Stock im Arsch
Germans are not known to be the most funny or lively people in the world. If anything, their “funniness” IS their unfunniness. Germans are known to be on time (pünktlich), on point (genau), en guarde. When we talk to each other, English (and other) speakers think we shout at and hate each other, even if we are saying “Ich liebe dich” (come on, though: when Japanese or Arabic speakers talk, it must sound similar to the uninitiated ear). I seem to recall that there was an American Volkswagen TV ad that played upon the whole “Germans have no sense of humor, but they do make great cars” thing … One might get the feeling, at least from TV and movies, that Germans are even less funny and even more stoic than Indianer (Native Americans) when it comes to their depiction in movies (well, Christoph Waltz may be the Ausnahme, the exception when it comes to funny German characters—but then, he is German-Austrian, not “just” German. But I will get to Österreich in a later post … )
Well, well. Germans are stiff (steif) and have a broom up their ass—einen Stock im Arsch. Of course that makes you steif and limits your whole body movement while not helping you to dance (but maybe it helps you goosestepping? After all, your body needs to be rather erect for that … ), aside from resulting in a somewhat stern face instead of one with a friendly and inviting smile. Spaß—fun—is out of the equation.
May I remind my kind American readers that their pilgrim forebears were perhaps some of the most lame and unfunny people in world history? Puritanism means don’t dance (that’s the devil’s!), don’t sing (well, maybe church hymns), don’t have sex except for reproductive purposes … And fast forward some centuries and you have a good number of U.S. citizens who do not like alcohol. Teetotalers, temperance, prohibition. And beware of, Gott bewahre, actually doing something on Sundays aside from going to church service—like having a drink in a bar and singing. Like, having a good time. Guess who was the bad example for this in the 1850s? Sauerkraut-eating, Lager beer-drinking, song-singing GERMAN IMMIGRANTS! So who’s the stick-in-the-mud now?
You can think about alcohol what you want (or any drug for that matter), but it does bring together people (at least I’ve had a drink with people from many countries all over the world). It also loosens the tongue—es löst die Zunge, maybe not always producing high-class philosophy but at times awkward situations, but anyway. Bars are an important part of German social and night life (Sozial- und Nachtleben). Students and professors will have a drink after class in the nearest bar; managers and Banker will go to a more fancy (and expensive) Etablissement; Alteingesessene (natives) and tourists will mingle in wooden-paneled 1970s-style interior Kneipen in Fachwerkhäusern to down some glasses of local beer. And there will be laughter. About good jokes, bad jokes, dirty jokes, nerdy jokes, political jokes, politcally incorrect jokes, … Not too different from other countries, isn’t it?
If Germans do not Vorglühen at home—that is, starting to drink (lots of) alcoholic beverages before going out at night—they will go to a Kneipe before they move on to a club where alcohol is usually more expensive. It depends on where you are in Germany concerning the specific type of “club.” It might be the Dorfdisco where not much has changed since 1977. Or it is some Provinz-type disco with a Mallorca room and a “black music” dancefloor and a housemusic floor—welcome to the temple of mainstream. If you move on to bigger cities, especially those with universities, the music scene will be more diversified, with everything from leftwing skinhead parties to HipHop jams to electronic music clubs, often hidden in some subterranean environment (more or less underground in the manifold sense of the word). You want to see Germans take out the broom and get their freak on? Come on in, then! While the music might be vaguely reminiscent of stereotypical German music (to me, electronic music with its four-to-the-floor beats somehow is like modern-day marching, or moving, music), you will see many more types than the “stiff German.” As everywhere in the world, people go out and want to have a good time on the weekend (or, in a university town, already and especially on Thursday) because they need to abschalten from the real world of work, writing papers, mean bosses and co-workers, personal problems, etc. pp. As the subculture scene in Germany is very diversified, everyone should be able to find their niche. And so you will find the dolled-up, aufgebretzelte young Fräuleins with Sekt glasses full of sparkling wine in their hands, dancing next to the ecstasy-loaded, wildly gesticulating and moving raver in such an underground club. And why? Because they all like the same style of music, the atmosphere, and they (well, maybe not all of them and not all the time) give a hoot about what others think, at least when it comes to Tanzen. Especially electronic music is for individuals—no “may I ask you out for a waltz?” but moving and shaking it on your own. Bis die Müllabfuhr kommt—usually around 5 or 6am …
And then it’s Zapfenstreich. Well, not really. The Sperrstunde (mandatory closing time) does not exist anymore. So maybe one club closes at 5pm, but you usually have the chance to go somewhere else for the afterparty–if you’re not living am Arsch der Welt, that is … And by then, the remaining Germans have definitely taken out the Stock from their asses.