I spent July 2013 in Berlin, checking out the city and wondering what it’d be like to live there full time. So, in addition to checking out the line policies at Berghain (they seem totally random), I also checked out some coworking spaces. Like NYC, Berlin has a very clear coworking culture and it’s certainly a bit different. In some ways, more civilized than the workaholic mindset that so many New Yorkers have.
Here’s a list of Berlin features:
Hours are more sane. The work-life balance in Berlin is quite even, especially in summer when the sun is only down for 4-5 hours a night. It’s more common for people to role between 9-10am and to really stop working for the day between 5 and 6. Some people leave then, and others stay and get a beer from the cafe. This is of course a bit different for those in private offices for startups. But from what I could tell, everyone was following German laws around how many hours could be worked a week (in an office at least, but again this is a casual observation so who knows?)
Cafes are common. All of the coworking spaces I saw had cafes for buying coffee, Club Mate (the standard coffee alternative that is oddly addicting), lunch options (typically just one or two a day, changing each day), and beer for after hours. Some spaces like Betahaus and St. Oberholtz have cafe only spaces that you can go to instead of paying a day rate in the main space.
Service is German. Which means that there are specific processes to follow and that you’ve got to be a bit more patient with whoever is providing said service. People may speak with you a bit more direct than they would in the States. And they’ve be VERY thorough about it. But this is true of well, anything in Germany.
Eye for detail. Every space I went to was very well designed. But why wouldn’t it be? Everything else in Berlin has a clear design sense as well. This is different than some of the US spaces, which are more varied when it comes to design.
Community is important. Some spaces even encourage members to join a weekly group dinner to meet other members.
Spaces have a variety of workspaces available. Some may just have different types of seating areas if you’re just eating, having a meeting, or need silence. Others have a wide variety of conference spaces, conversation spaces or workshops with 3D printing or woodworking materials.
Spaces are all over. In NYC, the better coworking tends to be in Manhattan or one of the Brooklyn neighborhoods with more offices (not that there aren’t some really cute and nice neighboorhood coworking spaces, but they’re not really focused on bringing in the dough). That’s not the case in Berlin. There are major coworking spaces in all of the big neighborhoods, and each one reflects the neighborhood that they are in (edgier in the East, more traditional in the West, posher in more expensive neighborhoods, edgiest in the edgiest neighborhoods). So, if there’s a specific industry you want to work with or neighborhood you want to spend all your time in, your coworking space can really help support those goals.
In conclusion, I found the coworking culture in Berlin vibrant yet homey. And I really really wise I could bring their cafes back to NYC. Adding a layer of food culture would really make our spaces homier.