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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Lifestyle‹  ›Kultur/Culture‹   –  25.06.2010

Flying the colors

The little flags in black, red and gold are everywhere these days. Flapping on top of cars and hanging from window sills, painted on people’s faces. You see folks wearing flags draped around their necks and as funny hats, and even bikes and cars (!) painted in black-red-and-gold just for the occasion. Yup - it’s World Cup time again.

DeutschlandflaggeI am amazed about this new flag culture. The flags are just about as ubiquitous here as they were right after 9/11 in the US, when nearly everyone was showing off their “patriotic support”. Something that, had it happened here in Germany, was utterly unthinkable back then.

But now things have changed. Thanks to soccer, a new flag culture has started to evolve and with it – dare I say? – a new form of national enthusiasm.

I grew up in a flagless country. Germans, of course, always had a flag – they just didn’t parade it around much. Back in the 70s and the 80s, I remember the flag being flown only from government buildings on a few important state occasions or holidays. Or perhaps raised to half-mast after the demise of some important politico. It was far more common to see the flag at national soccer matches or when winning medals at the Olympics… That was about the extent of our patriotic displays back then.

FlaggenbalkonFlying the colors was not something Germans did. Simply because The Big Bad Past was always looming overhead. In contrast, the free flag waving mentality of the Americans made me somewhat uneasy at first. There was red-white-and-blue stuff everywhere - and not just on the fourth of July. Heck, in Scandinavia, it is common to even drape flag garlands around family Christmas trees for decoration!

It was the Soccer World Cup in 2006, which took place in Germany, that magically changed all this. I was watching it on TV, not living in Germany at the time, and could hardly believe my eyes. There were flags everywhere in stadiums and at public viewings, a sea of black, red and gold. Now I am experiencing it myself, and I have to admit: I hardly recognize this country.

Flaggen Auto

But, I believe it’s a good thing. Even if the sight of grown men sporting something resembling a black, red and gold colored lei does make me chuckle.