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CULTURE

Eight signs summer has arrived in Germany

How do we know summer has arrived in Germany? Well, we're seeing more naked people and getting soaked in thunderstorms. Here's a few more signs.

Eight signs summer has arrived in Germany
Germans hitting the Schlachtensee lake in Berlin on Sunday. Photo: DPA

Shops sell out of fans

Photo: DPA

When temperatures rise to the late 20s and 30s, Germany gets sticky. That's because of the heat, but it's also exasperated by the lack of air conditioning in many public places. Apart from the odd shop or modern office, it’s quite difficult to get a blast of cool air as the mercury rises.

READ ALSO: Heatwave in Germany – temperatures of 40C forecast

And don't even mention public transport, especially the U-Bahn, which has already transformed into a sea of body odour and it's only June. 

Those who've had enough of waking up drenched in their own sweat every morning will probably head to a shop with the aim of buying a cooling fan, only to find that it's impossible to find one. 

Last year in the heatwave, fans of all shapes and sizes sold out in stores across Germany. Our advice: purchase one on the next cooler day so you can be smug when the heat creeps up again.

Failing that, write a reminder in your diary to pick one up in winter when there's sure to be a large supply, and hold onto it for dear life for all future German heatwaves. 

Germans head to the lakes

The Helenesee in Brandenburg. Photo: DPA

The Germans are generally big fans of the outdoors all year round and now that sunnier days are here they will flock in huge numbers to the many lakes or outdoor pools in the country. 

The best way to do it is figure out your route in advance – as some lakes require careful public transport planning, pack a picnic and lots of liquid (no, beer doesn't really count. We mean water!)

Plus, don't forget your sunscreen and take care when swimming in water. 

It's also worth nothing that beaches can be very busy at this time of year. Still, we would thoroughly recommend making the most of the awesome water spots across the country, from Bavaria to Brandenburg.

People get naked

An FKK sign at a beach in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Oh Germany, we really know it’s summer when you get your kit off.

Don't be surprised when you get to the lake to find that some people are wearing absolutely nothing. 

Germany has a tolerance of and, in some cases, a fondness for being “textile free.” Whether it's one of the country's hundreds of spas and wellness resorts, parks or lakes, many residents here are known for having no qualms about taking their clothes off.

This is the country of FKK – Freikörperkultur – an informal movement that translates to free body culture.

The movement comes to life in summer when you'll find designated FKK spots at beaches and even parks, such as the Englischer Garten in Munich. 

Try not to stare, just go with it and if you're intrigued then think about joining in. What's the worst that could happen? 

SEE ALSO: The dos and don'ts of public nudity in Germany

You get caught in torrential rain

Unfortunately, summer in the Bundesrepublik includes dramatic thunder and lightning storms which bring with them torrential rain. The rain is good for the crops, but it's a little inconvenient for going about your day. 

If you're Scottish like me, you will be used to carrying an umbrella/raincoat around with you at all times. But if you're not in tune with unpredictable weather, then perhaps consider investing in some light waterproof wear. Failing that, it's so warm that you'll dry pretty quickly. 

Some of the lightning storms are quite the spectacle, but watch them from a safe position. 

Strawberries are everywhere

If spring was the season for Spargel (asparagus) then summer is the humble strawberry’s time to shine. Yes, Erdbeeren are available pretty much all year round due to industrial farming but this is when they are at their best. 

Little huts pop up at the side of roads, in train stations and on streets selling tubs of strawbs, making them great for picking up on the way to your picnic.

Heatwave tip: another seasonal fruit that is great for helping you cool down on a summer's day and available everywhere – watermelon.

Festival season gets underway

Would it even be summer in Germany without an array of festivals? From street parties to parades and big music extravaganzas, this country really does try to make the most of the social side of summer. 

There was even a strawberry festival held in Hamburg at the weekend!

As well as the bigger events, such as Fusion, a music festival near Berlin, find out if your neighbourhood or town is hosting a fest as often it's a great way to meet the people who live in your area and make connections. 

The parties are reminiscent of cosy street gatherings, guaranteeing a real local feel. 

Shops shut for a holiday

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

#urlaub#urlaub#erholen#entspannen#weilburg#luftballons#öffnungszeiten#geschlossen#

A post shared by Ballon Oase (@ballon_oase_) on Jun 16, 2019 at 7:26am PDT

Get ready for stores, cafes and restaurants to shut their doors – sometimes for weeks on end – as owners go on their summer holidays. This usually happens in the second part of summer; in fact, some businesses shut for the entire month of August.

But don't be surprised if independent stores or cafes have a sign on their door alerting you to the fact they are closed for a weeks, anytime from now. 

More bikes get stolen

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

Einen wunderschönen ☕️ guten Morgen euch. Die Sonne lacht und ein herrlicher Sonntag ☀️ steht bevor. Ob eine kleine ? Ausfahrt, eine ? Radtour, ein ?‍♂️ Spaziergang oder gehts ins Freibad? Für was entscheidet ihr euch? Euch auf jeden Fall einen tollen Tag ?. . #hannover #hannover_fotografie #maschsee #maschseeliebe #maschseehannover #bike #fahrräder #segelboot #sport #hannoverliebe #instanature #hannoverliebt #instahannover #meinniedersachsen #meinhannover #hannoverlove #ilovehannover #lovehannover #lowersaxony #niedersachsen #hannoververliebt #hannoverliebe #natur #nature #chillen #love #liebe #fahrradtour #fahrradfahren

A post shared by Matthias – Photography (@hannover_fotografie) on Jun 16, 2019 at 1:27am PDT

This is a depressing but a true fact of life in Germany: as soon as the good weather is back in force, the risk of your bike getting nicked increases dramatically. Of course, thieves are on the hunt for Fahrräder all year round, but as demand goes up in the hot weather, more bicycles are swiped from the street – or even the Hinterhof (courtyard).

It's important to have a good lock or two for your bike to keep it secure. But short of keeping it locked away in your room and never using it, there's not much you can do.

The silver lining is that buying a fairly decent bike in Germany is usually not very expensive due to there being so many around. However, we wish the police did a bit more to crack down on these thefts, which are often organized by gangs in urban areas. 

Have we missed anything out? Let us know your ideas by emailing [email protected] 

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OPINION & ANALYISIS

What’s behind Germany’s obsession with roundtable politics talk shows?

Forget the Bundestag. If you want to understand German politics - and see how lively it can really be - turn on your (almost nightly) talk show.

What's behind Germany's obsession with roundtable politics talk shows?

It may well be one of the most German things imaginable – a roundtable discussion designed to give a fair amount of time to a wide range of viewpoints before (maybe) achieving some sort of consensus.

Failing that, viewers – theoretically anyway – walk away better informed and open to changing some of their opinions after a, again theoretically, respectful discussion.

Welcome to the German political talk show circuit – a collection of moderated roundtable discussions.

Whether its Anne Will on Sunday nights, “Hart aber fair” or “tough but fair” on Mondays, or Maybrit Illner on Thursdays and Markus Lanz on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays – you can tune into several political panels a week if you fancy.

If you have politically-minded German friends or co-workers, you might ask: “Did you watch Lanz last night?” Anecdotally, at least as many people who watch will have strong opinions about why they don’t.

Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk makes a video appearance (left video) on the Markus Lanz show on 10 March 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Cornelia Lehmann

“Lanz is a disgrace!” and “I don’t watch Anne Will out of principle!” are both phrases I’ve heard myself more than a few times over the years.

But if you are a fan and you miss an episode, don’t worry – many news outlets will run summaries of what happened during said roundtable the next morning.

“Newspapers regularly publish these recaps almost as if they were relevant parliamentary meetings,” says Peter Littger, a columnist on language and culture in Germany. “It’s super relevant politically. It can increase your voting base and certainly your book sales if you appear there.”

READ ALSO: Tatort to Temptation Island: What do Germans like to watch on TV?

‘Consensus-oriented political culture’

If the nationally-focused ones aren’t enough for you, there’s a good chance you can find a show on a regional broadcaster focusing on issues in your federal state, again in – you guessed it – roundtable format.

As you might have gathered, the show’s name is often the same as its host, who functions first and foremost as a moderator there to facilitate and mediate a discussion between guests who are chosen specifically to balance a panel.

For a discussion on Ukraine, for example, you’ll regularly have people from every political party, from ministers and high-ranking parliamentarians who chair important Bundestag committees to pro-Russian voices from the German Left Party and far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

And no one is too high-ranking not to make at least the occasional appearance. Chancellor Olaf Scholz himself joined a Maybrit Illner roundtable on July 7th this year.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appears on the Maybrit Illner show on 7 July 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Svea Pietschmann

Both European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba have also made appearances on Anne Will this year.

In characteristically German fashion, state broadcasters have extensive written regulations to ensure a panel also has a balance of people from relevant expert disciplines. For instance, a coronavirus panel may well feature a notable doctor alongside a civil liberties lawyer.

“Germany has a more consensus-oriented political culture than you might see in a country like the UK, for example, which is more confrontational and even adversarial,” says Sebastian Ludwicki-Ziegler a PhD researcher at the University of Stirling’s Department of Communications, Media, and Culture.

“You’ll still get some invited guests who are very contrarian and even aggressive – like Thilo Sarrazin (a former politician who wrote a controversial book in 2010 about Muslim immigration to Germany) for example. But even then, the moderator often tries to maintain a softer, more civil tone.”

Ludwicki-Ziegler says that while the roundtable format reflects German political culture, it also reflects its institutional setup. A show producer can simply get more obvious ranges of political opinion in a country with Germany’s proportional representation, which has seven parties in parliament.

Historic roundtables

Unlike the often subdued German Bundestag though, German talk shows can certainly get lively, or even historic.

Perhaps the most notable TV roundtable happened right after the 2005 federal election. With then incumbent Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder having finished only one percent behind Christian Democrat Angela Merkel when all the votes were counted, party leaders gathered in the traditional “Elefantenrunde,” or yes, the “Elephant’s round,” to discuss the results.

READ ALSO: Talking elephants and grumpy politicians: Four things that will happen after the German elections

With the final election result having been so close, observers still discuss whether Schröder lost his chancellorship at the ballot box or during the 2005 Elefantenrunde. In contrast to a calm Merkel, Schröder insisted he would stay on as Chancellor.

Brash and arrogant, some observers have asked whether he was drunk at the time. German media outlets ran anniversary pieces looking back at his disastrous roundtable performance 5, 10, and 15 years later. One such anniversary piece from 2020 called the roundtable “Schröder’s embarrassing end.”

The 2005 post-election roundtable, or “Elefantenrunde,” is considered by many German political observers to be the disastrous end to former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder;s political career. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | ZDF/Jürgen_Detmers

Mastering the roundtable appearance is a big plus for a German politician, or anyone else looking to move the needle of German public opinion.

Satisfying a particularly German impulse, you can certainly also walk away feeling like you’ve considered all sides. But are there drawbacks?

On 8 May 2022’s edition of Anne Will, social psychologist Harald Welzer appeared to lecture Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk that 45 percent of Germans were against delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine because of German war history. Many observers criticised Welzer for patronising the Ambassador of a country at war about the need to have weapons for its own self-defense.

The exchange, and a fair few others, lead some experts to wonder whether the roundtable format so many German political talk shows seem to love gives too big a platform to pro-Russian voices or to controversial writers like the aforementioned Thilo Sarrazin.

“If we take Germany and Ukraine as one example, you can get some great guests who come on and really set things straight with facts, data, and plain talk,” says Benjamin Tallis, a Fellow in German Security Policy at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

“But you can get false balance. You’ll get people on with rather fringe opinions given a platform against people who have a lot more experience and evidence. That’s true in a lot of places now, sure, but this talk show format really lends itself to that because of the amount of guests you need on a nightly basis,” says Tallis.

“Unfortunately in Germany, many guests are invited on based on their opinions about an issue rather than the level of their expertise, in order to try and achieve balance,” says Minna Alander, a specialist in German foreign policy who recently joined the Finnish Institute of International Affairs after more than a decade working in Berlin.

“When you start equating opinion with knowledge, it makes it way more difficult to have a fact-based debate. On matters of life and death, like in Ukraine, that can have a polarising effect.”

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