You know when an important date comes, you get all emotional, and you start thinking about everything that happens? This post is about this. We have been living in Berlin for a thousand days now, and it’s time to think about all these days we spent in this beautiful city we like to call home.
It is weird to think that 1000 days ago, we were arriving in our little-rented apartment on Warschauer Strasse, thinking about how it would be to live in Berlin. Little did we know how unprepared we were for the move we decided to make together.
But this wasn’t the only radical change we decided to do back at the beginning of 2012. A few months before moving to Berlin, we married and decided to live together for the first time. Imagine how weird it must be for a recently married couple to move together in a city where they don’t know anything and don’t even speak the language. If we survived these first few months, we could survive anything.
During these first 1000 days living in Berlin, we learned a lot about Berlin, Germany, and the Germans living here. Those are our opinions, and Germany has several other great cities with great people who might have a different experience than we do.
Today, we will try to condense most of what we learned in this 25-item list. It will be a tricky thing to do, but somebody has to do it.
The 25 things we learned living in Berlin.
Berlin is a temporary stop for lots of people. We learned this by saying goodbye to many extraordinary people who came and went away during our stay here. Maybe this is why we feel like an old-school Berlin couple when we compare ourselves to most people we know here.
If you pay attention while walking on Museum Island and the surrounding areas, you will see bullet holes in the walls. These were done over 70 years ago during the Second World War; they’re still there.
There is no way you’ll live in Berlin without loving dogs. You can see them waiting in front of supermarkets; you can see them on the bus; you can see them even in a bar. Dogs are everywhere here.
Germans cannot live without their rules and their bureaucracy, even when it is pretty clear that it doesn’t work or that it doesn’t make any sense. When we first arrived in Berlin, we struggled for quite a long time with the endless circle of papers and registrations we had to make for everything. Sometimes, it’s easier to find a professional! Right now, we have learned to avoid fighting the system and go with it. Not because it works but because we don’t want any more headaches.
Have you ever sent an e-mail to a company and received a reply by letter a few days later saying that they got your e-mail? We have, and we are still wondering why it happened.
The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, but the country is still split. We met people here in Berlin who said that Alexanderplatz is not the center of their city. Another guy said he would never live in Munich because that is not his country. We even heard discussions about holiday names.
Our first visit to a supermarket in Berlin was a weird experience. Germans like dairy products, which is shown in endless variations of everything they can. Also, you’ll shop between endless variations of bread, yogurt, and everything related to the pig. And don’t even let me start with how fast the cashiers can be.
The people here tend to take care of their own business in a way that might be too much sometimes. It is good to walk around dressed up like a crazy person, and nobody cares what you are wearing. But it is not good when something happens to you, and nobody helps you.
It is Sunday, and you want to buy something at a supermarket. Maybe buy milk. We have to say that you are up for an experience since everything is closed on Sundays. Everything? Yes, everything except, maybe, five supermarkets in Berlin. Why? Sunday is a day to rest.
For many people, the weekend starts after lunch on a Friday afternoon. The work for the week has been done, and it is time to enjoy life. But don’t think they are just skipping work. No, Germans are the most productive people we have ever worked with. So much so that it seems crazy sometimes.
Don’t forget to bring money with you if you are going out. Most restaurants, cafés, and bars don’t accept anything besides cash. Don’t try to find a way of fighting this; you will not win.
We don’t know about you, but our history lessons in Brazil never told us the real story about what happened in Berlin over the last hundred years. Living here taught us more about the world’s recent history than most classes we had back in school.
We learned that if you want something well done, you must do it yourself. Germans like to do things themselves. And they are proud of that. They love these huge hardware stores built to have everything you need to fix or create your own house. And every one of those big hardware stores needs to have currywurst stand in front of it.
Have you ever visited an art opening when an old naked guy walks in? It happened to us, and we were the only ones bothered by that. It appears that Berlin is more comfortable with nudity than Brazil, and that thought is kind of weird for us. The buff can also happen in the subway in the park.
Germans have a bizarre sense of humor that needs to be studied further. It might be something with the way that the language goes. It might be the cultural background of the country. Whatever it is, Germans have a weird sense of humor that might be considered funny to some people. Not to us. It happens. Sorry about that.
We never cared about chocolate before moving to Berlin. But, nowadays, we embrace their love for cake, biscuits, and everything else that might be sweet.
In Berlin, it is cheaper to buy a beer bottle than a bottle of water. With this in mind, you must understand that people seem to know how to drink around here.
We used to get easily offended by how straightforward the people here in Berlin can be when talking to us. Germans seem to have no time for any amenities when telling the truth. They are frank in a way that might seem harsh, but this is how they do it. If you want to cut the crap and listen to the truth, talk to somebody in Berlin, and they will tell you everything you never heard before. They could develop a service for this.
Germans seem to have no problem in staring people right into their souls. And they do this in a way that is not rude, just weird. Their look is piercing and inquisitive, making you wonder if you have something wrong with what you are wearing. After a while, you learn to stare back and create these weird staring games on the S-Bahn.
We still don’t understand why everybody here seems to enjoy mixing drinks. They mix cola with an orange soft drink, Sprite with beer, and apple juice with sparkling water, and they love it. We still don’t understand its reason even though we heard hundreds of explanations about why this is much better than regular drinks.
Garbage is something serious here. Everything you throw away must be neatly organized in a properly recycled bin. Every bottle will be recycled once you go to the supermarket and receive some coins. You can see some guy pushing a supermarket cart collecting bottles to be recycled for some serious money during large gatherings of people.
German Popular music is called Schlager, and everybody says they hate it. But people in Berlin know every song, every singer, and they seem to enjoy singing it when they are drunk. Schlager sounds like the seventies never ended, and we say this.
Do you have a bottle opener on your keychain? Throw it away! In Berlin, you open a bottle with anything. A lighter, a key, a banana, the couch… Sometimes, they even use another bottle to open a bottle. You will learn how to do it.
They take their online privacy seriously. Most people we know here use fake names on Facebook, and we are aware of a few who even refuse to join the service.
Mark Twain wasn’t lying about the German language when he said: “I don’t believe there is anything in the whole earth that you can’t learn in Berlin except the German language.” We sure learned a lot during these 1000 days here in Berlin. But we still need to learn German.
As you can see, we learned a lot about Germans, Berlin, Germany, and ourselves while living here. We learned even more about ourselves during this time. We look forward to seeing what the next thousand days will bring us.