I was asked by The Debrief to investigate a possible “anti-tourist backlash” happening in Berlin while I was living there in 2013. Some of it was petty badmouthing of silly tourists – just like we do in London – but some of it was more sinister. Read more about it below:
‘IF YOU’RE HERE TO SPEAK ENGLISH THEN F**K OFF’. WHAT’S BEHIND THE ANTI TOURIST MOVEMENT IN BERLIN
THE DEBRIEF: FOR MANY TOURISTS BERLIN HAS BECOME THE ULTIMATE PARTY DESTINATION, BUT JUST HOW WELCOME ARE THE MILLIONS WHO FLOOD TO GERMANY’S CAPITAL EVERY YEAR?
Go to Berlin these days and you might not just see the Bradenberg Gate and the inside of infamous club Berghain (if you’re lucky), but you’ll also notice some not-exactly-friendly signs. ‘Berlin Doesn’t Love You,’ signs have started popping up in the windows of notorious tourist dive bars. Similar slogans such as ‘Yuppies Raus’ (translated Yuppies Out) and ‘Fucking Tourists!’ are dotted around the city and scrawled on toilet walls – an indication of a new anti-tourist backlash. It would be easy to read these signs and assume visitors are no longer welcome in the party capital of Europe. A capital which in last year alone attracted 11.6 million non-German tourists.
But who’s behind this anti-English sentiment spreading through the city? I’ve moved to Berlin from London for nine months and the general consensus amongst non-nationals here is that the police are a little bit ‘racist and aggressive’. There’s also been reports of attacks on tourists going on without anyone in authority batting an eyelid, arsey Airbnb and hotel policies saying they won’t accept groups of tourists over a certain number (presumably to weed out rowdy hen or stag dos) and anti-gentrification protests, with people taking offence with non-national ‘hipsters’ moving into previously cheap areas of the city like Kreuzberg and hiking up the cost of living.
But the main hatred being directed towards tourists is coming from club bouncers, although a Spanish friend had ‘Heil Hitler!’ shouted at him at the street while coming home with his boyfriend from a disco at a U-bahn station. In fact a word that came up several times while researching opinions in Berlin was ‘protecting’: bouncers, Berliners and expat punters want to safeguard their amazing, untainted club scene. ‘When the club bouncer lets in “tourists” or people that are not used to the Berlin scene, the club or behaviour in people changes,’ one friend told me recently.
Even Brits who live in Berlin are not cool with antisocial behaviour of certain tourists. ‘Berlin has crawled back from being a divided city to a proud city of multiculturalism and bohemia. To pollute that with drunken assholes is obviously annoying,’ says my friend and resident Cat.
How to avoid the anti-tourist backlash? Well behave like, as JFK would put it, a Berliner. Especially when it comes to clubbing. The most important ‘rule’ is this: when queuing to get into a club don’t be a dick. Hen and stag parties are often made to feel unwelcome here, and may have to argue their way into a club and overpay on the door price, as I noticed a group of 15 wizards and monks found last month. Other unwritten rules for entry seem to be that you shouldn’t be speaking English or Spanish, or visibly drunk (we’re talking a different scale of drunk to the UK – Berlin bouncers wouldn’t let in 95% of people you see out on a Friday night in Manchester). And once you’re in don’t take photos inside the club or you’ll get an angry German bouncer next to you in a matter of seconds. You also shouldn’t dress up like you would in the UK – heels are a no-no. This is actually one of the appealing things about the city; that you won’t be judged for being dressed down. Unless you are wearing a penis whistle. That’s a different matter.
Still, some of those who I spoke to about this article where keen to stress that you can still be accepted in Berlin as an expat or a tourist, as long as you behave appropriately. ‘It’s one of the most openly accepting cities of differences in cultural, sexual, and lifestyle expression that I’ve lived in,’ says Brit Emma, who moved to Berlin a few years ago.
And there’s still an awareness that the influx of money from internationals has a positive side to it. They bring skills with them (like mixing gin and tonic), money (in the wrong currency) and for the most part, a pretty open frame of mind.
So come visit Berlin! Just remember to keep your clothes on. And leave the penis whistle at home.
You can read the original article on The Debrief here.