8:00 p.m. How the Germans go out
Stephan Niebuhr surveys the room. It's filled with 400 people, eating and drinking, singles, couples, bowling clubs. They're about to switch to Discofox, and the party will get going by 9 p.m. The man is perfectly familiar with the choreography of the evening, because he's the one who developed it.
Niebuhr knows that men go to the movies and rock and pop concerts more frequently than women. They are more likely to meet friends at nightclubs, where they smoke less but flirt more than women. During the course of an evening, men are not as likely to go to a different bar than women, but they will spend more money. They spend about two-thirds of their beverage budget on beer and prefer tunes with a heavy beat over softer music in clubs and discos. On average, every German man spends seven minutes a day in bars or clubs.
Niebuhr, 48, runs a recreation park called "Dorf Münsterland" ("Münsterland Village") west of the northwestern city of Münster, which is deliberately average so that everyone can feel comfortable there. Niebuhr's job is to organize the party of a lifetime every Friday and Saturday night for four or five thousand guests.
Niebuhr, who has worked in the hospitality industry for 30 years, notes with concern that Germans are spending less time going out and drinking. According to Niebuhr, the Germans have developed standards. When it comes to going out on the town, they've becoming choosier and not as easy to impress.
"The guest has become more sensitive," he says. Women are more likely to spend their evenings or weekends at the opera or the theater, and five percent of German women meet a group of friends at a bar once a month. In clubs, women prefer mixed drinks and cocktails, rarely drinking beer.
Niebuhr's village covers an area the size of 19 football fields, and includes four pubs, two nightclubs, a concert hall, a hotel, four restaurants and snack bars -- in short, an entire universe of fun. To do well, the manager of this "village" needs to attract an entire cross-section of society: roofers, secretaries, lawyers, 18-year-olds, 60-year-olds -- in other words, all Germans who like to party and go out. In principle, says Niebuhr, everyone is part of his target audience.
Although young people prefer to listen to house and dance music in the club, his DJs in various bars and clubs also play AC/DC, popular "schlager" music singer Wolfgang Petry and Faithless. Niebuhr can't afford catering exclusively to young people.
"Everyone wants to have as much as possible and pay as little as possible for it," says Niebuhr. He is sitting in Plückers, a bar with a bowling alley and armchairs, designed for the over-40 crowd. His competition is the living room couch. Even young people would rather stay at home and listen to music, watch TV or surf the Internet than go out. His village is starting to lose its new blood.
After 30 years in hospitality Niebuhr, the abstemious chief designer of excess and manager of structured cheerfulness thinks he knows what composite average Germans Sabine and Thomas Müller like. They love proximity and the familiar. They hate brightly lit rooms and empty spaces. In his Münsterland Village, Niebuhr can shift walls, making his pubs smaller. He dims the lights to set the mood, and he plays familiar hits. If there is one thing the Müllers detest, it's a song they don't know. They don't like to be irritated.
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