The Germans and their booth – a love affair | Get to know the Germans | DW

Just imagine: you are (not in Corona times!) on a sightseeing tour of Germany with your partner, family or best friend. It is one of those mild European summer nights when the sun doesn’t set until around 10pm and the streets are full of people enjoying life. People eat, drink and laugh – all in the hope that this summer will never end. In short: the perfect moment for a glass of wine in a cozy bar or a cold cocktail in an elegant bar.

But no – the alternative is: Why not buy a drink from the kiosk? “In the booth?” You may ask yourself now. “What does the booth do with this elegant image of an urban summer evening in Germany?”

Well, in Germany a lot. Here you can go out in the evening and head to the kiosk. In case you’re not familiar – here are the top things to know about the Saturday Night Party at the Booth:

It’s (not only) about money

First of all, you need to say: it is cheaper to buy an alcoholic drink at the kiosk than at the bar. However, beer and wine are often as cheap as water in pubs in Germany, so the money for overseas visitors the argument actually doesn’t really count.

Good atmosphere in the kiosk?

And it’s not just about saving money. I have learned this in the past six years since I lived in Germany. “It’s all about the atmosphere,” my German friends say.

I asked skeptically, “What Joe?” , I think of tiny, often filthy pavilions that mostly sell cigarettes and cheap liquor at two in the morning. I should learn better.

The first thing I knew was a “Wegbier”, which – as the name suggests – is eaten on the way to a party or meeting, as an appetizer, so to speak. Well, that looks totally legit.

meeting point booth

Whether or not enjoying good food or drink is a specifically German virtue – well, that’s probably a topic for another article. But there’s no denying that Germans aren’t exactly known for spending huge sums of money on indulgence, at least at a stereotypical level.

Efficiency – yes; Disciplined – yes conscientious – often but luxurious and elegant? Better not.

We’re talking about the land of socks and sandals, after all, where souvenir shirts bought on a recent Mediterranean vacation are a legitimate way to dress in public.

Pumping room with people in front of it in summer

A Day at the Booth – Totally Stylish

Thus, sitting on the stairs in front of a stall with a bottle of beer – or even a can – is not directly anti-social. On the contrary, it is more than just a realistic sign, in addition, it is entertaining and affordable. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the mood for alcohol, soda, an evening snack, or just a chat with an old friend.

Spatis in the former German Democratic Republic

The concept of the pavilion has been around since the 13th century. Stalls were common in Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Empire. In Germany, such night shops were introduced only in the former German Democratic Republic in the second half of the twentieth century. They allowed workers to go home from the late shift to eat or drink. They were known as “Spätkauf” or “Späti” for short and were for some a life saver.

The concept of “Spätkauf” was later adopted in the rest of Germany, especially after reunification 30 years ago. But outside the former GDR, such stores are more commonly known as “Kiosk”, “Trinkhalle” or “Büdchen”.

Illuminated late shopping in Berlin in the evening

Spatis played an important role in supplying the population in the former German Democratic Republic

To this day, “Spätis” mainly sells alcohol and tobacco, but some also offer real groceries such as bread, milk and vegetables.

Anyone who has ever visited Germany may have noticed that not only are supermarkets closed on Sundays, but in many small towns, grocery stores also close before 6pm on weekdays. A kiosk is often the only way to store essential groceries.

The cult booth

The kiosk is not very popular all over Germany. However, what definitely contributed to its popularity are the benches and small tables that the owners often set up for their clients. Sometimes there are small dance halls or concerts.

A band in front of the drinking hall in the Ruhr area

Concert in front of the booth on “Hall Day”.

In Cologne, where I currently live, one of the stalls was about to close due to financial difficulties. But neighborhood residents prevented this by starting a “GoFundMe” campaign to save their beloved stall.

In short: for many Germans, the booth is not a side issue, but is often the main attraction in the evening. So it is worth spending some time here when visiting Germany and giving an evening at the kiosk. On the one hand, you can certainly save a few euros, but above all you can get acquainted with a part of everyday German culture – and maybe even a nice person or another.

Please follow the COVID-19 hygiene rules and hope for better times. Stay healthy!

All episodes of “Meet the Germans” are available at dw.com/MeettheGermans_de, as well as on YouTube and Instagram.

Adaptation: Petra Lambek

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