Berlin Culture

How to Act Like a Berliner


 
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Don’t Walk in the Bike Lane

Berlin may not have the same hustle and bustle as NYC, but the bikers are the same. In Germany, pretty much everyone follows the rules of the road. So try not to stand in the bike lane, unless you enjoy bikers ringing their bells at you.

Street-Crossing Etiquette

You might think it’s ridiculous to wait at the crosswalk when there are no cars for miles, but if you cross on red a mother might glare at you (or reproach you) for setting a bad example for her child (no really, it's happened to all of us). If there’s kids around, just wait for the green running man.

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Complimentary Water (or lack thereof)

Unfortunately all that free H2O  is not a thing in German cafes and restaurants (neither are refills, sadly). You might get the evil eye if you try to just order free tap water – it is more polite to order bottled still or sparkling water, which yes, often costs more than the house beer. So use it as an excuse to try all kinds of new German beers while you’re here!

 

 
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Public Transportation Etiquette

Berlin is more relaxed than other German cities when it comes to acceptable behavior on public transport. Especially on the weekend, subway cars can have the feel of a pre-game dorm room. While drinking onboard public transport is tolerated (though technically not allowed), just be mindful of others. On weekdays, public transport is typically pretty quiet and passengers keep to themselves. Some cars have special seating for priority passengers, so be kind if you realize someone might need the seat more than you do. And reserve designated stroller/bike space for any passenger who may need it, they’ll appreciate it!

Seat Yourself

Most cafes abide by a self-seating policy, so just head on in and grab an open table. Don’t worry if the waiter doesn’t come immediately – the service culture is a little more laid-back in Berlin and waiters don’t check on you every few minutes. Don’t be afraid to wave to them if you’d like to order or pay!

 
 
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Public Drinking

Yes, it is allowed! And nothing is better than taking a few beers, a picnic blanket and a frisbee to the park with friends on good weather days. Technically it’s not allowed on the trains, but people do it. Just be respectful while having fun, and you won’t have a problem!

 
 
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Guard Your Pockets

Berlin is a very safe city, but some tourist areas do experience high levels of petty theft. Just make sure you are aware of your belongings and always keep your bag in front of you (fanny packs are cool) and your phone out of back pockets.

 

Small Talk

Berliners aren’t trying to be rude, but small talk just isn’t a common practice. Neither is smiling at a stranger on the street or on the U-Bahn. And if you really want to pet somebody’s dog, just ask politely first! Don’t worry though – we love small talk and friendly chatting in the office, and you can always pet our furry office pal, Piefke!

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Pfand/Recycling

Germans are big fans of sorting the trash – so to be like the Berliners, pay attention to the proper bins for paper, packaging, food waste or general waste. And don’t throw that plastic or glass bottle away before checking if you get some “Pfand”, or money back, by returning it to a grocery store! The cashback amount is listed on the label, if it is returnable.