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Daily Life Commentary: Germans and Their Barley Juice

If you asked someone who knows Germany only from a distance, what he or she thinks of when hearing Germany, he or she will be very likely to tell you something about beer, Weißwurst ( Bavarian white sausage) and Lederhosen (leather pants, which are also more of a Bavarian thing in particular because it’s not like whole Germany consists of Bavaria alone but aparently not many people are aware of this fact) and of course the good old Sauerkraut.

On the other hand, people like Nietzsche, Humboldt, Grauss or even the invention of the coffee filter (yes, that one was German) are mostly unknown to newcomers.

However, of all the things listed above, beer is the number one association with Germany. Probably even ahead of Lederhosen and Sauerkraut and to be honest, Germans are quite proud of their national drink, too. They even have a nickname for it. Gerstensaft, which translates into barley juice. They have even come as far as coming up with new beer creations like the radler, which is beer with sprite, the diesel, aka beer with coke and the Berliner Weisse or simply beer mixed with different types of syrup.

 Well, as some of you may know already, the Oktoberfest has been on a couple of weeks ago which is kind of a big deal even outside of Bavaria (what will we do all October if she actually really declares independence from the rest of Germany one day? Oh my Lord…). A deal big enough that even Berlin comes up with its own way of savoring the drinking of beer and the eating of Obazda and Weißwurst along with German schlager or polka music in the background.

Just recently I have been strolling around Alexanderplatz where the Berlinish version of the Oktoberfest was in full swing. I went over to one of several food stands and because I could no longer see cheeseburgers or noodles I grabbed a meat sandwich with sauerkraut and found me a seat at one of the long wooden tables with tablecloths in blue-white Bavarian pattern.

One of the most interesting things about Berlin is that here you can find such jolly meetings in the middle of town at pretty much any hour and if it is not some sort of festival, it may just as well be a couple of teens and their beer bottles. As far as I can remember, the Spanish call that botellon. 

So there I was, enjoying my sauerkraut sandwich, surrounded by malls, the Park Inn hotel and a bunch of people wearing beer hats. People were eating, drinking, smoking or bying stuff at the stands around us that were offering everything from loom bands, to Russian matryoshka dolls to ostrich eggs. The singing behind me became louder and louder, until the group of very joyous Spanish people in beer hats were trying to outsing Helene Fischer’s ‘Breathless Through the Night’ with Viva España!

“Excuse me, do you know where I can find this new shopping mall they have here?”, asked a couple that has just joined the table with a bunch of paper bags from PRIMARK and a beer mug each.

“Sure. It’s the red building right behind the bank, across the square. You can hardly miss it”, I said with a smile on my face.

The couple sat opposite me and started to sip on their one liter beer mugs. As usual I went for the regular small talk of where are you from, how do you like it here and what have you seen already. After talking for a couple of minutes, the woman noticed that I didn’t have any beer mug in front of me.

“You don’t drink?”, she asked me in a voice full of absolute shock and disbelief.

“No, I don’t”, I said

“But why?!”

“I just don’t”, I said calmly but she was already looking at me like I have just gotten out of a ufo or something.

Yes, there is this one other thing about beer in this country. If you refuse to drink it, people will believe that something must be definitely wrong with you if you don’t like alcohol. This is where I start wondering what has gone wrong with this society.  How come you can be made fun of for studying in the library in order to pass your classes but you will be strongly encouraged to drink ‘barley juice’ or anything similar until you explode?

Am I actually the only one who finds this concerning??

Nowadays it seems like only a few people respect the fact that there are things you don’t like or that make you feel uncomfortable. It is indeed something I cannot understand even after living here for so long and having a German family. When it comes to alcohol, ‘no’ is not an answer and shall you dare to make use of it, you seem to automatically be worth less in the eyes of the others. I mean, surely there are situations where I have a sip because there is pretty much no polite way out of the situation but why does it have to be so extreme? Don’t people have other things to worry about?

Call me a teetotaler all you want but this time it is not me, it’s you with whom there is something wrong. Maybe that is a thing worth thinking about?

And with that, sweet dreams, world.



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