I recently stumbled across an article published already last summer, featuring the catchy headline “10 things you can do in Berlin, but not in the US“. The article listed ten things, the author wants to make you believe ‘you can do in Berlin’. At parts the article, or rather the author, appears to be so enthusiastic about the things you can do in Berlin, that it could also read ‘things you must do in Berlin‘. In other words: for somebody who knows Berlin, the article reads a bit over the top.
I had a closer look at those ten things ‘you can do‘ and I must say I’m a bit concerned. Is this the picture people have of Berlin? Is this, what tourists think of Europe? Is this, why so many people choose to travel to Berlin? I hope not.
I know – publishing business is difficult. Listicles do ‘click well’. And the more provocative an article is, the better the chances are, that the article can ‘go viral’. But still: the article is really bothering me. Not that I think, the article would not tell the truth – which in some parts it does, in other parts it doesn’t. But only because you can do something, does it mean you should?
I know – the author of the article “10 things you can do in Berlin, but not in the US” probably does not really want to encourage the reader to do all those things, while in Berlin. I suppose the article was originally written rather out of curiosity – and I must admit I think I do understand the original purpose and I share the curiosity for differences between cultures, habits, laws. There are even some things missing: drinking in public is listed. But for example smoking in bars is missing. Anyways. In the end I probably had a very similar motivation, when I started this ‘Berlin guide’ nuberlin.com: to simply point out, what you can do, when you’re in Berlin – and how things are done in Berlin in general. And what the local habits are. And – well. So far so good.
I really don’t want to be a ‘Spaßbremse‘ when I quickly go through the list, adding my opinion to each of the “things you can do”. I also don’t want to say that these are the thing ‘you must not do’ when you’re visiting Berlin. I just want to add my ‘five cents’ (“my mustard“) to the to-do-list and point out, what I think of each point. Hope you enjoy it still.
1. “Drinking in public”
Well – yes. Of course you can drink in public in Berlin. But please consider not getting drunk in public. Or at least try to behave. I even put up a hole page about this, because I think it’s quite an important subject: Drinking in Public
2. “Urinate outdoors”
What?! Well. Ok – compared to the US, maybe this is something, you can do – but should you?! I mean – would you really like the idea, of… Anyways. If it is really necessary, you may of course try to find a spot – behind a tree, in the bushes – but… Please try to avoid urinating in public. And by the way: urinating in public is not allowed in Germany! In some cities, you’ll risk a fine up to 5000 Euro! In Berlin however it’s only 20 Euro, as far as I know.
3. “Buy sex on the streets”
Excuse me?! Well. Ok – again I can just say: compared to the US, maybe this is something, you actually can do – but should you?! I don’t really want to go into details – but to me it just sounds so wrong. And it appears to me even worse to point this out in such an article in an encouraging way. Basically I find it good, that ‘sex workers’ are not criminalized for their job in Germany – but there is just so much more to this topic than just “legal vs. illegal”. There is a lot of human trafficking in Europe, young girls are promised ‘model careers’, passports are taken away, girls do risk their health for a ‘better’ life, etc. …
4. “Be naked… anywhere”
Again: What?! “Anywhere”?! Don’t! Well – again: compared to the US, the situation here probably is quite relaxed. But what does the author want to say by pointing out that “everyone is swimming naked, including entire families with kids”?! Of course, there are actually some spots, where people do go swimming naked. But when you are actually visiting Berlin please try to spot one naked person – it may be quite difficult.
5. “Reach countless other countries by train”
Yes, this is so true, especially ever since the Berlin Wall came down. You can basically book a train ticket to every and any European, or even Asian destination.
6. “Stay a student until your mid-30s without shame or judgment”
Well – true. Somehow. But without shame of judgment? I’m not so sure…
7. “Drive at 150 on a public road, legally”
Yep. Or let’s put it this way: there are still parts of the German Autobahn where you have no speed limit – but not in Berlin anymore. On some days, if there is not so much traffic and the weather conditions are fine, on these parts of the Autobahn you may actually go “as fast as possible”. But again: should you? I actually have to admit I do enjoy it myself from time to time. But please remember: driving f***ing fast it is f***ing dangerous!!
8. “Get a massage courtesy of your health insurance”
Well – if the doctor decides, that a massage would help, then you’ll get a massage. And depending on the health insurance contract you won’t have to pay for it. Of course!
9. “Evacuate due to bomb threats… from unexploded WWII bombs”
OMG yes. This is actually probably kind of unbelievable: about 60 years after the heavy bombings there are still bombs hidden underneath the city. And every now and then streets are closed, houses are evacuated, bombs are removed. Scary.
10. “Ride public transportation for free”
This is a good one. You could also claim, that you could have free lunch – if you just ate and run. But as we all know: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!
Please feel free to head over to thrillist.com and read the original article “10 things you can do in Berlin, but not in the US“. And please feel free to add a comment about this list, if you like to.