Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


Some time in the 1950s or 1960s a brilliant Polish poet and playwright, Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski, as famous for his literary talent as he was for his wicked sense of humour, participated in a well-attended congress on some extremely mind-numbing topic. Forced to give a speech or a lecture of his own but clearly unable to choose the subject freely (Polish authorities at the time were not particularly interested in supporting intellectual freedom or, come to that, any freedom at all), Galczynski calmly opened the book he carried with him to the rostrum and began reading.

He read from the Statistical Yearbook of the People´s Republic of Poland.  He read about potato crops and barley crops, about coal mining and iron welding, about the meat consumption and the number of babies born in the north-eastern regions of the state. He went on for a while, ignoring the flabbergasted and increasingly restless audience, and continued his litany of data. Once done, he carefully closed the book, looked up at the stunned assembly and leaning towards the microphone once more, said: “Ladies and gentlemen, do these numbers not speak for themselves?” After which statement he left.

Whether true or not, the following anecdote is a perfect introduction for our last post in 2014 which happens to be about statistics as well. On December 18th, 2014 the Statistical Office Berlin-Brandenburg published its latest collection of numbers and figures that tell us something about the greatest city of Earth. Here are the details. And they do speak for themselvesJ

Berlin, the capital of Germany and for many the coolest city this planet has to offer, is still growing: at the end of 2013 it had 3,421,829 inhabitants – an increase of almost 50,000 from 3,375,222 recorded in December 2012. Going back even further, to 1945 when the population level in Berlin – quite understandably – reached its 20th- and 21st-century nadir (2,807,405), the last 68 years saw the arrival of well over half a million of new Berliners. It is still significantly fewer than what Berlin recorded in 1942 – 4,478,102! – but still an impressive number.

An average Berliner these days is moderately tall (1.72 m) and weighs 74.8 kg. She smokes less than she used to – over 50% of all Berliners are female (51,1999…% to be exact) – and managed to drop a couple of pounds from the years before. Still, 46.6% of all city inhabitants are overweight. Most of them seem to be the residents of Marzahn-Hellersdorf: as much as 57.3% of all its inhabitants have the BMI index of 30 and higher (the normal being 18-25).

The lankiest Berliners, on the other hand, happen to live in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. That might be because: a) at 37.3 years on average (data for 2012) they are the youngest district community in Berlin and b) because they smoke so much. Another reason could be not having time nor inclination to eat: after a handful of cigarettes, six Latte Macchiatos and four bottles of Club Mate (caffeinated non-alcoholic beverage with bubbles) one´s appetite tends to be rather moderate. Of course, it is also possible that being younger than an average Berliner and more aware of their nutrition, between all those low-tar fags that they smoke, they also simply eat healthier.

The facts, yet again, speak for themselves: even though every third Berliner is a regular smoker, most of Berlin´s Qualmtüten (Berlinerisch for a “heavy smoker”) live in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg: 35.9% F´Hainer-Xbergers enjoy their cigarettes at regular intervals.

If Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is the youngest Berlin borough, then where do the majority of the capital´s Methuselahs live? According to the census, and perhaps not surprisingly, it must be Steglitz-Zehlendorf: a very traditional, quite bourgeois part of the old West Berlin. Over 25% of its inhabitants are older than 65. It is also here that most deaths were recorded in 2013: 3,287. Interestingly, the neighbouring borough of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, also rather well-to-do and enjoying a very similar social profile, had exactly the same number of deceased: 3,287. But here the average age was lower.

In terms of longevity it is again Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, with “only” 1,679 deaths out of the Berlin total of 32,792, that occupies the other end of the spectrum.

But enough about death – what about those who were born? Berlin recorded the arrival of 35,038 of new-borns in 2013, with 648 twin-births and 15 new sets of triplets. Most babies were born in the borough of Pankow, followed by Mitte and Neukölln.

Even though the wedding bells tolled over Berlin 12,963 times over the past year, over half of all Berliners seem to be living in single households: 1,046,200 of them, to be exact. The Berlin average is much higher than the German median: 54% to 41% in total. Still, that does not mean that the Berliners are lonely: there are 12,822 recorded  Lebenspartnerschaften (civil unions and partnerships) in the city and judging by the look of it (especially on summer evenings at the Landwehrkanal and the lakes) almost everybody is dating someone anyway.

The bad news is that from among those who chose to get married, over 50% did not celebrate their 10th anniversary together: 6,628 couples decided to undo the knot and they did so between the 5th and the 10th year of being together. Most of the divorces were initiated by women.

The streets of Berlin are famous, or rather infamous for the dangers lurking on unsuspecting pedestrians on their pavements. The most popular German swear word, implying both the speaker’s anger and the object of that anger, can be heard all over the city. However, in some boroughs more often than in others. There are 98,315 dogs registered in Berlin: most of them in Marzahn-Hellersdorf where the average seems to be 41 canines per 1000 humans and 10,029 dogs in total. But even though the statistical yearbook claims that Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, with its 16 animals per 1000 inhabitants and the total of 4,190 dogs, keeps the least number of them, it is quite hard to believe those results. Either the statisticians missed one “0” in their final calculation or most of the canines roaming the SO36 and turning the pavements of SW61 into nasty urban mine-fields were not registered. Or they have particularly fast digestion.

Anyway, to round off on a positive note, some good news from the year of statistics. As far as employment goes, it was not bad: 1,468,000 Berliners had jobs and most of them live in Pankow (with 94.8% of all residents being in employment, Pankow clearly ruled the waves). A useful tip might be: avoid Spandau, if you are looking for a job. Here only 84.4% of Berliners had regular income from their salary last year. On the other hand, perhaps those who were jobless were among the 752,000 pensioners or the 22,500 Rentiere (obsolete word for a person owning and renting property) that Berlin counted among its inhabitants? However, most of the pensioners would be surely living in Steglitz-Zehlendorf.

Attracted by the bright lights and the enthusiastic reviews in the international press, many people decided to move to Berlin: we had 169,466 new arrivals among us. Most of them chose to settle in Mitte, followed by Pankow (most babies and most jobs – what else can one ask for?) and by Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (those were probably the smokers). Most of the brand-new Berliners were between 25- and 30-years-old. The majority of those who left the city was between 30 and 40. But they did not storm the countryside as they used to – fewer and fewer Berliners seem to dream about their own little farm in Brandenburg. Unless it is a Haus am See, a lake cottage. On summer weekends some parts of Berlin still tend to look like the set of a sci-fi film where all the residents were sucked up from the face of the Earth by a flat, giant spaceship, leaving their Bulletten and vegan Würstchen still steaming on the table.

Well, not all of them disappear from the city. After all, Berlin has 920 Kleingartenanlagen (allotment parks) occupying 3,008.7 hectares. Most of the 73,254 Berlin allotments can be found in Treptow-Köpenick. Friedrichahain-Kreuzberg has only two Kleingartenanlagen, which positions it at the end of the small-gardening peloton.

But with the highest average temperatures in the past 134 years who would worry about growing radishes and carrots? On the hottest day of last year, July 28th, when the thermometers showed the record 34.5° C, those who stayed in the city hit one of the 44 lakes where they could go swimming while staying within the city limits. On January 25th, 2014 some of them became perfect, natural ice-skating rinks – at -12.5° C after a couple of almost equally chilly days, they were pretty much completely frozen over.

Although statistics are a thing of almost magical allure and by all means a very revealing read, it is better to stop at some point, having assumed that the numbers quoted above indeed speak tonnes or at least throw in a bit a useful trivia.

Just one last number to quote today are the 1,000,000 visitors expected in Berlin for New Year´s Eve tonight. Whether you choose to meet some (or most) of them at the Brandenburg Gate or whether you´d rather enjoyed a less tumultuous celebration and spent the night at home with friends, family or even alone, we wish you all a very happy new 2015, full of joy and hope and plenty of Berlin in it!

Happy New Year! And mind the rockets – they will be flying low tonight:-)

Berlin Silvester 1978 by Manfred Siebahn, Bundesarchiv

Berlin Silvester 1978 by Manfred Siebahn, Bundesarchiv


  1. lostfunzone (dothob)
    Dec 31, 2014

    Guten rutsch!

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