Childhood Around the World: Part Two

Childhood Around the World is a three part series compiled by EdgarDebel as part of a recent internship. In this instalment, Edgar speaks with his friend Sophie, from Germany.

“Our second childhood story comes from a person I know really well, my best friend Sophie. Sophie, as me, comes from Germany and was born in 1996. Seeing as she is a bit younger, but still very close to my age, it was interesting to me to see where our differences where and what similarities we shared in our childhoods.

As Sophie’s and my age are so similar, there are quite a few things overlapping in the media we consumed. Similar to me, Sophie also watched a lot of Anime when she was a child and also consumed many of the same anime that I did, like Pokemon, Digimon or Yugioh. As she is younger, most of her memories of those shows and her feelings about them weren’t as strong as mine. However, in contrast she watched a lot more media on Super RTL, which was the other big broadcasting channel in Germany in the late 90’s and early 2000’s who also showed kids programming. While the other channel, Kinderkanal (eng. Children’s channel) had a bigger focus on educational shows, Super RTL in contrast was more oriented towards shows with more action or comedy elements, like the show Spongebob Squarepants, which also was first shown in Germany on this channel before the German Nickelodeon channel was established in 2005.

Many other Nickelodeon shows would be shown on Super RTL before the aforementioned establishment in 2005, as Super RTL was the best fit for such shows at the time, considering the tone of the shows on the channel. Sophie was a big fan of many of these shows, like “Rocko’s modern life”, “Catdog”, “Hey Arnold” and “The angry beavers”. Interestingly most of these shows were about anthropomorphic animals, with the exception of “Hey Arnold” who had humans, living in suburbia and most of the plots were either funny(like Catdog or The angry beavers) or down to earth and dealt with everyday problems (like “Hey Arnold”). I think this is one of the reasons Sophie remembers these shows to this extent, as they could not only make her laugh but were also relatable to her and showed everyday problems that children also face, which makes them feel seen or represented.

She also remembers watching the Pixar Movie “A Bug’s Life” in the evening while being  with her parents in their big bed, which of course links this movie to spend family time. It is interesting to see what an influence the atmosphere we experience media in at the time can have on our memory and the way we perceive the media we come in contact with, which again shows how much children pick up on, which we as adults sometimes do not recognise and how much they subconsciously value their own feelings, as we see how important they are in us remembering things from our early childhood. Aside from TV Sophie also of course came in contact with the other forms of media present at the time. According to her, the one she used most of the time were cassettes, who would have radio plays of TV shows she watched on them. She had cassettes of Spongebob as well as Digimon, the ladder one was used by her for going to sleep.

It is only natural that such a ritual would lead to vivid memories of these evenings in the childhood and about all those feelings a child have at this time: cosiness, sleepiness, thoughts of the awesome moments of the show you just remember as you are listening to the voice retelling those stories from TV and of course much more, but of course, cassettes are not only used for radio plays, but mainly for music, which Sophie, as a child of the late 90’s and early did, as she had a Walkman, one of the only ways back than to listen to music on the go, as of course Mp3 players and phones capable of this were not invented at this stage in time. Sophie told me she used her Walkman whenever she would go on car trips with her family, as this was a chance for her to listen to her own music, as often she did not like the music her parents were listening to, so this small device helped her to make choices for her entertainment on her own, which of course isn’t a big deal to an adult but it help children to feel in control and help them to enjoy these trips even more, as they get listen to their favourite songs while having a great time with their family. If she would listen to the music and CD’s her parents liked, it would often be German music, as her father liked to listen to the Austrian Singer Falco and her Mother was a very big fan of the German Schlager Musician Wolfgang Petry(Wolfgang Petry, Wikipedia). Schlager itself is a form of Popular music, which often focuses more on catchy tunes, the lyrics themselves often being very sappy and happy go lucky.

Music was a big part of Sophie’s childhood.

As Sophie was talking about her memories I saw that music was heavily involved in many memories, most of them being interconnected with her family in a way, which of course explains why it is so easy for her to remember them. For example, Sophie would often listen to music with her aunt, which is only 7 years older than her, so the two of them would always feel more like an older and a younger sister, she told me. Through her aunt she started to listen to Britney Spears, as her aunt was a big fan of her music at the time. The would listen to Britney’s music on the CD her aunt had very often. Her aunt would also be the first person to introduce her to the concept of a Mp3-Player. While they were on a vacation together, Sophie’s aunt came to her with the Mp3- Player, which she had just bought and asked her if she wanted to listen to songs with her together. On this trip, in the year 2003, her aunt had also brought with her a Cd of the then still very famous “The Ketchup Song” of the band Las Ketchup(The Ketchup Song, Wikipedia). While on these trip, the would befriend another child, which also liked this song very much, so they would listen to the song very often on repeat, to the point were Sophie could not stand this song any more, which is why this song is still connected to annoyance even today.

Other than the memories connected to her family, Sophie remembers her favourite band being the No Angels, which were a German casting Band from the fist seasons of the German casting show “Popstars”. One of their most well know hist is also their first single, called “Daylight in your eyes, from 2000. While pop music is not the genre Sophie listens to anymore, she still thinks fondly of this band and song, as part of her childhood and her individual music choices, as this stands of in mental opposition to the other musicians and songs mentioned so far, as they were all connected to memories of family, which in contrast makes this band and song much more memorable to her, as they stand on their own. It also shows a trend in Germany at the time, as casting shows were very popular at the time, with different casting shops popping up on Television, the biggest ones being the aforementioned Popstars, with the other on being “Deutschland sucht den Superstar”(Germany  is looking for the Super Star), which has become one of the most successful TV shows in German History. This casting shows were also made to be funny on purpose, so they were not only popular with adults but also with older children and teens, which explains why Denise, me and other ´liked their music so much, as they also reminded us of the entertainment and laughter we had gotten through these shows.

Just like many other children from this period of time Sophie also had a Game Boy, which she shared with her aunt. It was an old model, one of the first Game Boys from 1989 and both of them would share it and use it when the other one was not using it at the time. Both she and her aunt were playing Pokemon yellow version on it, but fortunately for them them, Sophie’s grandma had bought  this game two times, so both of them could have their own game, so did not have to delete the save file when the other one wanted to play the game. Sophie also remembers that she got in contact with video games even earlier, as her grandfather also liked to play games very much, so she would  watch her grandfather play games on the Super Nintendo, like Donkey Kong Country, which she, like many other children who come in contact with video games for the first time, found very interesting.

Due to being born in the second half of the 90’s, Sophie has experienced the political events differently than me, who was born in the first half of the decade. Due to this, she does not remember 9/11 herself, arguably the biggest political event in the news in the times of our childhood. She would only later come in contact with it, through media and school, which makes the memories we have of such events very different, as witnessing it, of course will change your feelings towards it, as even if you are to young to fully comprehend what has happened, you will still remember the general atmosphere that was connected to such an event.

At age 9, she remember the election of Angela Merkel, which was a big change in German politics, as she was the first female chancellor. This election was also special, as is was originally scheduled for 2006, but Germany’s chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder. Was being heavly criticized for his politics at the time, such as his politics concerning unemployment and the new unemployment system that was established under his rule, Hartz IV, whose rules were very detrimental to many people without a job. Because of all of the critique he offered to prepone the elections, to see if he still had the approval of the majority of the people, which with hindsight we know was not the case any more. Interestingly, what Sophie remembers most from this election and everything surrounding it, was a song that came out 3 years prior, in 2002, the year in which Gerhard Schröder was elected for the second time, which was sung by a voice Impersonator of Gerhard Schröder(Gerd Show, Wikipedia). The song sarcastically mocked the tax politics of Gerhard Schröder. I think what really made this song memorable to children back then, was the novelty factor behind hearing the “voice” of your chancellor appear in the charts,  something which had not happened before. When I first heard this song on the radio, I believed it was the real Gerhard Schröder, which edged this song into my mind. I believe it was not only me who had this experience, but many children at the time, like Sophie, which would explain why most people in Germany, who were children at the time, will be able to tell you about this song.

When talking about other historical events of her childhood, we of course came to the football world cup, that was held in Germany in 2006. This had a huge influence on the country, as everything that year, as one might imagine, was themed around football: songs: Songs, video games and merchandise of the world cup were everywhere, there were even football themed food articles. Everyone was in a sort of football induced euphoria, which held on throughout the whole summer. At this time, Sophie was in fourth grade, and their teacher had given them the task in their art lessons, to draw a picture of their favourite member of the German football ­team. Sophie is a big football fan now, but back then she was only getting into the sport, so she did not have a real favourite. Still at the same time, she and her friends were collecting stickers of the member of the German team, so she and her friend decided to draw the member they thought was cutest, as with the onset of puberty they became more interested in the opposite sex, as she told me.

This shows the size of the event, as every part of our lives, even as children, was somehow effected by it in some shape or form, as we can see here even our education system, which makes sense, as when we teach we always want the things we teach to be relevant to the children’s life, so they can get more invested and learn more about it. Taking a child’s interest into consideration is always very important, as it can help to engage them, show them that they are respected and get them into new hobbies and interests they might otherwise would not have been interested in. We see trough his event, that children can engage with on and the same topic through completely different channels, which is a testament to their individuality and their thought process when approaching something, which therefore should be encouraged. We should ask children on their interests and angles through which they perceive the world much more, as it can lead to a better understanding of them, which can help to accommodate children to the best of our ability.

One of the biggest event in her families history, which Sophie still remembers vividly, was the marriage of her grand cousin, as Sophie was the flower girl on this occasion and had gotten new lacquered shoes for the event. Before the event started , she had played with the other children on the playground, where she would use the swing. This however was not the best idea, she nowadays says, as she was quite a big child at the time, as she had nearly gained the same height she has nowadays by that point. Because of this her shoes were touching the ground while playing on the swing, which had resulted in damage to the shoes, as they were now all scratched up, right before the event, which meant, she had to get new shoes away, which they had to buy at a nearby shop. Nevertheless, Sophie had a lot of fun an enjoyed this event very much, but it is definitely the shoe incidence which made it so memorable in her mind still to this day.

Lastly, as with Flavio, I talked about the way of socialization in the 90’s and early 2000’s with Sophie. Like many children, Sophie would make friends very fast in Kindergarten, as back then she said what mattered was mostly that you had the same interests, if they were matching it was as easy as asking to be friends for the friendship to form. She also befriended the children in her neighbourhood, as she would of course see them very often when playing outside, so playing together and becoming friends trough this was a natural evolution. But much like her connection to music, her family also played a big part in her socialization, as aside from the ways to make friends that were just mentioned , often times, she would meet new children through her parents.

When her mother found a new friend herself, she would often suggest Sophie to play with the child of her friend. Through this, Sophie met quite a few friends, which of course was great for her and her mother at the same time, as when her mother would go to her friend, she could take Sophie with her, who would then also be able to play with the friends that were the children of her mothers friend. As she reflects on it, she says it was much easier to become friends as a child as it is now as an adult, as children are often times much less judgemental than adults and often also don’t have strong opinions on certain subjects, which would hinder them from forming friendships with people who think differently in certain regards. Children are much more open and welcoming, which made it easier to have quite a few friends. She feels that nowadays, children still socialize this way, also very fast, but that they also use the different means of communication and entertainment in this process, which we back then did not have any access to. We both agreed that socialisation, is pretty much similar to how it was when we were children, only the tools which we used were different than to ones the children of today used. While we played with Game Boys, children nowadays use the Nintendo switch, while we were sending each other little letters in school to communicate, the children now do the same trough WhatsApp and so on. What we both remembered and agreed upon at the end of our talk was, that we should take notice of how we made friends as children and apply this openness to our socialisation and other parts of adult life as well, as it would make our life much easier if we would be more upon to the world and the people around us without always focus on the points we disagree on and instead focus on the things we have in common.”

by Edgar Debel

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