10 Ways to become a Berlin local as an Expat


Updated on Feb 28 • 3 minute read

Berlin's vibrant character with it's relatively cheap cost of living, high quality of life, and big expat community compels thousands of foreigners to move to Berlin each year. But how do you minimise culture shock and become a seasoned local who knows all the ins and outs of living in Berlin? Here're 10 tips that'll help you feel like a Berlin local.

1. Pick a non-touristy neighbourhood

Don't fall into the trap of renting an accommodation in Berlin that's in a toursity and expensive district. Instead, spend some time to get to know the districts of Berlin to find a neighbourhood that's perfect for you.

To become a true Berliner, head to the second hand stores for furniture items. This will give your rental the local touch that you're after. Adding second hand furniture is common as most apartments in Germany do not come with furniture. And if they do, they're very expensive.

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 dont want to drink alcohol, then have a Club Mate –— a natural energy drink quite popular with the younger group.

What makes Spätkaufs even better is that most locations offer a seating area where 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 bike —— with a strong lock —— 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 items. Don’t be shocked to see someone 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. Learn German

Most young people in Berlin will speak both German and English. But if you plan to stay for a while, you might as well start learning German. It’s considered polite to make an attempt by using a few words and phrases that you'll use frequently. “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 so infamous for its nightlife that people from around the globe come to party here.

The city almost never sleeps and on the weekend and throughout the week you'll find plenty of bars or clubs, especially in the areas of Xberg and Friedrichshain.

Since you're in the city, take your time to really experienceBerlin's nightlife, which almost feels like a sub-culture or religion.

7. Lose the shoes

Don’t take this too literally, but it's a common custom in Germany 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 4 days.

10. Embrace the local sauna culture

If you plan on visiting one of the saunas sprinkled across the city, 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.

Now that you know some ways to become a local in Berlin, find out the 7 things to know before moving to Berlin to make your move simple, fun and stress-free.

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