The Best of Berlin in January

This month Exberliner, Berlin's leading English-language magazine, hits the catwalk for Fashion Week, uncovers the art of being tacky and helps you brush up your German skills.

The Best of Berlin in January
Photo: DPA

Back in fashion

It’s that time of year again, style lovers, so start polishing your Louboutins and plumping your pelts for Fashion Week (January 20-23). Mercedes Benz will be holding court in Bebelplatz again, where a veritable smorgasbord of burgeoning local talent (Marcel Ostertag, Mongrels in Common), big names (Hugo Boss, JOOP) and some international visitors (CUSTO Barcelona) will be on display. Invitations are strictly for people in the biz, but chat up the right folks and you might be able to squeeze your way into a show, or at least one of the crazy after-parties. This season’s top ticket is newcomers No Ifs, but the show most likely to shock and amaze is Patrick Mohr’s. Last year he sent homeless people down the runway for his debut; this time around, he is planning a transgender-themed extravaganza to show off his unisex jeans. In Berlin, Fashion Week also triggers tradeshow mania. Bread and Butter is still the big boy in town: for the second season in a row, it will exhibit the largest collection of urban streetwear brands in its new Tempelhof home. Premium is also back; among the new tradeshows, Spirit of Fashion and Jam will be worth a visit. Jam, which just made the all-important move from Cologne to Berlin, focuses on denim, so jeans lovers should elbow their way onto the shuttle service to the Rathenauhallen to check it out./JS

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Jan 20-23 | Bebelplatz 1, Unter den Linden, Mitte, U-Bhf Französische Str.,

Jam, Jan 20-22 | Rathenauhallen, Wilhelminenhofstr. 83- 85, Oberschöneweide, S-Bhf Berlin-Schöneweide,

Premium, Jan 20-23 | Luckenwalder Str. 4-6 , Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Gleisdreieck,

Spirit of Fashion, Jan 20-22 | Karl-Marx-Allee 131A, Friedrichshain, U-Bhf Frankfurter Tor,

Bread & Butter, Jan 20-22 | Flughafen Tempelhof, Platz der Luftbrücke 5, U-Bhf Platz der Luftbrücke,

There’s no accounting for taste

At the beginning of the 1900s, the Czech art historian Gustav E. Pazaurek devised a complex classification system that sorted the most tasteless daily objects into categories of “design crime”. This led to the opening, at the Landesmuseum in Stuttgart, of the first “Cabinet of Bad Taste”. One hundred years later, the Werkbundarchive (an institution that, in the Bauhaus tradition, studies the design and functionality of everyday objects) has picked up where Pazaurek left off by creating a “design torture chamber” for our times. This horror show takes 50 of the 900 original “crimes” and builds on them. There are sneakers with Obama’s face on them, a swan-shaped porcelain vase, pink Dior crocodile-skin loafers made out of china… Is it art or a total aberration? Kitsch or trendy? Nowadays anything goes, so each artifact comes helpfully labelled as Violated Materials, Functional Lies, Cheap Originality, Manic Ornamentation/Wasteful Decoration or Art Atonement. Following Christmastime, all this might feel a little too familiar – for who among us has not been the victim of a tacky gift? You could, of course, donate yours to the collection. If it’s awful enough, you might even be written into (bad) design history in the soon-to-be-published 21st century edition of the Encyclopedia of Bad Taste!/SF

Böse Dinge: Eine Enzyklopädie des Ungeschmacks | Museum der Dinge, Oranienstr. 25, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Kottbuser Tor, Fri-Mon 12-19, Through Jan 11

Deutsch for beginners…and Berliners

You’ve tried it all. The Rosetta Stone iPhone app, the German course promising breakthrough language acquisition methodology, the personal tutor – hell, you’ve even tried sitting in a café and eavesdropping, in the desperate hope that German can be passed on through osmosis. And the language textbooks haven’t helped: phrases describing the asinine qualities of the everyday lives of Günther and Greta stick in the recesses of your memory like incantations from a lost time, occasionally inspiring the panic of the unprepared before a modal verb quiz. Luckily, if you’re looking for a brush-up or just a good satirical laugh (or both), there is a Deutsch als Fremdsprache book like no other to add to the pile: Florian Lamp and Heldrich Johannes’ Deutsch für den Ausländer. Hold on to your Lederhosen, though, because this book is not for the faint of heart (but then again, is German ever?) Günther and Greta have been replaced by the Familie Schmidt – close relations to that down-and-out couple with the scary dog on the U8 who sport accoutrements à la Pimkie and nurse a Frühstück of Berliner Kindl. For inspiration, author Lamp and illustrator Johannes spent their evenings scouting out Eckkneipen in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. They credit Berlin, “the center of arty-ugliness”, as the only setting in all of Germany that could lend itself to the creation of such a volume; Johannes’ work on the illustrations was “a long process to give each (character) its special type of sadness”. The creators want their book to be fun, but provocative at the same time. Its crass humor, which makes fun of everybody and anybody, is part of a greater therapy – to help Germans learn to laugh at themselves. And as Ausländer, we should have no qualms about laughing right along./EP

Deutsch für den Ausländer | Florian Lamp and Heldrich Johannes, Der Grosskonzern, 2009, 254 pages, €19.89 For more information, visit

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EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany’s youth culture pass

Young people turning 18 in Germany this year are getting a voucher 'birthday gift' to enjoy culture. Here's why and how they can use it.

EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany's youth culture pass

What’s Germany’s culture pass?

The KulturPass – or culture pass – is a bit like a voucher that young people in Germany can use to buy tickets to cultural events, or even products like books or sheet music.

Those turning 18 in 2023 – estimated to be about 750,000 people – can get their hands on the pass. They will have €200 credit that they can spend on a special culture pass platform over two years for event tickets and other cultural offers. 

It’s worth noting that the digital pass, which launches in mid-June, is available to all young people living in Germany, even if they don’t hold German citizenship.

How is it given out?

The pass won’t be handed out automatically – those who are eligible have to sign up and prove their identity and age.

Cultural venues can also sign up to sell their tickets or entrance cards via the Kulturpass app and website, so they can get a boost to their sales by promoting it on this central platform.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in June 2023 in Germany

Why is Germany doing this?

The move follows similar youth culture projects by other countries, including France, Italy and Spain. 

The German government initiative has two major aims: the first is to give young people an opportunity to get out and experience live culture in a way they weren’t able to during the pandemic.

Culture Minister Claudia Roth said last year that she hoped the KulturPass would get “young people go out and experience culture, see how diverse and inspiring it is”.

The second aim is to help give a boost to cultural institutions like theatres, galleries, live music venues and similar businesses. 

The culture industry was one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, due to the Covid shutdowns put in place by the German government to combat the spread of the virus. 

Venues have struggled to encourage people to break out of their pandemic habits and get out to live events again.

What kind of events can young people go to?

The emphasis is on live events to get people away from their home and to give the arts scene a boost. Theatres and concert venues will likely be a popular choice, but also independent bookshops, art galleries, and small business cinemas.

Amazon, Spotify, big chain movie theatres – those kinds of vendors are excluded. So think local, think independent, think higher culture like opera, theatre, and concerts.

Are there plans to roll it out to other age groups?

At the moment, this is a pilot project for people turning 18 this year. Depending on how it goes, the government may be looking at plans to roll such a pass out for 16 and 17 year-olds as well.

To hear more on this story, tune into our Germany in Focus podcast episode released on Friday, March 26th.