Visiting German teens
iPods, alcohol and sex: a Europe trip gives this teen a few cultural insights.
Earlier this year I was given the privilege of being sent to Germany on an exchange programme with the Johannesburg Student Council. The purpose of the exchange was to be exposed to another culture and to have the opportunity to debate and discuss current issues that affect the German and South African youth.

The level of independence that the German students I met enjoyed was far more than I enjoy at home. Germany’s public transport system of underground trains, busses and bikes is shockingly efficient.

Add the safety and security of Europe to the transport system and we have middle class German children as young as 8 navigating their way to school on their own. The concept of ‘mom’s taxi’ would be difficult for German parents to understand.

In terms of ‘teen culture’ in Germany, it is impossible to generalize. The Germans value individuality and opinion. The schools in Germany do not even have uniforms or hair/jewellery regulations. The result of this is that every teen as a different set of clothes, values and interests.

There are a few common denominators; iPods, alcohol and sex. Every German teen I met possessed an iPod and used it whenever the chance arose. When casually browsing my host’s iTunes I was quite surprised that her iTunes and mine are not so different. All the American and UK names with their numerous songs were there.

When it comes to drinking, the legal age is 16 and they take full advantage of this fact. Very few of the Germans that I met disliked or did not drink alcohol.  

As for sex, it does not seem to be a big issue there. During an AIDS discussion most of the German teens readily volunteered that they were sexually active. They also mentioned that the pill is far more popular than condoms.

Racism: big issue here, big issue there. The general impression I received of German racism is that of a little prejudice against Muslims and a huge vendetta against illegal immigrants.

I suppose I envy the Germans with their independence and maturity, but I do find comfort in the protection of my parents.

Are SA teens more naive than their German peers?

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