Firstly, I just want to say thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog. Since this is part of a uni module about my year abroad, I thought it was simply my teachers and family who read these posts. Looking at the number of comments on one post in particular, it appears I am wrong. Thank you again to anyone who takes the time to read my ramblings.
In the UK there is a stereotype among the older generation that uni is a doss. We sleep all day, party all night and do very little work. I remember one lady joking about me coming back from university with dreadlocks and tattoos. Alas, this has not happened and by and large does not happen so much in the UK. Perhaps this is because we now pay £9,250 per year- there is no scope to mess around. However, here in Germany I have really recognised a ‘liberal’, hippy like student subculture in which I can imagine the British parents referring to as ‘the great unwashed’, ‘soap dodgers’ or put simply, ‘typical students.’
I have found it incredible to see the complete difference in the German student culture compared to what I have experienced in the UK. Moreover, my initial stereotypes of the Germans have been completely destroyed. I had the view (which I believe most British people share) that Germans would be strict, serious and direct. I have always said that the British and the Germans are like siblings, but Britain is the funnier sibling. You can never compare a self-depreciating sarcastic British joke to a German joke. German jokes always make sense and rest assured, if they don’t, the German joke teller will explain it. Despite this, the Germans are actually a fun bunch!
Living so close to Berlin, perhaps this is not all relevant to German culture but, what I will discuss is certainly the epitome of Berlin, student culture.
Last weekend some friends and I went in to Berlin to witness an Anti-AFD demonstration. We made it very clear we were merely observers just trying to see ‘what all the fuss is about’ since we are not native Germans. We were able to see the AFD marchers from behind the great wall of (scary but largely attractive) German police. It’s amusing to see all the 6 foot something German police men when you think of the average short, balding policeman in the UK. I’m pretty sure the German police force must have a prerequisite for being at least an 8/10 before getting the job not to mention being built like a tank.
It was an exciting day fuelled by the fact that multiple techno clubs had come to play music during the protest, making it more of a festival than a protest. It is funny how such a politicised event was, in some respects, sponsored by techno music which is essentially the booming heart of Berlin culture. Particularly the student subculture I am referencing. Nonetheless, this does make me question the motivations of some people there. Like me, many people were probably there for the music and the atmosphere, not for their political ideologies.
Once the marches were over and the mega phones were off, so were people’s clothes. I was (once again) shocked by the nudity. In this respect, the Germans definitely beat the British in being more relaxed around naked bodies. I had a similar experience at the lake. Not only do Germans go swimming in lakes, which is seldom done in the UK, they do it naked! There were also many people at the protest walking around bare foot. This is not something I expected to see in the country of order and practicality where Crocs, a huge fashion faux pas by British standards, are an absolute must because they are so practical.
Entire roads were closed and lined with police.
The Berlin student subculture has a real ‘anything goes’ attitude. No style is too extreme, no tattoo is too much, everyone is accepted. This is the land of the man bun, piercings and questionable clothing. What looks cool and fashionable in Berlin would, for sure, get a few strange looks in my home town. However, having lived here for almost 9 months now, this ‘hipster’ rhetoric is getting a bit boring (controversial opinion, I know.) From the outside this looks cool and unique but when you walk through a crowd of Berlin protesters you realise the ‘edgy’ hipsters have not moved away from the mainstream, they have simply created a new mainstream. The ‘hipster’ style of fashion is certainly the style of Berlin and one you must subscribe to if you want to blend in.
In my view, much of the Berlin subculture is fuelled by the influential techno music scene which demands a certain dress code and aloof attitude. Techno can be heard EVERYWHERE in Berlin and even among the uni students here in Potsdam. There was a point where I could hear it from the moment I woke up and seriously had to question whether it was in my head or outside my window. Thankfully, it was outside the window because a group of Germans had quite spontaneously set up a techno party outside with speakers and other random objects. It is little things like this that always surprises me about Germans. They always have little quirks and innovative and spontaneous ideas. I find it ironic how the students were allowed to set up their mini techno party in the dorm, or how the techno clubs could revolutionise a protest in the streets of Berlin yet in other respects the rules here are anything but liberal. Simple acts such as sitting on certain parts of the grass can get one in trouble.
‘No hate just rave’
‘BASS STATT HASS’ – Bass instead of hate.
Events such as those I have spoken about are not isolated. May has been the month of street parties in which the German guilty pleasures of partying and the not so guilty pleasure of drinking have been made apparent. I went to Karneval der Kulturen and was flabbergasted by the amount of beer bottles on the floor. I felt like I had entered The Purge because normal order went out the window. The people and the music, in line with the liberal, techno fuelled student subculture were crazy.
From this blog it is clear that Berlin and Berliners are unique. It is a wonderful city and has such a special place in my heart but it is not something you can accept just from reading. You must visit Berlin but not only take the ‘tourist route.’ To fall in love with Berlin, one must really live the Berliner life (even if like me, you realise you’re far to British for that ‘hippy stuff.’)
This post was about Berlin student culture, in a future post I will discuss the wider German culture I have experienced here in Potsdam and while I was au pairing in Trier.