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CULTURE

How to make the most of German culture while social distancing

If you are craving some German art, music, language learning or sport, we've compiled a list of activities you can do from the comfort of your own home during this period of social distancing.

How to make the most of German culture while social distancing
There's lots you can watch or do from the comfort of your sofa. File photo: DPA

Germany has introduced strict 'no contact' measures aimed at stalling the spread of coronavirus.

Since that means we are all now spending more time indoors as we socially distance ourselves, it's more important than ever to take care of our minds as well as our bodies,

So what better time to soak up some Deutsche Kultur (German culture)? Luckily, there are numerous opportunities for experiencing this from your own room.

Here's a few things to try:

READ ALSO: You are not alone – living abroad in the time of corona.

Watching German Film and Television Classics 

When you exhaust all that TV streaming websites have to offer, the German film industry has a pretty expansive list of award winning movies to explore.

For example, ‘Das Boot’ (The Boat) is a 1981 WW2 film that follows a German U-Boat and its crew still holds the most Oscar nominations ever for a German film – receiving 6 Academy Award nominations, including Best Director.

For a more light hearted watch, ‘Good bye, Lenin!’ – released in 2003 – has a surprising comical standpoint considering it tells the story of a family in East Berlin between 1989 and 1990.

For more inspiration, you can check out our list of ‘10 epic German movies that you have to watch’.

 

There is also an array of German TV shows that you could really get into, seeing as day-to-day some of us might find ourselves with some extra time on our hands.

Alongside some cult classic films, you can find some of our favourite television programmes in our ‘Ten Top films and TV shows to discover Germany from your couch.

Watching Live Streams

Tip Berlin has put together a comprehensive list of all the live streams occurring across Berlin during this period. The live streams range from opera, to clubbing, to comedy and theatre – there really is something for everyone. You can find this list here

One particularly popular live stream movement gaining a lot of attention is  #Unitedwestream. It's a movement and hashtag adopted by many of Berlin’s clubs, who are continuing to live stream events with DJs playing to empty dance floors amidst the coronavirus crisis.

Berlin clubs have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, as social distancing paralyses all operations. However, live streaming platforms provide an opportunity for the clubbing culture to continue for now in this uncharted digital space.

Exhibitions, festivals, films and publications are also being live streamed. Berlin Art Link substituted their weekly round-up of events for a piece detailing all the events which are available online, which can be found here. They will be continuously updating the piece throughout this period.

The basketball team ALBA Berlin, are providing live stream lessons which aim to bring exercise and movement to children and young people daily. “ALBA’s Sports Lesson” can be completed within the four walls of your own home, with a varied program such as fitness, coordination and yoga, in addition to various challenges to try. 

After the live stream, all the videos are then available on their YouTube channel.

Check out Library Websites

It is worth checking both your local and regional library portals to see what elements of their sites are free of use; many have even extended such usage to content that was previously behind a paywall.

You can borrow courses, books, films and music from many libraries using the online loan services across Germany.

For example, the ZLB Berlin is tweeting with the hashtag #closedbutopen, as they are promoting the vast number of e-resources that they have available. 

Düsseldorf City Libraries also have an online library with many e-books and online offers.

Additionally, Hamburg's electronic library service eBücherhallen currently offers close to 9,000 pieces of literature in nine different languages as eBooks and audiobooks. You can check out their website to explore these resources here.

Reading German Classics

Just because the libraries are physically closed, it does not mean you cannot indulge in reading some German classics such as Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), Die Verwandlung (Metamorphosis) and Im Westen Nich Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) are all world renowned classics and can easily be ordered online.

For a longer list of books, we published an article a few months ago featuring our 10 must read German books.

Learning German

Finally, many expats move to Germany full of the motivation that they will ‘learn the lingo’ but for many this dream quickly fades usually due to a myriad of different life factors that come with moving to a new country; learning German tends to take a back seat. 

READ ALSO: How I stopped worrying and learned German in 6 months

If that sounds like a familiar tale then perhaps now is your chance to dedicate that extra hour you are saving from not commuting, to learning the native tongue.

Language learning website Chatterbug is offering free German lessons every weekday at 5pm in a bid to give language learners a chance to connect with other people and brush up on their skills.

To register and take part, students should enter their name, location and email address at Chatterbug Live.

Recently, language app and online site Babbel have been promoting a limited time offer for students of one month subscription for free. The app has been hailed as one of the best language learning platforms due to their multi-angled approach.

Online language learning site Lingoda recently launched their #StayHomeKeepLearning initiative, which is designed to provide digital resources to offline institutions on both a nationwide and global scale.

Lingoda is offering these institutions free access to all of its online learning resources and full assistance in setting up online classes, in addition to a range of masterclasses and guides in English and German on running online classes successfully. Its regular live classes are also open for a small fee to all language learners, level A1-C2.

If your German is already at a relatively high conversational level, then there are also opportunities to speak with native speakers, through sites such as Preply and various Facebook groups.

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CULTURE

‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

Germans have an international reputation for enjoying functional clothing. A top German fashion expert told The Local whether the stereotypes of German fashion are really true - and what Angela Merkel has to do with modern style.

‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

‘Comfortable and practical’

“It’s pretty easy to define German style,” says Bernhard Roetzel, the author of books on men’s fashion such as ‘Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion’. “Nowadays the basic dress of a grown-up man is mainly blue jeans, some kind of sweatshirt and an anorak. The shoes are usually comfortable sneakers. This is the basic German fashion that everyone from workers to doctors wears, and it is suitable for 90 percent of occasions.”

The basic theme, he says, is comfort and practicality. “That is very important.”

According to Roetzel, this love for the practical stretches all the way back into the 19th century when most other Europeans still had strict public dress codes.

“It began with a movement called Lebensreform, which valued things like vegetarianism and woollen clothes, which were supposed to be healthy,” he says.

“Even if Germans at the time didn’t like political freedom, they loved the freedom to wear sandals. Freedom for Germans is to wear sandals in places where it is not appropriate!”

A woman lies on the shore of the Schwarzachtalsee in Baden-Württemberg still wearing her sandals. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Thomas Warnack

Dressing down became even more acceptable after the First World War, when Germany became a republic and the aristocracy, with its formal sense of dress, lost its importance. “The Nazis also propagated being active outdoors,” Roetzel notes. “Fashion was seen as something awful created by the French and the Jews to bring about the downfall of German culture.”

When the craze for casual wear crossed the pond from the US in the 1960s, Germans were slow to adopt it. But now jeans are even standard clothing for septuagenarians, he says. “Twenty years after jeans arrived people started to realise that they are great for all occasions – and now everyone wears them. This was the last blow to formal German clothing.”

Dress down for work

The German love for all-purpose clothes means that it is perfectly appropriate to wear jeans to work, according to Roetzel. 

“If you don’t work in a bank or law firm you can probably wear jeans in most offices. A non-iron, short sleeve shirt is also very important. German men love these shirts, despite the fact that you get hot in them.”

You can even wear sneakers in the office. Or, if you have to look a bit smarter “some very cheap, comfortable leather shoes” will make you fit right in.

“In business, it is very important that you don’t stand out,” Roetzel advises. “If you are smartly dressed people will ask if you have an important meeting or will think you are looking for a pay rise. For everyday business, you dress as casually as possible.”

A woman cycles to work in jeans and a simple jacket in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Christin Klose

Nothing too sexy

Meanwhile, women’s workplace style, perhaps even more than men’s, is based on the principle of ‘the more forgettable the better.’

“Women in German business must not look too sexy,” says the fashion writer. “If you wear a skirt, for example, it should not be too short and heels should not be too high.” A “boxy, mouse grey suit” including a jacket that doesn’t complement one’s figure completes the look.

“Whereas in Italy, businesswomen carry Chanel bags, in Germany they usually carry a laptop bag or something very practical. Makeup is also rather reduced, not too much lipstick, nothing that is too obvious,” he says.

No door policy

Ties are basically a redundant piece of apparel in modern Germany, meaning wearing one really is a matter of choice in most settings.

“There are very few places where you are not allowed in if you don’t wear a tie,” says Roetzel. “I don’t know a single restaurant that wouldn’t admit you if you don’t wear a tie. You might not be allowed into Cologne Cathedral if your shorts are too short, but basically, you can wear everything everywhere and Germans love this!”

Funerals and weddings

Even the most formal occasions, such as weddings, funerals and important birthdays are much more informal events than they once were.

“At funerals, people will wear black but they rarely wear a black suit, most people will wear a black sweatshirt and jeans,” says Roetzel.

Copy Merkel

Angela Merkel’s unpretentious style appealed to Germans. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Fabian Sommer

Anyone looking for inspiration need look no further than recently retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who famously wore variations on the same trouser suit for most of her career.

“She had different colours and fabrics but that was her uniform and she also found her hairstyle and that was it. I don’t think she had a stylist,” Roetzel says. “That’s what Germans love. It’s recognizable and it doesn’t look expensive.”

READ ALSO:

“In Germany, one thing you should never admit to is wearing expensive, tailor-made clothes,” he explains. “As a politician, you can admit that you like drinking but you should never admit to having an expensive wardrobe.”

In fact, the cheaper the better. “Olaf Scholz has always earned a lot of money but his clothes are awful, his suits are awful – this is just perfect for Germany,” says Roetzel.

Splash the cash subtly (or on outdoor clothes)

This is not to say that all Germans wear cheap clothes, but they don’t make a big fuss about the brands that they do wear.

“People want to express status by wearing certain brands,” Roetzel points out. “But in Germany, this is done in a very subtle way. You will see small details in the clothes and glasses of a professor or doctor that will tell you a lot. Class exists but people hide their status because it is negative to show it off. This can be hard for foreigners to detect.”

There is one major exemption thought to the rule of not flaunting your wealth – outdoor apparel.

“Outdoor clothes are really a big thing here,” Roetzel says. “It gives people a sense of freedom and healthiness. Spending €800 on an outdoor jacket is perfectly okay. But it is a sin to spend the same amount on a tailor-made suit – you will destroy your image if you admit to doing this.”

Moreover, anyone who wants to impress Germans through their possessions would be better advised to buy a good car or modern kitchen, the fashion expert says. “It is perfectly normal to have a very expensive kitchen, but your clothes should still be cheap.”

Focus on inner beauty

The German (dis)interest in fashion can actually tell us a lot about deeper German values.

“There is an old Prussian saying of mehr sein als schein (content is better than appearance). Germans feel that if something is too beautiful there must be something fishy about it. Anyone who is too smartly dressed could be a conman,” says Roetzel.

“Germans are very honest, they like to be very direct. They say “what’s the point in not wearing sandals if it’s hot?’”

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