Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Germany is an old country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your German language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, Germans have access to a variety of media to stay current on world affairs; however, the content of their media may conflict with American sensibilities as they view topics like sex and violence differently.
If you love watching a variety of television programming, you must get cable television or satellite reception while residing in Germany. If you don’t have either, your choices will be very limited. The three public broadcasters in Germany are ARD, ZDF, and a network of regional stations. They all have the benefit of national reception; with programs sometimes being duplicated. People that have satellite reception receive programs from all over the continent, a benefit of being in the center of Europe. That means you will get programming from Germany, Spain, Italy, and Turkey.
In addition, you will get CNN, Eurosport, and some other international channels. Almost all the houses and apartment blocks in Germany are wired for satellite. A disadvantage of German television programming is that everything is broadcasted in German. All US television series and films are dubbed into German so you will have to find a television set that has a switch to enable you to hear the English language version instead of the dubbed track. In Germany, you have to pay an annual license fee for each radio and television in use at your home. In other countries it’s a single fee that covers all radio and television sets.
Germans are provided with a copious amount of information from many different media sources. There are 34 million homes in the country with television service, making it the biggest in that market in all of Europe. Combined with Austria and the area of Switzerland where German is spoken, approximately 100 million people comprise a German language area, making for a very large market. Some areas of Switzerland and Austria receive their television service from German companies.
The public broadcasting system is structured according to the federal political structure. Approximately 90% of homes have cable or satellite television that provides public and commercial channels. Public television broadcasters provide digital only channels. A significant amount of Europe’s top newspapers and magazines are produced in Germany. The most distributed papers are Die Zeit (weekly), Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Die Welt.
Der Spiegel, Stern, and Focus are among the most popular weekly magazines. The most circulated paper is The Bild, a tabloid. About 700,000,000 copies of books are produced every year in Germany; the English-speaking book market and the People’s Republic of China are the only two that top that amount. The Book Fair held in Frankfurt am Main is the world’s largest and it is thought to be the foremost book fair for global deals and television.
When it comes to sexual content in media, Germany and Europe in general, have a more laid back and nonjudgmental view about nudity and sex. They are more open minded and view the naked body and sex as something natural and not a big deal. In other countries, nudity and sexually explicit content are frowned upon and sometimes considered inappropriate for viewing, especially for young people.
On the other hand, violence in television and films is more acceptable in these same countries. Violent images and content are displayed on television and every other form of media on a daily basis in some countries. It may be an issue of desensitization as the amount and degree, especially in films, has increased over the years, and children are being exposed to large amounts of violent content at an early age, even with video games.
Violence is upsetting for Germans to watch. They are not excited to watch images of violence and portrayals of violent acts in film and television programs. The degree of violence in some American shows and especially horror movies would be sickening to most Germans. It is curious, the difference in opinions and judgment calls regarding sexual versus violent material, and how it’s received in different countries. There is a rating system in Germany for viewers’ guidance of feature films called “Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle”; it has five categories.