Stadtrallye – a different kind of new-student orientation

One of the most memorable university orientation events was the Stadtrallye. It turns out “rally” has a completely different meaning in German than in English, and rather than a pep assembly or political demonstration, this was more of a scavenger hunt/team challenge.

The challenges mostly involved a lot of alcohol.
The challenges mostly involved a lot of alcohol.

Four teams had to each make it to four stations located in central parts of the city: the Reeperbahn (red light district), Planten und Blomen (a huge, beautiful public park and garden), the Rathaus (city hall), and Landungsbrücken (located along the harbor.)

It was a nice tour of the downtown, tourist locations in Hamburg.
It was a nice tour of the downtown, tourist locations in Hamburg.

While at first I was dreading these orientation-day “forced fun” activities, I quickly realized it was nothing at all like what I’d experienced at my small, Christian, liberal arts university in the states.

wpid-20151008_143038.jpgFor one, alcohol was involved. Drinking was even a mandatory part of some activities, such as running around and turning around in circles after chugging a beer, or gargling the tune of “Yellow Submarine” with schnapps. (Every station included at least some shots and a beer, so we also incidentally got a lovely tour of Hamburg’s public restrooms).

For another, some of the activities were highly inappropriate. One station had you draw the name of a famous porn film out of a hat and act it out charades-style for the others to guess the title (I failed miserably, having not studied up on my famous German porn films).

Another ongoing activity was a trading game, where each group started out with a small item, then had to trade it with strangers for more valuable items, until you thought your item was cooler than any other group’s. Each group started with a condom. After several steps in between, including toilet paper, massage oil and a tiny bottle of schnapps, our group wound up with a small nugget of marijuana, which we were positive could top anyone’s item. A different group won, however – they brought back a guy named Andy.

The after party - also on campus, also serving alcohol.
The after party – also on campus, also serving alcohol.

We returned to the university, counted up points, ate pizza and finished off our booze. When the building closed for the night, we migrated over to some sort of party on campus, where I made it to 10:30 p.m. before calling it a night. All that time in Denmark, and I’m still not used to day drinking!

Despite having studied in Germany before, I am still surprised at how relaxed their culture is about alcohol. Maybe my “American” experience is skewed because I went to an alcohol-free university, but I still don’t think you’d find any American college where freshman orientation involves so much booze. As my dear friend Tommy would say, it’s neither better nor worse, just different!

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