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Welcome to FU-BEST’s Berlin

Welcome to our official FU-BEST blog! Here we share everything exciting in and around Berlin with our current FU-BESTers. Of course, everyone else, who is interested to get a glimpse into the perks of being a student in Berlin, is cordially invited along the ride. You’ll find tips for interesting lectures on and off campus, free time activities, event information, our favorite eating spots and many other things that make Berlin unique.

Additionally, there will be a monthly FU-BEST Newsletter, where we keep you up to date on what’s happening right now.

Tips on how you make the most of your study abroad Berlin experience

  • Put in real effort to learn German

With our intensive language classes you will naturally make quick progress, but don’t miss to put in some extra work outside the classroom. Force yourself to speak German when you are out and about in a restaurant, at the cash desk of a grocery store or at your favorite coffee shop. Obviously, this will not work right away, but you don’t have to form complete sentences right away, you can also just throw in some individual German words that you’ve learnt. Trying to communicate in German in the „real“ world will make you comfortable with the language vernacular and intricacies. Unfortunately, Berlin will make this extra difficult for you. Being an international hub, you’ll find people fluent in English on every corner of the city. Still, don’t give up. Learning a language always takes time and your efforts will be appreciated by the people you are talking to.

  • Stay on top of your course work

Do not forget that your classes are an important part of your studying abroad experience. There is obviously value in the act of living abroad by itself, but in the best case your classes allow you to grow in your believes, opinions and knowledge. Studying abroad can put a whole new perspective on familiar issues. Some tips on how to stay motivated for your course work can be found on our blog here. 

  • Don’t travel too much

Especially if you have never been to Europe before, it might be tempting to spend every weekend in a different city. Understandably, you want to make the most of your four months in Europe (so little time), but don’t let this take over your Berlin/Germany experience. You made Germany your home base, so go out and explore the country that you are calling your home for the next foreseeable time.

This issue is exactly what one of our former FU-BESTers experienced and here is what she had to say about it:

I wish that I had explored Germany more! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to spend most weekends in Berlin. To truly live abroad for a semester, you need to learn your city and discover what it is like to be a true Berliner! I do feel like I spent a good deal of time in Berlin, but not enough throughout the rest of Germany. While I traveled to places like Paris and Rome, I missed Schloss Neuschwanstein and Hamburg. There are so many wonders located right in Germany a mere train ride away, and I wish I had been able to see them all during my time in Berlin; however, I have decided that I simply must go back and see everything that I missed.

  • Travel enough

Having said this, Berlin’s central location makes it perfect for a quick getaway to France, Italy or Spain and you should definitely take advantage of this. Just pick the destinations you are most desperate to see. This way you can still spend quality time in Berlin and will also keep your budget in check.

  • Go grocery shopping and buy what you usually would not buy at home

Maybe you are the adventurous shopper when it comes to food anyway, but if not, try to get out of your comfort zone. Can you spot food that you usually never buy at home? Now is the time to try stuff. Look for new German inspired recipes that are worth trying. Pinning down a traditional German food is hard, but we would confirm that Germans do like their potatoes. So we suggest trying this recipe.

  • Go cold turkey on Starbucks & Co

This goes along with our previous point about trying new things. You get accustomed best if you shop and eat locally. And although you will definitely find a Starbucks or McDonald’s easily, it is so much more fun to test local coffee shops (for example Five Elephant in Kreuzberg, which is also famous for the best cheese cake in town!) and local burger joints (for instance Kreuzburger in Kreuzberg and other locations).

  • Do not get sucked into the international bubble

This is an easy trap to fall in to. Since you are being surrounded by international fellow students all the time, you can easily get lost in your international bubble that might prevent you from having a true living abroad experience. You can find our attempt to give you a little ‚how to‘ (get out of the international bubble) on our blog here.

  • Get to know the Berlin way of life

Or better: get to know and be open to a new way of life that you will be living abroad that sometimes might be less comfortable than what you are used to. This sounds like an obvious given, but some students are still surprised by how much they need to adjust to their new environment.  For instance, a common complaint is the „commute issue“: most students in Berlin have a pretty long commute. One hour from door to door is nothing out of the ordinary. It is not ideal, but accepted by everyone. Living close to campus is not the reality for most students, since the vast majority prefers to live at more central districts. In Germany, and Berlin specifically, life does not happen on campus, but in the city itself. This might be different from how things are going at home, but don’t stress about your daily commute. Take it as an opportunity to ease in to and out of your day, read, listen to podcasts, observe Berliners, … .

  • Don’t stress yourself and have fun

We think it is a good idea to be aware of all of these points and also maybe implement one thing or the other in your daily life in Berlin. This being said, stressing about any of these issues would have quite the opposite effect. You have decided to study abroad, because you want to have an experience. This experience will most likely consist of both ups and downs, which is part of studying abroad. This lets us believe that the best tip of all is not to stress yourself out too much and go with the flow of living abroad.

Tipping etiquette in Germany

A rumor persits under FU-BEST students that we usually don’t tip in Germany. Where this is coming from we don’t know. This being said, surprisingly, if you google ‚tipping etiquette in Germany‘ one of the first things you find is that the tip is included in the bill and that it will be enough to simply round up. This, however, is not the case! Tips are not included in your bill and you should definitely tip at least 10%. This is true for restaurants, cafés and bars alike.

FU-BEST organizes a weekly Stammtisch (regulars table) in different bars all over Berlin. This means there will be lots of opportunities for you to perfect your tipping game. The usual way to tip in Germany is to ask for the bill, check the amount you owe and then work out in your head what you’re going to tip. When you are ready to pay, tell the waiter/waitress out loud the amount in total, including the tip.

Your Berlin Thanksgiving Guide

Where to celebrate Thanksgiving in Berlin

Plant Based

Plant based and raw vegan colourful gourmet Thanksgiving dinner from Beba Baxter at 7pm on November 16 for 49 € per person. Pre-ticket sale necessary.

Additional info here. 

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 Wartenberger Hof – DAS CLUBHAUS

Thanksgiving turkey buffet and musical entertainment at 6.30pm on November 28. 25€ per person. Pre-ticket sale necessary.

Additional info here. 

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Hard-Rock-Cafe

Three course Thanksgiving menu including corn chowder soup, turkey, and pumpkin pie offered all day on November 28.

Additional info here.

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Harnack-Haus

Thanksgiving dinner at the German American Attorney Association at 7pm on November 27. 25€ per person (student price). Pre-ticket sale possible.

Additional info here.

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 Kochwerk Berlin

Thanksgiving cooking class at 6pm on November 28. Be aware the class is held in German. 89€ per person.

Additional info here. 

For all who prefer to cook themselves

The Turkey

Germans eat turkey for Christmas, if at all, so it’s good to organize your bird in advance. Most Fleischereien will be able to sort a bird out if you give them a week’s notice. Plan on 500 grams per person when ordering, more if you’re fond of leftovers.

Charlottenburg

Rogacki, Wilmersdorfer Str.145/46, Berlin-Charlottenburg (map)
Fresh turkeys available for ~9 €/kg. Giblets are included for no additional charge. Some have said Rogacki can be relied on to have turkey in stock, but the saleswoman recommended placing an order.                                                                                             

Kaufhauf des Westens (KaDeWe), Tauentzienstraße 21, Berlin-Schöneberg (map)
Battery turkeys are ~7 €/kg, organic ones are ~13 €/kg, giblets for ~6 €/kg.

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Friedrichshain

Fleischerei Domke, Warschauer Str. 64, Berlin-Friedrichshain (map)
Frozen turkeys are ~10 €/kg, while fresh are ~12 €/kg (without giblets). They say it’s best to come by in person to place an order, but Domke always has a few turkeys (presumably frozen) on hand.

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Prenzlauer Berg

Fleischerei Gottschlich, Prenzlauer Allee 219, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg (map)
Fresh turkey for ~11 €/kg; giblets etc. need to be ordered separately.

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Schöneberg
Albrecht: Wild & Geflügel seit 1927, Akazienstraße 4, Berlin-Schöneberg (map)
Conventional turkey is available for ~9 €/kg.

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Wedding
Fleischerei Uwe Bünger, Müllerstr. 156, Berlin-Wedding (map)
This bustling local butcher sells free-range Neuland turkeys whose living conditions are carefully monitored. ~15 €/kg, giblets (heart, liver, neck) are included for free.

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The stuffing/dressing

Since you can’t turn to, admittedly, terrifying bags of stuffing mix, you’ll want a sturdy white bread that won’t fall to bits nor stay too stodgy. We suggest cubing Soluna’s La Boule or else what’s called französisches Landbrot, which is sold at many of the organic bakeries. Vacuum-packed chestnuts are easy to find in Berlin grocery stores and often more affordable than in the States, so they’re suited well as an addition to your stuffing.

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The mashed potatoes

Look out for potatoes described as mehlig or mehligkochend (i.e. floury potatoes): they’re the best substitute for russets.

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The pumpkin pie

You can find canned pumpkin at KaDeWe and Broken English. As a cheaper alternative, fresh pumpkins are available at most general supermarkets at this time of the year.

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The sweet potatoes

If you want to make a sweet potato casserole, Süßkartoffel and marshmallows are sold in most grocery stores in the city.

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The cranberry sauce

Cranberries can be found at most large grocery stores like Edeka and Kaufland, as well as most organic shops.

Watching short films at Interfilm

The short film festival Interfilm is Berlin’s third oldest international film festival. If you are into film this is highly recommended. Out of 7000 movie entries, the festival shows about 500 films from different countries, categories and styles.

If you have time for only one event, I recommend Eject – The Night of Weird Shorts on Friday, November 8. Should you have sensetive ears, it might not be your night. Everyone else: be ready to rattle and clap. Entering the theater, you will be given hand tools to determine which of the shown short films is gonna take home the prize for best film of the night.

When? November 5, 2019 – November 10, 2019

Where? Different movie theaters all over Berlin

Programm Hours: Find the program here

Admission: Festival pass and single tickets available

Christmas market season is approaching

We think the best part of the holiday season is that you can visit one of the many Christmas markets that you find all over Berlin. Christmas markets, originally a German tradition, certainly never fail to bring us in a festive mood.

Here are our favorite Berlin Christmas markets and some special market tips on top.

Weihnachtsmarkt am Gendarmenmarkt

No list of Berlin Christmas markets is complete without the Weihnachtsmarkt am Gendarmenmarkt. Here, you can find all the traditional Weihnachtsmarkt goodies that your heart desires, and watch entertaining shows performed by artists from all over the world. Additionally, the popular craftwork tent invites people to watch craftsmen and women at work, giving you a behind the scenes look of how some of the items for sale are made. Located in the midst of historical sites such as the Deutscher Dom, Französischer Dom, and the Berlin Concert Hall, the atmosphere is cozy and the perfect place to experience a traditional German Weihnachtsmarkt. While you need to pay a 1€ admission fee to get in, a percentage of it is donated to a good cause every year.

Where? Gendarmenmarkt 1, 10117 Berlin (U2 Hausvogteiplatz, U2 Stadtmitte, U6 Stadtmitte)
When? November 25 – December 31, 2019
Opening Hours: daily 11AM – 10PM, December 24 until 6PM
Admission Fee: 1€

Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei

The market is named after the Scandinavian figure that is supposed to bring warmth and security during the dark winter months. This reflects the theme of the market, which draws visitors in with its red and white Scandinavian décor, cozy atmosphere, and over 60 stalls selling food, drinks, and craftwork.

Where? Schönhauser Allee 36, 10435 Berlin (U2 Eberswalderstraße, M10/M1 Eberswalderstraße)
When? November 25 – December 22, 2019
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 3PM – 10PM, Saturday and Sunday 1PM – 22PM

Alt-Rixdorfer Weihnachtsmarkt

Over 150 associations and organizations present homemade goods and handcrafts at the yearly Rixdorfer Christmas market in Neukölln. Of course, visitors can also experience all the culinary highlights you can find on a traditional Weihnachtsmarkt, including Bratwurst, waffles, and various kinds of Glühwein, brewed using traditional family recipes. What makes this market special is that the many trees surrounding it are opulently decorated with fairy lights, and together with the various oil lamps spread throughout the market give it a cozy and romantic atmosphere. Additionally, the location of the market, the old town of Rixdorf (founded in 1360), gives it a historical ambiance and further adds to its special atmosphere.

Where? Richardplatz 1, 12055 Berlin (S 41/42/45/46/47 Berlin-Neukölln, U 7 Karl-Marx-Straße)
When? December 6 – December 8, 2019
Opening Hours: Friday, December 6: 5PM – 9PM Saturday, December 7: 2PM – 9PM, Sunday, December 8: 2PM – 8PM

Weihnachtsmarkt am Schloss Charlottenburg

With around 250 stalls, this Christmas market is one of the most popular and well-visited ones in the city. One of the highlights is the impressive illumination of the castle that turns the square into a romantic winter wonderland. Next to traditional handy work, typical Christmas market food and other tasty treats can be found here, inviting you to spend one of the advent Sundays (or any other day) strolling through the most christmassy part of Charlottenburg at this time of year.

Where? Spandauer Damm 10, 14059 Berlin (Bus 309/M45 Schloss Charlottenburg, Bus 109/M45 Luisenplatz/Schloss Charlottenburg)
When? November 25 – December 26, 2019
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday 2PM – 10PM, Friday – Sunday 12PM – 10PM

Special tip: Designer Christmas Market

The popular Berlin Design Market returns like last year as a Christmas edition, presenting a mix of well-known, undiscovered, and independent designers who will be selling their works on this day. In addition to the numerous designer stalls, live-music and a cocktail bar offering festive drinks (including lots of Glühwein, of course) create the perfect atmosphere to buy unique Christmas presents, or simply stroll around and have a look.  Another unique feature of this Christmas market is the fact that it takes place indoors, so perfect for those who are not too keen on spending hours walking around in the freezing cold. More information can be found on their facebook page.

When? December 8, 2019
Where? Festsaal Kreuzberg, Am Flutgraben 2, 12435 Berlin (U Schlesisches Tor, S Treptower Park)
Opening Hours: 12PM – 8PM
Admission Fee: 2€

Special tip: Japanese Christmas Market

A different kind of Christmas market, the sixth edition of the Japanese Christmas market has become a unique tradition in Berlin, perfect for everyone interested in Japanese culture. Combining German and Japanese traditions, the market presents Japanese artists and craftspeople, music, dance, antiques, art, ceramics, and of course traditional Japanese food and drinks.

When? Beginning of December
Where? Malzfabrik, Bessemerstraße 2-14, 12103 Berlin
Opening Hours: 12PM – 9PM

Special tip: The Green Market Berlin – Winter Edition

Being the most vegan-friendly city in Europe, you can usually find a vegan market somewhere in the city.  This one is not a full Christmas market, but the “Winter edition” addition promises some christmassy vibes. You will find lots of food, of course, and vendors that are selling vegan and sustainable clothing (no leather, wool, silk, etc.), cosmetics, and local arts and crafts. You can find more information on their website.

Where? Wriezener Karree 15, 10179 Berlin (S-Bahnhof Ostbahnhof)
When? November 23, November 24, 2019
Opening Hours: 11AM – 6PM
Admission: 5€

 

 

Days of Jewish Culture

Each year the Jewish cultural festival presents a diverse potpourri of theatrical performances, readings, discussions, exhibitions, church services, and concerts featuring outstanding performers from around the world. This year’s theme is „Shalom Berlin“. Please find the program here.

When? November 7 - November 17, 2019
Where? Synagoge Rykestraße, Renaussance Theater, Jüdisches Gemeindehaus Fasanenstraße and more
Admission: depends on the venue

 

Car free weekend at Friedrichstraße

This first October weekend the area between Friedrichstraße and Französische Straße will be closed for all car traffic to make a stand for climate protection. The event will be accompanied by music, food trucks and workshops.

When? October 5 and October 6, 2019
Where? Friedrichstraße, Berlin
Admission: Free

Berlin Science Week

Berlin Science Week is a 10-day international festival. Based in Berlin, Science Week is the global platform for dialogue and collaboration between science and society to inspire a deeper understanding of the world. Some topics are future of digital identity, medicine or work, food security, the relationship between humans and machines, the politics of inequality, art and science, or climate change economics. This and more will be discussed in over 130 events across the city.

When? November 1 - November 10, 2019 
Where? At participating institutions all over Berlin, Central hub is the Museum für Naturkunde, Invalidenstraße 43, 10115 Berlin. 
Admission:free

LECTURE: On Ecocolonialism and Speculative Crime Scenes

The Anthropocene has been embraced by the humanities, social sciences, and visual arts as a new geologic epoch that captures the planetary dimension of the long-term human impact on the environment. This talk by Federico Luisetti (Associate Professor of Italian Culture and Society at the University of St. Gallen) will instead propose to approach the Anthropocene as the epistemic scene constructed by the scenario methods of Earth system scientists and engineers of the global environment. Introduced and popularized by planetary management research programmes, the Anthropocene is the crime scene of energy megaprojects, the stage for the scenario thinking and socio-ecological modelling of supranational organizations. Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnésand other artistic crime scenes suggest strategies for delinking from the ecocolonization of the Earth’s future and imagining alternative relations with the environment.

When: November 18, 2019, 7:30pm
Where: ICI Berlin, Christinenstr. 18/19, House 8, 10119 Berlin
Admission:free

LECTURE: Art of Encounter On Non-Human Art Production

A vast set of associations surrounds both popular and academic ideas of what art actually entails. Art is assumed to be expression, experience, and intention — and often at the same time. In order to discard the assumptions that one has to be conscious to make art, one could hark back to surrealism and place art in the domain of the sub- or un-conscience. But then what’s to keep us from stretching things a little bit further, proclaiming non-human natural entities to be capable of art, of authorship?

This event stems from the research project and exhibition ‘Reading by Osmosis’ (curated by Semâ Bekirović), focusing on artworks made by non-human artists — by animals, trees, the wind, and other entities and processes.

After a short presentation of Bekirović’s project, the evening will begin with a lecture by professor Michael Marder under the title of ‚Art’s Articulation‘. In this talk, Marder interprets the activity and role of art as an articulation of things, words, and worlds. Upon taking a look at two regimes of articulation — the spatial and the verbal —, he discusses it as a tool for imagining, bringing about, or simply discovering art without humans.

When: October 29, 2019, 7:30pm
Where: ICI Berlin, Christinenstr. 18/19, House 8, 10119 Berlin
Admission:free