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Germans partake in the age-old student ritual of “Pre-drinks” too. However, whereas the English call a spade a spade, the Germans break with their logical reflexes and ordain the event with a more literary flair: “Vorglühen” (or pre-glow). So, preparing myself for the coming of the promised ‘glow’ I wedged myself in between fellow drinkers. Immediately at home in the familiar loud stickiness of Pre-drinks, behavioural patterns — like animal instincts from an earlier species – came flooding back and I slotted seamlessly in. I felt an affinity with the millions of other European students enjoying replica evenings at this very moment. I have no doubt that an outside observer — a deaf one of course — would barely be able to distinguish between this revelry and the English model. Indeed, for the most part, our German counterparts adhere conscientiously to the international student handbook which lays out guidelines for such a situation: seat oneself in a vague circle around a stained chip-board table floating on a sea of laminate flooring in the choppy bay of cheap kitchen. Form a close attachment to one’s alcohol vessel and keep one’s eyes skinned and pealed for potential new rules added to the current drinking game.
Although largely comparable in content the German version of this paradigm is framed by their commitment to a no-frills approach. Any hint of glamour or grooming is violently suppressed in an effort to worship at the altar of Casual. I fear the beloved paradigms of ‘body-con’, ‘bandage’ and ‘crop-top’ have been somewhat lost in translation!
For them this is all very political. There is no desire to distinguish between male and female; the women’s jeans, minimal make-up and the bottle of beer in their hands drag a thick iron over any gender differences. They are — above any other categorisation – students.
Indeed no exhibitionism of any sort is pandered to. Here girls do not know their best photo angle. Taxis do not skid up and spill out mini-skirts and stilettos into slimy depths of booze parades. No, the Germans walk. They wear thick coats and turn up at either quaint bars in clean, cobbled streets where they know the drinks are good value or at converted basements where the music is their particular style.
If some nuances took a little adjustment at first I was soon accepted as part of the clan. I found that the language barrier was one of the first to slide – not merely due to a certain amount of alcohol-induced confidence – but, due to English infiltration into the German language, I was able to follow much of their conversation by listening out for a series of key words. As if avenging history the English have sent in their language like a cavalry into Germany and the Germans, like brainwashed soldiers, spout “amazing”, “fucking”, “crazy”, “wasted” as if it’s a war chant. Indeed, these phrases alone generally served to summarise the night’s proceedings!
By Madeleine Kilminster
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham