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Living in Germany during the World Cup

By Tuesday, July 15, 2014 ,

Since I'm a US expat currently living in Germany the 2014 World Cup was an interesting experience for me. My parents are from the UK so they usually followed it and four years ago I watched it, but it mainly as a way to  procrastinate on my research and homework.

I'm not a huge fan of sports, but I like watching the olympics and other high profile events. Sure, I'll go to a Super Bowl (the American Football championship) party, but mostly for the snacks.

But here in Germany, football/soccer is really the only sport people follow, and there are so many leagues there's nearly always a game to watch. But when it's the national team, an incredible number of people gather to watch, support and celebrate the Die deutsche Fu├čballnationalmannschaft.
Usually, people here are hesitant to show a lot of national pride, lest patriotism turns into nationalism and sports are a safe way of supporting your compatriots and country without alienating your neighbors.

Two years ago, during the Euro Cup there was quite a lot of excitement, for example middle aged men walking through the train stations decked out in Deutsch football kit, complete with knee high socks and the flag wrapped around their shoulders as a cape.

At first, it seemed as though there wasn't nearly as much interest in the World cup as there had been in the Euro Cup. A few flags appeared hanging out of windows and on car antennas, but that was about it.

Slowly as Germany progressed through the rounds, things started to get a little more lively:

A few people with little flags painted on their faces, a woman with hers in the shape of a heart.

A portly man in football kit with a fanny pack around his ample waist.

A fuzzy black yellow and red hat with soccer balls on the top.

The few days leading up to the cup we were in Scotland, whose team (known as Any One But England) had already won after the group stage, and where there was little world cup excitement. We even had trouble finding out whether it was Argentina or the Netherlands in the final.

But sure enough, when walking from the train station to the bus stop outside coming home on the day of the final we saw four men wearing the flag as capes with face paint.
A couple of hours before the game started, we were treated to some typical Hamburg weather: rain (especially disappointing after all that sun in Edinburgh) this may have temporarily dampened (soaked?) the festivities and washed away the face paint, because it was quiet until the game started.

Since no one scored during regular time, there were no loud celebrations for most of the match. A few loud bangs during half time and after normal time. When Germany played the US there were cheers, gasps and disappointed groan from the neighbors upstairs, so they must have been watching it elsewhere. Cities here will hold public viewings in stadiums and festival grounds, like the Kia Arena in Hamburg that holds 50,000 people, and shows the games  on a 92 m2 screen.

After Germany scored there were some Woooo!s, but it wasn't until after it was clear they'd won that the celebrating really started. So many people were cheering outside I couldn't tell if the noise was from the TV or people outside celebrating. There were fireworks in the rain, singing, car horns honking. Some friends told me yesterday that even the cargo ships in the harbour were blowing their horns in celebration.

Suddenly, from somewhere in the neighborhood music swelled into Queen's 'We are the Champions', and a choir of inebriated voices belted out the chorus...and just the chorus. Then the music went quiet for a few minutes, before again, just the chorus.... and again...

What they lacked in sobriety they more than made up for in enthusiasm. The whole city seemed to possess great partying momentum, and they were still going when I fell asleep later that night.

A friend of mine who used to live and work in Germany assured me that Monday would be one of those unofficial holidays, like sunny days and Friday afternoons. Sure enough, the next day was awfully quiet, the U-bahn strangely empty, central station no longer a mine field of elbows and the lights were off at work.

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  1. So cool! Our town in Italy was full of cheers and chants before they got eliminated. I can only imagine how crazy it must be up there in Germany!

  2. I wish I could have seen more people dressing up and letting loose, especially since no on celebrates Halloween or Carnival here. Were people in Italy rooting for Germany or Argentina?

  3. I saw that final match and Germany really played a great game. I love Argentina, but that final score in the end was a sweet one on Germany's part. They deserved that win and the title of World Cup Champions 2014.

  4. I bet this was interesting. I now work for a German company and they all stayed glued to the tv. It was interesting, haha. I'm stopping by from SITS & I hope your having a great day.

  5. How fun to be in the winning country when they won! I live in Italy and of course soccer is HUGE there - however once we lost and were out it was like World Cup who? It was really interesting to be abroad during the games...

  6. Really glad I found your blog (and now reading a bunch of your back posts). I'm an American expat now living in Heidelberg, Germany! I loved reading your perspective of the World Cup! If I'm ever in Hamburg (which continues to be the #1 city in Germany I want/need to visit), I'm definitely asking you for tips!


  7. Hey Jordan, thanks for your kind words and I love meeting fellow expats! I haven't been to Heidelberg, but I want to go for the castle, is it worth the trip? Do you work in the embassy there?