Sunday, April 26, 2009

Germans, Concerts, Soccer, & Awkward Silences

Last night I went to see The Living End in the Gloria Theater in Cologne. I've gone to a whole bunch of concerts since living here, but it only occurred to me last night that Germans turn everything into a soccer game. Well, I suppose they turn everything into a soccer game only if there is chanting and large groups of people involved. Certain cheers don't really transfer well from the soccer field (err, football pitch?) to a concert environment. For example, "Olé, olé, olé, olé, olé, olé." I'm sure you've heard it if you've ever seen or been to a soccer game, but seriously, people. How does that cheer work for a band?? It doesn't.

Additionally, Germans love to clap. I may have mentioned this before, but they'll clap to a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. Whether it's your "typical" German music, what's called Schlagermusik (here's a link to an example and you can actually hear the clapping with it), pop music, or in the case of last night, punk, clapping can be heard. Of course, they even clap in sync with each other at soccer games. I don't know what it is, but clapping is everywhere except at the university. Instead of clapping after a lecture is done, students knock on the desks. But back to last night...sure, there are points when the band encourages clapping in sync to the beat, but then other songs where there really isn't a beat to clap to, Germans manage to somehow clap. I've heard the excuse for this is that parents will clap out syllables for their kids to learn new words because German words are so long (like Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung, meaning speed limit, which is actually longer than the longest English word, antidisestablishmentarianism). So, for the word meaning speed limit, they'll clap out "Ge-schwin-di-keits-be-gren-zung." I'm not sure if that has to do with listening to punk music, but sure, why not.

What was also funny about last night that doesn't necessarily have to do with soccer is the crowd itself. It was so strange because every time the Living End would finish a song, people would clap and cheer for about 5 to 10 seconds before stopping completely. And then it'd be kind of quiet while everyone waited for the band to start the next song. I thought this was a little awkward because almost every other I've been to, people will continue clapping and cheering until the next song starts or the band says something. Even the lead singer/guitarist Chris mentioned it, saying the last time they were in Germany, the crowd was a little rowdier and noisier. Funny enough, everyone booed to this comment (I cheered because I was glad that someone said it), but I wanted to say, people, it's your own fault!

I think this might have to do with the fact that Germans are ok with awkward silences. I know as an American, it's kind of weird if you meet someone for the first time and then there's a lull in the conversation. It's almost as if you're saying, "Well, we don't have much to say to each other, so that's why we've run out of things to say. Therefore, we probably won't be great friends." Or in the case of a date, you probably think you've run out of things to say and you're not compatible. So as an American, I thought it was strange last night to have a break in cheering and clapping. It was almost as if the crowd was saying, "You're good, but not good enough for me to keep showing my appreciation for you." However, Germans are ok with awkward silences when you're talking to someone for the first time. They don't really think anything of it. I was thinking that perhaps the audience last night wasn't not appreciative, they just deemed it not necessary to have to exaggerate or anything like that (if that makes sense).

A video of The Living End rocking out.
Not sure if it was improvised, but very awesome nonetheless.

Although I've been here in Germany for almost 3.5 years, there are still things I will never quite get and will still laugh at. I suppose as much as I am well-integrated (or like to think so, at least), there are still things where I'm super American.

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