EXPLAINED: A guide to the best international supermarkets in Berlin

EXPLAINED: A guide to the best international supermarkets in Berlin
Archive photo shows fruit from Vietnam sold at the Dong Xuan Center. Photo: Stefan Weißenborn/dpa-tmn

It was in the middle of a Rewe, of all places, where I first experienced a wave of culture shock. 

Since moving to Berlin I thought I had adapted well. I’d mastered the, at first, confusing public transport. I’d adjusted to the “Berliner Schnauze”. I’d even managed to fumble my way into a Meldebescheinigung (obligatory registration of residence). 

And yet, standing here in the tea section of a German supermarket, scanning the shelves desperately for anything resembling breakfast tea, a wave of panic hit me. 

READ ALSO: The complete German supermarket survival guide

I couldn’t have felt more un-German. 

For most of us, what we eat and drink is a huge part of our identity. A quick Google search shows that food is one of the most frequently named topics in conversations about homesickness and expat adjustment. 

Many expat sites suggest cooking home meals every now and again as a way to combat this feeling. But in German grocery shops, where spices are often limited to “Currypulver” and paprika, that’s often easier said than done. 

Even if you’re a more well-adjusted Berliner than me, you may want to know where you can get some more interesting ingredients from. While Covid-19 is still suspending a lot of travel, you can still get your culture fix with a cookbook – if you know where to get the ingredients. 

With this in mind, I’ve narrowed down a (non-exhaustive) list of the best international supermarkets in Berlin. 

Hao Cai Lei Asia Supermarket 

There are loads of great “Asia-Supermärkte” (which can mean any combination of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian and more) in Berlin. My personal favourite is Hao Cai Lei. 

This small shop just down the road from the Hermannplatz U-Bahn station boasts an impressive collection of fresh and preserved ingredients. 

There’s a comprehensive selection of Asian cooking basics, which aren’t limited to food either. They also sell steamers and other cooking utensils. 

But what sets Hao Cei Lei apart from other shops is their unrivalled choice of tofu (for fellow veggies) and a well-curated selection of traditional and contemporary East-Asian spirits and wines.

They also sell 100-year old duck eggs and other quick (and quirky) snacks. 

Note: On Google Maps, the shop comes up as “Hao-You-duo Asia Supermarket”

Karl-Marx-Strasse 15, 12043, Berlin

Centro Italia Supermercato

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There are now three of these Supermercatos in Berlin. I’ve only been to Greifswalderstraße. The other two are in Mariendorf and Charlottenburg. 

It was a good sign that everyone in it, whether staff or customer, was speaking Italian. 

The Centro Italia has a huge selection of dried pastas, and a fridge with freshly made ravioli, tortellini and gnocchi. 

While they don’t have fresh fruit and veggies or meats, they have more or less everything that can be tinned, dried or put in a jar.  

The best part of the shop, however, is their deli counter with a mouth-watering display of cheeses, hams and antipasti, as well as a little bakery section with fantastic rustic loafs. 

Another bonus is that every branch has a big car park (not a given in Berlin). 

Greifswalder Str. 80C, 10405 Berlin

Großbeerenstraße 169-171, 12277 Berlin

Sophie-Charlotten-Straße 9-10, 14059 Berlin

Zora Supermarket – Indian, Asian, African Grocery 

Zora is another smaller grocery shop in Kottbusser Tor. It’s therefore a place for African and Indian cooking basics, rather than a specialist store. 

However, the reason it’s on this list is their small but excellent fresh fruit and veg section. 

READ ALSO: Your complete guide to German supermarkets

On my visits, Zora has so far won out everytime on freshness, quality and choice. From bright green, unwrinkled okra, karela and green plantains, to ingredients that are harder to get elsewhere like cassava and green mango, Zora has you covered. 

While I haven’t tried them, their fresh sweets look promising, with a choice of Jalebi, cham, gulab or laddu. 

Zora is also irresistibly affordable. 

Kottbusser Damm 93, 10967 Berlin

Broken English 

Broken English has faced some challenges since Brexit came into force. However, in keeping with the British character, they deal with it through light grumbling and sarcasm on an entertaining Facebook page

British products are displayed at Broken English in this archive photo from 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Gregor Fischer

While it’s not the cheapest (Brexit probably plays a role in this), they have a great selection of UK products – from scone batter to Scottish shortbread and, significantly, English breakfast tea. 

They even sell some fresh and frozen produce, like cheeses, hams and Linda McCartney’s veggie sausages (praise the Lord). 

And for the Scots, there’s even Irn Bru (if you know, you know).

Arndtstraße 29, 10965 Berlin

Turkish Market 

It’s basically impossible to pick a favourite Turkish grocery shop in Berlin. I live in Neukölln and tend to just go for my local (a whole thirty seconds away from my front door). 

That said, the Turkish Market on Maybachufer does have a special place in my heart. It’s relatively large, and so has a big selection of more specialised ingredients. 

It also has one of the biggest bakery sections I have seen so far. 

Even better: there’s an entire aisle for herbs and spices, so it’s my go-to shop whenever I’m looking for lesser-known components in recipes. 

Another advantage is that they’re right next to the Neuköllner Wochenmarkt, an open-air food market along the canal where you can buy fresh veg, or delicious food-to-go. 

Maybachufer 1 13, 10999 Berlin

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Other great shops: 

Chili & Paprika – a Mexican supermarket in Danziger Straße: one of the more affordable and comprehensive South American supermarkets in Berlin 

L’epicerie – a gourmet French shop near Mauerpark: it’s definitely on the pricey side but offers some fantastic looking luxury patês and wines

Mitte Meer – a relatively affordable supermarket for all things Mediterranean, with three locations in Berlin  

Dong Xuan Center – Germany’s biggest and most famous Vietnamese supermarket. As well as a grocery store, it boasts a big general goods market and a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant and bar.

US-Shop Berlin Any Americans missing mac and cheese or pop tarts will be relieved to stumble upon this one-stop shop, conveniently centrally situated near Tempelhof.

Superiberico – This hidden gem on Markgrafenstrasse sells more than Iberico ham: it’s Germany’s largest selection of Spanish and Latin American groceries, including a comprehensive wine section!
Thai Park – Though this is actually a street food market and not a supermarket, we thought it was worth a mention. Alongside the mouth-watering authentic snacks on offer, there are also some stalls that sell fresh ingredients, especially fruit and veg that are harder to get elsewhere. 

Member comments

  1. Hey guys, there is also a great Irish/British shop at Gaudystraße 20, 10437 Berlin called Dalriata! If anyone is looking for Barry’s tea or clonakilty rashers, sausages and black pudding, would highly recommend!

  2. There’s also a well-stocked Asienmarkt right outside Seestraße U-Bahn station in Wedding. It’s worth checking out.

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‘Lack of diversity is a problem’: What it’s like to work at a Berlin tech startup

Many foreigners dream of finding a job in Germany's growing startup scene. But aside from promises of free pizza, what's the culture like, is the pay good - and do you need to speak German? We spoke to two foreigners working at tech startups in Berlin to find out.

'Lack of diversity is a problem': What it's like to work at a Berlin tech startup

With over €5.1 billion in venture capital fund investments raised last year, the startup industry in Germany’s capital is booming. Startups are the fastest-growing job sector in Berlin, and more than 78,000 people are now employed in the sector.

The sector attracts highly qualified, ambitious people from all over the globe. But what is it really like to work for a Berlin startup?

We spoke to two insiders to find out. Gabriela, 36, is originally from Poland and has been a Business-to-Business Manager in a tech startup in Berlin since October last year. Giuseppe, also 36, is originally from Italy and has been working as a Human Resources Manager in various tech startups for the last seven years. 

Most important question first – do you actually get free pizza and office table tennis?

Giuseppe: These kinds of benefits have become a bit of a cliche that doesn’t really reflect the reality anymore. Yoga, soft drinks, and fruit baskets are nothing special. The real benefits are now to do with remote working and flexible working schedules. 

Gabriela: We haven’t really had many of these kinds of ‘incentives’ because we’ve been mainly working from home since I started. Only in the last month or so we’ve been going to the office at least once a week, and we do get free pizza and drinks once a month when the CEO’s give us their monthly update on how the business is going.

READ ALSO: The German regions attracting startups

Would you say that your work environment is diverse?

Gabriela: My team is a complete mix of people from different European countries. But the number of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) people on board is not very high and there is definitely a problem with the lack of female leadership, which the company is trying to address. The CEOs are all white Germans.

Giuseppe: (Lack of) diversity is still a big problem. Most of the CEOs and the highest earners are white – usually German – guys. Women and BAME people tend to occupy lower-paid jobs. It’s a systemic issue – and there is competition among a lot of startups that are trying to show who is more diverse. 

How much German is spoken in your company?

Gabriela: Hardly any. We speak all the time in English with each other and all of our meetings are in English.

Giuseppe: It’s the same with us. I’m hearing German less and less. 

READ ALSO: How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Is there anything then that indicates that the company you’re working for is German?

Gabriela: I think the presence of a strong labour law reminds you that you’re in Germany. In our company, there’s an employees representation group and certain clear rules. You know that you won’t be suddenly dismissed once you’ve passed your probation time.

Giuseppe: Yes, the labour law is what I would point to. It’s not easy to get rid of employees in Germany – there is a more robust framework that affects the environment and culture. 

What is the salary like?

Gabriela: I think it’s competitive. My company does salary benchmarking every summer to see what the standard is across the industry and adjusts its pay accordingly.

Giuseppe: Salaries have gone up a lot in the last few years and you could even say they are booming now. A ‘normal’ engineer can expect to earn at least €85,000 per year, and if you are in a serious leadership position, you can expect to earn up to €180,000.

READ ALSO: Do internationals face discrimination in the workplace

A woman working from home throws money in the air. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

Would you say that it’s a high-pressure environment to work in?

Gabriela: For me, there isn’t the kind of pressure that if you don’t perform you won’t get the money you should be getting. Instead, my company is trying to get you to think that your own success is intertwined with the success of the company. There are good incentives to work hard and we have also a certain amount of shares in the company, so if it does well we benefit too.

Giuseppe: I personally feel pressure, but I love what I do, so for me it’s fine. But I have seen a lot of cases of people burning out – especially young people. I think because there are a lot of young managers, who get into leadership roles without having the tools or strength to resist the pressure.

How do you find the work-life balance? 

Giuseppe: I feel like I’m working all the time, but again, that’s because I love my job and I want to, it’s not necessarily the expectation, it’s not like in the US. In Berlin tech startups, there is a tendency to slow down around 6pm.

Gabriela: For me, the work-life balance compared to previous jobs is very good. Telecommuting is great, there are flexible starting times and last-minute holiday requests are usually approved. I think it’s very good for people with children and more complex schedules. 

How many days holiday do you get?

Gabriela: We get 28 days holiday per year.

Giuseppe: We get between 23 and 30 days holiday per year, depending on how long you’ve been working in the company.

What are the career progression opportunities like?

Gabriela: Very dynamic. For myself, I don’t see a clear career path at the moment, but I see a lot of movement happening and people moving to different roles. There is a feeling of being in a constant state of change. 

Giuseppe: If you join a startup at the right time, you can very easily become a manager very quickly.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to boost your career chances in Germany

What was different about working for a Berlin start-up than you expected?

Gabriela: I thought that working from home would be easier, because I hadn’t done that much before, but I find it much harder to be engaged than I expected. I think a lot of startups (in Berlin) are struggling now to find the right balance between the competing interests of their employees – some of whom want to be fully remote and others who want to come more regularly to the office.

Giuseppe: Before I started working for tech startups I had this romantic image that they were all led by geniuses with big ideas who started in their garages. But in reality, I’ve found this emotional, big-dreaming side to be lacking. There are a lot of people who work for startups who just see it like any other job.

A work team exchanging ideas with notes on a whiteboard.

A work team exchanging ideas with notes on a whiteboard. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

What are the best things about working for a Berlin tech start-up?

Giuseppe: You can make an impact with what you do, to build a product and say it’s mine. There is also creativity and freshness in the team dynamics. I was deeply unhappy in the years I spent working for big corporations because I didn’t know what the goal was. In startups, the objectives are clear.

Gabriela: You can grow with the company, and there are a lot of positions opening all the time, and it’s very common for startups to promote internal talent.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German regions attracting startups

What are the worst things about working for a Berlin tech start-up?

Gabriela: Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the pace of change. It sometimes feels like we are constantly onboarding new people or people are changing roles and there is a slightly chaotic feel to things. The buzzword “agility” is used and abused, and sometimes means staff is expected to go along with anything and everything.

Giuseppe: In the tech start-up world here there seem to be a lot of people who get into the top jobs because they speak a lot, not necessarily because they are the most competent. There is a lot of networking and self-promotion required to push yourself forward. It’s also not a good environment for people who don’t like change, because things change a lot. 

Do you think Berlin is a good place for foreigners to work?

Gabriela: Yes, definitely. You have a lot of choice when it comes to places to work – so it’s unlikely you’ll have to stick at a job which
you don’t like. It’s also a big help for foreigners that most startups in Berlin don’t require German language skills.

Giuseppe: Definitely. For me, the mix of cultures and ideas in the workplace is really inspiring and motivating. And, of course, the city of Berlin itself is full of cultural events and has a great night life – so it’s a great place to live for when you want to detach from work too.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about joining a tech start-up in Berlin?

Giuseppe: Try to develop an entrepreneurial mindset instead of an employee mindset as soon as possible. Always look for opportunities, don’t take things personally, don’t think about what happened yesterday, and focus on the now. 

Gabriela: Be open-minded and be prepared for change.