I guess the majority of my party life might have taken place outside of Germany, pretending to be a Liechtensteiner. So now that I repatriate, obviously going out in Germany, learning the German party way properly and mastering the German festive competences is part of the repat challenge. This is why I shall share my last Saturday night with you.
Phase 1: The Invitation
My friend Nils, a fellow historian from Bremen, asks me to go to the Eurovision Dance Nite. Nils is a hardcore fan of Eurovision and if I say that, you can guess how much of a fan he is. I, the unsuspecting schlagergirl, immediately accept and do not think further about it – I don’t even check the homepage or the (non-existent) Facebook event.
Phase 2: Planning
Because the party was planned so far ahead, new obligations arise (I did skip the Night of the Museums that night thought, feeling like a philistine) and I have to first doublebook, then triplebook myself and then take the visitor that decided to come to Hamburg that weekend, with me. That visitor was my hilarious friend Maike who is excellent party material, so that was not a problem.
Phase 3: Timing, Shopping and Preparty
On Saturday, I start to encounter the first cultural problems. We are invited for dinner and predrinks at Nils’ at 6 pm, a time we can impossibly make because of the triplebooking. But isn’t that the thing about Germany, no one goes to the party before 3 am? Or wait, was that just Berlin? Ah, the confusion! Nils clarifies: He wants to get there by midnight. The next challenge is the question of alcohol: if you are invited for pre-drinks, do you still bring something? What? How much? Just for yourself or for everyone? Maike and I make our way to Lidl and while so many German things have not entered my mind yet, one thing has stuck very well: I stand in front of the alcohol shelf and say, “Five euros for a bottle of vodka? Isn’t that quite a lot?” Apparently the fact that you can buy alcohol anywhere is so irresponsible already that it makes me think it should practically be for free, too.
Another important preparation step for going out in Germany is: real money. By now, Maike is very anxious about our cash situation. At every bank, she nags that we should take out money. At every bank, I bark, “We’re late, we’re already late! We can talk out money later!” I find it terribly unnerving that you have to have cash on you for everything in Germany. And I always hold onto the belief that there is a way of paying with card if you really beg. (There is not.) But as I will explain later, I made my way through the evening without any cash.
Nils and his wife live in the surburbs. Like the real suburbs. We get on the commuter train and start talking about whether Maike can eat meat despite her promise not to during lent. She has a craving and I say that if Nils has cooked meat, she must give in to her craving and that’s okay and I would know because I have a theology degree. Suddenly the lady next to me joins in the conversation! “Ah, theologians are the dirtiest! My friend is a theologian too and oh, my…” I am quite surprised that an unknown, sober person just starts talking to us. I am also somewhat astounded that she, without knowing me, accusing me of being dirty.
We polite-reply and then return to discussing the way from the station when she says, “I have a friend who picks me up, he can show you the way!” Alright then. This lady really wants to be our friend. We go with her and she leads us to her friend, as we approach him, she says, “He looks like a Nazi, but he isn’t! He is part of some 1968-movement”. A-ha. Both Maike and I immediately notice that he wears a Lonsdale jacket, a brand known to be worn by nazis. The potential nazi has not much more orientation than us and tries to explain the way. “I can just give you a ride, too!”, he offers friendly. “Eeeehm, no we’d rather walk”, both Maike and I reply and thank for the help to then hurry away from the nazi.
At the preparty that our common friend Anne also attends, we act like adults and eat dinner, talk about work and then slowly, Nils pours more ouzos and Gin Tonics which inevitably leads to him putting on music that is barely acceptable anymore (this: Helene Fischer). Before I know it, I am rushed out of the door to go to the station again with Nils, his wife Silke and Maike. Anne unfortunately über-acts the adult part and says she can’t come because she has to work tomorrow.
Phase 4: Getting there
Because I really need to go the bathroom as we finally get there, I storm into the club, completely cold-shoulder the guy who charges your entrance fee and go to the bathroom. When I come out again, I realize where we just got in (without paying): a gay club. Duh, of course, Eurovision. This is one of the things I will never understand: why must Eurovision be gay-stereotyped? Latest since Lordi won, even stereotype-straight-men must be able to identify? I turn to my friend Maike and say that men-hunting-wise this was a bad choice. Maike, in her infinite wisdom, replies, “This is going to be fabulous. Grab-free dancing!”
Phase 5: The Swedophiles
As we enter the dance floor, I realize we are truly in for a gay experience. There are literally three women: Maike, Silke and I. For some reason this makes me bolder than usual and when Maike buys us all a beer which I don’t drink, I head back to the bar and demand an alternative – and even get a more expensive wine in return. This evening has not only financially been rewarding.
The DJ plays pretty much only Eurovision and I don’t even know 70% of the songs. But I have Nils with me and he knows his stuff. Every time a new song starts, I move closer to him and perk up my ears. He screams things like, “Ukraine 2005!” or “Israel 2012!”. I am still impressed that he knows every single song.
It doesn’t take long until it gets so warm that Maike and I head out for some fresh air, casually avoiding to show off our stamp-less wrist to the guy at the entrance. Outside, Maike manages to bum a smoke from a gay couple who chit-chats with us and then asks if we’re together.
As we go in again, I catch sight of two guys who wear a shirt with a heart-shaped Swedish flag on it. I pat their chests and compliment them on the excellent clothing choice, they smile surprised. Maike and I decide that it is time for some ABBA with all these Swedophiles around and the DJ is very cooperative. I see a guy sitting on a bench, he was certainly fortysomething, wearing a shirt with a big ABBA logo and ask – maybe force – him to dance to Waterloo with me. I usually don’t do that. But you know, the combination of ABBA, ouzo and being the only woman.
After a few more Turkey-Belarus-Greece-songs, the Swedophile-level reached its first peak: I lay eyes on a guy that has a quote written on his blue shirt, in yellow (obviously). A Carola quote. “Främling, vad döljer du för mig?” (“Stranger, what are you hiding from me”, the beginning of Carola’s famous Eurovision entry in the 1990s). What are the odds that someone on a party in Germany has a T-Shirt with a quote like that? I don’t even think anyone in Sweden has that. He was a very nice guy and we talked briefly about Stockholm but since he shared my opinion that it is a great city and Carola’s song a very good Eurovision choice (remember if you hate Carola: good music and good Eurovision choices are not neccessarily the same) we did not have much discuss. At this point, I was already dead tired and my feet were aching, but even though we wanted to go home, there was no tearing oneself away from the mesmerizing beats of the dancefloor. And then it happened.
At four am in a German gay club in Hamburg, the DJ puts on Linda Bengtzing. In Swedish. And the crowd goes crazy. Jag ljuger så bra – one of my favorites because I identify, being from Liechtenstein and all – apparently also a favorite in this house. Mr Främling vad döljer du and I know every single line. Nils is unimpressed with the fact that they play a Swedish schlager, “Ah, you know, Melodifestivalen, it’s the thing”. Yeah, sure, it’s the thing. In Germany.
Phase 6: Wurstwasser
Blissfully smiling, we finally leave the place in the wee hours of the morning. Maike throws out an amazing amount of funny quotes but sadly I forget them all. What I remember though is how I am lying in bed, trying to instagram (some things need to be done), while she stands in my adjacent kitchen, marvels at some left-over wurstwasser (brine) and fries an egg, drinking out of an open wine bottle. In Germany, you eat fried eggs when you come home from partying. I am glad Maike upholds this tradition, after all I need to re-learn all these competences.
Phase 7: Waking up to church music
The next morning, five hours laters, we are woken up by brass instruments. Lund’s Youth Symphonic Band is visiting the church. It is literally like waking up in heaven, except that your head hurts. We descend the stairs and attend the fantastic music service. It’s like God has sent angels with brass instruments. The pastor gives me an insistent look as he blesses the assembly. I already plan the next Schlager night.