Not long ago, as a few friends and I dozed in the summer haze at a Berlin lakeside, some departing picknickers approached us.
“Would you like this?” they asked, offering us half of one of the enormous watermelons you see for sale everywhere here, which undoubtedly inspired the design of Germany’s similarly over-sized zeppelins of yore.
Hell yes we did.
We thanked our benevolent sun worshippers and as they went on their way my Berlin-born buddy turned my way and said something which confused me.
“Mate, don’t get used to it.”
I wondered what he meant by this.
“This kind of thing never happens,” replied Rob, “Berliners just aren’t usually that friendly”.
This statement seemed to lie in direct contradiction with the experience of the previous two weeks I’d spent living with Rob and his very welcoming parents (who both grew up in Eastern Berlin) and the vast majority of the people I’d met in that period, ‘real Berliners’ or not.
However, by now I’ve heard the sentiment echoed over and again, particularly from Germans.
Commonly, when I respond saying actually I’ve found it particularly friendly, the response is something along the lines of:
“Well, then have you been here in winter? Oh, just you wait for your first winter…”
Apparently Berliners get quite shouty when the glorious days of summer are only a wistful memory. Especially in traffic.
Especially at silly expats who make nuisances of themselves in traffic.
While I can only hope the year I spent living in the Netherlands has given me enough bike etiquette to safely guide me through the winter months, I still can’t help but question this assertion that Berliners are an unfriendly bunch.
It just doesn’t ring true to my experiences.
The welcome has been sweet, whether it’s come from the old lady who walked up to me on Museum Island and kindly advised that I ought to visit the Neues Museum to see the bust of Queen Nefertiti and then go spy on the paparazzi waiting outside Parliament, to the extended family of students in and around my short-term WG (shared flat) who adopted me, or the patience of shopkeepers city-wide, on whom I’ve imposed my no doubt hilarious Dutch-German language hybrid.
So on that note I’d be interested to know what other people’s experiences have been, whether they be travelers, expats, relocated Germans or ‘echten Berlineren’ (real Berliners).
Are Berliners friendly or not?