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10 ways to pass yourself off as a true Berliner

So you want to blend in as a real Berlin local? Here are our top 10 tips to exuding your inner Berliner.

10 ways to pass yourself off as a true Berliner
Photo: DPA

Shop off the beaten path

Berlin shoppers know that the best finds are often far away from the main drag. Photo: DPA

True Berliners wouldn’t be caught dead traipsing through the overpriced halls of the KaDeWe, baring the crowds of Ku'damm or hitting up tourist-traps like the Mall of Berlin for their outfit needs.

But where will you find the Berlin natives?

For the typical Berlin local, the best place to buy your clothes is right around the corner – and probably on the cheap. Most shop at stores in their home neighbourhoods, where local Berlin-made clothing labels are plentiful and often affordable.

There are a tonne of local Berlin brands to choose from, such as Humana at Frankfurter Tor or 24 Colours in Prenzlauer Berg. 

No matter your personal style, Berlin probably has a decent option that won’t leave you shopping with all the tourists.

Park it

Berlin locals love spending sunny days at the park – like Volkspark pictured here. Photo: DPA

On a nice weekend afternoon, the only place to find true Berlin locals is at the park. While this is not a phenomenon unique to the city, Berlin embraces park-life like no other.

Important to note, though, is that true Berliners will tell you that there favourite park is not Tiergarten – where tourist hats and selfie sticks often outnumber the trees.

The best parks to enjoy Berlin’s somewhat-fickle weather like the locals can be found all over the city – a few of our favourites include Mauerpark, Treptower Park and Volkspark Friedrichshain.

Talk the talk

Berliners are crazy about their “Pfannkuchen” and “Schrippen”- just be sure to call it by the right name. Photo: DPA

We all know that Berlin is a little different than the rest of Germany, and Berliners are quiet proud of that fact. These differences don’t just include how they dress or act, but even the words they speak. To sound like a real Berlin local, there are a few Berlin-only words you will want to keep in mind.

The famous German donut covered in powdered sugar and filled with jelly is called a “Berliner” across all of Germany- except in Berlin. Here it is called a Pfannkuchen. Go figure.

Another important word to know deals with Germany’s favourite product: bread. In most of Germany, a traditional roll of bread is called a Brötchen, but in Berlin, this bread roll is called Schrippe.

So, the next time you are hitting up your favourite Berliner Bäckerei, be sure to order your “Pfannkuchen” and “Schrippe” to sound like a Berlin native – or at least close enough.

Accept insults are a sign of good service

They may seem rude at first, curtness is actually a sign of good service in Berlin. Photo: DPA

There is something called the “Berliner Schnauzer” – the idea that the people of Berlin are just a little bit more unfriendly than in the rest of the country.

This is by no means always true, but one will notice when in Berlin that short-replies and snappy comebacks are the norm in public service. In fact, many claim this curtness to be a sign of good service.

If you want to look like a real Berliner, don’t sweat the brusque attitude – embrace it. Expect that your local barista or bus driver may come off a bit short when first interacting with you, and try to react in kind.

Now, we are not telling you to yell at the next bus driver you see, but if you meet a surly reply with a straightforward answer, you may just gain the hard-won respect of a Berlin local.

Go jump in a lake

Why leave Berlin if it's all right here? To be like a Berliner, spend your days at one of the many lakes in the area. Photo: DPA

Why leave Berlin when you can have it all right here? Any good Berliner worth their salt will tell you that they don’t want to fly to places like Majorca or Creet when they want to let loose in “Urlaub” (vacation).

The wealth of lakes in the area provide the water-filled fun without the travel, and Berliners love their lakes. Most Berlin townees have a strong opinion about which lakeside is their favourite – we will let you choose for yourself. 

The next time you have a spare few hours, Tegeler See, Lietzensee, Müggelsee and Weißensee are just a few of the wonderful day-trip choices in the Berlin area.

MUST READ: The Local's meaty vegan guide to Berlin

Currywurst like a pro…

You can't call yourself a Berliner if you don't have a strong opinion about which Currywurst stand is best. Photo: DPA

Anyone who knows Berlin knows that there are two quick-eats that reign supreme in the city’s food scene: the Currywurst and the Döner. Don’t fall prey, though, to the tourist joints that masquerade as the real deal – to find a Berliner’s favourite sausage, you will have to get to exploring.

While each Berlin swears that their Currywurstbuden (Currywurst stand) is actually the best, we have collected a few of the heavy-hitters to try when you are hoping to blend in as a Berlin local.

For currywurst, Kreuzberg’s Currywurst 36 is famous among Berlin locals, and offers quick service and even vegan currywurst. Konnopke’s Imbiss is a Prenzlauer Berg staple, and brings Berliners from across the city to enjoy its wurst and five distinct sauce options in varying degrees of heat.

For those in the Stieglitz area, Krasselt's is famous for dishing out the traditional Berlin sausage with no frills but full of flavour.

…and Döner like no other

A good kebab is not hard to come by- but to be like the Berlin locals, you have to be in search of the very best. Photo: DPA

Berlin’s Döner scene is second-to-none, something every Berliner will tell you. While you can pick up this Turkish-inspired treat in most of the U-Bahn stations, to eat like those who live in Berlin, you will want to check out the local hubs.

Near U-Bahn station Kottbusser Tor, locals recommend a stop into Tadim, where they specialize in veal kebabs oozing with flavour.

Aspendos, a Turkish fast-food restaurant in Schöneberg, serves their kebabs in homemade bread, and at Rüyam you can feast on traditional döner as well as its famous chicken variety.

Head back over to Kreuzberg, though, if you want to try Berlin’s most famous kebab stand Mustafa’s Gemüsedöner , which is loved by locals and tourists alike.

Dress to (un)impress

To really exude Berlin style, you have to throw on your sneakers and sweats. Photo: DPA

We already mentioned shopping local as a way to blend in as a native in Berlin. But what should you wear?

Many of Germany’s big cities, such as Munich and Cologne, are known for their snappy dressers and high fashion brands. Not so for your everyday Berlin local. For Berlin natives, a sweat shirt and jeans combo is often considered “evening appropriate.”

To dress like a Berliner, you’ll want to ditch those high heels and dress shirts for a night out on the town, and instead embrace the comfier side of fashion (read: t-shirt and jeans for every occasion).

There is a pretty great reason for why Berlin locals tend to dress on the casual side: The secret that every Berlin local knows is that it will take you a whle to get wherever you are going in the city, and you will probably be walking a lot of the way.

Move to the Suburbs

Many Berliners choose to live on the city outskirts, where they get to enjoy more nature and space, as seen here in Hellersdorf. Photo: DPA

When they think of Berlin, many think of iconic neighborhoods like Kreuzberg, Mitte and Charlottenburg. However, while it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, if you want to live like a Berlin local you may want to consider moving outside of Berlin’s city centre.

With rising rent prices and issues of overcrowding, many of Berlin’s natives choose to make their homes in the outskirts of Berlin’s bustling Mitte.

Neighbourhoods like Zehlendorf, Köpenick and Buch are full of Berlin locals and can give an authentic feel to the city. They also have the added bonuses of offering a variety of nature, local eating digs and other neighbourhood-focused establishments that Berlin's city centre can't boast. 

For those trying to pass as a native, living like a Berlin local may be as easy as leaving the heart of Berlin.

Beer-on-the-fly

Drinking a beer while on-the-go is a lifestyle to Berlin natives. Photo: DPA

The next time you are riding along the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Bus or regional train: take a look around and see if you can spot someone sitting quietly to themselves drinking a beer. If so, you are probably looking at a real-life Berliner.

The concept of “Wegbier”, which roughly translates to beer on-the-go, is a way of life to Berlin locals. They like to enjoy their Berliner Kindl while traversing the Berlin landscape, and have no problem with public drinking.

While in theory drinking alcohol in the underground is against the law, most Berliners seem keen on ignoring this particular rule – though the Berlin Transport Company may not agree.

So whether you are on your way home after a long day of work or meeting friends in a different part of the city, if you want to look like a local, feel free to bring your beer in toe.

READ MORE: 10 beautiful spots that show a different side of grimy Berlin

LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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