Why Are the Germans Always Yelling at Me?

IMG_4065They have a very odd sense of customer relations in Berlin.  Basically, what I found in Berlin this trip was if you wanted to buy something, say a cup of coffee, some fresh cherries, or maybe a bottle of liquor, you had to obey the rules of the store, even though those rules weren’t always posted.  And if you didn’t OBEY the orders, well then expect to be yelled at! 😉

I’m not one for making generalizations there is always going to be an exception to the rule (or rules as the case may be) one such exception was the friendly staff at St Oberholtz where I had coffee/breakfast/lunch for 5 days running. They have very friendly service!

Also, for the record let me state I love Berlin! I’ve visited a half-dozen times and the often blunt, curt manner of shop clerks, bartenders and other service staff usually makes me smile.  But on this trip, maybe due to the two weeks of 90 degree temperatures and lack of air conditioning, I think peoples nerves where a little bit frayed.

For example:

Who can blame me for wanting to pick out the good cherries from the less than spectacular sale pile? So when the Turkish produce guy starts yelling I had no idea what was wrong or that it was even directed at me.  Keith, my friend and German language interpreter, told me he didn’t want me selecting my cherries. I was supposed to use the large metal scoop. You know because why should I select out the bad fruit? If I was going to shop at his market for discount fruit I had to take the good with the bad!

Okee Dokee.  Luckily I’d already picked out most of what I wanted so I happily scooped a small amount into my bag and handed it over for weighing.IMG_3980Then there was The Barn coffee shop.

No Dogs.  No Baby Carriages. (Both of which seem perfectly reasonable requests to me unless of course you were walking your dog or out with your child) But, also, “really do you have to ruin our coffee with sugar?” (see picture above).

Giving credit were credit is due I love that the sugar is organic, sustainable, traceable and unrefined. Being told how and when I can use it,however, not so much.  Also it’s Berlin, is the sign only in English because well, you know us English people know nothing of good coffee and have to be told? Unlike the Germans, who will obviously understand that biodynamic milk is practically dulce de leche and how could one even consider putting zucker in ihren coffee?!

When I saw they had Iced Coffee I was so excited. Iced Coffee is really a North American thing, in Vienna this trip I ordered an Iced Coffee and got Ice Cream and Mit Schlag – which in my books is dessert not Ice Coffee! It was very hot out so I was very happy to order an Iced Coffee from the guy with the red mohawk. I asked to have it with a little bit of milk.IMG_3979We don’t do that”  OK then.  Um….why?

We have Iced Latte”  … so I’m thinking: you wont put a little milk in an Iced Coffee, but you will put a lot of milk in it?  What?  At this point I start to channel my inner bitchy New Yorker with attitude and say:

“Yes with too much milk I just wanted a little milk in my Iced Coffee”

You might wonder at this point why on earth is this conversation even happening?

Then he says:

We can make you a latte and put less milk in it

I order a Cortado.

It took tremendous will power not to leap over the counter, grab Mr Mohawk by the shoulders, and try to shake him back to reality: for christ’s sake man it’s just fucking coffee! 

Instead I quietly drank my Cortado and left.  Never to return. And no my Cortado was no a religious experience.  It was a nice Cortado, not what I wanted, not orgasmic and certainly not worth the effort. IMG_3981After that experience I was now in need of a different kind of drink.

So you can imagine my excitement when I stumble upon a beautiful liquor store on Torstrasse with a huge selection of locally distilled spirits!IMG_4044It was the first real  oh-I’ve-discovered-something-really-exciting moment I had in Berlin this trip.  I mean sure I knew there were local beers, but I had no idea that their were so many people make artisanal spirits!  And this was just the display right inside the door what more lay ahead?  Out comes my iPhone and I start taking pictures drunk with excitement.IMG_4045 Absinth, Rum and Gin oh my!IMG_4046IMG_4048Moonshine? German Moonshine? Amazing! MmmmmIMG_4047Look “Eagle Gin” ! Interesting label choice. They also have a fun video with a way cool 70’s porn soundtrack!
Somehow in my reverie I didn’t notice the two clerks behind the counter who had steam coming out of their ears.


Oh you mean the pictures of the bottles I was going to buy and that I can find images of online?  Those pictures? I thought better to say this and instead explained that I was from New York and I write about local food and ….


So I left, empty handed.

These experiences left me miffed. And wondering: is it me? What did I do?  

Then there are my loving and wonderful friends in Berlin. Who don’t yell at me. The trip ends with a lovely dinner at Keith and Harald’s cottage where I used the bruised cherries to make an apricot and cherry galette, we drank beer from a friendly local spätkauf and enjoyed our last night together, in blissful, quiet, calm.

Now I know the rules next time will be easy:

No Milk or Sugar in your coffee.

No Pictures!

And don’t you even think about picking out the cherries you want.

Life is so much better when it is ordered 😉

Auf Wiedersehen Berlin.



About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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12 Responses to Why Are the Germans Always Yelling at Me?

  1. Michael says:

    Oh Mark. You’re always such a trouble-maker! LOL.

  2. This post had me laughing like a fool at my kitchen table while I take a break from writing about my own experiences in Germany. I can completely relate to this! In central Germany, I arrived just a bit later than expected for my overnight lodging, because I got turned around in a neighboring town (neighboring being a relative term in rural Germany). “You are late!” The innkeeper declared. “Yes, I am sorry. I got lost.” “You are late!” She repeated. And so it goes.

  3. But the flower drawn into the coffee/cortado was nice. (Or did you do that by yourself, for consolation?)

  4. Leslie-Anne says:

    Thank you for this very entertaining start to my morning. I laughed out loud when I got to the part where you wanted to shake the guy by the shoulders – too funny!

  5. haha – I live in Berlin; don’t worry, this is normal, we all get shouted or tutted at or told off on a regular basis…

  6. Pingback: Apricot Cherry Galette: Berlin Cottage vs NYC Apartment | Urbanfoodguy

  7. cbcreates says:

    Love this post. If you don’t follow the rules then bad things will happen! Haaaa! That ‘s the mindset that delivers people into the hands of clever dictators and relgious zelots! I say pick up the creamer and pour and keep taking pictures. As for taking the lot in trade for discount cherries, I do get that one.

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