Living in Berlin

You Know You’re a Savvy Expat Berliner When…

Graffito, Schoenleinstr. U-Bahn
Graffito, Schoenleinstr. U-Bahn

How long have you been in Berlin? And how good is your local knowledge? Take The Needle’s quiz.

Looking back over old posts on this blog, I’ve come across details familiar to many seasoned expats that will simply perplex most newbies or travellers to this amazing city. Where do you stand?

Try your hand at these pictures from the Needle archive and rate how you do, out of 10, by scrolling down to the end of this blog post for the answers. If you want to learn more, follow the links to the related articles.

Now, Viel Erfolg! 

1. What’s the person on the right doing wrong?


2. Do you know the name of this guy?


3. You see this crowd waiting in the street. Do you know why they are there?


4. What do call this place affectionately, in bed?


5. What would less than 100% mean?


6. What do the lions see going on in the bushes?


7. Where was this bloody marble first used?


8. You know 1 and 2, but what is 3?


9.  How do you get past the bouncer here this weekend?


10. If this isn’t a condom wrapper, where does it come from?


And now for the answers!

1. What is the pedestrian doing wrong? Nothing, she knows the bike lane is on the left, and so isn’t going to be run over. Newbies to Berlin get run over, because Berliners don’t like to stop.

2. What’s this guy’s name? Hannes, of course, and you will know this if you are a member of McFit, Germany’s most popular fitness club with more than 1,2 million members, despite its perplexing fast-food name. We love Hannes, the cyber-trainer for advanced spinning classes, for his contorted facial expressions.

3. Who are these people waiting in the street? A seasoned Berlin feels deep compassion for them. They are waiting for a Besichtigung, or the viewing of a flat, with dozens of other people. Most are inconsolable, because they think they will never ever find a decent place to live in Kreuzberg or Neukölln, and are now considering Marzahn.

4. What do you call this place in bed? Kotti, of course. Centre of the universe.

5. What does less than 100% mean? It means the destruction of one of Berlin’s most amazing spaces: the Tempelhof airfield turned park. Entering is the thrill of sneaking into an airport, normally off-limits, without the danger of landing planes. This campaign is to stop the privatisation of large parts of this unique space.

6. What do the lions see in the bushes? If you know the answer, give yourself a point. If not, then don’t. Or go see for yourself.

7. Where was the marble used before it paved this U-Bahn station? Well, there’s some debate, which you can read about here. But this Saalburger marble probably decked the New Reich Chancellery on Voßstraße, before Hitler’s grandest building was detonated by the Soviets.

8. What does No. 3 mean? Gemüsekebap is one of Berlin’s favourite disco snacks, and the line at Mustafa’s at Mehringdamm runs right down the block. Usually consumed after drugs and before sex.

9. How to get past the bouncer? There won’t any longer be a doorman at KaterHolzig, because the legendary club space is closed, the victim of  luxury flat development. Another example of how gentrification is killing the Berlin club scene.

10. No, it’s not a condom wrapper. It’s the seasoning package for Yum Yum instant noodles. Berlin kids love to consume them raw. You can find these wrappers all over Berlin sidewalks. To find out more about the perplexing subculture surrounding this vile snack, read on here.

How did you do?

9-10 points: Berliner or Wahl-Berliner! Well done!

7-8 points: Savvy Expat Berliner.

5-6 points: Still subletting.

3-4 points: Looking for a sublet.

0-2 points: Easyjet-ster.


Joseph Pearson

Joseph Pearson (1975) is writer and historian based in Berlin. Born in Canada, he was educated at Cambridge University, UK, where he received his doctorate in history in 2001. Since 2008, he has written The Needle, which has become one of Berlin's most popular blogs. His portrait of the German capital, Berlin, for Reaktion Press was published in 2017. His second book, My Grandfather's Knife, was published by HarperCollins and the History Press in 2022. He is also the essayist and blogger of the Schaubühne Theatre, one of Berlin's best known state-funded institutions. His writing has appeared widely in the press, literary and academic journals, and has been translated into Italian, German, French, and Arabic. Having taught at Columbia University in New York City, he lectures in Berlin at New York University Berlin (since 2012) and the Barenboim-Said Academy.