As it was my first time in Berlin, I obviously felt like a stranger when I arrived. However, within a couple of days I felt like a local and part of the community. Normally, this happens as a result of where I stay but that wasn’t the case this time.
I stayed in a small hotel that wasn’t in a touristy part of Berlin but that didn’t help me feel like a local or part of the community because I didn’t really see anyone (staff or guests). I wasn’t there very much and there wasn’t a communal area to meet and talk with others. So how did I end up feeling like part of the community within a matter of days?
Well, there were two main things really. The first was that, after the first night of struggling to find my way to the hotel, I very quickly learned to find my way around the area. Familiarising myself by using public transport, mainly the U-Bahn, helped. When I arrived I didn’t have a clue where I was or where I was going and it was all very strange to me. Getting on the train every morning with commuters for my first few days made me feel more like a local.
There was something else that really made me feel like a local and that was… a coffee shop. I know this might sound a bit strange but this really was the defining factor. On my first morning in Berlin, I went straight to Messe Berlin for the travel exhibition I was attending. I didn’t have breakfast at the hotel as it wasn’t included in the price of the room.
The next morning, on my way to the station, I was looking for a coffee shop or cafe where I could have breakfast. Thankfully, I came across one on the way to the U-Bahn so I went in.
The women in the coffee shop greeted me with a smile and she spoke in English when she heard me struggling in German. I ordered a coffee, croissant and bread roll. The coffee was great. It was the best coffee I had in Berlin, in fact. The croissant and the bread roll were fresh and it was only 2.80€ for the lot – bargain! I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast and decided to return the next day. I did just that and ordered the same. The woman told me that the bread roll I was ordering was called ‘Schrippen’, which is a specialty of Berlin. I was glad she volunteered that information because I had no idea.
On my third morning there, when I said ‘Guten tag’ to the woman as I entered the coffee shop, rather than asking me what I wanted or waiting for me to order, she just asked me if I wanted the same again. I was taken aback and said, ‘yes’. I watched as she proceeded to give me exactly what I had ordered on the previous days. I was very impressed and really pleased that she remembered so told her. She just shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘It’s my job to know’ she continued by saying that most people have the same each morning. Then she said, ‘I love my job’. It was plainly obvious that she did and she was damn good at it. It made me want to keep going back because I am a sucker for good service and being remembered and acknowledged like that made me feel good. Every morning after that she just asked to check that I wanted the same before getting it ready.
I thought it was where I stayed and with whom that was important to me feeling like a local and part of the community but that isn’t necessarily the case. Getting to know the area and how things work as well as being acknowledged and remembered can come from different sources. In this case, it was heading off with commuters in the morning and being remembered by the woman in the coffee shop that made me feel like I belonged.
For the best coffee and service in Berlin, head to the coffee snack bar (with no name) in Friedrichshain near the U-Bahn Samariterstraße and say hello to Monja. The address is Frankfurther Allee 33, 10247 Berlin.
Have your say
What makes you feel like a local when you are travelling? I’d love to hear your stories 🙂