Living conditions of 16 to 18 years old young people in Germany

By Martina, Merian-Schule, Freiburg, GERMANY, 1998

I'd consider myself to be a typical, normal 17-year-old German girl for whom things are not particularly more difficult, better, worse or easier than for all the other 17-year-olds I know. During term, it's 'up at six' for me every morning to be in time for school at 7.50.

I live in a small village of about 2,000 inhabitants, in which I feel very much at home. There’s a friendly atmosphere and none of the hectic activity you find in the city. In the village everybody says hello to everybody else.

If, like myself, you’re a member of a local club, you know practically everybody in the village anyway and you spend a great deal of leisure time together. Not that I have very much of that - school (unfortunately) takes up most of my life. On three out of five schooldays I’m not back home again till half past four and then it’s down to homework for more than two hours in the majority of cases. There’s then generally not very much time for doing things not connected with school. Nevertheless, I somehow manage to play the saxophone in a local band twice a week, practise my volleyball on Monday and Friday evenings and do a bit of pottery every Monday afternoon. At the weekends you’ll find me - if I'm not too short of cash - at the cinema or the Jazz Pub (jazz being the kind of music I like listening to best).

Although people might think I lead a full and meaningful existence, I often wish I were somebody completely different - at those points in time, in fact, when I have had enough of all the violence, unemployment, and all the problems tied up with these; enough of the coldness, monotony and aloofness so obviously present in the expressions on German faces.

You need only look around on a German tram to think the world was going to end tomorrow. Hardly ever is there a smile on one of the faces and everybody sits there as if there could be nothing worse than having to travel on a tram.

To me, the Germans are a nation of unsociable, extremely reserved overperfectionists; everybody keeps themselves to themselves and, instead of getting together more to do things together, people are becoming increasingly isolated from each other.

I feel that in this respect we should take a leaf out of the book of the far more open-hearted and open-minded Mediteraneans who, unlike us, don’t turn their eyes away from you if you just happen to look at them for a second longer than (in this country) seems proper.