather isn’t as nice, meeting in a local dive bar for a few drinks is common.
That said, if you want to impress your date with something a little more personal, one Babbelonian suggested leaning into the artistic aspects of the city and attending an art installation. This is the perfect date for someone more hip, and can easily be paired with dinner and drinks somewhere schick. Be mindful though: Berlin has a reputation for being fresh and healthy, and it’s also considered one of the “Vegan Capitals of the World,” so it’s absolutely a best practice to ask if your date has any dietary restrictions before booking a table.
When it comes time for the check, don’t assume that your date will foot the bill for your night out, even if they invited you out. In Berlin, as in the rest of Germany, it’s very standard to always “go Dutch” and split the bill.
Speak Their Language
While Berlin is absolutely an international metropolis with a very sizable multinational and expat population (almost a third of the city is comprised of non-Germans), the key to unlocking its dating culture is still by learning German. “But German is so difficult,” we hear you say. Yes, there is definitely a learning curve in taking on German, but even learning a few phrases will do wonders for your romantic endeavors.
That selective nightclub with the 2-hour-long line? You’ll need to speak German to get in. The grungy bar on the corner where all the local girls go for drinks? You’ll definitely need some German to order from the barkeep. The cool vegan restaurant that always ends up completely booked? You’ll fare far better calling and asking in German for a reservation. (And when you inevitably fall in love with the city and decide to move here? You’ll need German to do all of your government paperwork.) If you want a chance with a real Berliner, learning German is a must.