Ada Abroad: Living and Working in Germany

An online journal recording two years spent as a Fulbright/Pedagogical Exchange Service Teaching Assistant at secondary schools in Germany. (2003-2004 I was in a village near Bautzen; 2004-2005 I will be in Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

Name:
Location: Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

I'm an American living in Germany, working as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school. Future plans: getting my Ph.D. (probably in Germanic Linguistics), becoming a professor, living an ethical and meaningful life.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Radio Free Deutschland

Sorry again for not posting in a while. I actually tried to last Thursday, but the computer froze up on me...

Four weeks after my accident, I´m getting around on crutches quite well. The main problem is carrying things. If I can safely put it in my backpack, I have no problem at all. But try putting a pot of boiling water or a pan of hot grease into a backpack. (Better yet, don´t. Suggestions in this blog are not to be taken literally, and if you´re stupid enough to do so, I am not legally responsible for the consequences!) So cooking´s pretty much out. I can use the microwave because all I have to do is take out my food and set it on the same counter that the microwave sits on. I´ve been eating a lot of TV dinners. I love to cook, and I´m not much for processed food, so this development doesn´t thrill me.

But enough about my life as a gimp. On to the actual topic of this blog: German radio stations.

To be blunt (or culturally biased, depending on how you choose to look at the situation), German radio is bizarre.

In the United States and Canada, it is customary for radio stations to play one particular type of music: classic rock, or country, or contemporary rock, or gospel, for example. This is called a ´format.´ Radio stations pick formats because they want to appeal to a particular audience: aging baby-boomers, farmers, sullen teenagers, or Bible-thumpers. They don´t try to appeal to, say, brooding teens with multiple piercings and 65-year-old Mormon housewives at the same time, because it´s not possible. (Note: Trust me; I know how radio stations work--I was a DJ for four years!)

German radio stations, as far as I can tell, have no format at all. I have to listen to German radio several times a day whether I want to or not, because a radio switches on automatically when you turn on the light in my bathroom. While I can´t change the station, I have had the opportunity to listen to other stations in the car. None of them have formats.

The result is that you´ll be driving along, listening to what seems to be an ok station-- playing a song like `Dust in the Wind` by Kansas, for example. And just when you´ve relaxed and are are enjoying yourself, `Dust in the Wind` ends and a new song comes on. And it´s `Who Let the Dogs Out?` !!! --I am not making this example up. This actually happened.

Or take the station in my toilet. It plays mainly dance music and pop. There´s a lot of Britney Spears and so forth (insert wretching sound here). But, do you know what the one song is that they play more than anything else? The song that I hear at least once a day, and which I will associate with bowel movements for the rest of my life? --`Take Good Care of my Baby.`

No, not a remake. The original. From the Fifties.

There are aspects of German culture that are pleasantly different from the United States: the bread is excellent, for example, and there´s virtually no sprawl. And then there are unpleasant differences, like compulsive orderliness and German radio.

Addendum: While German music radio has very little in common with the North American equivalent, the morning shows are virtually the same. They even have a ´Battle of the Sexes` and a ´Sexiest Saxon` contest. The announcer is named ´Miss Peggy.` I am uncertain whether the station managers realize that American listeners associate the name with a pig in a blond wig.

6 Comments:

Blogger christina said...

LOL...that song will never be the same to me now! *never*

1:06 AM  
Blogger Ada said...

Me neither. (Shudder...)

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I don't know that song.

I liked the no-format aspect of
German radio when I was there. It
makes listening an adventure and you
hear things you'd never hear otherwise.
The weirdest thing I ever heard was
one day when I was making lunch in
the dorm and "Ballad of the Green
Beret" came on. I no longer remember
what it followed, but does it matter?
Lithuanian radio is very fond of Queen
and Andrea Bocelli. You can hear those
back to back on the main radio station
in Vilnius.

Andrea

12:19 AM  
Blogger Ada said...

I wouldn´t mind this aspect of German radio if they didn´t play songs that I really hate... like `Who Let the Dogs Out.` I don´t like hip-hop, and in the US I can usually avoid it. Queen and Andrea Bocelli, though-- I could handle that!

11:08 AM  
Anonymous exchange student said...

There are certain radio stations that for example only play music from the 80's or 90's and I am pretty sure that you will find a station that does not play hip-hop. Hip-Hop is just not as popular in Germany as it is in America.

A lot of Germans just want to have some diversity when they are sitting in their boring offices. We don't want to listen to the same kind of music all day or change the channel every time :)
Radio Stations are even advertizing for their great variety of songs.

In my opinion I have to say, when I got here (to America) I found it much better to have only one certain kind of music playing at one station.

I hope you will find some better stations that fit your taste of music better. You just gotta keep looking, because I know you could definetly find some.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there are two types of german radio stations: good ones and bad ones. the good ones are the public ones, and they have several different channels in each region - like bbc 1, 2, 3, there is wdr 1, 2, 3, or, in your case, mdr. they higher the numbers, the less sophisticated.
then there is private radio stations which are just annoying.
while the latter sometimes have a format (there is "klassik-radio" or "jazz-radio") the public ones have their formats spread over the course of the day - because they indeed want to appeal to a wide range of people. after all, they are funded by the whole constituency (something like taxes but different - i am sure you know). i guess that is the reason why they seem to have a rather eclectic musical taste.

given that i am a bit of a snob, i only listen to "deutschlandfunk", the national cultural radio, anyway and naturally despise all other, less sophisticated ones.

7:15 PM  

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