Cliquen und Kneipen

Cliquen und Kneipen

Below are some interesting quotes from an article in the journal Die Unterrichtspraxis on the differences between the concepts of “Cliquen” and “Kneipen” in German and the American concepts of “cliques” and “bars.”  The speakers are a few young Germans who spent some time living in the United States, and a few young Americans who spent some time living in Germany–which means, of course, that these quotes cannot be taken to be representative in any scientific way.  Nevertheless, they suggest some interesting differences!

[To indicate the change of speakers, formatting below alternated between italic and non-italic]

For years I’ve been a part of a pretty large group of about twenty people [in Germany] who enjoy each other and continue to meet with each other, former classmates in school or my band, and the people meet each other all the time, and everyone knows everything about the other-up to a certain point that everyone knows how to respect, and you can talk about almost everything. You feel safe and secure, and you go to Kneipen.

Well, in Europe when you are in your teenage years, you go out in bunches, and you have a very good time. This is called Cliquen. You have your own Clique, [comprised of] girls and boys, and you go out–I don’t know what–to dance, or to drink in a Kneipe…. [A]nd then maybe you start a relationship with somebody out of that group. But still you go out in a group, and you don’t display your “twosomeness” by shutting the others out. And you just know that you belong together, maybe just for a short while, but you still do the things that you did before you met that person. I don’t think there is that much jealousy involved…. They are not afraid of the loss of the person they love because of somebody else, somebody more gorgeous, richer, or with a bigger car, or something like that.

[S]everal of our group were going with people. […] Of my five closest friends over there [in Germany], four of them had significant others, you know, someone, who was not necessarily a church member, but who we would meet evenings when we would get together. And we would meet as a group, and they would bring their dates along. I didn’t seem to see this [idea of] every night, “Well, I’m going on a date with so-and-so. I can’t do anything else.” They’d bring them along, or if they didn’t want to, they’d leave their date at home. And my friends would come with my group. And here [in the United States] you seem to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and the two of you would go off, go to a movie, go to dinner, go, you know, wherever it is they decide to go, and it would be the two of them, secluded. That was something that stuck out in my mind.  [This speaker was involved with a church group, hence the reference to someone not necessarily being a church member.]

[I]n Germany we were very group oriented. We had the same small group within all of our youth that seemed to do everything together. And should the boyfriend or the girlfriend of someone in that group want to come along, they were always welcome, but they didn’t always want to come, And if the boyfriend or the girlfriend did not want to come, the other didn’t say, “Oh, well, I’m sorry, I can’t come either.” They were always along with us. I can’t think of one example here where my friends in Huntsville [Texas] would have had something planned, and if a boyfriend said, “No, I don’t want to,” the girlfriend would still have come along. That has never happened to me here. Of course, [such a thing] never occurred to me until I got to Germany and had so many in the group that had the boyfriends/girlfriends who joined us.

You feel safe and secure [in your Clique], and you go to Kneipen together. Kneipen are different in Germany from here [in the U.S.]. Here they are more like bars where you go to pick up someone. And in Germany you go to Kneipen because you’d like to talk to someone, because you’d like to get together with people, and that is the difference.

[Y]ou go out [with your Clique]–I don’t know what–to dance, or to drink in a Kneipe, which doesn’t exist here either, because the bar is not the same as a Kneipe. A bar here is where you “pick up” somebody, whereas in a Kneipe in Germany you discuss [things], in your dreams you make the future up, the country, you discuss politics and history and philosophy. And you change the world, and you’re a Marxist, and you’re a socialist, and you experience all the different things. It is a place of social gathering, and, yes, people drink beer with it, but they don’t get drunk as people get drunk here in bars. Anyway, that’s a different thing.

[W]e’d go and hang out [in German bars]-there were some dancing clubs we’d go to on the weekends, or there would be some bars where we’d go and just sit and talk. I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. They didn’t care. And I thought that was kind of neat, where they put the responsibility on you, not your age group, because I think that taught me and a lot of my friends that the main idea about going out and hanging out is not to get alcohol and get drunk, but to go out and have a good time. But here, if you’re under twentyone, people make it a point to go out and get beer, whatever, and to get drunk.

I’ve been to some [bars] in Seattle that were different, but it seems that in Texas everybody goes to a bar or club to meet someone to go home with them that night. But in Europe you go with a friend or a bunch of friends, and you’re just there to talk and have a good time, or go dancing-whatever you want to do. Here it’s just a big “meat market”-what we call it. It gets annoying. It’s not what I’m used to. I still haven’t gotten used to it. In Seattle it’s more like Europe, I think. You just go with your friends.

Source: Lana Rings.  “Of Cliquen and Kneipen: When One-Word Translations Are Not Enough.”  Die Unterrichtspraxis 30.1 (Spring 1997) pp. 8-15