Teenage Social Life
When close friends meet up, they usually hug each other. More distant friends merely say “hallo” as there is no expectation to go up to each person and greet them with two kisses, as they do in Spain and France. In this aspect, greetings in Germany resemble those of the United States.
Although I have spent time in Germany, I was primarily with my host sister and participated in her day-to-day life at school and never had the need to seek out friends apart from her and her friend group. That being said, I don’t have first-hand experience of having to make friends in school, but I would assume, based on similarities among teenagers, that forging friendships comes with time and is not necessarily easy. Here are some tips I have learned from my own practice and from other Americans who struggled to make friends.
- Your classmates may make a big fuss over you for the first few days because you are American. This charm will wear off and you will not make friends because you happen to be American, but because of who you are inside, and this takes time, especially if a language barrier prevents you from laughing and joking in German.
- Do not expect students to feel any obligation to want to make you feel welcome in their school or country. Most likely, they aren’t going home asking their parents if they can have you over for dinner to share their German traditions with you. This may sound harsh, but they just don’t care.
- Breaking into a friend group is not easy, so I encourage you to be patient and persistent. The longer you are there, the more friends you will make.
- Do not isolate yourself and sit alone in class or in the cafeteria. If ever you select a poor seating location, take the initiative and change seats!
- Get on the class WhatsApp group chat as soon as possible.
- Be nice to everyone and take an interest in their lives. Talk to fellow students about things you would typically discuss with your friends back home.
- Be positive about Germany if you want them to hang out with you. Nobody enjoys being with someone who is constantly criticizing their country or comparing it to the U.S.
- On the other hand, don’t let disparaging remarks about the U.S. get you down. Unless they have lived in the U.S., they are generalities and don’t apply to you personally.
- Even when you think you have found your perfect friend group, continue to foster new relationships in your school or outside of school.
Social activities gradually become more co-ed and ramp up in 9th and 10th grades. By 11th grade, teenagers become very independent.
The drinking age is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for hard liquor. In fact, many parents serve children alcoholic drinks at family functions even before age 16. The legal age for purchasing tabaco is 18, however that does not deter teenagers from smoking cigarettes.
The minimum driving age in Germany is 18, which means parents may still act as chauffeurs for their children, but many youth prefer their independence and use public transportation.
- Hanging Out
Activities vary, from hanging out at someone’s home or at a designated outdoor location. Weather permitting, teenagers like to spend a lot of time outside and even when they are at someone’s home, they often go outside. Teenagers also like to shop together and congregate at cafes or public squares.
Home parties are the most sought-after social activity in 10th and especially 11th and 12th grades. If teenagers smoke at a party, it is typically marijuana (rarely tobacco) as it is “cool” and makes them feel older. Teenagers drink quite a bit at parties as well. Essentially, most parties are to get drunk, get high and meet the opposite sex.
- Bars and nightclubs
You only need to be 16 to enter a bar or nightclub, so frequently these establishments become more common for those in 11th or 12th grade. Consequently, there is little demand for fake ID’s here.
- Concerts and festivals
German teenagers enjoy attending concerts and local festivals. They particularly enjoy outdoor festivals, weather permitting.
- Sporting activities
Germans are very athletic individuals and teenagers love to get together to do more physical activities with their friends, more so than in both France and Spain. I remember going on a bike ride with my host sister and brother thinking it would be a relatively easy ride, which is was to them – only 5 kilometers! I was exhausted. That was followed by a trip to the local pool for swimming. Once in the pool my host siblings initially swam laps, while I just relaxed in the water. Indeed, they are sportive!
Music plays a major role in Germans’ everyday life. They listen to rap, pop and a little jazz including songs from their own native artists. My friends’ playlists are usually an even mix between German and American songs, which shows the influence of U.S. culture.