Awkward Abroad: The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”

It started at Oktoberfest. French people I had talked about Oktoberfest with told me that Germans spoke better English than Americans, so I thought that’d be true. WRONG. Everything was in German, even at the train station and at the metro and the signs for everything. It was a huge culture shock and my shoddy scribbled list of German phrases did nothing, even when I showed it to the Germans sitting next to me and asked for pronunciation help. By that point, I had pretty much resigned myself to walking around Munich completely oblivious until …

The beer hall we were in had a traditional German band that played the White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army” like every ten minutes. Seriously. Every ten minutes.

And the 10,000 people in the beer hall knew the iconic “DUH… duh-duh-duh-duh DUH… DUH” part just enough to repeat it OVER AND OVER AGAIN EVERY DAMN TIME. With the same amount of people standing up or raising their liters of beer at the end of the song.

I didn’t know if it was because they were hammered or because it was such a great song.

“Why is this song so popular?” I asked the German guy next to me.

“I don’t know. But do you like it?”

“Yes! It’s the White Stripes!” I said. Le duh!

“White Stripes!” he repeated, matching my enthusiasm in such a way I didn’t know if he was mocking me or being sincere.

“Yeah,” I said, apprehensively. “And this is ‘Seven Nation Army!’”

“White Stripes!” he repeated again.

“Um, yeah … is this song a soccer thing… or, I mean, football?” I asked. I wasn’t sure if he knew the White Stripes or just knew that I knew the White Stripes.

“I don’t know. But everyone knows this song.”

“Pretty sure it’s a soccer thing. I mean, football,” I sighed into my beer.

It totally was a soccer thing. It’d play on the TV when the French soccer team was discussed on the French news program. It’d play in Irish bars (or be sung by Irish people in Irish bars) when soccer games were on.

But then, it’d play during the first house party my host sister threw and I watched drunk French twentysomethings dance to it. It’d play at a French bar and people would drum their fingers on the counter in time with the music.

And no matter where it was played, EVERYONE knew the guitar part.

It made me wonder if everyone knew if the White Stripes had broken up this year.


One response to “Awkward Abroad: The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”

  1. I bet 90% of the people didn’t even know who was in the band, let alone their break-up 😉 it was a soccer-thing in Germany, too, a few years ago during World Championships this was the song played, when the teams came onto the pitch. Even today, a few first-league-teams use it for their entry.
    I hope, though, your experiences don’t discourage to try out Germany again? Maybe not the Oktoberfest, where only tourists and notorious drunks are. Munich and Germany overall have so much more to see. Landscapes, City-centres with their culture and shopping and cafés and all that stuff. One hint, though: You hardly see any english translation in the cities. Even in the bigger ones, you might only hear an english translation of the announcements in the main stations if at all. Germany at its best. We expect people to prepare themselves when they come over. Sadly but true and this would be my suggestion, too. Check your final destination and the lines you need to get there. However, if nothing works, don’t be shy to ask someone, even in english. The younger they are, the better their english is, too. Not American-level, but we can compete with the French, I think 🙂

    All the best!
    Cheers, Andreas

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