Hello, Josi! Welcome back to VOV24/7’s “Culture Rendezvous”! How does your life change when you reach 18?
At the age of 18 my whole life changed. I mean, this is what I expected. In reality I still looked the same and had the same friends and family. What really changed was quite invisible. Now I was allowed to drive a car alone (before that I needed a companion), I could get a tattoo, marry without the approval of my parents, and I am able to make legal contracts on my own. From the 15th to the 16th of July, my birthday, my rights changed, and I became an adult. Our 18th birthday is so important for us, because we celebrate that we are no longer a child.
How was your 18th birthday different from your previous one?
My 17th birthday was a garden party and I invited just some close friends. We had a few drinks, nice food and spent a nice evening together. It was an enjoyable party but no big deal. For my 18th birthday I rented a room and invited almost everybody I knew, bought a wide variety of drinks and a lot of beer, made a special playlist and so much more. I totally freaked out, because this party was so important for me. Your 18th birthday is something exciting and special, so your 18th birthday party has to be exciting and special too.
What happens at an 18th birthday party in Germany?
First, everybody appears in their best clothes. Boys wear pressed button-down shirts and girls wear high heels. Then you start with a beer. This is so German, but the most important drink for the evening is beer even if everybody ends up drinking spirits later on in the evening. So, you enter the party, say hello to everybody and get your first glass of beer. At parties we serve it in glasses, not in bottles. Then you spend your time talking to the other guests, maybe encountering people you haven’t seen for a long time. After a few hours your beer turns into a glass of vodka with orange juice or rum with coke. There are two kinds of birthday parties: the one that happens after the individual’s birthday and the one that starts the evening before the individual’s birthday, so you can celebrate it together at 12 o’clock.
|An 18th birthday in Germany is full of beer, special gifts, Kartoffel salad, and Schlager (Photo: cosmopolitan.com)
What presents do you usually give to the host at their 18th birthday party?
Of course you have to buy a gift, but you have different options to choose from and sometimes you also have duties to fulfill. Let’s start with some ordinary gifts. As I said before, I invited almost everybody I knew, and I was not the only person to do this. So sometimes it happens, that you are invited to an 18th birthday party and you know the person, but not so well. For example, you are colleagues. So you buy a bottle of their favorite beverage as a gift. Alcohol is expensive, and they’re now legally allowed to drink it. It’s the perfect gift for people you are not so close with.
What if they are your close friends or relatives?
This is never ever a gift for close friends. If you spend a lot of time together, some would create a photo album or a slideshow with photos taken in the past. This is a typical gift made by girls and it is typical to include childhood photos of the host. This is often done by siblings or other family members. If it’s your best friend’s party, preparing something personal is enough. But if you give something as a group, you have to become creative. This is not a rule and not everybody likes it, but in some groups it’s an unwritten rule to prepare a small game for the host. Then they have to answer questions or do silly activities. The intention behind this is to entertain the guests and to amuse the host. Also, you can wrap the present in a unique way. For example, once, we froze all the money in a big bucket of water.
For such a special party you need a lot of energy to make it through the evening. So what food is served at a German 18th birthday party?
Kartoffel salad. This may be the most German food ever. It’s a salad made of potatoes. Other typical party food is: pasta salad, meatballs, grilled sausages, chips, bread with dip, vegetable batons or pizza. Just something that is easy to make, not so expensive, and can satisfy the taste of every guest. After the savory part follows the dessert with cookies, fruit, or pudding. And, of course, the birthday cake. Usually the food is home-made, often by the host’s mother, and served like a buffet so everybody can take what they want. It is common in Germany to serve some snacks beside the main food, like sweets such as gummies, crisps, or pretzel sticks.
What about music?
For a good party, you need good music. In Germany it’s common to play contemporary music and 90s trash pop. It’s guaranteed that people will start to dance. And there is a secret weapon called Schlager. Schlager is German folk music and drunken Germans like it, even if they refuse to admit it when they’re sober.
Thank you, Josi, for the talk! For VOV24/7’s “Culture Rendezvous”.