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A French Girl in Berlin: 7 things you should know

on December 15, 2012
brandenburg-gate-at-night

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

So, you’ve  just arrived in this great city! Now all you have to do is erase those cliches about Germany, about the German language and everything you’ve ever heard about Germany (which, let’s face it only comes from World War 2 history and a few films on Hitler and his rise to power) and there are seven things you absolutely need to know.

1) In Berlin, no Jaywalking

berlin-ampelmannchenThat I think is the only thing that actually drove me INSANE in Berlin. Berliners never cross the street unless it is their turn. Who does that? Certainly not Parisians: Jaywalking is a lifestyle in Paris. It’s in our blood. If you cross when it’s your turn, you can’t possibly be anything else but a Martian.

But not Berliners, no, no, no. Even when there isn’t a car in sight! Berlin pedestrians always follow that simple rule. Red light you stop, green light you walk.

Well, I’m French so of course I jaywalked. Until I realized  everyone was gawking at me not just because I jaywalked with style. That wasn’t it. I was breaking one of the most fundamental rules in Berlin. You’d think that would stop me?

Well, it didn’t and I had one mission in mind during my stay in Berlin. I was determined to teach this wonderful, centuries old people to Jaywalk.

And guess what?

It WORKED.

Just kidding.

It didn’t work and I just stopped jaywalking while in Berlin. Because when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

2) Berlin is a city full of culture

And I say this knowing that Paris is the capital of culture. But Berlin is a cultural wonder. There’s culture for everyone!

We Parisians have the Mona Lisa, they have Nefertiti’s bust. It is one of the most beautiful sculptures I’ve ever seen and people come from all over the world to see this incredible, 3000 year old very well preserved queen.

230px-Nofretete_Neues_Museum

Nefertiti’s bust at the Neues Museum in Berlin

We have the Eiffel Tower, they have the TV Tower which is pretty cool. But Eiffel Tower trumps TV Tower (sorry or as they  say Entschuldigung)

We have old history  but they have loads of recent history that you can learn all about if you join one of the multitude of tours: Berliners aren’t afraid to talk about the darkest periods of their history: the Nazi era aka the 3rd Reich, the Cold War and the Wall, etc.

We have the Versailles Castle they’ve got the Charlottenburg Palace.

We have the Arc de Triomphe, they have the Brandenburg Gate.

But most importantly, Berlin is the place in the WORLD to learn about street art. Street art is cool. It is beyond cool. It’s beautiful, and dangerous and expressive. It is the voice of today’s generation and shouldn’t be scorned with a derisive shrug. I didn’t know that much about street art. I sometimes admired some pieces in Paris. But going to Berlin was a revelation for me.

Street art rocks!

By-blu-in-BerlinKreuzberg

3) The guys are really nice but not that hot (sorry, you’re in Berlin not Rome)

Of course, this is an important question whenever you travel. Don’t roll your eyes, we all think about this.

Rome is known for having handsome men. Si, si, signora that is true. Paris has the most romantic men. England is supposed to be full of distinguished men.

But what about Berlin?

I guess I can say they have the kindest men but that’s about it. Don’t think you’ll find Prince Charming in Berlin because I am warning you girl (or guy), you will most definitely be disappointed.

4) Everybody is multilingual

400_F_34399851_uhjkOfxQ17xJqAHeKw3SAryfHWatyW2jI am not kidding here, people. Berliners have a great school system and it shows.

I’ve studied German in school and was so happy at the thought of practicing a language that I love. Ha! The illusion didn’t last til about five minutes after I got off the plane. No, no, no, it isn’t just in airports. That’s what I thought at first.

But I was looking for the Parliament and proudly asked for directions in a German that I thought was close to perfection. I guess my accent wasn’t as great as I thought it was because the kind lady asked me if I wanted her to speak French or English! She spoke three languages and asked me which one I preferred as if I was ordering a language off a menu. Would you like some French with your fries, Miss?

I was stunned.

And it wasn’t only her.

Berliners are geniuses.

5) Berliners are polite

Berliners are kind, answer your questions, and never enter the subway before the passengers getting off  are  actually out. Even at the risk of having the doors close in front of them.

That is another great difference with Paris. I’m sure you all know that Parisians have a reputation for being rude. They never, ever have the time to help you find your way in the maze that is our subway system, they blow you off if you ask for help, and they never EVER wait for everyone to get off the train before starting to enter! What???? Missing that train just because people are too slow to get down? Not an option! Especially when you know that the next train might be THE one that has a technical problem and will stay stuck twenty minutes on the tracks.

Berliners are patient and polite.  And it’s not new. Back when they are in the middle of a revolution about to tear down the Berlin Wall in 1989, they filed, obediently in nice little lines in front of the wall, waiting to cross that barrier one by one.

Now, you know how us French do a revolution. It’s something that looks a little like this:

Eugène_Delacroix,_La_liberté_guidant_le_peuple

To  each its own.

6) The food is amazing

Don’t even think of dieting when going to Berlin. That will have to wait.

The German gastronomy is full of delicious sausages (sorry vegans), and many other wonderful things. Don’t say no to the currywurst. It will change your life.

christkindlmarket2012currywurst

7) Going to the restroom for free is a myth… even in restaurants

Toilet-sign

Nobody thinks of these basic things when they are about to travel.

But trust me it’s important.

You’d better have 50 cents on you at all times while visiting, or dining or walking. Even when you’ve paid the entrance fee for that museum, or paid the price for a good meal, you will still need to pay those extra 50 cents to go to the bathroom.

And believe me, after hours of visiting that beautiful city  while gorging down gallons of  Glühwein, you’d better have those 50 cents at arm’s length.

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3 responses to “A French Girl in Berlin: 7 things you should know

  1. Anonymous says:

    Osom, vielen dank. Really helps.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Interesting and witty article; thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. annaadams333 says:

    Thanks! I love Berlin. It was an awesome trip 🙂

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