Music Montag: MRKL

by James Glazebrook

I’ll admit that I don’t know the first thing about this artist, except that they’re based in Berlin and have produced a track called “First Snow”. I’d guess that MRKL is Angela Merkel’s musical project, but I just can’t imagine her producing Prefuse 73-meets-Air-meets-Jackson and his Computer Band cliphoptronica. If it is Angie, she gets my vote!

What Do You Know About Berliners? Tell us and win a free book!

by James Glazebrook

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions] 

If you’re a fan of this blog, you’ll know that we recently launched our first book, What I Know About Germans: 101 Observations. Well, if you haven’t bought a copy yet, here’s your chance to win one – by telling us what you know about Berliners.

We’ve already written about how Germans stare, love their dogs and are refreshingly comfortable about nudity, but what makes Berliners special? According to our article You know you’re a Berliner when…, daily acts of crazy, lost weekends and regular Berlinergasms are signs that you belong here, but what about the people who were born and raised in the Hauptstadt? How are Berliners different to people from the rest of Germany?

We’d love to hear from you, and in return we’re giving away a copy of the beautiful print version of What I Know About Germans – plus one of these awesome überlin tote bags! Scroll down to find out how to win.

What I Know About Berliners


Just answer this question in the comments below:

What Do YOU Know About Berliners?

You have until 6pm on Sunday 8th December. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
3. Our favourite comment wins. It’s that simple.
4. We will announced the winners via our Facebook page on Monday 9th December.

A note on the Berlin startup scene

by James Glazebrook

If you have even a passing familiarity with the Berlin startup scene, you’ll have seen this blog post on The Guardian website, written by someone who recently returned to the UK after a brief immersion in the city’s tech “bubble”. Well, The Local asked for my reaction – as someone who has a lot of contact with expats in the startup world and part of the team about to open Berlin’s first tech campus – and I thought I’d share it here. Read their response “Ten points in defence of Berlin’s startup scene” here, and my comments below.

The Guardian article contains nothing we haven’t heard before. As one of Berlin’s biggest English language blogs, we attract a lot of questions and enquiries from the group to which the writer (who we know) belongs: young non-German speakers who are early in their careers, and attracted to the city’s competitive creative scene. Their observations are valid, but represent a very narrow experience of the Berlin tech ecosystem, one with fairly predictable outcomes.

If you land an internship at an English-speaking company, you are likely to remain in that bubble, speak (and hear) very little German – and you’re most at risk of losing your “job”. We know lots of people who have discovered that “the streets are not paved with gold”, and have had to move back home or onto somewhere where they can more easily lay the foundations for their career. But we also know plenty of people who’ve landed (very) real jobs at successful companies, who have stable work and are appropriately rewarded for their experience and qualifications.

We’re sick of the mainstream media cycle of hype and backlash when it comes to Berlin in general, and the startup scene in particular. No one in their right mind would believe that Berlin is the next Silicon Valley, or the only European startup hub that matters – but, equally, no one should dismiss it as just a hipster party town. We turn out innovative, productive businesses with global impact (SoundCloud, 6Wunderkinder, ResearchGate), and we’re only going to see more success like this. But we still have a long way to go…

To the Berlin startup community we say: ignore all of this. Keep your heads down and keep up the good work. To anyone thinking of moving to the city to follow their startup dreams, we say: don’t believe the hype! Follow the advice of this article and do your homework, find a company that you fit with and feel passionate about, and enter the Berlin startup scene with open eyes and realistic expectations. Good luck ????


Illustration by Josh Bauman.

Music Montag: Coco Jamboo!

by James Glazebrook


Brrrr! If we were smart Berliners we would have already booked our flights to Brazil this winter. But aren’t that clever or that rich – and neither are you – so lets have Mr President take us there.

When “Coco Jamboo” hit the UK top ten (and number 1 in pretty much the rest of Europe), we had no idea that it was made in Germany. In fact, we only learned that when we read the draft version our own book! From What I Know About Germans:

After all, Germans embrace one hit wonders. Royalties from German radio single-handedly keep the singers the rest of the world wants to forget in rent money.

Enjoy this sonic Sunny Delight, and if you’re in need of more help shaking off the (upcoming) winter blues, look no further: How to Survive a Berlin Winter.

Berlin Portrait: Sophia Schwan

by James and Zoe

We think that the best way to discover Berlin is through the eyes of the people who live here. For our Berlin Portrait series, we’re asking artists, musicians and other creative types to introduce us their corner of the city. Here Sophia Schwan, a stylist-slash-blogger originally from southwest Germany, introduces us to the “mayhem” of Friedrichshain.

Introduce yourself!

I‘m Sophia Schwan, 25, finally settled in Berlin after leading a slightly nomadic life. I now work as a full time stylist, having quit a job in PR in August. On the side I also do some freelance writing and blogging.

How long have you been here?

For once I can say “not long enough”. I moved here in the summer of 2010.

And what brought you here?

The city. I spent two months alone in Berlin taking a course at the ESMOD fashion school when I was 16, and fell head over heels in love. I was living with students six or seven years older than me and knew absolutely no one. I spent the whole summer exploring every nook and cranny and just knew that one day I had to end up here. That day didn‘t come though until I finished my studies in Aberdeen.

Does Berlin feel like home?

Completely. I have never really had that feeling before. My parents moved around with us a lot throughout Germany and the US and the four years in Aberdeen on my Erasmus exchange always felt like something temporary. I have the most amazing circle of friends here and couldn‘t possibly feel more at home than I do now. It‘s the most wonderful feeling in the world.

For the expats who’ve never made it outside the Ringbahn, how is Berlin different to the rest of Germany?

Lol! I‘m originally from Wiesbaden and the age average of the population there is probably 40. It‘s an extremely beautiful city, very boring – but I love it nonetheless. It‘s my Heimat so how could I not?! To answer your question though, Berlin is the most cosmopolitan and international city in Germany by far. There is no other place where even the biggest weirdo can make himself at home, where you can be who you want to be and no one gives a crap – whether you‘re walking barefoot down Warschauer Straße or cycling with a dog sitting on your shoulder and a boom box blasting out Elton John. I have in fact witnessed that.

How is the fashion scene here different to the rest of the Europe? And which Berlin designers should we be keeping an eye out for?

Berlin is home to so many good designers that more people really need to know about and support. I try to represent as much homegrown talent as possible in my work: Vladimir Karaleev, Issever Bahri, Franziska Michael, Rebecca Sammler, Achtland, JuliaandBen… they are all so talented. I could go on and on. I‘d say overall Berlin‘s streetstyle is muted and extremely laid-back but with interesting details. It’s like a mix of sloppy Scandinavian-meets-London. Berlin‘s fashion scene is still developing compared to cities like Paris and London but that‘s what makes it so special. People still have time for each other here. Everything is more slow-paced and not as glitzy and annoying.

Tell us about your neighbourhood, and what you like about it.

I‘ve only been living in Friedrichshain since March. Before that I lived in Prenzlauer Berg amongst a sea of children and before that across the Bundesnachrichtendienst in Mitte where there is nothing except a giant slab of concrete literally staring at you. I loved living in Prenzlauer Berg too but I prefer Friedrichshain. It‘s a bit dirty and gritty but it’s got its own bohemian and graffiti-sprayed beauty, that I couldn‘t go without any more.

Friedrichshain is mayhem and I‘ve randomly met so many crazy characters here. One Friday night I ended up sitting on a bench in my pyjamas until three in the morning with my dog and my flatmate’s dog, drinking beers with three old-school, very neddy Berliners, one of them telling me about his experience in prison, and a random couple that stopped to talk. I was only planning to walk the dogs quickly! Everyone was raging on about gentrification and old vs. new Berliners. Things got pretty heated and at 3am in the morning we all ended up hugging each other and then went off clubbing together. Not me in my pyjamas of course, I went to bed. It was bizarre.

And what are your five favourite things in your neighbourhood?

The clash of people, the dog-friendliness, the bohemian atmosphere, the Oberbaumbrücke and the fact that when I step outside my door I‘m in the middle of a party at all times.

And your three favourite Berlin places?

I am a huge lover of vintage and Gaudeli’s Vintage on Seumestraße is my absolute favourite vintage store in Berlin. The owner sources all her pieces from Italy and the quality and designs are impeccable and really timeless.

For some really delicious and moderately priced Japanese and Korean food I always visit Rice In on Grünbergerstraße. My favourite dish is Zirashi Don with its fragrant rice, raw fish and avocado. Yummy!

Urban Spree is an amazing place to get inspired by art and lounge around in the summer with a beer in your hand. They always have interesting exhibitions or film nights on so make sure you give it a visit!

See more photos from the shoot over on Zoë Noble Photography.