In Germany, Leisure Is an Active Pursuit | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 05.02.2009

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In Germany, Leisure Is an Active Pursuit

For Germans, recreation doesn’t necessarily mean lounging around. In its free time, the nation likes to take part in strenuous athletic activities -- most of them very well organized.

Group of Nordic Walkers

Nordic Walking is a trendy sport that's easy on the joints

“Get up and get out” has always been a key saying for Germans looking to fill their free time. But while tending a small patch of community garden used to represent the epitome of German life, that image changed long ago.

Woman walking and pulling a suitcase trolley

Germans are world-class travelers

Today, Germans love to travel. In 2007, some 65 percent of them went away for at least five days of vacation, according to tourism analysts. City getaways, sports trips, and wellness weekends are gaining in popularity.

Leisure gives economy a boost

When they’re not traveling, many Germans spend the rest of the year getting fit for vacation through one kind of fitness training or another. Germans work out at least once a week, statistics show. Jogging, Nordic Walking, skating, and cycling are all popular, but Germans also enjoy unusual sports such as bungee jumping, deep sea fishing, and boxing.

All this leisure activity is a boon for the economy. Every private home invests around 250 euros ($330) each month in leisure, according to official statistics. That’s nearly 12 percent of annual income. Many businesses have decided to capitalize on this, starting with amusement parks and other leisure attractions.

Tropical Islands domed amusement attraction in Brandenburg

In Brandenburg, a tropical beach is housed under a huge dome

Amusement parks and attractions have become increasingly specialized in recent years. An indoor ski run is built inside a run-down industrial center; tropical beaches are developed on farmland in Brandenburg; an old warehouse becomes an alpine climbing landscape. Germans can play golf in the middle of the city, visit enormous aquariums, attend musical events and dine at theme restaurants.

A different kind of club scene

Civic clubs are also very popular in Germany. Local soccer clubs, a bowling group, a singing club, a public-safety group; club life here is well developed and well organized. Attending one club or another always was, and still is, the most common leisure time activity in Germany. Twenty-three million Germans are members of one club or another.

However, all this may be drawing to an end. Sociologists are predicting a strong decrease in active and outdoor leisure activities, as home-based leisure grows in importance. Modern-day work hours mean families have increasingly less free time to spend together, so the little free time that exists will be spent at home, they predict.

If they are right, it may be that Germans will continue to love their free time -- but will simply spend less of it active and outdoors.

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