The 15 Worst Decisions You Can Make in Berlin

You’ve already made a pretty good decision by coming to Berlin, but if you don’t get familiar with your terrain, that’s where it’s going to end. Sure, you already know not to look too luxe if you’re in line for Berghain, not to ride the U-Bahn without a ticket on the first of the month when they’re all checking, and not to buy a new bike without getting a lock that’s twice as expensive as the bike -- but here are some other little secrets you simply have to learn by being here long enough...

1. Expecting to get anywhere quickly on the U2

Those five stops on the U2 between Stadtmitte and Alexanderplatz have been alternately referred to as “The Gauntlet,” “The Black Hole,” and “The No Man’s Land of Who the Hell Gets Off There??!”

2. Expecting to “duck in” to one of the few open supermarkets on a Sunday

Those supermarkets in train stations that miraculously stay open on a Sunday? Great idea in theory, but the problem is, literally everyone else knows about them too.

3. Going out before midnight on a weekend

Temper that enthusiasm a little, have a few more rounds at your local kneipe, and wait until at least midnight, if not later. Otherwise, you may find that the club is completely empty, the DJ hasn’t yet arrived, and the bartender would like to do his first shots/lines of the night in peace, thank you.

4. Trying to pay with a credit card

Don’t have cash? Oh, you’ll be just fine... as long as you don’t expect to shop at a grocery store, eat at a restaurant, buy a cup of coffee, or ride the U-Bahn anytime soon. Be prepared to high-tail it to the nearest ATM. Oh and about those ATMs... 

5. Expecting you’ll be able to find an ATM anywhere when you need one

With the exception of some particularly sketchy locations that you probably wouldn’t want to use anyway, you’ll only be able to get money out at your own bank. And your bank may only have three branches in the city.

6. Going to Mauerpark on a Sunday

If you've been there once, you've been there as many times as you'll ever need to go. 

7. Not bringing an umbrella with you, even on the most gorgeous summer day

In the space of one summer day you could go through all four seasons, and the last thing you want is to be stuck on your bike with no shelter when the first thunderstorm of the day hits. And yes, we mean the first.

8. Trying to get around the city in winter without Everest-level gear

This has been less true in recent years, as Berlin may be heating up along with the rest of the planet, but there are still those winter days when it snows and sleets and then rains immediately, creating sheets of ice several inches thick that coat the entire sidewalk. 

9. Going to Alexanderplatz for any reason

Sure, at the beginning you’ll want to go to say you went, but after a while you’ll view Alexanderplatz the way New Yorkers see Times Square: a hideous tourist trap best avoided even when transferring between U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines.

10. Thinking the West is boring

If you’ve spent all your time in Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, and Friedrichshain, you’d be forgiven for making assumptions about the West. If you’ve only explored Kreuzberg and Neukölln, though, the joke’s on you, because that is the West already! It's getting better all the time, and anyway, no one goes to the East anymore; it’s too crowded.

11. Visiting the “Oktoberfest” tents

Maybe you found yourself in Berlin in mid-September, and realized you were so close and yet so far from the Oktoberfest revelry in Southern Germany. Maybe you were planning on going to Munich all along and took a wrong turn somewhere. Whatever the reason, you’re in Berlin now, and Berliners do not like to be taken for Bavarians. The shabby-looking tents set up at major tourist locations like the square in front of Hauptbahnhof and Alexanderplatz are meant to lure in the most clueless of tourists and get them to spend a fortune on beer just because it’s served by women in dirndls.

12. Relying on the BVG to actually work

When the lovely people at the BVG decide to ruin your week, they really know how to do it, and according to all available evidence, it seems to be a hobby of theirs.

13. Biking through a red light on Unter den Linden

See those cops on bikes? When they first overtake you, with the word “Polizei” scrawled across the backs of their T-shirts, your first thought may be, “Oh, look how cute! Policemen on bikes!” Your second thought, as they cut you off, demand to see your ID, and ask you if know what you did wrong, will be, “Oh scheisse.” 

14. Expecting to be treated on your birthday

Here in Germany, your birthday is apparently opposite day, and that means you’re expected to treat everyone else. Don’t even think of showing up at work, or anywhere in public, without a cake and a bottle of Sekt to pass around. And if you’re planning on gathering a group to go out to dinner, just make sure it’s a currywurst stand, because you’re the one who’s going to be paying. For everyone.

15. Making that joke about JFK and the donut

“Ich bin ein Berliner” really does just mean “I am a Berliner” here, not “I am a jelly donut.” Also, it's not funny.