A Day in the Life What Makes the Average German Tick?

Part 2: How Germans Wake Up in the Morning


6:23 a.m. Germany Wakes Up

Each morning, Valerie Weber wakes up 38 minutes earlier than average, meaning that she is out of bed before Sabine and Thomas Müller. It is during these 38 minutes that Weber decides how listeners, for whom she feels responsible, will start their day -- which news they will hear and how the news will be delivered, which songs and jokes they will listen to, and what sort of a mood they will be in when they leave their houses. This is Valerie Weber's mission, and it isn't easy.

Weber is an expert on the way Germans wake up in the morning. "Because," as she says, "I too am basically a completely average person."

The alarm on her clock radio goes off at 5:45 a.m. She gets up, puts on a pot of coffee in the kitchen, adds two artificial sweeteners to her first cup, grabs the phone and heads back to bed.

She is wide-awake and focused. For Valerie, the next hour is the most important one of the day.

Weber is in her early forties, bright, blonde and attractive. She is unmarried and has no children, which makes her a little less typical than Sabine Müller. She majored in theater and psychology at university, and she has worked as an actress and television host.

"A person has his very own psychogram in the morning," she says. This applies in equal measure to Sabine and Thomas Müller.

Weber is now sitting in bed, listening. Her clock radio is tuned to Antenne Bayern, a privately owned radio station in the southern state of Bavaria for which she has worked as program director for more than three years. The station can thank Weber for turning its "Guten Morgen Bayern" ("Good Morning, Bavaria") program into Germany's most successful breakfast show.

Weber is an expert on Germans' morning habits. She has read dozens of studies and psychology books on the topic, has polled her friends for their views and observed her own behavior. She knows that women sleep for eight minutes longer than men. She knows that about 38 percent of women sleep in pajamas and 25 percent in nightgowns, and that two percent of men wear nightshirts. How many sleep naked? Not many -- at least if you go by the research. Weber knows that Sabine Müller dreams about sex five times a month, compared with her husband Thomas's 15 monthly erotic dreams.

She knows many statistics by heart, including the fact that the average listener gets up between 6:17 and 6:23 a.m., stumbles into a seven-and-a-half square-meter (80 square-feet) bathroom, where he uses 0.616 grams (0.022 oz.) of toothpaste, or about 50 tons nationwide, and that he feels vague pangs of guilt over the fact that one-third of the potable water he uses disappears down the toilet -- bringing the nationwide total every morning to over 1 billion liters.

"But these are only numbers," says Weber. "It doesn't mean that we've somehow discovered the wake-up formula."

Weber listens to her station until about 6:30 a.m. By that time, most of Germany is on its feet. Electricity use has risen rapidly since 6:00 a.m. It will reach its morning peak for private households at 8:15 a.m., only to be surpassed by the evening peak at 7:45 p.m., between dinner and the evening news.

Traffic on Germany's autobahns is picking up by the minute. It's an average morning, and yet traffic jams will cover 170 kilometers (106 miles) of those autobahns between 8 and 10 a.m. In kitchens across Germany, coffee machines are bubbling away and sandwiches being prepared for schoolchildren. The morning programs blaring from 32 million kitchen radios reach 74 percent of Germans, although more women (53 percent) listen to them than men (47 percent). Weber's station, Antenne Bayern, is one of 341 stations nationwide, a modest number compared with four times as many in both Spain and France.

The hours between 6 and 8 a.m. are the most important time for radio stations. This is when they must capture the attention of listeners, and they throw their entire marketing arsenal -- the best hosts and the most interesting games and contests -- at this lucrative morning audience. Given its importance, everyone is looking for the magic morning formula. Valerie Weber has already found it.

"You have to imagine that the host is a visitor, a friend sitting on the edge of your bed, gently shaking you awake. How do we feel when we're being woken up? And how do we want to be woken up? We are emerging from the world of dreams, and we want to feel comforted, to be allowed to turn over and snooze a little, continue to experience the warm sensation of sleep. At the same time, it's the visitor's job to give us a little push, because we know that we can't stay in bed."

At about 7:00 a.m., Weber leaves her house and drives out to Ismaning, a town near Munich, where the station broadcasts its programming from a building in a commercial area devoted to media businesses. About to face a day of meetings, Weber is stuck in a traffic jam, and the first thought on her mind is whether the station has reported the problem.

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