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10 things you should know before going to Berlin

Berlin, Berlin…What can we say about you? To explain it to Americans is to say it is a mix of New York and Washington. It is both a haven for policy wonks and government interns, but also stays up all night and attracts those searching to live an alternative lifestyle. So before you go, here’s what you should know about Germany’s capital.

Carnival of cultures

By any standard, Berlin is an international city. Its population, albeit ever transient, is made up of 13% people of a non-German background. In fact, Berlin has the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey! Much like New York, Berlin’s collection of cultures is reflected in their food offerings—with Turkish, Japanese, and Greek food as commonly found as traditionally German restaurants.

Berlin wasn’t always the capital

Bonn was the capital of West Germany previous to the fall of the wall. Berlin became the official capital of a reunified Germany in 1990.

Free Museum Day

Photo: picture alliance

Museums in Berlin are impressive but expensive. It feels like you have to really know you want to see it or spend your entire day there to justify the entrance fee. But on one magical day of the year, called the Long Night of Museums, more than 80 museums and cultural institutions open their doors from 6pm to 2am. It. Is. Great.

Coloring outside of the lines

Germans, compared to Americans, are not known for always drawing outside of the lines. But in Berlin, breaking norms IS the norm. With pop-up art galleries, drum circles, and vintage clothes sales across the city, Berlin is undeniably non-conformist.

Berlin comes with its own catchphrase

“Arm aber sexy” or “Poor but sexy” is the unofficial slogan of the capital city.

World’s craziest nightlife

Photo: Jens Kalaene/dpa

Do you ever see scenes of night clubs in shows and think “that can’t actually exist”? It probably does in the techno capital—Berlin! Most people wouldn’t think to hit the club before midnight and dancing can even go on for 48 hours. They are quirky too—with some whose “best nights” are, of all days, on Sundays (looking at you Berghain). Basically whatever type of party atmosphere you’re looking for has to be here.

Vegan capital

Do you imagine Germans as downing bratwurst for every meal? In Berlin, those sausages are most likely meat-less. With over 50 exclusively vegan eateries in the city and an estimated 80,000 vegans estimated to be living in the Hauptstadt , the plant-based diet is becoming less of a hassle and ever more trendy among young, environmentally conscious Germans.

Nearly half of Berlin is under your feet

Between bunkers, tunnels, sewers, the metro…though the underground in Berlin isn’t necessarily “meant to be explored” like Helsinki’s shopping malls or walkways, they do give a fascinating and necessary glance into the city’s past.

Back to school

Photo: Uwe Anspach/dpa

There are around 175,000 students attending professional or technical colleges in Berlin. The three largest universities—Humbolt, Freie, and TU, account for 100,000 of those.

It’s accent is pretty distinctive

Berlinerisch, or the dialect of Berliners, is one of the more distinctive accents around Germany. Its main features include “ick” instead of “ich”, “g”’s pronounced like j’s, and the expression “wa” tacked at the end of a sentence.

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