10 Ways to Understand Berlin Like a True Local


Updated on Feb 26 • 3 minute read

While there are lots of options when it comes to choosing the ideal city for your international exchange, Berlin has to be near the top of the list, and for so many reasons! Affectionately known as the “European Big Apple,” this is the perfect place to step outside of your comfort zone and really begin to explore the many possibilities that your international studies can offer.

You’ll find that Berlin is a vibrant, bustling student city, and it’s no wonder! It has become a central hub for young people who love fashion, art, music and more. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s home to such well-known learning institutions as Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Freie University of Berlin and the Technische Universität Berlin. You’ll quickly find that you’ll be in the company of a large number of international students, with many living in Berlin for the first time.

Ready to learn more? Just sit back and fill your stein to the brim with a good German beer, and then take a look at 10 tips that will surely help you discover Berlin just like a local.

1. Settle In … and You’re Off

Once you find out which neighbourhood to call home for your time in this exhilarating city, then you can begin to acclimate to its mesmerizing culture and its welcoming people. In fact, you probably can’t wait to familiarize yourself with anything and everything that make the residents of Berlin true “Berliners,” which, quite ironically, is also a tasty German pastry.

2. Drink Späti Beer

Spätkaufs is a popular chain of 24-hour convenience stores. While most cities boast something similar, the people of Berlin will swear that nothing comes quite close. This is where most Berliners go to grab inexpensive beer, especially on a warm day. If you’re trying not to imbibe, then have a Club Mate, a natural energy drink quite popular with the younger group.

However, what makes this fun store even better is that most locations offer a seating area, so you can hang out, enjoy your cold beverage and maybe even meet a few locals.

3. Grab a Bike

If you really want to explore everything that Berlin has to offer, then get around Berlin like a Berliner! This means ditching your ride and opting for a bike. You can purchase a good second hand set of wheels or even rent a bike online from several locations throughout the city. It may even save you a bit of time from sitting in traffic. Who can say no to that?

4. Shop like the Budget-Conscious

Speaking of secondhand items, Berlin is the king and queen of thrift! It’s a very popular trend in the city to purchase used, or “vintage,” as we like to call it. Don’t be shocked to see a few students throwing a free couch into the back of a truck, or others digging through rows of bins containing gently-used clothing.

Of course, you’ll also not want to miss the various flea markets, offering bargains of all kinds. The best are in Mauer Park and Boxhagener Platz.

5. Begin to Learn the Language

Most young people in Berlin will speak both German and English. But if you plan to hang around for a semester or two, you might as well start learning the language. Your university will surely offer courses, but you can also start off with learning a few phrases.

It’s also considered very polite to make an attempt to know a few words and phrases that you will use most commonly. “Danke” (thank you), “Entschuldigen Sie bitte” (excuse me) and “Sprechen Sie Englisch” (do you speak English?) are a few good ones to begin with.

6. Look for the Party

Berlin is known for its nearly infamous parties. On the weekend, and even sometimes throughout the week, you can usually follow the music to a night you won’t soon forget.

If you’re looking for bars or discos, the areas of Xberg and Friedrichshain are good places to start! One of the best is Berghain. Plus, you’ll have to find out if the rumors that people show up on Friday and leave on Sunday are true!

7. Lose the Shoes

Don’t take this too literally, as that you’re still required to wear shoes to class. However, it is a common custom to take off your footwear whenever entering someone’s home. Make sure you don't have socks with holes in them!

8. Dine on Local Cuisine

Berlin is known the world over for its unmistakable food. If you’re conjuring a vision filled with sauerkraut and sausages, you can definitely find the best in the world in Germany. Yet, Berlin has also become quite famous for the Döner kebab. In fact, Hasir on Adalberstr is known to have the absolute best.

9. Find a Festival

Berlin is home to dozens of annual festivals, with some drawing visitors from all across the globe. If you’re around for the summer, bask in the heat with the scores of other Berliners at the Karneval dur Kulturen. As the name implies, this is a culturally-diverse event, drawing in over 900,000 attendees over the course of four days.

10. Indulge at the Sauna

If you plan on visiting one of the dozens of saunas sprinkled across the region, toxins aren’t the only thing you’ll be getting rid of. The saunas in Berlin are nude, so leave your clothes at the door, ready for a new experience.

Now that you can toss out that tourist book and get to know the real Berlin, don’t you agree that it makes the perfect destination for your international studies? Be sure to check out the abundant information online, helping out with all of the things you’ll need to know when deciding to relocate to Germany, making a move simple, fun and stress-free.

Enjoy your time in Berlin!

*Remember: Berlin is not only a town … it’s a lifestyle!

Ready for your adventure?