Cultural Customs in Berlin
What to do?
Watch your step!
Berlin is dog-friendly, with around 100,000 dogs registered in the city and plenty of parks and spaces for them to enjoy. It’s also not uncommon to see a local bringing their best friend into one of Berlin’s many bars and cafes or traveling with them on the U-Bahn.
Despite this, Berliners still haven’t got the hang of picking up after their pets and thus many sidewalks are littered with dog shit. So watch your step!
Dress as you feel!
You’d be forgiven for coming to Berlin and thinking the city was in mourning, with the local’s cold expressions and dressed head to toe in black. Fashion isn’t taken too seriously here in the city, and if you want to avoid looking the tourist then the golden rule, or black as the case may be, is to dress down not up! This applies even more so if you plan on going clubbing. High heels might be needed where you’re from but if you’re wearing them in line to one of Berlin’s clubs you’ll find yourself embarrassingly rejected rather quickly
Take a grocery bag shopping!
Germany is one of the leaders when it comes to recycling so you’re not going to be offered any plastic bags at your local supermarket check out. Furthermore, don’t expect your supermarket attendant to nicely pack your shopping. Instead, they’ll slide it down and you’ll need to pack it yourself and what’s more, you’ll need to be quick! There’s nothing worse than a weary line of locals staring you down as you’re fumbling trying to pick up all your shopping. So make sure you have that bag with you!
Keep your noise level down!
Nothing grinds a Berliner’s gears more than loud drunk tourists in the streets or on the trains. Whilst the locals sure know how to party, they also know that there is a time and a place, and the streets and transport are not among them! Germans can be a reserved lot and unless you want a mouthful of abuse or a bucket of water poured on you from above (it happens, and it’s no fun in winter!) remember to keep your noise level down!
Whilst the guide books may differ in their opinion, locals in Berlin do maintain a culture of tipping. For many servers living on minimum wage, tips make a substantial contribution to their incomes. If you’re in a bar consider rounding up the price of your drink or dropping an extra euro or two on a larger order. If you’re ever in doubt at a restaurant, %10 is often a good rule to follow.
What not to do?
Don’t get too quickly offended!
Berliners are famous for many things but warmth and kindness are not among them. Tourists often get quite a shock with the manner in which they’re addressed. So much so that there’s even a famous German term to describe Berliners attitude: Berliner Schnauze, Literally Berliner’s snout. Small talk isn’t a thing here in Berlin, don’t be offended if people cram next to you on the train without apologies, or if you’re ignored when trying to spark conversation with whoever is waiting at the bus stop with you. After some time in the German capital, you’ll come to realise that this attitude isn’t so much rude as it is sincere. Berliners say what they mean and mean what they say!
Don’t walk in the bike lanes!
Berlin is a very bike-friendly city, with most of the center having a bike lane separated from the road and running along the footpath. This will be marked in paint, although can be easily missed by those new to the city. Make sure you keep your eye out and steer clear because if you don’t the locals are known to speed up, not slow down, to prove a point!
Don’t snap away willy nilly!
For most tourists, a holiday isn’t complete without a healthy collection of happy snaps to return home with. Whilst we encourage you to take as many photos of this beautiful city during your stay as you can, be careful of who you photograph. Privacy is taken seriously by many of the locals and they don’t like being photographed by strangers without permission. Also, don’t be taken aback if a club asks you to cover the camera of your phone with a sticker, this is a common practice as photography is not allowed in many of Berlin’s clubs and in some, you can’t take a phone in at all! Furthermore, you’ll notice that there are no public surveillance cameras on the streets of Berlin. And there’s a very good reason as to why! A lot of this stems from the existence of the secret police force (the STASI) in the eastern GDR.
Don’t expect to be able to pay with card!
Paying with card may be common practice in cities across the world now but it isn’t yet in Berlin. Whilst many businesses are now beginning to offer the option you’ll still need to make sure you have cash if you plan on visiting any local cafes, restaurants, bars or clubs. It can shock newcomers to watch locals pay for a week’s worth of grocery shopping in cash down to the very last cent!