What is a Stammtisch?


der Stammtisch

der Stammtisch – an inadequate translation is “group of regulars.”

der Stammtisch

Today you'll learn:

  • what a Stammtisch is in Germany and how it differs in the US,
  • what you need to know before you go,
  • how often to expect to attend a Stammtisch,
  • where they take place,
  • and something called Einmal ist keinmal.

Sind Sie bereit? Los geht's!

What is a Stammtisch?

A Stammtisch is different in Germany it is in the US, so let's start with the original Stammtisch:

  • a regular, usually weekly meet-up of the same people, at the same table, at the same Kneipe or Restaurant, for years on end, potentially. There's often a sign posted above the table which reads, for example, Stammtisch Dienstags, so people know that table is reserved on Tuesdays. Don't sit there on Tuesdays, you'll get kicked off the table!
  • Might be simply a group of people who get together, or it could be focused on a theme like politics (but not like that), or even minimalism.
  • Generally, the Stammtisch starts, everyone buys their own drinks, and you participate week after week for a long time.

In the US a Stammtisch has different purposes:

  • first, it connects German speakers with other German speakers in the area
  • second, it provides German learners a place to practice their German in a more relaxed, social setting. And here's where we put a BIG ASTERISK behind “German learners.”

Most German learners are told a couple of things when they start learning German, one of which is to attend a Stammtisch from the very beginning of their German learning. It's presented like some absolute, like this is one of the ways in which you will magically absorb German and walk away knowing vast amounts of German after only one Stammtisch!

Überraschung: That never happens!!! There is nothing magical about Stammtisch because it's not Hogwarts!

More often than I care to recall, I've seen people attend a Stammtisch and they aren't clear on why they should attend, they become overwhelmed or they feel ignored, because they don't understand why German speakers don't want to chat with them, and then these new attendees feel unwelcome and never return.

Here's how you're going to avoid that experience, or, if that has happened to you, how you can try again and I most certainly hope that you will.

What you need to find out about your local Stammtisch:

Find out if the Stammtisch is directed at German learners, German speakers, or both. Here's the most important thing you need to keep in mind if you are a German learner, especially if you are a beginner:

No German speaker goes to Stammtisch to teach you how to speak German, and it's inappropriate to expect that some random stranger at Stammtisch is going to take the time to teach you some German.

Once you have this clear in your mind, you can set your expectations appropriately, because the amount of German you speak is directly related to how much you will be able to converse at Stammtisch.

  • If you are new to German, then work up a solid introduction, and make it clear that you're new to German, and you want to find out some resources from others who attend the Stammtisch. Find the people who know which businesses in your area sell German products, where the German restaurants are, and (hint, hint) which podcast you should listen to. Find the other people who are new or newer and see what you can learn from them. Finally, get out of the way of people who are there to speak in German all evening. Be prepared to listen a lot, and essentially concentrate on being a good guest.
  • If you have some good conversational German under your belt, then converse. Do the best you can with what you have. Remember with each conversation you will improve.
  • If you speak a lot of German already, na dann, nur zu!

How often does a Stammtisch take place?

A Stammtisch in the US frequently, maybe even usually, takes place once a month, however a friend of mine from my local Stammtisch said he attended a Stammtisch in another city, and that one took place twice a month. He really enjoyed the continuity of it, because it was consistent practice.

Where does a Stammtisch usually take place?

A Stammtisch frequently takes place in a German bar, if there is a local one, at a German restaurant, or in a Biergarten, especially in summer. It's often a way for the local German-speaking community to support their local Germanic establishments.

Einmal ist keinmal. Einmal ist keinmal. (Once isn't enough.) Einmal ist keinmal.

There are two reasons for this:

  1.  If you only attend a Stammtisch once, then you only know what Stammtisch is that one evening. Plan to try it out for a few times, and then decide if you'll attend regularly. This can help you ensure that you meet different people, or have a couple of conversations with the same people, so you can build a bigger picture than what your initial impression was.
  2. Germans in particular commit to things in a different way, and they take a longer-term view of things. So if you attend a Stammtisch only randomly, native German speakers won't necessarily want to connect with you. When you show up consistently, they will be more likely to start an ongoing conversation with you.

If you're lucky enough to live in an area with a couple of Stammtische, then you can attend each one a few times and see which one suits your schedule and your social life best.

It's good to keep an open mind, too, because the thing you have in common is that you all speak or want to speak more German. It might be fantastic networking for you, because you never know whom you might meet, what resources someone might be able to offer you, or even which podcast you might be able to recommend to someone else. (Ha!)

Here's your homework for today:

It can be hard to find a Stammtisch in your area if it's hosted by a local group which doesn't have a strong internet presence. Would you be so kind as to comment on the blog post that goes along with this episode and write about a Stammtisch you know of?

You can write:

  • the name of the Stammtisch you attend
  • where the group meets
  • when the group meets
  • and a link to the group, if there is one.

Hopefully we'll make it easier for people to find and attend a Stammtisch and to make more Germanic connections!

Das ist genug für heute. Passen Sie gut auf sich auf!

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