All posts filed under “Berlin

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6 Freaky Things About Berlin Startups

Unless “mystery shopper” and “cat sitter”  really count as grownup jobs, it is fair to admit that I never had a job before moving to Germany. I had a family, though, and that family was led by two proud members of your average Italian working class. They took pride in enduring through their working hours for me and my sister, embraced the suffering of it and its discouraging lack of prospects. As I witnessed my parents’ lives, I grew up preparing psychologically for the depressing start of my career, kind of like a criminal prepares for jail time.

After five years in Berlin and more than one tech company on my resume, I can say that working here has been mildly weird, consistently fun and nothing like I was expecting. These are six things that struck me about German tech startups.

1) Quirky Team Names

One thing I’ve learned from the German startup scene, is that descriptive names are so very passé. If you’re hired as an accountant in a tech company, for example, the chances you’ll end up working in the “finance team” are extremely slim. Your team will instead be referred to with the name of an animal/a famous scientist/a made-up native American tribe.   You will attend serious meetings meant to address the concerning performance of the angora rabbits, to contemplate the possibility of new hires among the raccoons or to find a new leader for the alpacas. My scientific guess is that by the year 2025 all the animal names will be taken and startups will have to start exploring uncharted territories, naming their teams after things like sexually transmitted diseases, stripper nicknames, pokemons and toppings you can find on frozen yogurt.

Read the rest of this post on The Local

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German Supermarkets: A User’s Guide

This was written by me and featured originally on Uberlin.co.uk

Four years after claiming independence and moving to Berlin, the supermarket still feels like the most iconic place of my adulthood and one of the most fascinating Berlin places to write about. While other bloggers document colourful night scenes and vivid cultural environments, I find myself in a complicated love triangle with Lidl and Rewe, and am now ready to disclose the dynamics of these relationships. My user guide to Berlin supermarkets will lead you through a correct, satisfying and 100% German grocery shopping experience. You can also buy groceries online and use a coupon from https://www.raise.com/coupons/walmart.

Dairy CaseDairy Case by Roey Ahram, on Flickr

CHAPTER 1: “I’M A PFAND MACHINE READY TO RELOAD”

First: Enter your supermarket of choice.

Second: Head towards the Pfand machine.

Any respectable trip to a German supermarket includes a mandatory stop at the Pfand machine, which is usually located before the actual shopping area. Not stopping there would be like going to IKEA without eating meatballs.

Glance at the 75-year-old lady who just beat you to the line by one fraction of a second. Using her last remaining life force, she’s carrying seven plastic bags full of bottles and is now feeding them into the machine.

Very. Slowly.

Consider leaving the line but then change your mind: it would be a drag to go through the whole shopping process with a bag dripping a mix of Club Mate and beer (probably a real cocktail recipe somewhere in Berlin). Also, you could do with freeing up an extra three square metres in your room before your flatmate calls the crew of Hoarding: Buried Alive.

Years pass. The lady lets you know she’s done by smiling at you and saying something incomprehensible, which is probably German for “I’m a rich bitch now. So long, suckers!” Watch her pink-haired body floating away with what was probably hundreds of Euros and a smile of victory on her face.

It’s your turn now.

You only have five bottles, so this shouldn’t take long. Unfortunately for you, after the first bottle has been sucked in, the machine notifies you that the containers placed on the other side of the wall are full. “You need to press the red button”, says the Pfand-bot.

The red button is the last trace of a Germany that wants you to feel in control. Clearly, its only purpose is to give you a false sense of safety, just like the numbers on Lost. Don’t even mind the button and do the only rational thing: cry out for help.

Don’t lose hope: someone will come.

CHAPTER 2: “WE FOUND CAKE IN A HOPELESS PLACE” Read More

The Barbie Dreamhouse Near Death Experience

At first I didn’t want to write about my Barbie® Dreamhouse Experience. I wanted to bury it in me till the day I’d be able to afford professional help.

Then I realized how many unaware followers Barbie has and I can’t stay silent anymore. I need to save them. I need to write about it, even if it means reliving that childhood trauma you pretend was just a bad dream.

Dramatic Pause.
Flashback.

barbie dream house experience

Barbie®’s house was built overnight next to the ugliest shopping mall in Berlin. Just like that. We woke up and there it was, like the castle of a very gay Dracula screaming “I’m in town, bitches!”. I didn’t want to go there, actually, but every time I’d pass by I felt the dark pink side of the force calling me, seducing my soul from afar with its sober yet fascinating elegance. Plus: a giant fountain shaped like a girly shoe. How could I resist?! Read More

Monumental Breakdowns #1 – Bebelplatz

Babelplatz

I would have set on fire every word you’ve ever told me. Starting with the W of  What’s your name? ’til the Y of I’m sorry. Dipped your voice in gasoline and watched every letter of every lie coming out of your mouth as it would burn to the ground. They were as empty as these shelves, and still I wanted to escape their meaning.

pic by Scott Cawley

 

:about:
Monuments are built to maintain and arise collective memories. But personal memories, even microscopic ones, are somehow stronger and can infiltrate the intents of a monument, hijack its meaning or maybe merge with the history we know.

Searching for a room in Berlin – Three Case Studies

Warning! The following is a humorous text about the tragicomic experiences I had while looking for a room in Berlin. If you’re room-hunting and were expecting to find tips and resources, you might wanna check out this Facebook Group, where people publish new room offers every day

 

Let’s say it out loud: finding a room in Berlin is a bitch, especially if you’re a foreigner and your german is Scheisse. If you obsessively refresh WG-gesucht‘s home page every fifteen seconds and you’re haunted by words like Genossenschaftsanteil o Parkmöglichkeiten, then you know what I’m talking about.

I wrote three case studies to report my nightmarish experience, in the hope i can be useful or at least take some drama off the whole looking-for-a-room-process.

1) Horror Vacui

Frightmare-blonde

Vera and Katia welcome me in their huge, cool, ultra-furnished flat in Adalbertstrasse with a (stereo)typical cold german kindness. After some small talk in the kitchen along with the most typical interview-food (peanuts and gummy bears, never a surprise) we move to the room that could become mine. Once they open the door a mix of fear and disgust shows up in my face. Not only the room is smaller than Guantanamo cells and completely unfurnished, but the white walls are decorated with random schizophrenic stripes of color. It looks like one of the paintings from Ruby the elephant, from her post-modern period. The two hostesses turn to me asking for a first impression, and my mind goes completely blank. I stay silent like i did when the Analysis professor asked me to multiply matrixes (who am i? Jesus?). I stay silent, and I blow the interview.

The first golden rule when you’re looking for a room, therefore, is always being prepared to give  a positive feedback about said room, no matter how terrible the first impression is. Of course this requires time, but with some practice you’ll learn how to hold on to the most insignificant details and still look convincing. And if you’re really, really out of ideas, you can always rely on one of the most classic but useless comments: “I like high ceilings!”. Even if you’re one-meter-and-a-smurf tall, therefore genetically suitable to live even in the seven dwarfs’ house, go with the high-ceilings-feedback and you won’t regret it.

 

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Abandoned Places

teufelberg - simone montanari

You told me that you like abandoned places, so I took you to one. And hoped you would have liked as well my heart (might be deserted enough). There’s ruined thoughts and empty rooms for you to fill; within these cracks you won’t regret the time you kill. There’s haunted spaces with memories unchained, with ghosts of fears of blues of previous pains. I’ll let you in and beg you not to stop, no matter if it’s brain or body or soul you’ll squat.

 

photo by Simone Montanari