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Culture Shock #9 – in which our hero is glad he doesn’t write for the Universitäter Beobachter

How many of you knew that the World Cup Final was on the same day as the Superbowl this month? Better yet, how many of you knew who was playing, and who won? Or where it was held? No? No idea? Come on, you lot. Get with the times. Everyone in Germany knows where the World Cup was on, and who was playing, and who won.

Of course, the sport was Olympic Handball, and of course the Germans know the answers to all of these questions: it was held in Cologne …in Germany, the final was played between Poland …and Germany, and the winners were …Germany. This is the same weekend that more people were in Croke Park to see someone flip a light-switch than there were in Dolphin Stadium, Miami to watch the Colts destroy the Bears. Seriously, no word of a lie: there were 28,000 people in the K�lner City Hall to watch Germany, who up ‘til a week previously were nothing special, beat Poland in a thrilling 29:24 contest.

It’s not a matter of national pride, though, that every German knew the tournament was happening at home, or that the national team had made the final. Rather, it was because once something gets good in Germany, the entire press hop on the bandwagon – and once it gets bad, the press are the first to bemoan. Almost every paper in Germany is a yellow press tabloid; indeed, the biggest-selling is Bild – pretty much The Sun only in broadsheet format, almost entirely graphical (the title literally means ‘Picture’) – which sells 3.8m copies a day. To put this in context, the nearest competitor is the broadsheet S�ddeutsche Zeitung with 1.1m daily sales. Such is the completely populist tabloid nature of Bild that it was initially modelled on the Daily Mirror but quickly outdid it. To illustrate, today’s front page story on Bild: Paris Hilton came as the date of a pension-drawing entrepreneur to a hoteliers’ ball in Vienna. Scandal.

Regular readers – all six of you – will recall that I said I was going to a Fratellis gig in Munich. I won’t bore you with the gig; but on the way there was an abandoned Bild in the carriage which I read for amusement. The chief sports story of the day – mindbogglingly, a German paper carries no stories whatsoever about the Six Nations – but rather about Ottmar Hizfeld’s reappointment as Bayern Munich coach, and detailed his entire day when he was appointed (starting with breakfast at the Four Seasons, etc). But the one thing that the piece featured – something you’d never even find in British tabloids – was, no kidding, the model and registration number of Hitzfeld’s Audi A6. Do it in Britain and you get a court order; do it in Germany and you sell four million copies a day.

So on that appropriate note, my credit card details are… oh no, I’ve run out of space. Better luck next time?

Ciao,
Gav