You’ve often heard about the Germans’ strong skills for organizing. Well, they are even adept at organizing fun and free time. This is seen especially in a particularly German institution: the Verein, or club. Many Germans flock into these officially registered clubs for any number of activities – or just to search for activities.
Most of the clubs are legal entities, and as such, have their own club constitution and by-laws. Members don’t have to be familiar with these points, but generally they do have to pay dues to establish membership. Dues are usually minimal, and few people will be scared off by these costs. In addition, many clubs allow non-members to participate in a specific event, sometimes even on a regular basis, with the payment of a modest fee for each event.
Sports are a common pursuit of many clubs, providing an affordable way to take part in otherwise expensive sports (such as scuba diving, skiing etc…). The clubs have their own facilities, or use of community facilities, as well as basic equipment. Uniforms and other accessories are usually the responsibility of the members themselves.
But sports are hardly the only activity organized into the club structure, and among the thousands of officially registered Vereine in Germany you’ll find clubs engaged in such pursuits as amateur theater, card-playing, business relations, conversing in English or some other foreign language, promotion of ethnic cultures, discussion of political or cultural affairs, shooting of guns, stamp collecting and trading, breeding dogs, etc., etc. In other words, if you’re a joiner, you’re sure to find some club in your region to suit your needs.
But sports aren’t confined exclusively to the club system. There are often pick-up games of popular sports (including baseball and cricket with the American or British expat communities). Basketball games are increasingly a common sight on many German playgrounds, though this involves mainly teenagers and pre-teens. Fitness centers are a prominent part of the German landscape, and tennis and squash courts are available in many areas. As with all things, size and range of availability depends on where you live; small towns are often short on both size and availability.
Pub-hopping is a favorite activity throughout German society, and can be a good way to meet new people or solidify relations already begun. Representatives of various nationalities make their way to their favorite Kneipe or pub regularly. By the way, beer is the most favored of beverages here. Germans have for decades been at or near the top of the charts for per capita consumption of the golden brew. It certainly won’t hinder your social life if you enjoy a pint – even if it is alcohol-free!