Context: The informant was speaking of German traditions and remembered this piece.
Informant:Another thing is this kind of funny if you don’t like look someone in the eyes when you’re like clinking your cups together you have bad sex for seven years.
Collector: Where did you learn this from?
Informant: That was learned from peers, but yeah when I go to Germany I make sure I look in their eyes and if you don’t look they call you out and are like that’s bad sex!! It’s a little bit of a joke but it’s definitely prevalent.
Background: The informant is a 20 year old USC student of German descent. She visits Germany often and spends time with her German family and friends, giving her insight into their cultural practices.
Analysis: This idea of creating eye contact when clinking glasses or during a “cheers” is an idea I had heard of before, but to create good luck in general. This piece focuses on the relationship between eye contact and sex. It is interesting because there is a very special sort of bond and connection created with both eye contact and sex, therefore it makes logical sense that they correlate in this superstition. The act of cheers is already a celebratory gesture, therefore the addition of the eye contact gesture adds depth to the meaning of the cheers.
“Basically, when I was doing cheer, whenever we had a competition we would stand in a circle and put our arms around each other’s shoulders, and then we would rock back and forth and yell “S-T-O-R-M-E-L-I-T-E” because that was our team name. And then we would put our hands in the middle, go up and down five times, and then we’d yell break. If we didn’t do that five times, or if we didn’t spell Storm Elite, we would lose. But if we lost, at least we had done it, so we lost because of something else, not because we didn’t do it.”
Background Information and Context:
The informant’s cheer squad performed this ritual at each competition, right before they stepped on stage. The informant cheered for two years in Wisconsin when she was 15-16 years old. This was a private team that she paid to join, not a school team. They did dance, stunts, and tumbling, but no actual cheering.
This is definitely not the first time I’ve heard of this pre-competition good luck tradition. It’s a great example of multiplicity and variation. My own high school tennis team did a “Terriers on 3! … 1-2-3! Terriers!” before matches, putting our hands in and breaking just as the informant’s cheer squad did. What I find most interesting about this example is that, although forgoing the cheer would lead to a loss in the eyes of the informant’s squad, doing it and still losing didn’t necessarily take away the validity of the superstition. Pre-competition traditions are often not logical or actually lucky, but, nevertheless, they serve the additional roles of getting the athlete in the right mindset and instilling a sense of team comradery.
The informant is a 51-year-old international businessman who has frequently traveled across Europe and Asia to meet with clients for the past 20 years.
Over a relaxed nine holes of golf, I asked the informant if there were any dining customs or etiquette that have stood out to him throughout his travels. He went into detail about proper German etiquette when enjoying a drink with friends, family, or business connections.
“It’s always a great time drinking in Germany, especially for a beer connoisseur like myself. Whenever I’m out to lunch or dinner for a business meeting, we always grab a beer and make a toast before drinking. Usually the toast is just to a successful partnership in the future, or to health and happiness. What you’d expect. One thing that’s really important following this toast is that you look whoever it is you’re drinking with in the eye when you ‘cheers.’ It is considered extremely rude not to. They joke that if you fail to look someone in the eye it means seven years of bad sex, but what it would really result in is whoever you’re with thinking that you’ve been dishonest or are hiding something from them.”
This German custom of looking someone in the eye reveals that in German custom, authenticity and personal connection are important. Toasts usually follow a celebration or accomplishment of some kind, and so eye contact can be seen as a way of solidifying whatever the toast was made to. If one man makes a toast to good health and the other fails to look him in the eye, then the ma who made that toast may begin to wonder whether the other is hoping for him to become ill. The superstition that failing to make eye contact will lead to seven years of bad sex is a playful way of reminding Germans of this custom, or of highlighting its importance to foreigners. I thought that this particular folkway made a lot of sense, given the intimate nature of a toast and taking into account the context in which the informant learned of it. Since the informant is often out to eat with business connections and is working to create a professional relationship, it is important that he look his German clients in the eye to let them know that he is understanding of their culture and that they can trust his word and that he will honor their negotiations.