From Berghain’s buxom cocktails to Brandenburg’s arches, Berlin has many attractions. Many of the 40 million yearly visitors, however, seek a different type of Prussian experience. So far so Tinder tourism. The problem is, whether you’re coming from Australia, America, the UK, or even a closer neighbour like Belgium or France, there are a few rules to remember when entering Berlin’s underground dating scene.
The question then, for wannabe-Bavarians, is how do you navigate this? Whether you’re a blow-in with a bar job, a mid-life cris-ee with a visa or a blogger with a Hemingway complex, this article will (try) to help you find love. Or at least to understand why you are currently sitting alone in your apartment eating Saurkraut for one.
How? With the help of Alemannic dating experts (and expats). So: whether you are an American overstaying your Schengen, an illegal Australian, or a Brit with a lust for life, here’s everything you need to know about dating in the hipster city that is revolutionary in some ways and stuck in the early oughties in others.
Approach directly, but not with a personal question
Whether you’re in the infamous Berghain nightclub or Cafe Berlin, try to start conversations with direct questions that are not too personal. In other words: find the balance between being open-minded, but also not beating around the bush. As Love Derani, an international dating advice website says of German culture, “They prefer a direct question [over] anything, and prefer people who speak their mind freely. Germans [are] rarely offended by these kinds of questions, and they definitely will give you the same straightforward answer.”
“But if you just meet him or her, or it hasn’t been to long after both of you meet, don’t ask a very personal question.”
Be ready to expand your horizons
Dating in Berlin? Don’t shy away from topics that you might otherwise avoid on a first encounter at home. As many expats attest, while shooting the breeze over the latest Netflix special might help you develop rapport in Australia and America, light conversation is not so much of a thing in Germany, and especially not Berlin, where everyone likes to consider themselves an amateur diplomat.
This means, while breaking the ice and small talk are still obviously valuable assets, you have license to move beyond this stage in your relationship into the more interesting topics more quickly, and even broach those taboo topics you might not touch back home (ie. brush up on your politics, economics, and business conaissance).
Also, speaking of expanding your horizons, many British expats have been shocked by the prevalence of polyamory in Berlin. While it is still not mainstream in any sense, it is still something to be aware of.
But also, don’t pretend to be something your not
Every travel blogger and his WordPress likes to repeat the line that you need to be worldly and sophisticated to impress a Berliner. But the truth is, as anywhere in the world, personality reigns supreme. In other words, your passion for fashion and origami, if expressed playfully and with a smile, could be more attractive to a German than your regurgitation of Wikipedia’s take on Brexit.
Drop truth bombs
Every country has their own etiquette. While this means editing to truth to save face (yours or theirs) in some countries, Germans – and particularly Berliners – are known for their penchant for avoiding white lies. The positive? You don’t have to pretend to like your new German partner’s clingy best friend. The negative? They don’t have to pretend to like you.
Also, as Love Derani points out, this means that you shouldn’t be too shocked if your partner criticises you then goes on as if nothing had just happened. “Don’t expect him [or her] to say only nice thing[s] about you. For example, he picked you up from your place and you asked, “How do I look today?”. If he said you are beautiful, [that] means he thinks that you really are. But if he said that you put on too much makeup, you have to seriously consider it on your next date.”
Don’t assume Berlin is one massive sex club
It may have a reputation for illicit substances, bondage-happy discotheques and all-night raves but the locals of Berlin are – day to day – actually pretty chill. Sure, we all like to let our hair down every now and then (and they live in one of the best cities in the world to do it), but when you think about it the only ones who can afford to regularly pull three-day nocturnal expeditions are tourists (or those who don’t have a full-time job).
Don’t mistake shyness for disinterest
As The Local, a European travel and news website points out, “When a German single is on a date with someone from abroad, we seem a little reserved or shy in the beginning because we take time to get to know someone. We are also in general not too over-excited in the way we greet you and speak with you.”
“Don’t take this for a lack of interest, it’s just the way we are… But once we get to know you and we like you or, even better, we fall in love with you, we open up a lot. We open up our hearts by telling you about our families, our friends, and our inner thoughts.”
Don’t hide your sense of humour
Forget the Fawlty Towers stereotypes; Germans love a smart joke as much as anyone. It’s just that the language and cultural barrier over the years (plus the English loving to joke about some things the Germans don’t particularly like joking about) has led to Germany gaining a reputation for being humourless. While it might take longer to break the ice, it is worth the wait.
Don’t assume your date loves sausage (or jugs)
Especially in Berlin, where locals pride themselves on their metropolitan nature, you don’t need to trawl TripAdvisor for the best Saurkraut bar. Just take your date someplace cool or up and coming.
Equality is king
Massive generalisation? Sure. But compared to Italy, Spain and even France, by most accounts Germans and – particularly Berliners – are more apt to split the bill.
Don’t rely on Tinder
Finding love (of some kind or another) online is what you might call ~trending~ all over the world. Including for Berlin. However, from our observations, while these apps are great for meeting people, finding the right person for more than a casual fling is harder than ever which is why many Berliners reportedly “tend to take online partners not too serious, and prefer to find one in the real-life instead.”
Forget traditional dating expectations and go with the flow
Many expats have reported that Germans and especially Berliners are dismissive of the more traditional dating rules that are taking longer to die off in other countries (like wait x hours to text back, or save such and such for the third date).
Lose your inhibitions in the bedroom
While this is obviously something to consider on a person-by-person basis, generally speaking, Berliners are slightly less vanilla than some other cities around the world. In other words: saucier than Sydney, but less bonkers than Bourdeaux.
Be ready to feel at one with your body
One word: saunas. Of course, this is not a challenge you will likely face until you’ve been going out with someone a while, but it’s always best to be ready.
Punctuality is key
Want to get your hoch-deutsch on? Don’t be late.