What's going on in ... ? - German for beginners in 11 episodes


In reality:

Born: 7 June 1965 in Düsseldorf
Grew up in: Velbert-Langenberg
Lives in: Dortmund
Married status: single (lives with girlfriend), no children
Education: Business Studies
Hobbies: windsurfing, cycling, working out

In the series:

Profession: bank employee

According to German psychologists and educationalists, taking responsibility for yourself it is an important step towards developing an independent personality. In the film Ulli has managed the leap into running his own household. Actually, like most unmarried friends of his own age, he would still prefer to be at home, where his mother does all his cooking and washing. Besides he wouldn’t have to pay any rent, and all his needs would be satisfied. Ulli is typical of a certain type of young German. He is the only child of a middle-class family and has grown up enjoying almost unlimited access to consumer goods. He belongs to the generation of post-war prosperity. The nuclear family with one or two children represents, despite all differences within this grouping, approximately 70% of German families. More or less all the economic needs of today’s Twenty-Somethings have been satisfied since birth. Their mothers have devoted themselves to the welfare of their children, gratifying their every need. Because these children have never had to confront the reality of fear, insecurity, violence, hard work, social responsibility, social interdependence, disease, war, death and injustice, they usually reach psychic maturity very late. The childhood of a generation growing up in complete prosperity becomes extended. On leaving their families, they, like Ulli, immediately start living with a partner. This traditional pattern was disrupted by the student revolts in 1968. One of the achievements of this upheaval was the acquisition of one’s own four walls, in which young adults could live their lives as they wanted and experiment with forms of communal living. However, this brought with it the need to manage their own finances and to look after themselves, and to cope with the demands of isolation or the pressures of being in a group. Since the mid-1980s the desire for independence has receded. Virtually all that remains of the libertarian ideas of the ’68 uprising is sexual freedom. Today this normally allows young people to follow their sexual impulses while still living with their parents. Given that the growing prosperity of the middle-classes now provides ample living space, there now remain few reasons for leaving the parents’ home early.

The modern conveniences of their first home together, like that of Ulli and Tina in the film, are similar to that of their parents. The young couple are already economically secure. Their education is complete, they have life insurance, the down payment on a mortgage, and a built-in kitchen. To maintain this security, they will willingly accept changes in their employment. Their view of the world is limited to their own way of life, to their friends, to their free time, career and family. They are not committed to experiment but to preserving the status quo. They have little interest in the reality of life beyond their own limited horizon. They simply ignore it.

The contrast between Ulli’s way of life and that of their socially disadvantaged neighbours, the Tomaseks, documents this pattern. Ulli is a product of the world of advertising. ‘Success’ is his watchword.

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